WHO WILL BE SAVED?
THE GREAT FAST IS APPROACHING
WE NEED TO WALK IN THE NEWNESS OF LIFE!
The mind of the world and of western Christianity to which we are exposed is not conducive to a beneficial the Forty Day Fast of the Orthodox Church, so we need to separate ideas of Orthodoxy from the ideas of secular Christianity which have nothing in common. The secular Protestants twist the Gospel as they follow their own opinions. Many proclaim that they are saved by faith alone, and that this is what the Bible says, and they are correct – but so wrong about their conclusions! Their wrong ideas have crept in among many of our own Orthodox, and influenced by them, they also can have the wrong ideas about our Faith.
For example, while they do not keep the fasts, we see the Great Forty Days Fast coming upon us and this fast is an important distinguishing mark of Orthodox Christians worldwide. Orthodoxy keeps Wednesday and Fridays, and four fasts a year, and a few other days as fasting periods, which constitutes about half the year. It is a major part of the Orthodox Christian way of life, and is most healthy for the soul and the body. The fast teaches us moderation and temperance, which possibly extends lives, and for sure nourishes good health, not only of the body, but it certainly leads us to everlasting reward in the kingdom of the future! The benefits are enormous, the investment procures riches above all wealth and moderation we learn, produces contentment and good health of body and soul, which in turn reduces medical expenses. Protestants do not keep the fasts, disregarding the many references in the Bible, and many Orthodox, fail to keep the fasts, depriving themselves of the important benefits of Orthodox fasting to their bodies and souls.
Claiming to be saved by faith is hypocritical if it is not genuine faith in the truth, for without truth everything is uncertainty and darkness. The Scribes and Pharisees, lacking faith, claimed to be religious followers of the Law, but when they saw Christ’s miracles, unable to deny them, they attributed them to the Devil, and their murderous envy of Christ made it impossible to believe in Him. This envy drove them to demand that Pilate crucify the King of glory.
There are two important questions needing answers so that we may approach the Great Fast, with the correct disposition.
Will a large portion of the human race be saved and enter the kingdom of heaven?
Did Christ teach that those who have faith will be saved and enter the kingdom of heaven?
Let us hear the Lord’s answers and the conclusions:
MAJORITY WILL BE CONDEMNED –
MINORITY WILL BE SAVED
Lord will many be saved? “The last shall be first and the first shall be last; for many are called but few are chosen” (Mat. 20:16).
“Enter in by the narrow gate for wide is the gate and spacious is the way that leads to destruction, and many there be who go that way. But narrow is the gate and restrictive is the way that leads to life, and there will be few who find it” (Mat. 7:13-14).
“Whoever shall break one of these least commandments shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 5:19).
Being saved is eternal life. “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And He said unto him, Why do you call me good? There is but one who is good, God. But if you will enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt 19:16-17).
“If you love me keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; continue in my love. If you love me keep my commandments; abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in His love” (John 15:9-10).
Let us ask St. John also. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:2-3).
The Book of Revelation testifies: “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they might have authority over the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates of the city. For outside are dogs, and sorcerers and fornicators, and murderers and idolaters, and all who love and make a lie” (Rev. 22:14-15).
The Holy Bible repeatedly testifies that faith alone saves no one, but keeping the commandments and doing good works are essential.
FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS IMPOSSIBLE
Did Christ teach that those who have faith alone well be saved and enter the kingdom of heaven?
Speaking through James He replies:
“How does it benefit as man, my brothers, if he has faith and does not have works? Can faith save him? . . . Faith without works is dead being alone. Yea a man may say, You have faith, and I have works; and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is a God? You do well; the demons also believe and tremble. But will you know, vain man, that faith without works is dead . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead” (James 2:14-26).
The Bible is true and every man is a liar who contradicts the inspired word of God. But the Bible is a part of our Holy Tradition, for countless Apostles, Fathers, Teachers, Confessors and Saints, Martyrs, for two thousand years have understood, explained and increased knowledge of Orthodox truths. In Orthodoxy’s treasure house are preserved all the jewels of 2,000 years of Christianity!
How important are works? As important as faith and truth. Believing in the true dogmas and preserving the true faith which produces the good works and an living an ethical life , together with love for God and man, is the mark of Orthodox Christianity and the only way of salvation.
FAITH IS ONLY A BEGINNING
We are saved by our faith in Jesus Christ. But being saved is only the beginning of our endeavor, for if it is only faith, why did Christ give us so many commandments? Why did He teach us so many things and declare “Be holy for I am holy. Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect? Why did He offer bread and wine as His own Body and Blood to deify our flesh and cleanse us of our sins? Why did He establish the Church and declare it invulnerable for ever?
The Scriptures not only testify that faith without works is dead, but it goes even deeper into the absolute importance of works based on the faith which saves. No matter how strong our faith may be, we will not be judged by faith but by the works resulting from faith. Thus where is the salvation of those who believe in faith alone, for such a faith is a dead faith?
“And I will give to every one of you according to your works” (Rev. 2:23)
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from now on; Yea says the Spirit. That they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them”
“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades delivered up the dead which were in them, and they were judged every man according to their works” (Rev. 20:13).
Sadly the Protestant errors bar the kingdom of heaven to those who follow them, and are most harmful to the many Orthodox Christians whose minds have been secularized by lack of interest or lack of Orthodox teaching and preaching. Our faith is the most important part of our entire life here on earth, for it determines how we decide to conduct our lives and what our future will be, for we are offered one and threatened with the other – eternal life or eternal death
True Orthodox life always begins with faith which leads to hope and love for Jesus Christ, remembering all that he has done for us. He is most worthy of our love, and this love results in a complete change for the better in our attitude and lifestyle, for“as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ, Alleluia!” Attending church services and being on time is very important for it show respect to our Lord and to His Church. The Church is absolutely necessary for one cannot follow Christ outside the Church, because the continual presence of the Holy Spirit and the divine power does not exist in the secular congregations. We cannot risk being mistaken, for our eternal life is at stake. That is why, with certainty, we confess that there is one Lord, one Faith, one Hope, one Baptism, one Holy Orthodox Church. This is the ark of salvation which will transport its passengers into eternal life.
Keeping the fast is beneficial and not outside of anyone’s ability if there is a desire for the kingdom of heaven. Fasting, is called the “queen of virtues,” which leads to humility, repentance and all the joys of spiritual life that renders every person happy. Confession of our sins also is vital but must be accompanied by sincere repentance, for it is of no value if we confess and then repeat them. We must do as the Lord commands “depart from evil and do good.” Christ said to the adulterous woman and all of us: “Go and sin no more.”
During the Great Forty-day Fast, with the curtailing of the preparation and eating food, and of entertainment, we will have much more time, that can be used for increased prayers, akathists, complines, etc. There is more time for daily reading of Holy Scripture hearkening to the Lord’s words.
The Fasting period can be a long ordeal that causes us to anxiously await its end, or it can be a joyful leaping off point that ascends to the heights of heaven, where the Lord is our light, our warmth, our food and drink and where there is joy and exultation, without pain or sorrow. Here in this world we arrive at the glorious Pascha, singing with mighty voices: “Christ is risen from the dead!” But for each of us, our own great Pascha will come, when we leave this world, for then we will hear the angelic choir singing the heavenly song “ Christ is risen,” as we celebrate our own glorious pascha into eternal life.