Salvation in the New Testament
September 01, 2008 Length: 48:20Monday morning began with a Bible study with Fr. Jon Braun exploring the use of the word "saved" in the New Testament.
A Bible study can take a lot of forms. There are many ways to do it. I’ll take a Bible study, and I won’t do it quite the same way. I’m sure you’ve been in Bible studies with something like I’ll do today. I intimated in part last night what I would do today, and I will follow through on that. I carry with me, at all times in my Bible and every Bible I have, this same paper. I print these all out, and what this is on this sheet of paper are the Biblical answers to the questions that get asked.
For years you did this, and you didn’t do it this year, Fr. Peter, but you used to always give the ten questions that people ask. It really isn’t even ten. There are more than ten, but usually, it’s just a handful of questions that people ask, and that they want and need answers to. So I have here this list of Biblical passages.
One is regarding forgiveness of sins. Some people, especially evangelical people have trouble on this whole matter of forgiveness. A large group of my friends from Dallas Seminary, and I don’t think the Seminary taught this, but they won’t even use the Lord’s Prayer. And the reason they wouldn’t use it is because it wasn’t for this dispensation.
In particularly, you wouldn’t pray, “Forgive us our sins,” because why would you pray, “Forgive us our sins,” when they’re already forgiven? So why would you say, “Forgive us our sins?” You’re denying what Christ has already done for you.
Honestly folks, I stood there for years mum when the Lord’s Prayer was prayed, because I kind of locked into that. I had a reason for being a little bit leery about prayer, and the reason I did was because my mother was incredibly ill. I was at her deathbed three times and wasn’t there the time she did die. Long before there was a charismatic renewal, we got into a charismatic renewal.
My Presbyterian minister father was seeking healing, and it just never happened. In Atlanta I got into a situation where I was praying for a lady, and we thought this would be a great testimony if this lady would live and be healed from a rather serious ailment. She died, and honestly I just quit praying for a few years. I didn’t quit believing; I just quit praying. Why should I pray?
At any rate, I carry that part on forgiveness there. And I have a section here on the pray of the saints or to the saints and prayers for the departed. And then I have the stuff on Tradition. I have a section on here that a few of you will smile at, and you’re going to tell me why I have it on here. It’s titled “Uses of the word Until in the New Testament.” Why is that in here? “He knew her not until she brought forth her firstborn.” It’s about ten uses of the word until.
I’m going to take the last section, and then I’m going to go to one more place. The last section I have in here, and I don’t like where it shows up on the page, and if you brought a Bible with you, you can look in 1 Corinthians 1:21. What I want to do is take you on the Biblical text through the expression “saved” in the New Testament.
In a rather typical Greek-English lexicon, the amount of space given to the possible translations of the word “saved” is about three inches long. There are many, many, many words. There are two most common words, and they are both used over and over again in the Bible, as well as many others. One is “to save,” and do any of you know the other major Greek word that is used to translate that Greek word for saved? Heal. It’s to heal.
In the New Testament, it’s common word for heal as well as to save. Somebody read 1 Corinthians 1:21, and while that’s being read, somebody else look at Matthew 1:21. Somebody read 1 Corinthians 1:21, please. “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
Okay, who does the saving? God. And I wouldn’t get super picky about this, but I do believe, and one of the reasons I wanted to do this this morning, is because I want us to be fairly conscious about who we are praying to in terms of person. And I do believe this is essentially a reference to the Father. I wouldn’t die for that, and I’m not going to get picky, but when you pray, you need a consciousness of the one to whom you are praying.
I don’t just walk in here and if I have a specific request I want Mark to do, I don’t just address you all. I address Mark, and we need that consciousness. Often people use this shibboleth, and I think some of us in Campus Crusade had a significant impact in making it so common. That is the expression, “Have you ever made the exciting discovery of coming to know Jesus Christ in a really personal way?”
I don’t remember that being a very common expression before we got into Campus Crusade. Do you know why we used this expression? We used it to avoid the word saved. On a given day, maybe I would ask that question 25 or 30 times. That was not uncommon, and you multiply that by the entire Campus Crusade staff, kids witnessing, and lay people getting into it, and it became rather common.
