From St. Gregory Palamas

 11. Let us too, brethren, follow the light which illumines both soul and body. Let us make our way towards His brilliance, and "let us walk honestly as in the day of the Lord" (cf. Rom. 13:13). Let us glorify Him with good works, and cause those that see us to give Him glory (cf. St. Matt. 5:16). Let us flee from the darkness which is opposed to the light, that is, the devil, the patron of sin. As the Sun of all righteousness, integrity, peace, compassion, long-suffering, love, and all the virtues, this light makes those who devote themselves to Him partakers of the light. The opposing darkness, however, being evil, makes those who approach it immoral, adulterous, malicious, merciless, disorderly, rapacious, and full of all kinds of wickedness. How do you think we can distinguish between believers and unbelievers, the illuminated and the unenlightened, that is to say, between those baptized as Christians and belonging to Christ, and those who are unbaptized and in the devil's ranks? Is it not by their words? Is it not by their deeds? Is it not by their ways?

12. So if someone speaks, acts, and behaves exactly like the unbaptized, even though he says he has received Baptism in Christ, it is obvious that he belongs among that group of people of whom the Apostle said, "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate" (St. Titus 1:16). With whom do you think we should rank such people who simultaneously confess and deny God? With the believers? But they disown God by their actions. With the unbelievers? But their tongues profess their faith. This is truly an extraordinarily difficult dilemma to resolve. The Psalmist and Prophet, however, had already found the answer to the problem, saying, "Thou, O Lord, renderest to every man according to his work" (Ps. 62:12). The Lord Himself made it clear that anyone who heard His sayings and did not do them was a fool (St. Matt. 7:26). St. Paul, the Apostle called from heaven, said, "To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, the Lord will render eternal life: but tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil" (cf. Rom. 2:6-9). Also, "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom. 2:13). And, "Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest God" (Rom. 2:23).

13. St. Paul told the Jews that "Circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision" (Rom. 2:25), so it is not at all out of keeping for me to say to you that faith is profitable, if you behave conscientiously, purify yourself through confession and repentance, and put into practice the undertakings made to God at Baptism. But if you disobey your conscience and set aside your promises, your faith becomes unbelief. Why do we believe that, having been baptized, we shall be saved? Clearly because we have heard the Lord saying, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (St. Mark 16: 16). Since He Who is the Truth spoke of these two things, believing and being baptized, it is impossible for anyone who does not want to be baptized to be saved, even if he says he believes. Nor can someone who does not believe be saved, even if he has been baptized. Perhaps somebody will say that everyone who has been baptized believes? He will hear from the Apostle, "Show me thy faith by means of thy works" (cf. St. James. 2:18). That is why the Lord links faith with Holy Baptism, uniting, by means of faith, the keeping of His commandments with Baptism. He said first to His disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16: 15), then He continues, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (St. Mark 16: 16).

14. What does the Lord tell us in the Gospel preached by His messengers, and what must those who obey it believe? That whoever has Christ's commandments, and acts upon them and keeps them, he it is who loves Christ (cf. St. John 14:21). That salvation is obtained through patience (cf. Rom. 15:4; Luke 21:19), and the strait and narrow way of life (cf. St. Matt. 7:14). That unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (cf. St. Matt. 5:20). These are the teachings Christ commanded His disciples to proclaim.

15. A believer is a person who strives to keep the divine commandments. But anyone who does not try to keep them, and does not consider it a loss to fail to do so, will not stand among the baptized, even if he says he has received Baptism. "The Lord of that servant shall cut him asunder", it says, "and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites" (St. Matt. 24:50,51). So far, this is set before us as a threat, since the Lord, in His love for mankind, waits for us to repent. But He has cut the Jews asunder, as a lesson to us. Instead of kinsmen with Himself and with Abraham, He made them strangers, telling them, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do" (St. John 8:44). And, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham" (St. John 8:39). Everybody knows they were of Abraham's race. So if acting and behaving in an alien way can annul physical family ties and deprive sons according to blood of their sonship, how can our dissimilarity to the Lord in our works and way of life fail to alienate us, who are not of the same race as Christ according to the flesh, from our adoption as God's sons, and put us on the enemy's side?

16. The Lord Who loves us found fit to tell us these things and we, who are subject to the same passions as yourselves, dare to say them, in order that we may not act in such a way, suffer the same punishment, and make ourselves liable to the judgment reserved for those who are finally rejected. Not only can we avoid this here and now by repenting, but through the fruits of repentance we can also stand with the Son of God, and become like Him, Who is able to turn the unworthy into the worthy, and to make us through Himself sons of the heavenly Father, and heirs and fellow-heirs of His and His Father's glory and kingdom (cf. Rom. 8:17).

17. May we attain to this in Christ Himself Our Lord, to Whom be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The Homilies of Saint Gregory Palamas, Volume II, Homily 30, pp. 95-99

Back to: From the Holy Fathers