My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
"FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE" (Galatians 5:6)
Orthodox Christians understand that to believe in Christ involves "faith working through love" (v. 6). They too understand that faith is not merely theoretical or power of the intellect but a treasury of moral feelings for devotion, an outcome of man’s love for God, and consequently, faith is a result of man’s will. "Jesus Christ comes forth from the individual who sincerely needs the guidance for a sound understanding of God’s Will; a faith which is revealed in the knowledge and message of the Holy Scripture. Such a faith inspires the individual believer with hope of salvation in Christ, a faith in Jesus Christ, endorsed by the Creation and Revelation: a creation not as an end, but as a means, not a faith in the Holy Scripture as an end but as a noble means to guide the believer to reach God, to Whom the Holy Scripture refer."
"Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 22:37-40). Orthodox Christians adhere to these two vital commandments of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christian agape (love) is manifested through good works, works of mercy, and sacrifice. This kind of love is substantiated by the sacrifice of the Christian’s material and spiritual wealth. The Christians’ love is revealed with respect, humbleness, and sincere brotherly affection toward others. The fruits of Christian agape and deeds are attained through the power of the grace of God. This grace is invoked by the God-fearing Christian believer; he is merely a steward of the abundant riches of our Savior.
Faith (Πίστις) cannot be separated from love (αγάπη) but are inseparable and act as one. Our Holy Orthodox Church teaches consistently throughout the centuries that very fact. "Justification is a Divine gift of God, a fruit of the living faith, which, in turn, is united and activated in good works." The holy Apostle James writes: "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also FAITH BY ITSELF, IF IT DOES NOT HAVE WORKS, IS DEAD. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I WILL SHOW YOU MY FAITH BY MY WORKS…BUT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW, O FOOLISH MAN, THAT FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD." (2:14-20)
Genuine Christian faith is a whole faith. It is not cerebral or theoretical but whole in every aspect. A living faith, a growing faith, a dynamic faith, a faith reflecting God’s unconditional agape for man. Saint James says clearly "that faith without works is dead." Saint Maximos the Confessor says, "Do not say you are the temple of the Lord, writes Jeremiah (Jeremiah 7:4); nor should you say that faith alone in our Lord Jesus Christ can save you, for this is impossible UNLESS YOU AQUIRE LOVE FOR Him THROUGH YOUR WORKS. As for faith by itself, ‘the devils also believe, and tremble." (The Philokalia, Volume II, page 56).
The holy Apostle Paul wrote: "faith which worketh by love." We, Orthodox Christians, must never depend on just the one, at the expense of the other, or emphasize the one and neglect the other. The holy Apostle exhorts the believer those of us who hold a partial faith, who "speak with the tongues of men and of angels" and believe themselves justified. Assuredly they are not. They instead are "as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1). The exact quotation is: "Though I speak ith the tongues of men and of angels, but have NOT love, I have become sounding breass or a clanging cymbal." He concludes by saying, "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; BUT THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE (AGAPE)." (1 Corinthians 13:13). Love continues into the age to come: it is eternal, complete, and fulfilling.
The Holy Fathers of the Church state that works of love are indispensable for the witness of faith and as material expressions of that faith. Our Merciful Lord in accepting the good works as fruits of faith blesses and crowns His own gifts. There are no good works done beyond one’s duty. In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, we hear: "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then he shall reward every man according TO HIS WORKS" (16:27), AND "WILL RENDER TO EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS" (Romans 2:6). The Holy Scripture reveals that he who does good works has treasures in heaven, and refers to the communion of everlasting life: "reward" (Matthew 5:12), "reward of the inheritance" (Col. 3:24), "prize" (1 Cor. 9:24), "crown of righteousness" (2 Timothy 4:3).
The sensible and wise Christian believer understands that man can never merit salvation. Salvation is given by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through His sacrifice on the Cross to save mankind from evil and death. The Orthodox Christian attributes his redemption to Our Lord and "of Him, you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and REDEMPTION–that as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). Amen.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God