But it’s rather interesting because in their prayers, there was no consciousness of person. It was just God. That’s okay, and I’m not saying there wasn’t anything necessarily personal, but it is sort of odd. Are you talking to the Father? Are you talking to the Son? Are you speaking to the Holy Spirit? We prayed, “O Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth.” To whom is that prayer addressed? It is addressed to the Holy Spirit.
Yesterday in the Divine Liturgy, there’s that section, for whom if it was your first experience in an Orthodox Church, but even for those who have been Orthodox for a long time, there’s that section in the Liturgy called the Anaphora. It means offering or the offering up. The priest prays:
It is meet and right to sing of Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks to Thee and to worship Thee in every place of Thy dominion. For Thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever-existing and eternally the same.
To whom is it addressed? The Father, because the next words “Thou and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit. Thou it was who brought us from non-existence into being, and when we had fallen away, didst raise us up again.” It’s specifically addressed to the Father. And by the way, you get to do all kinds of catch up in a session like this.
Who asked the question last night? It had to do with what is going on in the Liturgy. Fr. Dan’s answer was read the Divine Liturgy, because if you read that Divine Liturgy carefully, there’s nothing wrong with studying the Divine Liturgy. What you see that is taking place there, first of all that’s addressed to the Father. Then, we get to the angels and archangels singing the Triumphal Hymn; shouting, proclaiming, and saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy!”
Now that part we’re talking about the angels. We’d been addressing the Father. Now we get to talking about the angels, and we say, “With these blessed powers, we also, O Lord who loveth mankind, offer unto Thee.” And then, we start a litany. First of all, we’re offering it for whom when we start listing for whom we are offering it? For our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. But then, we’re not through. It’s we who are doing this offering.
This is important to us, and I was going to do this last night about intercessory prayer. It’s we who are doing it with these blessed powers. We join the angels and the archangels offering this on behalf of our most holy, most pure, most blessed, and glorious Lady. Then we say, “Our Father and Metropolitan,” or, “the Archbishop,” or for, “the holy prophet and forerunner and Baptist John,” or, “the holy, glorious, and all laudable Apostles.”
And here we are these little human beings on Earth. If we’re not in Heaven, we’re doing something really stupid. The Divine Liturgy is idiotic if we’re not in Heaven, and it’s incredibly presumptuous, especially the priest. I mean, he’s standing there in all his finery and all of these vestments and sometimes in a shabby store-front church. A lot of the immigrants, when they came, their first churches were store-fronts.
And here we are, what are we offering? It’s not what we are offering; it’s Who we are offering. We’re offering Jesus on behalf and with the angels; the archangels; the Mother of God; the holy prophet and forerunner John the Baptist; the holy, glorious, and all laudable Apostles, and then we go through the saints of the day whom we name. We’re offering this ultimately on behalf of all and for all. WHOA! Isn’t that an incredible synergism working together?
Now, it isn’t just we who are on Earth offering this. As we’re offering this here, it’s being offered at the altar in Heaven. There is an altar. How do you know there is an altar? Well, you heard there was an altar, because Moses saw the whole thing. It just astonishes me. You know I understood what he was teaching about that Moses saw it.
Do you know how old I was when I got a glimpse of that? My life was incredible impacted. I was 26, and I studied the book of Leviticus. I was in Minneapolis teaching at Minnehaha Academy, and I was the Associate Pastor of the Park Avenue Covenant Church. And I studied the book of Leviticus during the summer, and I got a glimpse of what Moses actually saw.
And why I thought that Heaven would look different afterwards? I knew that the tabernacle in the wilderness was built according to that pattern. And I knew that the Temple had been built after that pattern. But it never occurred to me that Park Avenue Covenant Church wasn’t built after that pattern. I mean it literally did not ever cross my mind.
So anyway, it’s we, it’s they. It’s the Church that’s offering it. WHOA! Can you imagine what it is for the priest to be making this offering? But in the Liturgy it says, “we,” not “I.” The priest doesn’t say, “I.” We offer this. Who is the “we?” It’s all of us. It’s the priesthood. You say that the Orthodox don’t believe in the priesthood of the believer? My goodness! That’s what the Divine Liturgy is about. Somebody’s got to lead it, but it’s we that do it. It’s all of us.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on earthly things. You are dead, and your life was hidden with Christ in God. He has caused us to be raised up together with Him and seated us together with Him in the Heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
What do I mean that we’ve been raised up together with Him? Well, amongst other things, it means we’re raised up together with Him? Well amongst other things, it means in the Divine Liturgy we’re seated together with Him in the Heavenly places. But I want you to get particularly out of what we’ve done so far is this, “caused us to be raised up together and seated with Him in the Heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Now, it’s a little far away from God saves, and I’m going somewhere with all of this. And even this discussion of the Liturgy and all this, you understand that I am talking about a synergism. Can you imagine that God allowed, Fr. Nicholas Spier and lead us before the holy altar in Heaven, as it were; to lead the worship of Heaven? We lead angels, archangels, cherubim, seraphim, six-winged, many-eyed, born on their pinions, singing a triumphal hymn. We just join the angels.
