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Fwd: Elder Cleopas Of Romania: On The Presuppositions Of Our Personal Salvation

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  • rmichaelzacharyaz
    ... wrote: On the Presuppositions of our Personal Salvation Ch. 13. from The Truth of Our Faith:: A Discourse from Holy Scripture on
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2003
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      --- In OrthodoxMartyria@yahoogroups.com, "rmichaelzachary1"
      <rmichaelzachary1@y...> wrote:
      On the Presuppositions of our Personal Salvation

      Ch. 13. from The Truth of Our Faith:: A Discourse from Holy
      Scripture
      on the
      Teachings of True Christianity, By Elder Cleopa of Romania (Uncut
      Mountain Press, 2000)

      Inquirer: Father, earlier you spoke about our "personal salvation."
      Can you tell me more about this?

      Elder Cleopa: Some religious confessions teach that personal
      salvation presupposes the action of Divine Grace alone, according to
      Calvin, or the grace of faith, i.e. of trust in God, according to
      Luther, by which the "merits" or virtues of our Lord Jesus Christ
      are
      conferred upon man. Therefore, to give a general outline, there are
      Protestant Christians who believe that salvation stems only from
      faith and that on the part of man himself there is placed no
      condition or requirement for his salvation.

      Our Church, however, teaches that our personal salvation is neither
      a
      gift, nor a simple work, but rather a process and an undertaking
      that
      matures or develops gradually and is realized in the co-operation of
      two persons: God and man. On the part of God, Divine Grace (His
      uncreated Divine Energy) is offered to us, while for man's part,
      faith and righteous deeds are necessary. Consequently, the
      prerequisites for our personal salvation are the following: the
      Divine Grace or uncreated Divine Energy of God and the faith and
      virtuous deeds of man.

      Our objective salvation is realized only in the sacrifice of Jesus
      Christ, whereas our personal or subjective salvation, which in the
      language of the New Testament is called "righteousness," "holiness,"
      or "salvation" (in the narrow sense), is realized as a continuance
      of
      this objective salvation, with our personal energy or activity
      acting
      in co-operation with Divine Energy or Grace.

      On the part of God, Divine Grace is absolutely necessary, for we
      have
      all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and we are
      justified
      by His grace, redeemed in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:23-24). "For it is
      God
      who worketh in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure"
      (Philp. 2:13). "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and not
      that
      of yourselves: it is the gift of God - not by works, lest any man
      should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus
      unto good works, which God hath beforehand ordained, that we should
      walk in them" (Eph. 2: 8-10).

      From this it is clear that divine Grace is necessary for our
      personal
      salvation. This truth is also evident in the words of the Lord: "I
      am
      the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him,
      the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do
      nothing.
      If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is
      withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they
      are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall
      ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (Jn. 15: 5-7).

      Hence, the Grace of God is for us the fluid that runs from vine to
      the vine branch. On the part of man, saving and actualized faith is
      necessary, i.e. "faith which worketh by love" (Gal. 5:6). Without
      this contribution of man's, salvation is not held out for any man.
      Conscious faith in God, without good deeds, the demons, too,
      possess,
      for they also "believe and tremble" (Jas. 2:19). Holy Scripture
      itself makes clear that good works are necessary for salvation. Holy
      Scripture is filled with passages which refer to good deeds as a
      necessary prerequisite of our salvation (Mat. 25:34, Jn. 5:29, Rom.
      2:6-13, 2 Cor. 5:10, Jas. 2:14-26, Rev. 20:12, and others).

      Inq.: I have gathered from different discussions I have had with
      representatives of various confessions that they are of the opinion
      that divine Grace operates by force and irresistibly. For them, it
      is
      not possible to speak at all of freedom, nor of a certain worthiness
      of man in whatever pertains to his salvation. It is said that this
      is
      apparent from the parable of the Lord: "And the Lord said unto the
      servant, go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to
      come
      in, that my house may be filled" (Lk. 14:23). Elsewhere the Lord
      also
      said: "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me
      draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn. 6:44). It is
      claimed that with this meaning in mind the Apostle Paul says the
      following: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to
      do
      of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). It would seem clear from all of
      these citations that there does not, in fact, exist freedom of will
      and that God alone, independent of our disposition, grants salvation.

