Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Contemplations in Theology: #13

Salvation is possible for those who do not know the name of Jesus Christ.

I am no Univeralist. There are certain definite truths, and there is only one path that leads to God: namely, the person of Jesus Christ. But it is worthwhile to ask: who is on that path? What do we mean when we speak of ourselves as 'followers' of Jesus Christ?

Most orthodox Christians rely on the relatively simple answer of Romans 10:9: "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Those who submit themselves to Him are "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:24). Faith in Christ is the defining trait of the Christian doctrine of salvation.

But the simple answer does not fully satisfy, for it leaves several questions unresolved.

Before or after the Incarnation, there have been perhaps billions of people who live their lives in ignorance of the Gospel. What is the fate of the multitude who never heard the name of Christ?

In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis wrote of the concept of the "Tao" as a universal ideal, common to Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, the Eastern mystics, and the Christians. "It is the doctrine of objective value, the belief that certain attitudes really are true and others really are false, to the kind of thing the universe is and the kind of things we are." This is at the heart of my point.

There is a universal conception of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful which every person possesses simply by virtue of being a human being created in the image of God.

Plato argued that we derive our standards for value-judgments from Forms; we can speak of things as "good" because we have experienced the Form of the Good. Christianity associates these Forms, and especially the Form of the Good, with God. Therefore, this takes our argument a step further.

Our knowledge and desire of the True, Good, and Beautiful is in fact the very essence of our humanity, and at the very heart of our identity as human beings created in the image of God. I would argue that the imago dei is precisely this desire for the true, good, and beautiful -- in other words, our rational, moral, and aesthetic capacities.

John 1:1 states: "In the beginning was the Word." This is a vital truth about Jesus Christ. It states: Jesus Christ may be "the Word made flesh," but when we confess the name of Jesus Christ, we are fundamentally confessing "the Word [as] God." But what is this "Word" (Gk Logos)? Is it not the Tao described by Lewis, or the "Forms" seen by Plato? Could we not say, in fact, that the Word is the ultimate manifestation of the True, Good, and Beautiful?

We are created in the image of God. We are born with a desire for these noble ideals; that is, with a desire for the Word. Human religiosity is thus driven by our common human need to sate the desire for these perfections. As Christians, we believe the satisfaction of that desire lies in knowledge of our personal and provident God. What's more, there is an even deeper satisfaction in knowledge of the Word made flesh, the person of Jesus Christ.

But for those who do not even know the name of Christ, how can they sate this desire? For those who know neither the transcendence of God the Father nor the immanence of God the Son, where are they to turn?

If special revelation fails, or if it is simply not available, could general revelation suffice?

Romans 2:11-16 suggests it would.

"For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who sinned under the law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus."

A similar point was made by Thomas a Kempis in The Imitation of Christ: "The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy."

These passages assert that we are judged and our salvation determined according to our degree of knowledge. As Jews were judged by their adherence to the Law, we as Christians are judged by our faith in Christ as the Word made flesh. But just as the Gentiles without knowledge of the Law were judged by the standards of conscience and reason, so too are those without knowledge of Christ judged by their desire for the Word.

I do not believe in salvation outside of Christ. I merely wish to argue that those who are ignorant of the Word made flesh can still be saved by their adherence to the Word.

Indeed, on the day of judgment when each of us is brought before the great white throne, those who have lived their lives in pursuit of the Word will see its incarnation before their eyes. If they have truly sought Christ when they could only perceive Him through a glass darkly, then their souls will leap at the chance to see face to face.

Some may argue that this doctrine diminishes the importance of "the Word made flesh" and of special revelation. I say, with Paul in Romans 3:1-3, not at all. "Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God." As Christians, we can enjoy intimately a relationship with God--we can in fact experience the good, the true, and the beautiful--when those without Christ seek such blessing from afar. We can see with clarity what others can only see shrouded in shadow.

We are held to a higher standard than others, for we have witnessed the power of the Presence of God. After all, the more fully we enter the Beatific Vision, the more we can see of the face of God, the more we ought to love and desire Him.

