Friday, September 16, 2011

Faith Alone is Insufficient for Salvation



Many people who call themselves Christians say that it is through faith alone that you will be saved.  This is a dangerous error.  Salvation requires that we receive the Holy Spirit.


Saint Theophan comments,
"Believe, believe, and the Holy Spirit will come."  This is the biggest lie.  Faith is indeed an indispensable condition for receiving the Holy Spirit, but the very receiving of the gift comes about not from faith alone, but from faith through the Divinely-established Mysteries.  This is how it was even in Apostolic times.
Our current culture is misled by our dependence on rational thought which leads us to accept the idea that we only need to believe and we can be saved.  This is an intellectual deception.  We cannot intellectually think of God and then expect to receive the Holy Spirit which is His saving grace.  This Spirt only comes with the Sacraments of His Church.


Saint Theophan makes this point through the story of Paul in Ephesus.  When he came to Ephesus Paul encountered several believers and asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit.  They answered that they had not even heard of the Holy Spirit.  They had been baptized with the baptism of John the Forerunner.  Saint Paul then baptized them with the baptism of Christ and after that he laid his hands on them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.  The baptism they had received earlier was only a renewal and a preparation for receiving the saving Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit came through the laying on of Hands.  Later the Apostles introduced Holy Chrism (a holy oil) to be used instead of the laying on of hands.  Today in the Orthodox Church one is received into the Body of Christ though baptism and the sacrament of Chrismation where one receives the Holy Spirit. This sacramental act is essential.


Many Christian churches in this country do not have this sacrament.  They preach the idea of faith alone.  They require a confession of faith and then baptize in water, an act which is often seen as merely symbolic  of their commitment to Christ. Those who follow this direction are grossly misled and never receive the Holy Spirit which they must have for union with God. 


Now once you have this gift that comes through the sacrament of Chrismation, you need to nurture it so its presence and action will grow within you.  If you fail to do so it will remain latent or hidden.  If ignored, eventually it will become inactive.  Then it is difficult to  resurrect it.  This is why we have the other sacraments of Holy Confession and Holy Communion to help us maintain the active work of the Holy Spirit which comes to us through these sacraments.  Of course we have faith, but we also receive the Holy Spirit through Chrismation and continually renew its presence through the other sacraments.  It also why we are continually engaging in ascetic efforts to purify our heart so that the "fire" of the Holy Spirit will be fanned and be allowed to act through all our bodily actions.  In this way we can become virtuous and follow the Commandments of God. This is the Way to union with God and salvation.


Reference: The Spiritual Life, p 282

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