      EC: Holy Scripture teaches us clearly that man is created by God
      free
      and self-governing, that is, with freedom of will, as the Holy
      Spirit
      tells us: "O Lord as with a shield of Thy good pleasure hast thou
      crowned us" (Ps. 5:13). Elsewhere it says, "He Himself made man from
      the beginning, and left him in the hand of his counsel," (Eclus.
      15:14) and again, "He hath set fire and water before thee: stretch
      forth thy hand unto whichever thou wilt" (Eclus. 15:16).
      Furthermore,
      in another place in Holy Scripture it is said: "Behold, I set before
      you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing if ye obey the
      commandments of the LORD your God" (Dt. 11: 26-27). And further on
      it
      is said: "See, I have set before thee this day life and death, good
      and evil . . . I call heaven and earth to record this day against
      you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and
      cursing:
      therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live" (Dt.
      30:
      15, 19).

      The freedom of the will of man, as well as the dependence of
      salvation upon his freedom, appears more clearly from the words of
      the Saviour Himself. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the
      prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would
      I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her
      chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Mat. 23:37, Lk. 11:20)
      Whereas to the rich young man He said, "If thou wilt enter into
      Life,
      keep the commandments" (Mat. 19:17, Heb. 4:11, Rom. 2:4).

      Through the mouth of His prophet Isaiah, God says the following: "If
      ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. But
      if
      ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword" (Isa. 1:
      19-
      20). And again to the rich young man He says, "If thou wilt be
      perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou
      shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me" (Mat. 19:21).

      In all of these passages it is positively obvious that God fashioned
      man with freedom of will and does not compel the will of anyone to
      draw nigh to salvation. For if the will of man is coerced into
      accepting salvation then any compensation in the future life would
      be
      meaningless. Likewise, God would cease to be the just judge the Holy
      Scriptures customarily refer to Him as being. If our salvation is
      accomplished without our personal will then that which the great
      Apostle Paul says would be incomprehensible to us: "For we must all
      appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may
      receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done,
      whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10). And likewise, "Now he that
      planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive
      his own reward according to his own labour" (1 Cor. 3:8).

      Inq.: Fair enough, but I still have serious doubts. Isn't it
      possible
      that God, from before the ages, determined the fate of each one of
      us? In other words, some are to be saved and some to be punished,
      analogous with the decisions rendered from time immemorial, out of
      His sovereign pre-ordination for each one of us? The following words
      of the Apostle Paul appear to support this opinion.

      "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good
      or
      evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not
      of works, but of him that calleth; It was said unto her, The elder
      shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but
      Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness
      with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on
      whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will
      have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him
      that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith
      unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that
      I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared
      throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will
      have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto
      me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay
      but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing
      formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath
      not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one
      vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" (Rom. 9: 11-21).

      The same Apostle says elsewhere,

      "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath
      blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in
      Christ:
      According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the
      world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
      Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ
      to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." (Eph. 1: 3-
      4).

      From this it seems evident that salvation is offered according to
      the
      decision of God from before the ages. For the Apostle says likewise
      elsewhere: "But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you,
      brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning
      chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and
      belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the
      obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. 2:13-14).
      Furthermore, the following is written in another passage: "But we
      speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which
      God ordained before the world unto our glory" (1 Cor. 2:7). And
      elsewhere it is said: "what hast thou that thou didst not receive?
      Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst
      not received it?" (1 Cor. 4:7). "For it is God which worketh in you
      both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). Hence,
      consequently the problem is posited as follows: No one is saved
      except those who were pre-elected and predestined by God from before
      the ages. Man in this life follows the lot proscribed for him by God
      without the possibility of changing or replacing it.

