How do you comment the following passage from the Sermon of Ilie Cleopa on the 12th Sunday after the Day of Pentecost? ”Every Christian who wants to get saved must meet the next three conditions: have a true faith in God, have the grace of the Holy Spirit, who is given to everyone through the seven Sacred Mysteries of the Church: the baptism, chrismation (or confirmation), holy eucharist, penance, matrimony, holy orders and the unction of the sick and keep the commandments written in the Holy Scriptures. There is no salvation without these three compulsory conditions. If one of them misses, the man loses his salvation and his soul which is more valuable than the whole world.”
I’ve read the sermon and unfortunately I discovered many deflections from the Holy Scriptures. Here are the answers to your question.
Ilie Cleopa is right about the first condition. The whole Scripture teaches us that the main and only condition for our salvation is to believe in Lord Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. The key-verse of the Bible says:
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
I can’t fully agree with the second condition. It is true that every saved believer must have the gift of the Holy Spirit whom we receive when we believe in Lord Jesus.The apostle Paul wrote about how the believers in Ephesus had been saved and how all Christians are saved:
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14)
In order to be saved, a person must first hear the Word of the Gospel and accept the truth about Lord Jesus Christ. When he believes it, he is sealed with the Holy Spirit, meaning he receives the Holy Spirit as a deposit. He is a guarantee of our inheritance, of all those who have been redeemed/saved.
There is no biblical support for his statement that the grace of the Holy Spirit ” is given to everyone through the seven Sacred Mysteries of the Church: the baptism, chrismation (or confirmation), holy eucharist, penance, matrimony, holy orders and the unction of the sick”. Everyone who reads the Bible will easily recognize that nowhere in the Word we find about such a condition for salvation, not to mention the classification of the seven mysteries. It is true that some of them are called mysteries in the Bible, but not all of them by far. According to the New Testament chrismation and the unction of the sick have not been practiced by the first believers. And something else… How can matrimony be a condition for salvation? Does it mean that those who have not been married will not be saved?
The third condition for salvation mentioned by the priest Cleopa is keeping the commandments written in the Holy Gospel. But this is exactly what the whole Bible teaches us, faith in Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. Only he who believed in Jesus wholeheartedly and was born again will be able to keep the commandments with much joy.
The apostle Paul writes about our salvation in his Epistle to the Ephesians. Because most of the believers in Ephesus were from the Gentiles, namely pagans, he reminds them of their condition before they put their faith in Lord Jesus Christ and got saved:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 2:1-2)
Then, immediately, he shows that the condition of the believers who come from the Jews was not different at all, even though they had the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, they had the promises of God and knew about the coming of the Messiah. They were sinners just like the Gentiles. Paul who was a Jew wrote:
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:3)
Paul continues his epistle by showing how God accomplished our salvation, whether we come from Jews or pagans:
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Carefully read the text once again and note how we all have been saved:
- by grace (an undeserved gift)
- by faith
- it does not come from us, meaning we did nothing
- it is God’s gift for us
- not through our works, so that no man can be saved through his deeds
What is then the role of good deeds? Please note the last sentence of the passage which says that the believers, all those who have been saved, the day they were sealed with the Holy Spirit, they were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for them to do. So a life lived in accordance with God’s commandments is the result of salvation, not a condition for it. Only when we believe in Lord Jesus wholeheartedly and choose to be His disciples, we are being created by God then and through the Holy Spirit we receive the power to live a beautiful life according to the commandments of the Gospel. Otherwise, through our own power, we are not able to live such a life.
The apostle Paul preached Jesus to the people of Galatia, and many were saved. After Paul left, there came other teachers who told them it was not enough to only believe in Lord Jesus, but it was also necessary to keep the law of the Old Testament, including circumcision, the sabbath, the teaching about clean and unclean animals etc. The apostle Paul wrote the Epistle being very angry. He wrote to those believers who slipped on the wrong way of seeking perfection through works:
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:1-5)
May our Lord protect us from any false teaching that will make us believe that we can be saved through our personal works. All those who try to get saved through their deeds and efforts make God’s grace towards them useless.