The Orthodox Faith
For St Paul Orthodox Youth Society - Brisbane
By Fr. John Abdel-Karim
22 - DIVINE GRACE
Divine Grace is the good will of God that is made manifest and given to man. Gift, Love, Assistance--all of these are offered freely to man, without his deserving them. How can man be worthy of God's grace, since he disobeyed God, and left Him and departed from Him? He is not worthy of it. Divine Grace is so necessary to him, but he cannot ask for it. He cannot demand it as though it were his wages. He needs Grace in order to be redeemed, and it is given to him richly and as a gift. St. Paul tells us that, "It is by grace that you are saved," and that, "If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace" (Romans, 11:6). And this Divine Grace, a gift, is offered to man through Christ and results from His incarnation, His sacrifice on the Cross, and His Resurrection. St. Paul explains it wonderfully when he says that, "Much more have the Grace of God and the free gift in the Grace of that one man,
Jesus Christ, abounded for many" (Romans, 5:15).
We said earlier that Divine Grace is indispensable for the salvation of the sinner. It is necessary. Without it, man cannot attain salvation. Christ Himself says that, "No one can come unto Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him" (John, 6:44). "God is at work in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians, 2:13). Again, "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God" (John, 3:5). These scriptural verses reveal to us that we need Divine Grace "which is always the cure of the weak and fulfils what is lacking." Without it we cannot work out our repentance and our return back to our God and Father. Man has an absolute need of Divine Grace. And God grants it freely and richly, but He does not impose it. He does not force man to accept His Grace. He created man as a free being, and He respects his freedom. "He desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth"
(1 Timothy, 2:4), but God waits for man by his own free will to accept the divine Grace which will save him.
The apostle of love, St. John, puts it so beautifully in Revelation, 3:20 when he says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me." He knocks at the door of man in order to save him. He does not open it Himself. He respects the freedom of man and He waits. Divine Grace, which is freely offered by God without being imposed, and for which man has absolute need, but which he must use his own freedom to accept--this Divine Grace has many fruits that are offered to man through the Holy Spirit. St. Paul says, "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians, 5:22-23). In particular, the fruits of Divine Grace are the awakening of man from the lethargy of sin and the call to repentance. "Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light" (Ephesians, 5:14): these are the words of Divine Grace calling out through the voice of St. Paul. After the "awakening" and the "call" comes regeneration through water and the Spirit, that is to say, through baptism; for "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God" (John, 3: 5).
Following "regeneration" comes sanctification; in other words, the full and perfect cleansing of man from all sin, through which man attains to being in God's "likeness." Justification follows this. Man, who had been sinful, guilty, and condemned, becomes justified through his repentance, regeneration, and sanctification. He finds peace and rest. He no longer has a guilty conscience gnawing at him. St. Paul assures us of this when he says, "Since we are justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans, 5:1).
All of these elements of our salvation lead to the glory that even here on earth is enjoyed by those called to repentance, and who have been regenerated, sanctified and justified, although in the eternal life it will be even better enjoyed, when they are fully united with God and "look upon the unspeakable beauty of His face," for indeed with the Incarnation and Sacrifice of Christ "we have entered into communion with Divine Nature." For man to attain this justification and glory, only one thing is needed: Faith. However, let no one be deceived. This faith cannot be theoretical. It has to be real. It has to be "faith working through love" (Galatians, 5:6). It has to be faith that is proven to be real and alive by the works of love. Consequently, both faith and works are needed to show a faith which is real and alive.
LET US PRAY
Thrice holy, triune God, You created us in Your "image." You ordained us to be in Your "likeness." With the Incarnation of the Son and Logos You again made strong our journey towards "the likeness." You pour out Your Grace so richly and freely. It is in our hands to accept this Grace, to be saved and justified. Do not allow us to be deceived. We all want to be saved. You know this. "What blind man does not want his sight?" Sometimes, though, we do not know what the light is, what true Grace is. We do not know how we can walk more steadily towards You. And this is why we ask You today:
Help us and everyone understand how to accept Your Grace.