      EC: Holy Scripture contains within it unanswerable passages or, as
      Saint Gregory of Nyssa puts it, "strong bones." Some would like to
      break these bones of Scripture with their wisdom teeth as of yet
      still only suitable for sucking milk. However, such a thing they
      would never be able to manage. All who have desired to plunge into
      the depths of Scripture have drowned in the fathomless ocean that is
      the wisdom of God. Such was the portion shared by Origen, Arius,
      Macedonius, Nestorius, Sabellius, Dioscorus, Eutyches and all the
      other chiefs of the ancient heresies who have been swallowed up in
      the unfathomable sea of Holy Scripture. The profundity and depth of
      Scripture was not the cause of their fall and drowning, but rather
      they themselves were the cause, due to their own insufficiencies, of
      being drowned in the depths of the mysteries of the Scriptures.

      Holy Scripture is like a fountain or an endless spring, of the
      wisdom
      of God in which we must be steeped and partake in accordance with
      our
      level of wisdom and spiritual maturity. Just as we take water from
      the well with a bucket, empty it into our pitcher and then into our
      glass in order to quench our body's thirst, so must we also do with
      our spiritual thirst when we are urged to drink of the deepest ocean
      of wisdom, the Holy Scriptures. Thus, spiritually speaking, if we
      draw more water from the well of Scripture than is drinkable (out of
      desire for the purity of our intellect (íïýò) and heart), due to our
      pride and inquisitiveness we will be destroyed in our attempt to
      grasp the incomprehensible with our limited human faculties. If, for
      example, we were to see a child from the first grade trying to learn
      and to teach others that which is taught at the university, how much
      laughter and amusement would it provoke in us! The same and worse
      happens to those who desire to scrutinize and unravel the
      incomprehensible mysteries of the Scriptures with an intellect
      inexperienced and unenlightened by the Holy Spirit.

      The divine Prophets and Apostles, as well as the holy Fathers of the
      Church, while by the purity of their lives attaining to the
      simplicity and innocence of infants, at the same time also, on
      account of their wisdom, became as "perfect spiritual men" (Eph.
      4:13). Nevertheless, they were never so bold as to delve into the
      impenetrable mysteries of the wisdom of God. Before these elevated
      notions and expressions they remained as if enraptured saying, "How
      great are Thy works, O Lord, exceeding deep are Thy thoughts," (Ps.
      91:6) and "Great is our Lord, and great is His strength, and of His
      understanding there is no measure" (Ps. 146:5). Still further, in
      another place, it is said: "Hast thou not known? Hast thou not
      heard,
      that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the
      earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his
      understanding" (Is. 40:28). Listen also to the vessel of election,
      the Apostle Paul, as he says with wonderment; "O the depth of the
      riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are
      his judgements, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known
      the
      mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?" (Rom. 11: 33-34).

      You understand, therefore, my friend, that this fathomless depth of
      the wisdom of God cannot be approached by any intellect among His
      creatures, neither those found in the heavens, nor those on earth.
      Much more difficult is it for those who, without purifying their
      intellect (íïýò) and heart from the passions, and being bereft also
      of divine enlightenment, presume on their own to penetrate the
      unbounded abyss of the Scriptures.

      My dearest to Christ, earlier you referred me to certain passages
      that appeared to you to underscore a type of absolute predestination
      for man, however, the truth of things is entirely otherwise.

      The first passage refers to the call of man toward the grace and
      righteousness which is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 9: 11-21). The Apostle
      desires with this example to illustrate that the call and
      righteousness of men do not depend on the "works of the law" but on
      the goodness of God Who calls by His Grace all men to salvation,
      both
      Jews and Gentiles (see above: Rom. 9: 22-24). Without the grace of
      God, men are powerless to accomplish anything with regards to their
      salvation. Here the Apostles is underscoring the importance of the
      presupposition of our objective salvation or sanctification (i.e.
      the
      salvation of the race of man collectively), without repeating again
      the personal presupposition: the freedom of man in co-operation with
      the grace of God, with faith and good works.

