Faith and Good Works

by St Symeon the New Theologian

If we desire the kingdom of Heaven we must have great care and diligence and willingness in practising the commandments of God. In order to be saved, it is not sufficient to believe in the true God and to be Orthodox Christians. We must also fight "the good fight", live "worth of the vocation we are called", that is to say perform Christian acts since we are baptised Christians and we are honoured with the name of Christ.

Let us not think that we shall be saved by faith alone. Faith without works do not benefit in anything. Of course the Lord said "he that believes and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned", but He also said this "not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven". If one would be saved by faith alone then everybody will easily secure salvation. Because "the devils also believe and tremble. As the body with out the soul is motionless and lifeless so faith without works is dead. Let us hear St. James the brother of God, who very lucidly stresses "what does it profit, my brethren, though a man says he has faith, and has no works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, depart in peace, be warmed and filled; not withstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit? Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone". After these it is obvious that we must have works together with faith.

For this reason whoever believes in God and his providence, shares out his money to the poor, hoping that he will receive "a hundredfold wage" and will inherit everlasting life. Whoever believes, struggles to be humble, repents for his sins, he is meek and peaceful, hates injustice and loves justice, because he remembers the verse from the Psalms "he who loves injustice hates his own soul".

He, who believes, endures without grumbling every temptation in order to be crowned with the crown of the incorruptible glory. He is prudent and does not molest himself. He, who truly believes, is not lazy and negligent of prayer, does not condemn anybody and does not follow the "broad road", but the "narrow and sorrowful road". He does not love the world, neither parents, nor brothers and sisters nor wife and children, more than the Lord. Those, who believe, love the Lord and hate evil acts. They do not bear a grudge against his brother and do not return evil for evil. They do good to those who treat them badly, they bless those who curse them and they bear patiently those that persecute them.

Those, who believe do not practise hypocrisy, flattering or person favouritism, because in all their activities they are straight, honest and sincere. They have no pride and are not magnanimous for the sake of praises and flattering that others give them. They detest the world of sin, following the exhortation of Apostle Paul "no man that war entangles himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who has chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strives for mysteries, yet he is not crowned, except he strives lawfully".

Those, who believe, never lie, they are not greedy, they do not have Holy Communion without having confession, they do not condemn others. In brief, they follow care fully and steadfastly the way of the commandments of Christ and they have faith in Him, not in words but "in deeds and truth". Do you now see how, those who believe live? So how can we consider somebody as faithful if he is poor in works?

If we truly believe, let us fight sin and abandon every evil that we have been doing so far. Let us struggle with willingness in order to be ready to stand before the Lord on the fearful day of Judgement. Let us wake up from the sleep of negligence. Let us correct our thoughts and let us drive away the evil thoughts. Let us try to fulfil the commandments of God, in order to be crowned by Him and to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

from The Orthodox Messenger, July-Aug 1998
a Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia publication

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