Salvation is not guaranteed. Once we believe, are baptized and chrismated, we become part of Christ’s church and His family. We receive the Holy Spirit and are able to participate in the sacramental life of His church. We now have a path opened to salvation, eternal life with Christ. Having a free will makes this a life long process. We can choose to disobey any of His commandments, like Adam and Eve, separate ourselves from God.
We have a free will. Jesus Himself warns His disciples about the possibility of being deceived by false teachers and being surrounded by those who disregard His teachings. He tells them, “He who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13), implying that even close disciples are not guaranteed of salvation; they must endure.
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, encourages them to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) and to “become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation…holding fast the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16). Peter also warns in his second letter, “beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Peter 3:17).
From a comprehensive view of Scripture, it is clear that those who have faith can be led astray and therefore need to learn how control the use of their free will. Our condition is one filled with passions and worldly self-centered desires that need to be tamed in order to follow His commands and become like Him, prepared for eternal life. We live in an environment filled with temptations.
Salvation the result of a lifelong process. This is the teaching of Apostolic Tradition, Scripture, and is consistent with the understanding of the Church Fathers. Central to this effort is continual repentance, acknowledging our sinful nature, seeking reconciliation, and seeking God’s help to change our ways.
The Church Fathers consistently support this view. For example, St. John Chrysostom writes, “And just as no one can enter into a gymnasium without preparation, so no one can enter into paradise without the training of repentance" (Homily on Repentance and Almsgiving). Saint Gregory of Nyssa says “The grace of God is indeed always given for illumination and guidance, but it is not always received by those who desire it, but only by those who are always struggling to live according to His commandments, since, as we have learned, it withdraws from those who are negligent and does not remain in a place unoccupied." (On the Soul and the Resurrection)
Many Protestants and Evangelical Christians claim that once a person declares their faith, they are saved eternally. They often use Scripture passages like the following to mistakenly support their belief.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand (John 10:27-29)."
“Nor angels nor principalities nor powers …nor any othe created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).”
While this idea of eternal salvation is very comforting, unfortunately, it is not the whole truth. The imagery of the Good Shepherd in John 10 emphasizes the faithful love and watchful care of Christ for His followers, rather than making a statement about an irreversible guarantee of salvation. Romans 8:38-39, which speaks of nothing being able to separate us from the love of God, refers to external things, but it does not negate the importance of human free will.
The Orthodox belief is deeply rooted in Tradition, Scripture, and the Seven Ecumenical Councils and the teaching of the Church Fathers. The Protestant view, on the other hand, is an innovation that disregards Tradition and promotes individualistic interpretation of Scripture. Historically, their view emerged as a response to corruption within the Roman Church, leading figures like Martin Luther to believe that these problems were due to a false understanding of Scripture and the neglect of Tradition.
Believing that belief in Jesus is enough for eternal salvation is a major error. It discourages people from engaging in the necessary disciplines necessary for salvation. Their view undermines the importance of ongoing repentance, the need for self-discipline and the cooperation with the transformative work of God’s grace in our lives. It is not what the Apostles taught and is seriously misleading.
We do share a faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. However, the truth is that we are created with a free will and can choose not to follow God’s will. This makes it necessary for a lifelong process to align our will with God’s will for salvation. This involves continual self-reflection, repentance and cooperation with God's grace. These differences highlight the need for respectful dialogue so that everyone can be saved through the lifelong synergy of our efforts and God’s grace.