Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Archimandrite Jack (Khalil): "Belive in the Lord Jesus Christ and You Will Be Saved"

Arabic original here.

"Belive in the Lord Jesus Christ and You Will Be Saved" (Acts 16:31)

After extensively expressing the futility of the Mosaic Law for justifying man, focusing his confrontation with the Law on circumcision, which is the sign of the Covenant, the Apostle Paul stressed that faith in Jesus Christ is the sole standard for justification.

He then epitomized this truth, saying "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6). What is this faith that has become the precondition for entering into God's New Covenant?

Faith is man's response to Christ's word (cf. Romans 10:17). Christ speaks, placing His word on the toungues of His apostles (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20, 13:3) because the apostle is the servant of God's work (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18), inasmuch as he transmits the call to the peoples to improve their relationship with God. But God Himself is the one who preaches and calls to this (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:13).

When he says, "As though God were pleading through us" and "we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God," (2 Corinthians 5:20), the Apostle Paul is clearly emphasizing that God waits for man to accept His work; God, who loves mankind and is all-good, who made His Son "who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21), did not stop at this sacrifice, but continued His initiative and here He invites man to accept the gift. For this reason, the Apostle Paul does not hesitate to say, "Now all things are from God" (2 Corinthians 5:18) because God offered His Son in order to justify man and instead of waiting for an appropriate offering on the part of man, you see Him inviting man to accept the good things that He offers him freely (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20).

Man's awaited response is not, however, in keeping the commandments that address fleshly man in order to realize justification, lest he fall into an ignorance resembling the ignorance of the Jews who attempted to atattain their own righteousness (cf. Romans 10:3). But in what pertains to God's salvific work, Christ is the standard of justification through faith and the Law alone, without Christ, cannot justify any person (cf. Galatians 3:21 and 8:3), "for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes" (Romans 10:4; cf. Galatians 3:24).

So man must hear Christ's word and learn the word of the Gospel of salvation so that he will end up with strong faith and the open confession that Christ is Lord.

This epitomizes the experience of faith and this experience explains the statement that "faith comes by hearing" (Romans 10:17). The experience of faith begins by accepting the word of the Good News (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:11, 14) and ends with obedience.

Through the interconnected relationship of faith in Christ and obedience to Him, Christ becomes man's Lord and Savior. The Apostle Paul states that he has received grace and apostleship from Christ in order to establish "the obedience of faith" among all the nations (Romans 1:5, 16:26). When man accepts Christ and confesses Him as Lord and Master of his life, his acceptance is then transformed into submission and his confession into commitment to Christ's word. This truth is made even clearer in the Apostle Paul's expression, "... for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ" (2 Corinthians 9:13).

So the Apostle Paul does not consider faith to be mere intellectual acceptance and declaring that "Christ is Lord", but rather faith for him is man consecrating his entire life to God (cf. Philippians 3:7-8) and obeying His word and His will. This is what must be manifest in man's relationships with God, with his brothers in humanity and with creation.

Faith, as obedience, is a different way of life from the path of sin (cf. Romans 6:16-17). When one believes, he is committed to teaching what he has heard and accepted. And faith, as obedience, is man's total submission to the one who has become master of his life to the point that all self-reliance is excluded, lest he falls into bosting of his own abilities, "Where is boasting then? It is excluded" (Romans 3:27).

This faith is the precondition for justification from sins. That is, salvation from sins and the judgment that they entail. Justification is not accomplished by striving to apply the works of the Mosaic Law and all its obligations, but through faith (cf. Romans 3:27) which is, before all else, submission and obedience to Christ, who forgives sins freely.

He who believes in the Lord Jesus entrusts Him with his whole life and so he does not live, from now on, except for Christ who lives in him, and he is saved.

Archimandrite Jack (Khalil)
Saint John of Damascus Institute of Theology

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