We join the angels, which is why I agree so much with congregational singing, especially at some places. I don’t care too much about the Cherubic Hymn. It’s okay. But good night, don’t you want a chance to sing with angels and archangels? Don’t you want a chance to sing with the cherubim and seraphim?
We kind of know a little bit about what the cherubim and seraphim look like. Where do you find that out? Ezekiel saw a wheel way up in the middle of the air. Pinions are wings by the way. You have to be my age to know what pinions are. So where are we going exactly? I’m doing this saved thing, and I’m going to give you more references. But I want you to see that there is a synergism developing.
Now, what does synergism mean? First of all, I was in a classroom at seminary and one of my professors just out of the clear blue sky began to deride the concept of synergism. I didn’t know what the word meant. I didn’t have a clue. And he said that this is one of the worst heresies ever perpetuated on Christendom and that the Catholic Church started this. He also said that it’s works salvation and not to ever get caught up in synergism.
I thought to myself, “Whoa! I won’t ever get caught up into what that is. I’m not going to do it.” He was really so strong about it, and that man was a blatant heretic at the point. He didn’t mean to be. He was just an arch-Calvinist who just couldn’t tolerate anybody doing anything except God because, “It’s not Biblical. It’s not the truth. It’s not what the churches believed. It’s not the Old Testament. It’s not the New.”
But, let’s take the word synergism, because some of you may be saying, “Well, I don’t want to ask him, because I don’t want to look stupid, but what does synergism mean?” I’ll make it even worse. It means to co-operate. In Latin, if you’re going to translate from Greek to Latin, you would translate synergism as co-operation, not cooperation. That’s not quite right. It’s co-operation, working together. In Latin, opero is the word for work, and co means to work together.
I like grammar and all that kind of stuff. Syn, sympathy, you change the letter and all that stuff. The erg part is to work. So synergy means to work together. God works. You work. Or if it’s Father Dan and I, we can synergize. We have synergized this week. You’ve synergized this work. We’ve really worked together in here, haven’t we?
Do you know how much I depend on you when I’m speaking? If I can’t see in your face that you’re with me, I just go blank. I agree with what Fr. Peter said to you the other day. I think it’s a sin to bore people. And if I don’t see you with me, I just think, “What’s wrong? Is God not speaking?” I expect God to speak when I get up to speak. Otherwise, I ought to sit down. Don’t do it now, God. Especially after this statement. This would not be the right spot.
So where I’m heading now, I want you to understand that we work together. God works. We work. If you want to see the consummate and ultimate synergism, look at John 5 where the man at the pool of Bethesda has been healed, and it’s a Sabbath Day. What a dumb day to heal someone. He ought to have known what was going to happen. No, I’m kidding. It was just the right day to heal somebody.
And when Jesus explains why He did it, He explains, “My Father is working, and I am working. What I see the Father do, I do.” Who healed the man at Bethesda? God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. God healed the man, but Jesus said, and I’m paraphrasing now, “I watch what my Father does, and I do it. We do it together.” But, it was the man Christ Jesus that did heal the man at the pool of Bethesda.
There was a synergism. There were two working. “My Father is working until now.” By the way, there’s a good use of the word until. It doesn’t mean He stopped working after that. “My Father is working until now, and I work.” Synergism.
Who did Matthew 1:21? And the next person, somebody look up Acts 4:12. “And she will bring forth a son, and you shall call His name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.” In the first text, who did the saving? God. And who does the saving in this one? Jesus.
Okay, now we got an interesting one. Just let the synergism sit in your mind of Acts 4:12. You should have known that one by heart. It was in your little navigator memory verse pack. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be.” Now, this is a little twist. What does the saving here? Name.
