My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE FRUITS OF DIVINE GRACE ACCORDING TO ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY
Divine Grace is the source of life in God; Divine Grace which is abundantly given by God to man for his salvation. Saint Paul speaks of the fruits of Divine Grace in his Epistle to the Galatians and to the Ephesians.
And on the one hand, in his Epistle to the Ephesians he speaks of the fruits that the Holy Spirit produces in those souls that He has enlightened and granted rebirth, and which are manifested in the Christian's outward life and conduct. "The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Ephesians 5:9). On the other hand, in his Epistle to the Galatians, Saint Paul says: "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22:23). These are the fruits of Divine Grace, the fruits of the Holy Spirit. And of course all these are virtues which are manifested in the life of the Christian who has been called to the faith of Christ and spiritually reborn through the grace of the Holy Spirit. If Divine Grace is absent from man, then he will be under the power of evil and sin, and he cannot manifest anything good, any virtue, any bright side of life. But here we refer to the first fruits that Divine Grace produces in the soul of sinful man who through sin is for God guilty, a stranger and an enemy. These are the fruits which constitute the beginning and foundation of the virtues, of the fruits of the Holy Spirit of which, as we have said, Saint Paul speaks.
The first fruits therefore, or better still, the first work or energy of Divine Grace towards sinful man is the calling of the sinner. Divine Grace wakes the sinner. From what? From the lethargy and sleep of sin and calls him to come to God, to be enlightened, vivified, and saved. Grace calls the sinner: "Awake, thou that sleepeth, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee Light" (Ephesians 5:14), as Saint Paul says. The sinner is dead (spiritually dead), deadened by the poison of sin. He has first to be resurrected. He is asleep and senseless with the sleep and realizes his wretched and miserable situation. He must be jolted, he must pull himself together and seek God's mercy. The sinner is God's enemy, and for him to receive God's mercy it is necessary that he become God's friend. But to achieve all these things it is necessary that he be called by God, for by himself he can neither find God nor approach Him. Grace thus summons him: Come, sinner, awake and approach God. Repent, believe. Become a friend of God, a child of God so that you may be saved, and you shall be saved. The first fruit of Divine Grace therefore is the call. The call, the summons to repentance and faith, the call to salvation.
The second fruit is the justification of the sinner. To understand this we must keep in mind that the sinner, since he is guilty before God, is a condemned man who is burdened with many transgressions and iniquities and wretchednesses and so he cannot see the face of God. Neither does he receive the benevolence and blessing of God, nor does he inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. The judgment, i.e., the decision, censure and condemnation of Divine Righteousness is upon him, and thus he is condemned with Eternal condemnation. Divine Grace, however, comes to him who has accepted the call and has repented and believed in Christ and has acknowledged Him as his Savior and Redeemer, and through the power of Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross grants him forgiveness. Regardless of how sinful are his sins, once he has accepted the call, he is relieved of the burden of guilt, he is freed from condemnation. He is saved from Divine Wrath. He is justified. From one who was a sinner and guilty, from one condemned to Eternal punishment, he is, through repentance and faith, declared righteous before God. He is at peace, he reposes from the pangs and the upheavals of his conscience, and becomes worthy of the Divine Kingdom. This is what the holy Apostle means when he says: "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). (Source: Our Orthodox Christian Faith by Athanasios S. Frangopoulos)
(To be continued)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -- Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God