This should be profoundly disconcerting: the holier we are, the holier we are expected to become. Yet here lies the fear of the Lord, and the beginning of wisdom.

Before I close this note, I want to take a complicated and probably controversial detour. This argument I have outlined need not be limited to those who do not know of Christianity at all. What of those who know only a little, or whose knowledge is mixed with error?

We are imperfect vessels bearing the name of a perfect God. It should not surprise us, then, if our lives and sins prove to be distracting from the Gospel that we preach. But what can we say if those who have ears to hear are unable to hear, because of the deafening sins of the Christian?

What are we to say to the altar-boy who rejects Christianity because he associates the Church with the pedophile priest, with grotesque sins and abuses of authority? Are we prepared to say that he is damned for taking that stand? If he thought that this sinful priest was representative of the Christian faith, he would distance himself from that faith, even if he possessed a pure desire for the Word.

What are we to say to those natives of Africa and America who only knew Christianity in the context of imperialism, racism, and death? Indeed, here is a terrifying possibility: what if their rejection of Christianity was indeed an act of virtue? For it could not be praiseworthy to love a God of violence and hatred, and if that is all they knew the Christian God to be, then it might have been a deed performed by a gentle and loving heart to reject such a message. In this scenario, could we not say that they were closer to the kingdom of God, precisely because of their rejection of the Gospel?

Even if the error is entirely the fault of misperception, and is not the fault of any Christian's sin or moral failing, the point remain. If you are entirely motivated by desire for the Word, and you are confronted with a faith that seems to conflict with the ideals you seek, would you not reject it?

At the end of The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis places a Calormene soldier in the midst of the "real Narnia" with the company of true followers of Aslan. When this soldier first encounters the "great Lion,"

I fell at His feet and thought, "Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honor) will know that I have served Tash [the pagan god] and not Him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the lion and die, than to be kind of the world and live and not have seen Him. But the Glorious One bent down and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, 'Son, thou are welcome.' But I said, 'Alas, Lord, I am no son of Thine but a servant of Tash.' He answered, 'Child, all the service thou has done to Tash, I account as service done to me." Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, "Lord is it true, as the Ape [the false prophet] said, the thou and Tash are one?" The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, "It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services that thous hast done to him, for I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man do a cruelty in my name, than though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed accepted. Dost Thou understand child?" I said, "Lord, Thou knowest how much I understand." But I also said (for the truth constrained me), "Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days." "Beloved" said the Glorious One, "unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly, for all find what they truly seek."

I do not believe that all people will be saved. I do not believe that all ways lead to heaven. I do not believe that we should be content to let error remain. But I cannot believe that errors of mind disqualify the yearnings of our hearts and souls, not when God sees every one of us in our inmost being.

And that is why I assert, with some trepidation, that salvation is possible even for those who do not believe in the Christian faith.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Commentary on Scripture: Ephesians

(Please note that I use an NASB translation, so some of the phrase may be different from your Bible).
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Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus and the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eph. 1:3-14 ~~ A doxology to God the Father (v. 3-6) and God the Son (v. 7-13a) with some mention of the Holy Spirit (v. 13b-14). This doxology strongly emphasizes divine benevolence in the various doctrines of spiritual gifts, election, redemption, reward, general and special revelation, eschatology, and teleology.

Eph. 1:3 ~~ "Every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" seems to indicate that our union with Christ has already empowered us, by granting access to God and his (spiritual) power and might. This dovetails nicely with the discussion of spiritual warfare that ends this letter in Ephesians 6.

Eph. 1:4-5 ~~ A strong statement of predestination, particularly emphasizing the benevolence of God

Eph. 1:7 ~~ The "redemption through His blood" seems to be distinct from "the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace." Theologically they cannot be too distinct, but perhaps they can be considered two different modes of the same act of grace and forgiveness?

