Our salvation comes through believeing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God -- and that is all.
The following is from a Coptic source, but 'H.H.' Pope Shenouda has compiled the facts together pretty well, so I copy-n-paste from them instead of being original with a response to the claim of Sola Fidei.
Salvation In the Orthodox Concept
By 'His Holiness' Pope Shenouda III
St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, Tampa, FL
College Meeting, November 9, 2001
-+ A great theological dispute rose in the 1960’s regarding the subject of salvation and 2 conferences were held in lower Egypt to discuss these issues and the book was published in 1967 as a result of the 2 conferences.
-+ St. Paul sates, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12
Introduction: The Danger of Using “One Single Verse!”
-+ The Holy Bible is not just as mere verses but rather as a certain Spirit is involved in ALL of its parts.
-+ St. Paul tells the Philippian jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31
-+ St. Paul states in his epistle to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2: 8,9).
-+ We need to not read this verse in isolation from the verse that follows, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in Him.” (Ephesians 2: 10)
-+ His Holiness emphasizes how we as Orthodox Christians need to be aquatinted with the right faith and the truth and that we always need to remind ourselves of St. Paul ‘s words.
“GÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âªnot of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” II Corinthians 3:6
v BEWARE of using a SINGLE VERSE ONLY!!!
Chapter 1- No salvation except through the blood of Christ alone
-+ No faith nor works without the blood of Christ can b e of any benefitGÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚ÂªFaith means to believe in the blood of Christ, and works are those based in the deserts of the blood of Christ as St. Paul said, “...without shedding of blood, there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)
-+ “Not by works of righteousness which we have done.” Titus 3:5
-+ “Not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:9
-+ Therefore, the righteous people of the Old Testament who pleased God with their good works remained in Hades until the Lord Jesus Christ brought them out of Hades after His crucifixion.
v Why is there no salvation except through the blood of Christ?
Romans 3:23, Romans 3:12
Requirements for the Redeemer of our sins- Romans 3: 24-25
2) Perfect (sinless)
-+ “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God sent forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God has passed over the sins that were previously committed.” Romans 3:24-225
Conditions of Salvation through the blood of Christ:
The requirements can be explained in four categories:
3) Church Sacraments
4) Good Works
-+ “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
-+ Our Lord Jesus Christ declared to the Jews that without faith there would be no salvation.”...if you do not believe I am He, you will die in your sins.” John 8:24
-+ “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
-+ As mentioned in the Introduction, Saints Paul and Silas required faith from the Philippian jailer saying to him, ”Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31
-+ “For as the body without the spirit is dead, faith without works is dead.” James 2:20
-+ “Even the demons believe and tremble.” James 2:19
-+ “...and through I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” I Corinthians 13:2
-+ Love is the greatest of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as St. Paul states, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
-+ Baptism is the gate through which one attains salvation, while faith paves the way to it.
-+ Our Lord Jesus Christ told Nicodemus, “Most assuredly I say to you unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” John 3:5 (It is not merely just being “born again.”)
-+ The Sacrament of Baptism originated from the early Church and is still practiced in our Coptic Orthodox Churches. This is clearly supported by the following verses: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20
-+ On the day of Pentecost, after hearing the words of St. Peter about baptism they, “gladly received his word, were baptized, and that day about 3,000 souls were added to them.” Acts 2:41 (If faith alone were sufficient, what was the need to baptize 3000 souls!!)
-+ Similarly, the Philippian jailer who accepted faith through St. Paul and St. Silas, ”immediately he and all his family were baptized.”
-+ “For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Galatians 3:27
Theological view of Baptism
-+ The way to Salvation must begin with death...continue through death and the last stage in the process of salvation is to be attained through death. This is clearly explained in the following verse:
“For the wages of sins is death.” Romans 6:23
-+ One must die with Christ and rise with Him in order to be glorified with Him. We must always remember that if we want to resurrect with Him, we must die with Him. We must always remember that all suffering is coupled with glory and that it is the way of glory.
-+ The icons of Saints that we venerate in the Coptic Orthodox Church depict the many sufferings they endured but now these Saints who suffered and who were martyred are glorified and venerated in Churches all over the world. He went onto to mention that true and faithful Christians seek sufferings and that suffering produces purity and that it is the only way to attain glory in this earth and everlasting life.
-+ St. Paul also mentions that,”Or do you not know that as many of us were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death.” Romans 6:3-4
-+ We need to live and think as St. Paul did when he submitted everything to Christ and how Christ only resided in his life when he said the following famous words:
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Galatians 2:20
-+ Salvation begins with the death in baptism, continues through death against the worldly lust to the end as St. John states “Be faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.” Revelation 2:10
3) Church Sacraments
A) Holy Communion
-+ This is a beautiful sacrament because we are joined with Our Lord Jesus Christ.
-+ Holy Communion also called the “Mysteries of Mysteries” or “Crown of Sacraments” as all the Sacraments are crowned by it.
v The person baptized must receive Communion directly after Baptism.
v The person who confesses and repents must receive Communion directly after Confession.
v The person who marries must receive Communion directly after the wedding, according to the original Rites of Matrimony which must be done in between the Matins and the Holy Liturgy.
