God—infinite beauty, unchanging truth, eternal goodness—is everywhere present and filling all things. And in his great love for human beings, he has come down to us in order to raise us up to him. How do we respond? If we believe in him and belong only to him, we become what we were created to be. And we experience “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
To believe is more than to affirm historical events or teachings. Jesus Christ invites each person to respond to him and establish a living relationship. He calls people to trust and follow him. Jesus Christ is not an abstract idea, but a person to whom we call out in prayer, a savior who is able to change us by his presence. A Christian believes what the gospel proclaims about Jesus’ words and actions, and therefore commits to faithfulness to him. In the Greek language of the Bible, this is called pistis, a word that means “belief,” “faith,” and “trust.” The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He lived a human life in order to transform our human weakness and suffering: “For both he who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one… for in that he himself has suffered, being tempted, he is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:11,18). To believe in Jesus is to receive power from on high to overcome sin. To live by faith is to become a “new creation” in him (2 Corinthians 5:17). No one can become a believer unless they are willing to humble themselves and become a disciple. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Walking the path of faith is a daily effort to believe, to repent, to serve, and to love the Lord.
With belief in Jesus Christ, salvation begins and continues over a lifetime. Saint Paul writes, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Likewise, Christ teaches, “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22). The place where believers receive and take hold of salvation is the Church. In the Bible, the Church is called “the pillar and ground of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). It is also called “the Body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Jesus himself is the head of the Church, and he acts in the world through the faithful—the members of his Body. As the Body of Christ, the Church is a place of authentic community with the Lord and fellow believers. The Church on earth is a visible community of believers. Christians are called to “come together as a church” gathered “in one place” (1 Corinthians 11:18; 14:23). The Church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20). Building on what the prophets proclaimed, the apostles preached the gospel to the world, founding churches in cities they visited. This group of historic churches, called the Orthodox Church, has grown and preaches the gospel to this day, confirming the words of Jesus Christ, “I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The faithful of the Orthodox Church preserve the teachings and practices of the apostles, as they received them from Jesus Christ. A believer comes to belong to the Body of Christ, the Orthodox Church, through the sacraments of baptism and chrismation (holy anointing). These, like all sacraments, are performed by a priest at a local parish. The believer now belongs to the Church, the community of Christians that together are becoming more like Christ.
The path to salvation is also the path to holiness. The Lord commands his disciples, “Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The spiritual life of an Orthodox Christian is a gradual ascent to become like Jesus Christ, “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Orthodox Church provides the tools for this journey. Believers are taught how to pray, fast, and love their neighbor. They learn how to serve God and fulfill his commandments, empowered by his Holy Spirit. And by regularly receiving holy communion—the Body and Blood of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16)—they participate in the eternal life and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The Orthodox Church preserves the ancient Christian path to becoming perfect, as it received it from the apostles. The faithful are taught to “discipline the body and bring it into subjection” so that they may glorify God in their bodies (1 Corinthians 9:27; 6:20). The Church engages in spiritual warfare, resisting temptations and learning to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). The Holy Spirit purifies the heart, and the faithful become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). Good works and spiritual gifts flow as faith and spiritual life mature. Within the Church, the believer makes the journey into the life of the age to come, when all will be raised from the dead by Christ and see him face to face—the final fulfillment of his kingdom.