ALL WHO BELIEVE IN CHRIST ARE ALREADY SAVED
By Saint Theophan, the Recluse
One cannot agree with this. All those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ have only stepped onto the path which truly and undoubtedly will lead to salvation, but they are saved when they finish this path without fail and without falling away. Therefore, according to the Evangelist Mark the Lord says: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…” [Mark 16:16], but is not saved yet.
HAVING BELIEVED IN CHRIST, THROUGH THIS ALONE ONE APPROPRIATES TO HIMSELF THE GRACE OF REDEMPTION.
This is not enough. The Lord redeemed us by His Blood, or by His death upon the Cross. We acquire the redeeming power of the Lord’s death in the Mystery of Holy Baptism, as the Apostle Paul explains [Romans 6:4]. Here man is crucified with Christ, washed in His Blood, and cleansed from sin. This power is renewed in the Mystery of Repentance, which is a second baptism in the font of tears. Faith precedes and accompanies both of these Mysteries, but faith alone, without these Mysteries, does not attract and does not renew the redeeming power of the Lord’s death on the Cross. Even with these Mysteries, faith alone does not attract such power, but is accomplished together with contrition of heart for sins, firm resolve to live a holy life, and confession of sins to a spiritual father.
ALL WHO HAVE BELIEVED IN CHRIST AND ARE CONVINCED
OF FORGIVENESS OF THEIR SINS THROUGH THIS, RECEIVE CHRIST INTO THEMSELVES.
From where have they taken this? asks St. Theophan, and then he points out how the Lord and the holy Apostles taught how one receives Christ in oneself. St. Paul writes: “As many as have been baptized in Christ have put on Christ” [Gal. 3:27]. Having put on Christ, one, of course, has received Him into oneself. Therefore, whoever has been baptized has become a receiver of Christ in himself. The Lord said: “He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood abideth in Me and I in him” [John 5:56]. If the Lord abides in one who has received Communion, then it is because, certainly, in Holy Communion he receives Him. Therefore, whoever has received the Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ, has become through this a receiver of Him. Faith only opens the way to the Lord, for receiving Him in the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
In another place in the same Evangelist, John the Theologian, the Lord shows still another way to receive Him, namely, by fulfilling His commandments. “He that hath My commandments,” says the Lord, “and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me: and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him” [John 14:21]. And further: “If a man love Me, he will keep My words: and My father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him” [John 14:23]
Do not think that this fulfilling of the commandments will open the way for the dwelling of the Lord in us in a special or separate way apart from Holy Baptism or Holy Communion. The grace of Baptism and Holy Communion gives the power to faithfully fulfill the commandments. Having fulfilled all the commandments, one adorns his soul with all virtues and makes his heart a temple worthy to be a habitation of the Lord. Only then will He dwell in him. He abides in him from the moment of Holy Baptism and even more completely communes with him in Holy Communion. Though helping him in a holy life, still the Lord does not completely rest content in him, because there does not dwell in the soul all the virtues acquired through the fulfillment of the commandments. In him are left still traces of passions and he falls into sins offensive to the Lord. He will not dwell in him, not trusting him and as yet only preparing in him a dwelling for Himself. But when the soul is sanctified by virtues, then He enters in good faith, as into a house, and dwells peacefully, undisturbed by the movement of offensive sins and passions in him…Here are all the means for accepting the Lord which He Himself has established. Without the Mysteries, neither faith nor virtues will attract the Lord.
IF WE HAVE RECEIVED CHRIST, HE WILL NEVER ABANDON US,
NO MATTER WHAT.
St. Theophan asks: “Is it possible that Christ will abide where a person, by his sins committed after receiving Him, tramples on His Blood and crucifies Him again?” [See Heb. 6:6; 10:26-29]. It is known that sins make the soul and body foul. How can those who are deluded have the audacity to claim Him while in such foulness? God Himself testifies that our sins separate Him from us. Consequently, Christ the Lord forsakes him who sins, in whom He was formerly, and the good will of the Father withdraws from him, and the grace of the Holy Spirit is driven away. There other spirits begin to rule – the unclean.
THOSE WHO HAVE RECEIVED CHRIST ARE INCAPABLE OF MORTAL SIN.
In this statement there is no truth. The first among angels fell; one formerly among the Apostles fell; how many examples there are of falls of holy men of high life and wonderworkers! Freedom always remains with man. And he can fall, no matter how high he stood or close to God he was.
ONE WHO HAS RECEIVED CHRIST AND THEN SINNED AGAIN
NEED ONLY TO REPENT, AND HE INSTANTLY RECEIVES
IMMEDIATE FORGIVENESS, SINCE CHRIST IS AN INEXHAUSTIBLE
SOURCE OF COMPASSION.
This statement is made in order to suggest that when a Christian sins, confession of sins and absolution from a spiritual father in the Mystery of Repentance as prescribed by God is not necessary, but that it is enough to sigh in the heart over a sin and one is immediately forgiven, as a sigh flies from the breast. Even a firm intention to refrain from sinning in the future is not required.
Indeed this is too simplistic, notes St. Theophan. The sin of every man is a great offense to God Who has written His law in our hearts. The sin of a Christian offends God incomparably more, since the Christian has received a clearer and fuller knowledge of commandments, and has received grace to strengthen him in the fulfillment of those commandments. And a Christian, who has received in himself Christ the Lord – which is the highest degree of Christian perfection – in sinning offends God immeasurably. The Apostle thus concludes that he tramples on the Blood of Christ, even crucifies Christ Himself, Whom he has received in himself, and offended the Holy Spirit.
(Source: Orthodox Life, the Brotherhood of St. Job of Pochaev at Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y., vol. 37, No. 5. Sept.-Oct. 1987., pp. 10-14. [slightly modified])