Saved by Grace

Do you believe? Do you have to ‘do works’ to be saved? Why do we have to go to Church? Why do we have to fast? Why are there so many rules in the Orthodox Church? Aren’t we supposed to be saved by grace? What’s the deal?

IN THOSE DAYS, some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, “it is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses.” The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” And all the assembly kept silence; and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

Acts 15.5-12

I will admit it can be confusing to discuss faith, works and grace in the Church. If the Jews couldn’t bear the Law without failing, why does the Church have so many rules to follow? In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we are reminded that God wants everyone.

First, we must understand that the Law today’s passage is referencing are the Old Testament Law that was not successful in saving humanity. It wasn’t that the Law was bad. The Law was and is good. It was that humans failed to allow the Law to shape them and save them.

Second, I invited you to consider that the new laws of the Church have the same purpose. The laws of fasting and the sacramental life of the Church are meant to shape us and save us from ourselves. They are meant to teach us the proper way to live, so we want to be in heaven.

Finally, we must consider that if God wants to save all of us from death, He will. His grace is freely given to everyone who accepts it. A gift cannot be forced on anyone. If we don’t want to be saved, then being saved will be hell. The laws of the Church help us want to be saved.

By God’s grace we are saved from death. If we want to experience God’s grace, then we have to have the proper faith to understand His grace. In other words, if we believe wrongly about God’s salvation, then we risk experiencing it as hell rather than heaven.

That’s where the laws of the Church help us. Christ said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8.34) Every law in the Church is designed to help us in accepting His invitation.

I will close today’s post with this. If we disagree with the teaching and laws of the Church, then we are at risk of experiencing God’s salvation as hell rather than heaven. We risk not wanting to be with God. Thinking we know better than the Church isn’t about laws. It is about faith. Allowing the laws of the Church to shape us, helps us deny ourselves SO THAT we can take up our cross AND follow Christ. Otherwise, we are on our own. That’s a risk I’m not willing to take.

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