You can say, “O come on! Be serious! It’s the name of Jesus.” Yes, it is the name of Jesus at which every knee should bow, but it does say the name, because in Biblical understanding names are incredibly significant. There’s a whole godless, philosophical nominalism. Do you know what nominalism is at its very root? It’s names that don’t mean anything at all. Names are just convenient things, which we ascribe to reality. That’s not Biblical teaching. There’s reality even in the name.
So we have God saves, Jesus saves, the name saves, and it’s the name of Jesus. I grant that. James 1:21 somebody read it for me, and the next one is 1 Corinthians 9:22. “Therefore, lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your soul.”
WHOA! What saves this time? The implanted word. Now, would you give me a Biblical illustration of that? It should be very easy. The sower went forth to sow, and the word that got implanted did the saving. It was the word of the Kingdom. And so in this case it’s the word, not on the rocky; not on the thorns; not on the path; but it’s the implanted word that does the saving. And if you want to make this Scripture, that’s just fine by me.
1 Corinthians 9:22? “To the weak I became as weak that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some.” Now, don’t ever complain again about, “Most Holy Theotokos save us.” Don’t ever again complain about it. Boy, did that nail me to the wall? I could feel it with a nail going here and a nail going there.
If Paul says he saves, I just can’t from that point on say that a human being can’t enter into the process of salvation. And I think I already told you this, you didn’t dare say that you were saved by a human being. You just didn’t dare say it. I knew it was in the Bible, because honestly, I knew every single story in the Bible by the time I was ten.
When you have a mother and father like I did, I even knew what all those people looked like. Do you know how I knew what they looked like? Because of my mother’s Flannelgraph lessons. I knew what Moses looked like. I knew what Abraham looked like. I knew what Jesus, Peter, and Paul looked like. I’ve seen 100s of Flannelgraph lessons. My mother would teach the children in the neighborhood. Our living room would be filled every week with children from the neighborhood. My mom would do these Flannelgraph stories, and believe me that she spent time at it. It was incredible.
But I knew all those stories, and I knew in the Bible that it said, “that I might by all means save some.” But you didn’t dare say it, because it proved you didn’t understand salvation, because only who can save? Only God. And if you say Billy Graham saved me, well not Billy Graham, he wasn’t here yet. I was on the tail end of the Billy Sunday era.
And Billy Sunday didn’t have the greatest of reputations sometimes, so you didn’t dare say that Billy Sunday saved you. If you got saved at a Billy Sunday meeting, that was okay to say that you were saved at a Billy Sunday meeting. But you couldn’t say Billy Sunday saved me. But Paul says, “that I might save some.”
Let’s go to 1 Corinthians 7:16. “For how do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?” Whoa! Now, Paul I could endure. I can endure the Theotokos. But come on, you? No, I can’t endure you doing the saving. Who is getting saved here? An unbelieving spouse. That’s the context folks. How do you know that you won’t save your unbelieving spouse? Wow!
Would you say that there’s any synergism here so far in the salvation process? What you need to gain here is also a glimpse of what God has called every single Christian on the face of this Earth to. We’re all a part of the process. God doesn’t sit up there, as it were, in His remote Heaven and just sort of direct everything, and all we are is spectators. God didn’t ever call you to be a spectator. He called you to be on the field. We’re not sitting in the stands.
I think there are maybe some folks in the stands, as it were. Those might be the great cloud of witnesses, but they’ve been on the field, and they’re on the field in a different way now. Let’s go on to the next text of 1 Timothy 4:16. Somebody read it. “Take heed of yourself and the doctrine and continue in them, for in doing this, you will save both yourself and those who hear you.”
WHOA! Now, who saves whom? You save yourself! Folks, it’s the same word. You say, “Well, Fr. John, you have to go through the contextual argument here. What does he mean by saved?” O, come on! A child understands this. You have to go to seminary to not understand this. It is just so plain. But in this case, who is doing the saving? It’s not just husbands saving wives and wives saving husbands. In this case, it’s you saving both yourself and you saving others.
Somebody read James 5:14-15. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” Oh my goodness! Now, don’t complain the next time you hear about a priest being able to pray a prayer of absolution.