Eph. 1:8-9 ~~ God's wisdom expressed by revealing the mystery of His will

Eph. 1:11 ~~ Inheritance as sons of God is distinct from forgiveness or redemption (cf. Eph. 1:7) but is strongly correlated in this doxology with mentions of predestination.

Eph. 1:13-14 ~~ The Holy Spirit is given as a pledge of our inheritance in heaven (which I correlate to the "store up treasures in heaven" passage in Matthew 6:20). This reward is given for the praise of His glory, but (more interestingly) for the purpose of redeeming God's own possession; that is, us. My next contemplation will be on this very topic, actually, but there seems to be a suggestion that we might be more easily redeemed (brought into the Church) with the promise that we will not only be redeemed but also restored, not only forgiven for our sins but also made excellent in virtue.

Eph. 1:17 ~~ "God and Father of glory" gives us the spirit of wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of Him.

Eph. 1:18-19 ~~ Eyes of the heart are opened in the "hope of His calling" -- "the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints." Here again is the prominent suggestion that we are more easily able to approach God with a carrot (incentive for reward) than a stick (punishment for sin). Paul in facts prayed that they would see this hope of inheritance, along with the "surpassing greatness of His power" and the "working of the strength of His might," and thereby accept the Gospel.

Eph. 1:22-23 ~~ This passage parallels Ephesians 5 and the (very controversial) issues of headship in marriage. God gave headship over Church to Christ; all other things were "put... in subjection under His feet" except for the church, which is Christ's body. This is illustrative in the context of Ephesians 5:21-22, for it shows that submission is not subjection but much more dignifying to all involved.

Eph. 2:1-2 ~~ Former death was when you "walked according to the course of the world, according to the prince of the power of the air, according to the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience." We are beset by temptation from around us, below us, and within us; we are caused to sin by influence of the world, of Satan, and of ourselves.

Eph. 2:3 ~~ The sins arising from ourselves are called "lusts of our flesh," but they arise from indulging the desires of both our body and our mind. 1 John 2:16 makes this same point (see especially St. Augustine's commentary on that passage in his Confessions.

Eph. 2:6 ~~ God, rich in mercy, made us alive, raised us up with Him and seated us "in the heavenly places in Christ." This is the same phrase used in the introductory doxology.

Eph. 2:8 ~~ Salvation "through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift from God." Christians receive the spirit of faith as a gift from the Providence of God.

Eph. 2:10 ~~ Humans are "created... for good works." In a similar vein, Lord Acton defined liberty not as unlimited freedom from restraint, but the freedom to act virtuously.

Eph. 2:14-16 ~~ The Law (of commandments and ordinances) is the cause of division. Christ broke down the dividing wall, by abolishing it in His flesh. He reconciled us to God in the cross, "by it having put to death" the Law.

Eph. 2:19-21 ~~ We are residents of God's house, which is built on the foundations of the apostles and the prophets, with a cornerstone of Christ, which is becoming a holy temple in the Lord. The imagery is quite interesting, for the cornerstone is generally laid last and is necessary for the stability of the whole.

Eph. 3:3 ~~ "By revelation there was made known the mystery" (reason clarified through experience) " I wrote before in brief" (previous letter to Ephesus: perhaps unpreserved or non-canonical?)

Eph. 3:5-6 ~~ Mystery related to the redemption of Gentiles "not revealed to past generations." This passage suggests that the reason for the early church dispute between Judaizers who wished to preserve Jewish customs and the Law and the bloc led by Peter who wished to open the doors of the Gospel to the Gentiles was ultimately one of knowledge. The answer to the riddle was given by vision or revelation to individuals (Peter in Acts 12; Paul in this passage and others). The authority and credibility of these church elders and apostles gave their individual experiences a rational weight in argument.

Eph. 3:6 ~~ Note the repeated emphasis on the equality of the Gentiles: "fellow heirs... fellow members of the body... fellow partakers of the promise."

