Faith Alone will not Save us (Part 1)
by Archbishop Nikiforos Theotokis
Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed;
blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed
Indeed, great is the power of faith! Wondrous are the results of faith! Infinite is the profit that ensues from faith! It grants eternal life, and bestows us with the heavenly kingdom! For it is written, “that by believing ye might have life through His name” (Jn. 20:31). And elsewhere it is stated, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou and thy household shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). Therefore, faith does save, and belief in Christ alone is capable of saving man.
But why do the very same Holy Scriptures also state, “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works” (Mt. 16:27). Additionally, it says, “Who will render to each [person] according to his works” (Rom. 2:6). Yet elsewhere, “And they who have done good shall proceed unto the resurrection of life; while they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation” (Jn. 5:29).
What can we make of this? Why do the Holy Scriptures sometimes state that faith saves man, while other times teach that good works are the cause of salvation? Do the God-given words of the Holy Scriptures contradict each other? Dear reader, do not be fooled! God’s teachings are in complete agreement with each other. Neither faith alone, nor good works alone save man; rather, both faith in conjunction with good works save man.
Faith consists of two parts: theoretical and practical. Theoretical faith exists when we believe with our mind everything that our faith teaches without doing any good works. Such faith is dead, of no benefit, and incapable of saving man. “Faith,” affirms the divine St. James, “on its own is dead if it is not accompanied by works” (Jam. 2:17). “My brethren, what good is it if someone proclaims that he has faith but has no [good] works? Is [such] faith capable of saving him?” (Jam. 2:14). Practical faith exists when we not only believe in everything our faith teaches, but also carry out and abide by all its orders and statutes. This is the faith that the Apostle Paul speaks of when he says, “Faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). Therefore, when the Holy Scriptures proclaim, “So that believing ye might have life through His name,” and “everyone who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16), and other such similar statements, it is speaking of practical faith that is put into action through love, and which co-exists united with good works. Similarly, when the Scriptures teach, “God will render to each [person] according to his works,” and the like, it is referring to people who believe: it is referring to the works that have been carried out as a result of faith.