The truth is, not only do you get saved through the prayer of faith, but sins get forgiven. And who is doing it? Who do you call for here to do the praying? The elder. And who is the elder? The presbyter. And who are the presbyters in here right now? Well, there’s three. There’s there presbyters in here. At least three presbyters have been given authority to pray for healing and forgiveness of sins. This is what it says. But what is it that does the saving here specifically? Prayer of faith.
I don’t mind when people say, “Well, you need to pray to the Lord that He will save you.” I think it’s wonderful to ask Jesus into your heart. That’s fine. That’s not what Revelation 3:20 means by the way. Revelation 3:20 is about the Lord getting back into a church that He got thrown out of. That’s what Revelation 3:20 is. It has nothing to do with asking Jesus into your heart. Read it!
By the way, in this text, this is one of those places where it is difficult to translate, because what is the issue in James 5? What are we praying for? Somebody who is sick. Okay, we’re praying for the sick person, and it says that the prayer of faith will save the sick. It also could be translated just as easily, and the translators have to make a choice, is that the prayer of faith will save the sick or heal the sick. Either one.
There are translations that say that the prayer of faith will heal the sick, and that is a very legitimate translation. But the truth is, to get saved really means what happens to you? You get healed! From what? Well, from a serious disease. What’s the serious disease? Sin! Sin is a serious disease that you’ve got in all the stuff that goes with it. The healing of our souls and our bodies!
Somebody read 1 Timothy 2:15. “Nonetheless, she will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with self-control.” Now, almost every woman in here is very aware of this passage, and don’t ask what it means. I’ve heard probably 50 explanations of it, and I’m not really satisfied with any of them. It just says that women are saved through childbearing. It’s that same word folks. I’m not even going to touch that one today, because I only have seven minutes left.
Here’s another one for you to read, Jude 1:23. “But others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” Now, in this one, Jude is writing to whomever this letter is addressed. That person is being asked to do the saving. But when it has to do with a saving of the soul that is in grave danger, the dimension of fear is added.
The reason I put this in here is because it is that same word. I wanted it here, because in this case, it isn’t God who does the saving. Somebody saves somebody who is plunging to destruction, and you go save them. I don’t know how many times I’ve given this illustration, but if you left Fr. Peter’s house, and you go walk one block to Del Playa, that’s the last street to the ocean. If you cross the sidewalk, you’re in a park called “Dog Poop Park,” because it’s a minefield, because that’s where people walk their dogs and don’t carry bags. So you gently step through the park.
And I’ve probably given this illustration several hundred times concerning “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” I say if you walk from there, go through Dog Poop Park, and then a gravel path, and then you have about eight feet left before a 30 foot drop. And every year, there are people that go over the cliff. There are kids who get drunk, and almost every year a kid or two gets killed. And often I use this when talking about sex, love, and marriage, because people object to God’s commandment.
I say that if I was walking there with you on a given night, and it’s pitch black, and I’ve done that walk hundreds of time. I lived there for 20 years. I walked to the ocean so many times. I know when I get to the curb. I know when I get to the grass. I know when I get to the gravel path. I know how much room there is left. You’ve never been there. And you say, “Oh, I love this! I’m going to run!” And I say, “STOP!” What I did was save you if I catch you in time. Save with fear.
Now, let’s move on to 1 Peter 3:21. We’ve got two more. I love this one. “There is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism (not the removal of filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Oh boy! We actually saw it yesterday didn’t we? Especially since the little girl happened to be Anastasia, which means resurrection. That’s what her name means, so we resurrected Ms. Resurrection.
But in this particular case, can you imagine the mental gymnastics that get used to avoid the plain teaching of Scripture on this passage? It just says that BAPTISM SAVES THROUGH THE RESURRECTION! Well, of course. That’s what Romans 6 is about. “Don’t you know that all of us have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into his death? Crucified, buried, raised together with Him in baptism.” Of course that’s what it says. It just says plain says that baptism saves.
One last one and then a final word. Someone read Luke 7:50. “Then, He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’ ” Now what saved? Faith. “And for by grace, you are saved through faith.” But this is your faith. This was the last reference in a whole list of the things that Scriptures say saves. And if you’re going to say sola fide, probably the worst part of that is it gets a tiny bit presumptuous when you say that your faith alone is what saves you.
That puts the burden of salvation on you. You can start thinking, “Well, maybe I didn’t have enough faith when I asked Jesus into my heart.” I mean how many hundreds of people in my life have I dealt with where that was their problem. “Maybe, I didn’t mean it.”