Eph. 3:8-9 ~~ Paul given the grace to preach the riches of Christ, to make all know the administration of the mystery" of the universal extent of salvation. That is, Paul did not just spread word that the Gospels could reach the Gentiles; he brought it to them himself.

Eph. 3:12 ~~ in Christ, we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.

Eph. 3:14-15 ~~ A bit of rhetorical wordplay, since the Greek word for "father" is similar to "family."

Eph. 3:14-19 ~~ Paul humbled that God grants: power of Spirit, riches of glory, indwelling of Christ, grace to comprehend and know God's love, "that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God."

Eph. 3:16 ~~ "Strengthened... in the inner man" (later passages translate similar phrases "inner self")

Eph. 3:18-19 ~~ "Comprehend" (grasp the magnitude of) and "know" (experience personally) the love of Christ. Paul distinguishes rational and experiential modes of learning and knowing.

Eph. 3:20-12 ~~ A mini-doxology, praising God for His power working within us.

Eph. 4:1-3 ~~ Thematic transition: "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord" by living out these virtues: humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance in love, diligence, unity in the Spirit, peace of God.

Eph. 4:4-6 ~~ Quality of unity applies to body, Spirit, hope, calling, Lord, faith, baptism, and God.

Eph. 4:6 ~~ God the Father of all, over all, through all, in all. This reveals three characteristics of God: his transcendence and supremacy, his omnipresence, and his immanence.

Eph. 4:7-16 ~~ Discussion of gifts and unity in the body of Christ clearly parallels 1 Corinthians 12.

Eph. 4:9 ~~ This is one instance in which the interpretation of a passage clearly and directly affects one's view of a particular theological doctrine; in this case, whether Christ descended to hell during the three days between His death and resurrection. One's answer largely depends on the meaning one ascribes to the phrase "lower parts of the earth." Sheol was typically considered to be subterranean in Hebrew cosmology, as was Hades in Greco-Roman understanding. On the other hand, considering the heavenly heights from which Christ descended, even a life of the surface would be the "lower parts."

Eph. 4:11-12 ~~ Four classes of spiritual gifts, often conflated, which Paul distinguishes between. They are united in two works -- equipping of the saints for works of service, and building up of the church -- but have different functions. Apostles are those who plant churches and encourage leaders; prophets are those who restore churches and rebuke leaders; evangelists are those who expand existing churches and introduce new members; and pastors are those who develop churches and help members mature.

Eph. 4:13 ~~ Unity of faith and knowledge of Christ bring us to "measure of stature" that belongs to the fullness of Christ ("until we all attain to a mature man")

Eph. 4:17-18 ~~ Warning against the Gentiles' "futility of mind" (cf. Romans 1:21-22). They were "darkened in understanding... because of the hardness of their hearts." Emotional receptivity to truth found in faith directly correlates to receptivity to truth found by reason.

Eph. 4:19 ~~ A rather ironic statement of sin: the Gentiles, "having become callous," abandoned themselves to sensuality as a result. By losing their moral center, their souls were numbed to the aesthetic and erotic pleasures, making them more desperate to recover those pleasures, and driving them further away from what enabled them to enjoy them.

Eph. 4:22-24 ~~ Three stages or parts of conversation: "lay aside the old self," "be renewed in the spirit of your mind," and "put on the new self, in the likeness of God." Most exhortations to convert in the New Testament don't really include the middle step, which is quite a fascinating addition by Paul.

Eph. 4:26 ~~ Asserts concept of righteous wrath, for not all anger is sinful (cf. Psalms 4:4)

Eph. 4:26-27 ~~ Emphasizes forgiveness as immunization against spiritual warfare (cf. Matthew 5:23)

Eph. 4:28 ~~ Defends labor, capital, private property with a view towards enabling philanthropy.

Eph. 4:29 ~~ Exhorts to speak only edifying words (cf. Plato's Phaedrus, "noble rhetoric")

Eph. 4:30 ~~ My Bible comments that "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" necessarily entails that the Holy Spirit is of a personal nature. I find this argument questionable. I agree with the doctrine; I just don't think you can find it here, where the object includes God the Father. God sealed us for the day of redemption by his Holy Spirit; therefore, we are not to grieve either one by our misconduct.