      Furthermore, in no sense is it maintained that the foreknowledge of
      God exists as a basis for the predetermination of the soul or the
      predestination of each one of us. This is unstated yet implicit when
      the Apostle says that there are those whom God chastens and hardens
      since they had become "instruments of wrath," God tolerating them
      with forbearance. God perceives everything in advance and is not
      dependent upon the passing of time to know that between the two sons
      of Isaac one would be the conveyor of His messianic promise. Thus,
      it
      is nothing to marvel at when He says: "Jacob I have loved, but Esau
      I
      have hated."

      If it is said that God has mercy on whomever He wishes and punishes
      whomsoever He wishes, then we must ask: Upon whom does God want to
      show mercy and upon whom does He desire to inflict punishment? If He
      loves him that He has predetermined for salvation, who in this life
      would be evil? Likewise, if He punishes those who reject Him, who in
      this life would be good? Or does God want certain among the good to
      become evil and certain among the evil to become good, without any
      righteous judgement or requital? Yet, in this case, where is
      righteousness? Where is equity or impartiality? Where is wisdom and
      all of the other attributes of God? Not even among men is it
      possible
      for such things to occur, and yet even when men are given over to
      arbitrariness it is a tragedy and setback.

      As for the other passages you cited, they do not refer to some type
      of categorical predestination of the eternal life of the soul, but
      rather to the election or call of the soul to the Christ-sent grace.
      The call or election of the soul is not based on its worth or virtue
      but rather solely on the goodness of God. This invitation is not
      expressed and offered to a few, as is maintained by the followers of
      unqualified predestination, but rather to every human being, since
      the Apostle is speaking only in the plural and thereby showing that
      it is not that some are preferred and especially invited in the
      sense
      of predestination.

      It is with this understanding that the Apostle Paul says: "For this
      is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will
      have
      all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
      For
      there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man
      Christ Jesus; Who gave himself as a ransom for all, to be testified
      in due time" (1 Tim. 2: 3-6). If from this text we wanted to expound
      an unconditional predestination for the heavenly majesty, a
      predestination of this sort would have to be understood according to
      the letter and spirit of the text, i.e. as unrestricted and
      unbounded. However, this would mean that salvation comes
      automatically to everyone, and it is well known that it does not.
      Furthermore, the very followers of predestination themselves
      maintain
      that the number of the predestined for salvation is restricted.

      The truth is that Christ has brought salvation to everyone,
      something
      theologians have labelled general (or objective) salvation. And yet,
      everyone does not actualize this objective salvation, only those who
      seek and pursue it. While objective salvation is granted to every
      human being, subjective or personal salvation depends on the intent
      of man. Those who desire to be saved and work toward that goal
      receive divine Grace as their aide and guide. This Grace does not
      work in us violently; rather it abides with us peren- nially as a
      specific offering for the work of our salvation. Subsequently, it is
      not possible for us to speak of an unconditional predestination and
      its inadequate presuppositions for salvation. The truth concerning
      the predestination, fate and life of man can be summed up as follows.

      A. Holy Scripture speaks often of a kind of predestination that
      carries with it the meaning of pre-knowledge. At times it is spoken
      of directly, being referred to variously as "foreknowledge"
      and "predestination," (Acts 2:23 Rom. 8:29) "the counsel of His
      will," (Eph. 1:11) "the mystery which hath been hid from the ages,"
      and the "book of life" (Col. 1:26, Eph. 3:9, Rev. 20:15, Lk. 10:20)

      This predetermination is based on the life and works of man, which
      are plainly evident to our All-knowing God. Indeed, Holy Scripture
      speaks precisely: "And we know that all things work together for
      good
      to them that love God, to them who are called according to his
      purpose. For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be
      conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born
      among many brethren. Moreover those whom he predestined, them he
      also
      called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he
      justified, them he also glorified" (Rom. 8:28-30).