There’s only one or two of you in here who have heard me speak many times on this subject. Do any of you have any idea how many times I asked Jesus into my heart? Hundreds and hundreds! Do you know how often it was? Every night, because I always said my prayers. Do you know what the prayer was? “If I didn’t mean it last night, Lord, I mean it tonight.” Over and over and over again, because the burden was on me.
Okay, now what I said last night was that I was going to talk about intercessory prayer. Well, that’s exactly what I wanted to do. You have to understand synergism if you’re going to understand intercessory prayer. Now, what me must understand is that God has called us all to participate in this whole process, even in the process of salvation. God saves. Jesus saves. The Holy Spirit saves. The Bible saves. Faith saves. Husbands save wives. Wives save husbands. And so on and so on. You save. You save yourself and others.
God in His great mercy and His great grace has created man in His own image and likeness, and He has called us to be participators with Him in all of this, and that includes prayer. And so when we ask for the intercessions of the Saints and when we ask for the intercessions of the Mother of God and when we ask for the intercession of any Christian, whom do you ask when you need prayer answered? Well, you ask anyone who has any shred of faith.
That’s the person who you ask. And you say, “Fr. John, For my prayers, I have asked the holy prince Jonathan.” Do you know who the holy prince Jonathan is? He’s my saint. You see, my brother’s name is David, and I’m Jonathan, and I was accidentally ordained as Jonathan. And you see, the holy prince Jonathan doesn’t have as many people to pray for as a lot of saints do. Peter has a lot of people to pray for.
Do you think I just sit there and say, “Well, holy prince Jonathan, how you doing today?” I’ve never done such a thing. The Italians have a great expression that is a prayer to the Mother of God. MAMA MIA! Well, that’s the origin of it. Mama Mia is a prayer to your human mother, but it is also a prayer to the Mother of God. All good Italian Catholics should understand that.
But how did the holy prince Jonathan, who was a contemporary of David and who was alive in about 1000 B.C., how is he going to find out? Well, we’re going to go back to where Fr. Dan was. That’s one place at least. What’s an angel? A messenger. Do we have any illustrations in the Bible where angels carried prayers?
You might try the book of Daniel, where an angel gets sent with a message and a pretty tough one ultimately. Michael has to get involved in the thing. We’re not talking about necromancy. We’re not talking about paganism. We’re not talking about séances. In the Kingdom of God, there are unlimited possibilities of things that can be done.
Do you know how many angels there are? I’m just guessing. In the Liturgy we say, because it comes from the Scriptures, tens of thousands of thousands of thousands. Do you know how many that is? It means you can’t count. It’s an idiom. It means there’s too many to count. Well, I can count the population of the earth, but I can’t count the population of angels, so my guess is there’s more angels than people. There needs to be, because some of you need a half-dozen to take care of you.
I know three situations in my life where I think an angel stopped a car. I think in Orange County when we left my brother at a train station at Santa Ana. Those of you from Orange County, I went to Valentria High School when I was in the 7th Grade. We were on our way back home after dropping my brother off. He was in the Navy in the Second World War.
It was dark, and they didn’t have railroad crossings marked like they do today. And all of a sudden, there’s a train in front of us. Absolutely impossible. I think an angel just put up his hand and stopped the car. That’s what my dad thought. That’s what my mother thought. That’s what I thought.
A couple of other times, I remember looking in the rearview mirror of my car and saw a freight train going right behind me. I mean, it was behind me, and I was only ten feet past the tracks. I wasn’t drunk. I was just a kid, and I wasn’t paying attention, but we have angels that take care of us. My point is synergism and intercessory prayer.
If you understand this, then, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us,” is not difficult. Or just asking my angel to pray for me, “O most holy angel, who keeps guard over my sinful body and soul, forgive me today for the sins, which I have committed against you,” because I sin against my angel. Don’t you? My angel is supposed to take care of me, and I’m an obstinate, stubborn, careless, reckless person. My poor angel has to stay on his toes. Don’t let those words bother you. Just enter in, and take advantage.
"I am very thankful for Ancient Faith Radio. This station is one of the most helpful tools to learn about the Orthodox tradition at its best. Especially, I'd like to note Fr. Tom Hopko's programs which have always inspired me to inquire deeper into theology. His biblical stand often gives me the right perspective on many theological issues."