Eph. 4:31-32 ~~ Avoid bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice. Live with a spirit of kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness.

Eph. 5:1-2 ~~ Imitate Christ who "gave Himself up for you" (direct parallel to Ephesians 5:25)

Eph. 5:3-9 ~~ Saints ought not indulge in filthiness, silly talk, or coarse jesting, but should speak with thanksgiving. Three sins are so serious they "must not even be named among you" -- immorality, impurity, and greed (covetousness), which are defined as mere variants of idolatry. These three sins are the reason "the wrath of God falls on the sons of disobedience." They are sufficient for any who leads such a life to lose their "inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." On the other hand, there are three virtues that are the "fruit of the Light" -- goodness, righteousness, and truth. It seems these are meant to parallel the list of three sins, as to provide the antidote to such idolatry.

Eph. 5:11-13 ~~ We are to expose the sins of others, not by speaking of them publicly, but by leading such Godly lives in comparison that their moral failures cannot be obscured.

Eph. 5:14 ~~ This verse ("For this reason it says...") is a mystery to me. It may be an early hymn of the church. Alternately, the passage may read "For this reason He says," in which case it may be a prophetic utterance or a saying of Christ passed down by oral tradition in the early church, but which did not enter the Gospel accounts.

Eph. 5:15-18 ~~ A series of contrasts, advocating prudence (the conduct of a wise man), industry (making the most of your time), and discernment.

Eph. 5:19-20 ~~ To be filled with the Spirit is to be "making melody with your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks" and speaking in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Eph. 5:21 ~~ Submission is a universal command for all in the church.

Eph. 5:22 - 6:9 ~~ This is easily the most controversial passage in Ephesians, and one of the more challenging passages in the New Testament. A few notes that I've found helpful in my own interpretation of these verses. First, these pieces of counsel (whether advice or command) are directed towards specific groups and individuals within the Church. Each section intended for a specific audience and no other (the section to wives is not meant for husbands, and vice versa). Specifically, they are meant as challenges, designed to edify each person's soul in areas of special growth. It is good if we seek to follow Paul's counsel, as it will benefit and educate us greatly; however, these verses cannot be used as bargaining chips or used to demand deference from fellow Christians.

Eph. 5:22-32 ~~ In a much longer controversial passage, this is probably the most challenging subsection. Essentially, Paul argues that the marriage relationship parallels Christ and the Church. The Church (the Bride, feminine role) is called to submit to God, while Christ (the Groom, masculine role) is giving Himself up for the Church. Paul extrapolates this same relationship to a more domestic level in which feminine and masculine roles interacted regularly.

Eph. 5:22 ~~ The counsel to wives to "submit... as to the Lord" is not a command to worship their husbands. Submission is an act of service and love, performed as a gift of worship to the Lord. Also, note that all Christians are called to submit to each other; i.e., all other Christians. Wives are called to be more deliberate and dedicated in applying this virtue to their husbands.

Eph. 5:25 ~~ The counsel to husbands to "love... as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" is a command to be entirely self-sacrificing. Wives may submit with action, but husbands are called to submit and love with their very being. Husbands follow Christ's example with the church, even if it means they go willingly to their death. As my Bible comments, rather obliquely, "To give oneself up to death for the beloved is a more extreme expression of devotion than the wife is called on to make." I find this to be a bit of an understatement.

Eph. 5:26 ~~ Apparently there's some doctrinal issues involved in "the washing of water with the word." For more information, see John 3:5 & 15:3, Titus 3:5, James 1:18, and 1 Peter 1:23 & 3:21.