      We know also that at the future judgement there will be specific
      criteria upon which all will be judged. No one will be judged
      arbitrarily for that judgement will be righteous and unprejudiced.
      The Apostle says, "For we must all appear before the judgement seat
      of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body,
      according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Cor.
      5:
      10, 1 Cor. 3:8). "But this I say, he which soweth sparingly shall
      reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also
      bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6).

      Furthermore, Holy Scripture sets forth this teaching with more
      clarity in other ways. It is often repeated that God does not want
      the death of any sinner, that He is "not willing that any should
      perish," (2 Pet. 3:9, Eph. 4:6, Rom. 3:29) that all are called to
      salvation, and that God gave His grace to overflowing (Mat. 28:19,
      Rom. 10:18), precisely there where sin abounded, in order to provide
      all men with the possibility of salvation. All of this would be made
      a lie if the number of the chosen were in fact limited.

      B. History certifies with all of the Church Fathers and theologians
      of great authority, together with the entirety of Holy Tradition and
      its incontestable substantiating elements, that the teaching on
      divine foreknowledge has always existed within the Church.

      - Saint Irenaeus (+202 AD) says: "God who knows everything has made
      ready the proper dwelling: for to those who seek after and yearn for
      the unapproachable light God in His goodness grants them that light."

      - Saint John Chrysostom (+407 AD) says: "God has not foreordained us
      for salvation only out of love, but also on account of our good
      deeds, because if this (salvation) were dependent only upon our good
      works then the coming of Christ and everything which He has effected
      for our salvation would be as though unnecessary."

      - Saint Hilary (+367 AD) writes similarly: "That which God foresaw,
      He also foreordained."

      - Blessed Jerome (+420 AD) writes: "For that which God knew would
      happen in the life of His Son, that He also permitted (preordained)
      for His Son."

      - Saint Ambrose (+397 AD) says: "God did not predetermine without
      seeing first that which He foreknew. Likewise, in those whom He
      foresaw worthiness, to those He also preordained a spiritual reward."

      Inq.: If grace is always necessary for salvation, whatever the case,
      and if salvation is a gift of God given with grace, do we have a
      part
      in the working out of our salvation?

      EC: Yes, we certainly do have a part to play but grace is also
      necessary for our salvation, for man cannot be saved on his own. We
      are not like logs or stones with which God does whatever He likes.

      If grace were to work on its own - indifferent to us - it would mean
      that we would walk to our salvation without our will. In this case
      if
      some are lost to perdition they would not be to blame, but rather
      grace would be responsible since it did not compel them to be saved.
      This teaching, as we have said previously, is not a teaching of the
      Christ's Church but of the Calvinists who have themselves termed it
      unconditional election or predestination. According to this
      teaching,
      God decided from before the ages to save certain men and destroy
      others. This He does in accord with His liking, not according to the
      way man would work but through His grace - grace that He decided to
      give in order to save some. To a few Grace is given - grace that
      compels them to work according to His will - while to others grace
      is
      withheld. Such is the teaching of the Calvinists.

      Inq.: And the teaching of the Orthodox Church is different from that?

      EC: Previously, I showed you the Church's teaching clearly enough
      and
      at quite some length, and yet I will add for you also the
      following: "God our Saviour will have all men to be saved, and to
      come unto the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). Grace does not
      compel anyone. Men have the God-given freedom to accept it and to
      work with it or to reject it. Those who embrace it are saved and
      those who withdraw from it are lost. Guard well, my son, that which
      you have heard that you may be illumined by it and believe as a true
      Orthodox Christian.
      --- End forwarded message ---
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