A Word on Works

I don’t know if this was intended or one of those odd little mistakes that manages to make profound sense, but Fr John Morris, pastor of St George Orthodox Church in Vicksburg, said the following this morning, in relation to the Dormition Feast:

Those who do good works will go to heaven while those who reject Jesus Christ will go to hell to await the final judgment.

Let me be clear that Fr John doesn’t believe you go to heaven by merely doing good works. The statement about good works could have been a slip of the tongue because the Gospel text he just quoted (Mt. 25:35ff) referred to salvation in terms of good works rather than the more “traditional” (in the Pauline qua Protestant sense) faith in Christ. But it juxtaposes two biblical ideas in precisely the right manner.

What saves us is belief in Christ. But belief is not merely an idea or an attitude, it is something that starts in the heart/mind/will and necessarily works its way out into the actions. Claiming to believe Christ (and thus deserve salvation) and not do good works is still a rejection of the real Christ.

I’m writing this on a high school campus in the Presbyterian tradition, so I need to add that good works in and of themselves are no better than embracing an idea (even a good idea like “Jesus saves”) in and of itself. In other words, naked belief is no better than naked works. The two intertwine and ultimately coinhere when either expresses true commitment to Jesus Christ. So whether spoken by accident or intentionally, I believe Fr. John got it just right:

Those who do good works will go to heaven while those who reject Jesus Christ will go to hell to await the final judgment.

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2 thoughts on “A Word on Works

  1. After I posted my question, I saw in another post that you won’t be back until Christmas – hope your time goes well in Mississippi. I’ll still alert the rest of our group as to your thoughts on this matter because it will be good fodder for a Lutheran-Orthodox discussion.

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