Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Law and Grace

2 October 1968
Theme: Epistles, Spiritual life   Place: London Parish   Period: 1966-1970   Genre: Sermon

In the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.

The words which Saint Paul addresses to the Galatians in the Epistle which we read today are as important for us as they were for them. He draws a distinction — more than a distinction: he draws a contrast between the law and grace, between all that was before Christ and all that is after Christ for those who have chosen Him as their God, their Saviour, their Lord.

The distinction is very clear. In the Old Testament God has given a law to His people; in short, it was the Ten Commandments which we all know. In a more detailed and complex manner it was all that we find in Leviticus: detailed regulations that ruled every detail of life. And those who remained strictly, ruthlessly faithful to these laws could consider themselves as being righteous; God had nothing to claim from them because they have been faithful to every letter, every word of what He had said.

In the New Testament we have a warning which Christ Himself gives us; He also gives us what we call “commandments”. He tells us what we should do, how we should be if we want to enter into eternal life, which does not mean, ‘come to God’s judgement and be forgiven’, which means ‘enter into another dimension of life, into a dimension of life that was not experienced before’. To be possessed of eternal life means to commune with God in such a way that His life becomes our life, and in the words of Saint Peter in one of his Epistles, that we become partakers of the Divine nature by the power, and the grace, and the mercy of God.

But it is not simply by complying to what the Lord Jesus Christ teaches, by obeying slavishly what He says or by doing what He commands, advises, begs us to do with a hope of a reward, like hirelings who work only for the reward they will receive. Those people who will take the commandments of Christ as though they were Old Testamental rules and commandments, can hear the words of Christ Himself: When you will have done all these things, recognise that you are unworthy, unprofitable servants: servants, people who are under a rule, people who are under authority, people who are under dominion, but had not yet entered into the freedom of the children of God.

What we call the commandments of Christ, are ways in which Christ tells us, “Learn to live in such a way, then you will commune with Me, then you will be at one with God, then you will grow into that oneness with God which is simply life, but not temporary, not ephemeral, not the life that leads to death, but life abundant, life that grows to infinity, God’s own life in us.

If we listen to Christ and recognise what Peter said: ‘You have the words of eternal life; You speak to us in a way that all that is eternal in us, all that can commune with God, all that can become partakers of the very nature of God grows in us, [then] will realise that it is not by doing, but by communing that we grow into that oneness with God.

And that is the law of grace, or rather the way of grace: communion; a communion so deep, so ever increasingly perfect that we become one with the living God. And so it is not commandments in the sense ‘do it, and the you will be [quits] with Me — it is a call: ‘Be like Me, and you will be as eternal, as holy, as perfect as I am, by participation in My perfection, in My holiness, in My eternity’…

Let us read and re-read the Gospel with such eyes, with a heart open in such a way; and the we will see that the Gospel is the book of freedom, the book of life, the book of joy, the book of communion with the Living God. Amen.

 

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