From the St. Nicholas monthly bulletin…
On the Christian Life
Are You Saved?
When I was young an Evangelical friend of mine asked, "Are you saved?" I brushed him off with a vague comment, but I did not really answer the question. Now I know that many of us are asked this question by those who wish to convert us to their version of faith in Christ, but as I thought about this, I realized that there is a good answer to this question.
The answer is this: We are saved; we are saved by the Blood of the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ, through grace and through faith. As such we do not need to be converted. Where we differ is this, that we believe in the Church and they do not. For Evangelicals, salvation is an individual thing, and comes from an intellectual acceptance of a proposition, namely, that Jesus Christ is Lord, and is my personal Savior. But this is an incomplete picture of our salvation.
Christ came into this world not to save individuals, but to save a people, the Church, the new Israel. We are indeed saved through faith, we do indeed have Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we do indeed commit our lives to Christ. We do, that is, if we are truly Orthodox Christians. But our Lord came into the world to found the Church, the Ark and vessel of Salvation, so that we as a body may do the works of Christ in this world, and so that we together may be saved as a people. If we do indeed have this faith in Christ, it would be shown by our fruits, that is by the deeds we do, by our works. As Saint James says in his Epistle, Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works (James 2:18). The Protestants almost all have the view that once we come to believe in Christ we are saved, and we cannot lose our salvation. The Orthodox Church, however, has the more realistic view that we can indeed become cold in our faith and lose our salvation. We are told by Saint Paul, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). This is not an assurance of perfect security.
Our works are an expression of our life in Christ. If we truly are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9), this will appear by the manifest work of grace in us. And that includes the works of mercy towards those around us as our Lord warns us in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46).∎
Fr George Lardas, Rector
St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Stratford, CT