By Evan Kardaras, Sub-Deacon at St. Mary & St. Mina Coptic Orthodox Church, Bexley, Australia.
(Sermon given at a Sunday Liturgy, January 2016)
Good morning everyone. Today I’d like today to focus on two important themes that go hand in hand in our Christian lives. Both these themes can be seen throughout all the readings including the Pauline Epistle, the Catholic Epistle, the reading from the book of Acts, and also the Gospel itself. Both these themes are interrelated. If we only have one of these themes present in our lives then we need to re-evaluate our Christian life, as there is clearly something wrong.
I’ll start by focusing on the first theme and will do this by reading each part from the corresponding readings. We’ll start with the Pauline epistle.
Saint Paul states that we have boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, that we are to draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. He states we are to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. He also says we are of those who believe to the saving of the soul. These are very powerful words; boldness, full assurance, without wavering, believe to the saving of the soul.
In the Catholic Epistle Saint John the beloved states that whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. He also states Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment.
We hear Saint Peter in the reading from the book of Acts talking of the promise of salvation to the people and their children, and to all who are afar off. And finally we hear St. John the Baptist state that He who believes in the Son of God has everlasting life.
Clearly from what we have heard we see the first of the two important themes I mentioned earlier. We see the apostles and the great St John the Baptist highlighting the importance of faith. And not only this but with such strong words as mentioned earlier boldness, full assurance, without wavering, promise and finally He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.
We clearly see that the apostles and St John the Baptist, wants us to have a deep faith in the Lord and in the promise of salvation. If they didn’t want this, they would not have used such words as boldness, full assurance, without wavering, promise and once again He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.
If we were to stop here one would possibly think that all that is necessary for salvation is faith. That if we believe in Jesus then we will be saved. But of course we’re not going to stop here, but we are going to proceed onto the next theme which is equally important in our Christian lives.
We hear the great Saint Paul say that we are to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, in other words not stopping meeting together in church to pray and worship. We hear him say that we are to exhort one another to follow the Christian life. Another strong word exhort meaning to strongly encourage or urge one another onto good works. We hear him say that we need endurance, so that after we have done the will of God, we may receive the promise.
In the Catholic epistle the great Saint Peter states If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. He also states: If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
And in the reading from Acts it states: the disciples continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Another strong word, steadfastly meaning firm in purpose, unwavering, steadily directed. Thus in all these readings we see a strong emphasis on works, on practically striving to have works that demonstrate we love God, and that demonstrate we are Christian.
The apostles didn’t stop at faith but as we have said used strong words to emphasise the importance of works. They talked about stirring one another up to love and good works, exhorting one another, continuing steadfastly in apostles doctrine, meaning correct teaching, steadfastly in fellowship, steadfastly in breaking of bread, meaning holy communion, and steadfastly in prayer.
Thus we see brothers and sisters, that on our journey to salvation we need to posses both faith and works.
We are to have a deep faith in our Lord Jesus and what he has done for us on the cross. We are to have boldness, full assurance, without wavering, believing to the saving of the soul.
Without what Jesus did on that cross we would not be able to gain salvation. He has opened the way to us by dying for our sins and healing humanity through His resurrection. This is why the apostles use such strong words to emphasise the importance of faith. Because God loves us, and wants nothing more than to see us be saved.
But our response to what He has done for us is to no longer live for ourselves. The bible teaches that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” In other words not even in our wildest imagination could we even begin to comprehend the beauty of heaven. Even the most amazing description would fall short emphatically from how amazing heaven will be. And all this has been given to us through the gift of Jesus life, death, and resurrection.
Thus brothers and sisters, if Jesus has given us all this, when we were doomed to eternal separation from God, due to our countless sins, then it is our duty to give our hearts and lives back to him. This is why the apostles use such strong language to talk about works. Because if Jesus gave his life for all of us, all the way to the cross, we are to give our all of our life to him. Our everything.
We are to demonstrate our love for the Lord by stirring and exhorting one another to good works, steadfastly pursuing righteousness, with firm purpose partaking of Holy Communion, being unwavering in prayer and loving our neighbour as ourselves. This way we show the Lord that we truly appreciate what He has given us, His life. That we appreciate the gift of salvation, by giving our life to him as a living sacrifice in love and service to Him and our neighbour.
With these two wings, faith and works, we will soar into the kingdom of God, we will soar into heaven through the abundant love and mercy of our Sweet Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Glory be to God forever amen.