Eph. 5:28-29 ~~ Paul makes an interesting point about how "no one ever hated his own flesh." There are some vices that come naturally to us, grounded in our very nature as human beings, including the vice of pride. Other sins, such as self-loathing, are thoroughly 'unnatural vices' that rebel against our human instincts. I would argue it is better to live with natural vices than unnatural vices, if only because more people struggle with the former, and it is therefore easier to find support and counsel.

Eph. 5:33 ~~ This summary re-emphasizes the point that these counsels apply for specific individuals. It is interesting the contrast between wives called to "submit" (v. 22) as opposed to "respect" (v. 33). "Respect" is literally the same word for "fear," as in "fear of the Lord," which may have been Paul's point. Finally, a small parenthetical remark may shed some light of Paul's rhetorical strategy. He writes that "each individual among you also is to love his own wife..." implying that the audience is male. His listeners therefore have an expectation that he will support their authority over wives. Paul's strategy was to first emphasize the submission of wives using the metaphor of Christ and the Church, which would appeal to men (especially Jewish converts) who viewed women as a lower order of being. However, once Paul established the parallel, he turned the metaphor on the men and told them that, if they expected their wives to submit as to Christ, they had better start acting like Christ by practicing self-sacrificial love. In this light, it's an exceptionally clever strategy, and probably caught Paul's audience completely off guard on first reading.

Eph. 6:1-3 ~~ command to children: respect parents (and the authority and traditions they represent) for your own good. In the immortal words of Ben Franklin, "Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from everyone else's."

Eph. 6:4 ~~ command to fathers: exercise patience in treatment of children, but with firm instruction. Again the emphasis seems to be on moral education and tradition.

Eph. 6:5-9 ~~ In these verses on slavery, Paul seeks to redeem the system by addressing and renewing the virtue of individuals acting within it (see also the book of Philemon). This does not mean that Paul accepts slavery as morally praiseworthy, nor that he rejects it as morally deficient. This passage is neutral in evaluating the institution; its focus is on the individuals.

Eph. 6:5-8 ~~ command to slaves: serve God by serving their earthly master, cultivating virtue, and with an eye for storing up treasures in heaven.

Eph. 6:9 ~~ command to masters: imitate your slaves!!! Perform the same deeds, but with an emphasis on avoiding wrongdoing and averting the wrath of God.

Eph. 6:10-11 ~~ "Be strong in the Lord" (Mars, persona of strength, inspiration for concept of armor, spiritual warfare). Rely on God's might in combating evil.

Eph. 6:12 ~~ Speaking personally, I am profoundly uncomfortable with the concept of spiritual warfare. However, verses such as these are pretty unequivocal that spiritual warfare occurs, and that we as Christians need to take it seriously.

Eph. 6:13-14 ~~ To stand firm "in the evil day," we require the armor of God and every fiber of our being ("having done everything"). This is no picnic.

Eph. 6:14-17 ~~ The Armor of God:
(1) "Gird your loins" -- Truth -- the basics, care for one's own soul
(2) "'Breastplate" -- Righteousness -- heart, will, spirit (C.S. Lewis: "the Chest")
(3) "Shod your feet" -- Gospel of Peace -- faith journey, evangelism
(4) "Shield" -- Faith -- protection of whole being (against arrows of all-consuming fire)
(5) "Helmet" -- Salvation -- protection of mind (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:8)
(6) "Sword" -- Spirit, Word of God -- offensive weapon, vs. sin and sinners

Eph. 6:18-19 ~~ "Pray at all times in the Spirit, with this in view" -- that is, in light of spiritual warfare. "Be vigilant with all perseverance and petition for all the saints." I believe this verse is sometimes construed to justify 'praying' to the saints. I think reasonable arguments can be made for the doctrine, but its foundations are not found in this passage. "Petition" is not a verb in this instance, but a noun; our vigilance is expressed by prayers for the saints, rather than supported by prayers of the saints.

Eph. 6:24 ~~ "love... with incorrigible love." An ironic ending, in light of Revelation 2:4, a letter from John addressed to the angel of the church at Ephesus: "But I have this against you, that you have left your first love".

Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorrigible love.