-+ Our Lord Jesus Christ instituted this Blessed Sacrament on Holy Thursday, a few hours before His arrest and trial, in the Upper Room of Zion when He said,” And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to his disciples and said, ‘Take, eat this is My body. ‘ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks and gave it to them saying, Drink from, it all if you. For this is My blood of the new covenant which is shed for the remission of sins.” Matthew 26: 26-28
The Benefits of Holy Communion
1) Salvation and remission of sins
-+ We continually commit new sins daily and we need to wash out our sins with the blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ continuously. This is also recited during the Divine Liturgy, we mention that the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ “given for us: salvation and the remission of sins and eternal life for whoever partakes of it.” “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” I John 1:18
2) Abiding in Christ according to His precious promise
-+ “Most assuredly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me and I in Him.” John 6:53-58
3) Eternal Life
“ Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day. He who eats this Bread will live forever.” John 6: 54, 58.
4) Growth in Spirit and spiritual perfection and life in Jesus Christ
“For my flesh is food indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. As the living Father sent me, and I live in because of the Father, so he feeds in Me will live because of Me.” John 6: 55,57
5) Gives healing to the soul, body and spirit as it is recited during the Divine Liturgy
“That they (Holy Body and Precious Blood) may become to us all for participation and healing and salvation for our souls, bodies, and spirits.”
v We need to take every opportunity in our lives to partake of the Holy Communion and we should never allow more than 40 days to pass without receiving it, Participating in this sacrament is vital for our salvation and we should never attend the Divine Liturgy and take the Blessed Body and Blood for granted or take it unworthily.
We need to be prepared and worthy before we partake of this Blessed Sacrament:
1) The person needs to posses Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and be an Orthodox Christian baptized in the Church and believing in the transubstantiation of the Bread to the Body and the Wine to the Blood of Christ.
2) The person needs to live a life of Repentance and have a spiritual Father that he/she confesses to on a regular basis. “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that Bread and drink of that Cup.”
I Corinthians 11:24
3) The person needs to be reconciled with others
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5: 23,24
4) Attendance for the reading of the Holy Gospel. The reading of the Holy Gospel and the Prayer of the Mass are performed before Holy Communion to sanctify the soul and body of a person, and give him a spiritual and mental preparation for Communion.
v We must understand that Faith and Baptism does not prevent us from sinning and does cleanse us from our sins. Confession is a very important Sacrament as Orthodox Christians and we need to have a Spiritual Father and that we cannot just confess our sins to God only. This sacrament gives us a new hope in life and a new chance because our sins are wiped away. This is supported by the following verses.
-+ “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9
-+ “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Proverbs 28:13
-+ Our Lord Jesus Christ also told us that,”...unless you repent you all likewise will perish.” Luke 13:3
-+ The Holy Church since the beginning practiced the sacrament of Confession and is still practiced in our Coptic Orthodox Church. This Sacrament is also supported by the Holy Bible. “Many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds.” Acts 19:18
-+ Our Lord Jesus Christ after His Resurrection told his disciples that they were given the authority to forgive and to remit one’s sins. Our Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples, ”Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them, if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:22-23
C) Good Works
-+ Good works are necessary for salvation, and the absence of good works shows that faith is dead and fruitless. We as Orthodox Christians need to understand that a person needs the help and grace to be able to do good works as Our Lord Jesus Christ said,” GÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âªwithout Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
-+ “For as the body without the spirit is dead, faith without works is dead.” James 2:20
-+ God’s judgement on us will be according to our works.
-+ David the prophet said, "Also to you, O Lord, belongs mercy; for you render to each according to his work.” Psalm 62:12
-+ “For God brings every work into judgement, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:14
-+ “For the son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his work.” Matthew 16:27
-+ His Holiness Pope Shenouda III emphasizes that God does not forget any small act or good deed that we do to anyone not even “a cup of cold water” that was given to one who thirsted. “Therefore be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” I Corinthians 15:58
Works are fruits required for faith
-+ “This is a faithful saying and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.” Titus 3:8,14
-+ “By works, faith is made perfect.” James 2:22
-+ Works are vital for an Orthodox Christian. The works that we show and display in our lives should be evidence that we are sons and daughters of God. St. James states, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good, and does not do it, to him, it is a sin.” James 4:17
When shall we attain salvation?
-+ Salvation is a life-long process and needs to be coupled with fasting, prayers, singing, and confession. His Holiness discusses that we are in a constant war and the results are unknown. A person may win the first battle but lose the 12th but one cannot be certain of the result until the end.
v St. Paul sates, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Philippians 2:12
-+ St. Antony, the Father of All Monks, said, “This is a new day and let us start anew.”
-+ Even the Bishop needed to take heed of Himself when St. Paul stated to Timothy,
“Take heed of yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save yourself and those who hear you.” I Timothy 4:16
-+ St. Peter sates, ”If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” I Peter 4:18
-+ St. Paul advises us on how we should strive for salvation “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
-+ “For he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13