Friday, August 13, 2010

Salvation In The Passive Voice

Cyprian, the martyred bishop of Carthage, in a most unforgettable passage describes how he came to have a real saving relationship with Christ. His description of his own sinfulness is quite poignant and revealing.

He writes, “For as I myself was held in bonds by the innumerable errors of my previous life, from which I did not believe that I could by possibility be delivered, so I was disposed to acquiesce in my clinging vices; and because I despaired of better things, I used to indulge my sins as if they were actually parts of me, and indigenous to me. But after that, by the help of the water of new birth, the stain of former years had been washed away, and a light from above, serene and pure, had been infused into my reconciled heart, - after that, by the agency of the Spirit breathed from heaven, a second birth had restored me to a new man; - then, in a wondrous manner, doubtful things at once began to assure themselves to me, hidden things to be revealed, dark things to be enlightened, what before had seemed difficult began to suggest a means of accomplishment, what had been thought impossible, to be capable of being achieved; so that I was enabled to acknowledge that what previously, being born of the flesh, had been living in the practice of sins, was of the earth earthly, but had now begun to be of God, and was animated by the Spirit of holiness.”

It is noteworthy that Cyprian says he was enabled, made capable and begun to be of God – all verbs in the passive voice. In fact, Cyprian never uses a verb in the active voice in this whole passage referring to his conversion.

This is how all of us should remember and recount our conversion. We should never see ourselves as active agents initiating anything. Salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). It is His to dispose of as He pleases. No man ever preceded God’s prevenient grace. God is always previous. Christ is the Alpha and Omega. He is the perfecter of the good work He begins (Rev. 1:8; Phil. 1:6).

(1) Cyprian, Ep. Ad Donatum, 4

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