Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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In one of Your Grace's answers, Your Grace mentioned the requirements of Salvation are "Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, and Confession". Does not that  reduce Christianity down to a series of duties? There are many "believers" that have fulfilled all of these four duties; and yet lead terrible lives.

Regarding Salvation by "good works" vs. grace; St. Paul states; "He saved us, NOT because of the righteous things we have done, but according to his mercy" (Titus 3:5). However, there are many other verses that tell us about the importance of good works and that "faith without works is dead". How do we reconcile all these verses?

First, I'd like to explain that Orthodoxy never preached that if you fulfilled these four sacraments (Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, and Communion) you are automatically saved even if you live an ungodly life. You need also to enter through the narrow gate and to live a life of godliness in order to be saved. So, all those who practice these sacraments without living a godly life will not be saved. St. Paul says, "Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:27-32). From this verse, it is obvious that  these four sacraments are requirements for our salvation and without them we will not be saved.

Christ took what is ours and gave us what is His including baptism, our spiritual rebirth: "When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and when He prayed, the heaven was open" (Luke 3:21). Our Lord spoke in great depth and distinction emphasizing that without the Mystery of Baptism, salvation would be impossible. "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again'" (John 3:5). Salvation becomes attainable through this particular sacrament. Thereafter, one can still lose his eternal life by not living a life of repentance and mercy.

The Holy Sacrament of Confession, performed through the authority of priesthood (another sacrament), erases penitents' sins, enabling them to rise from the misery and entrapment of sin, and with a contrite heart obtain God's mercy. Faith is necessary, but it must lead to baptism. "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15,16). Our efforts and "good deeds" can never alone make us worthy of eternal life. Therefore, to the mercy and grace of God, we submit. Christ delights in our attempts to live up to His standards of righteousness, reflection, and repentance. He generously pours His grace upon us and accepts even our petty and trifling acts of kindness, if they are conveyed with sincerity.

The requirements for salvation are included in all the elements that you mentioned in your inquiries. However, you can discern that it is not an either/or negotiable process through which you can have or do one feature and  neglect the rest. A person, who wants to make an investment in a bank, must first open an account. Then, ongoing transactions will help develop and enhance the relationship, so he may see profit. The holy sacraments, especially Baptism and Chrismation, open the account for our eternal life and confirm the establishment of a unique spiritual bond throughout our Christian lives. Hence, the Holy Mystery of Baptism must be fulfilled in order to have complete fellowship in Christ and with fellow Christians: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greek, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:13).      
The Apostle Paul recounts the rites and rituals of the Lord's Supper and the institution of the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist: "For I received from the Lord that which I also deliver to you" (1 Corinthians 11:23). "Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:27). The Holy Spirit of God dwelling in us, and not just with us, intercedes on our behalf, reminding us of the repulsiveness of our sins, and comforting us when we repent and confess them. It is only when we are at peace with ourselves and one another, that our Lord permits us to partake of His Holy Body and Blood in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist.  

Good works are not just automatic fruit of salvation. If they are just the result of salvation, then if I am saved, good works will come automatically without any struggle. Our Lord then would not  instruct us to enter through the narrow gate. Also Orthodoxy never preaches that good works are all what is needed for salvation with or without God's grace. Good works without the blood of the Lord on the Cross and His grace avail nothing. Good works without God's grace and His salvation on the cross CANNOT save us. So, we can say that we are not saved by good works (because we are saved by the blood of the Lord); but we cannot be saved without good works (that is why the Lord told us to enter through the narrow gate). It is like the miracle of healing the man born blind. The Lord, after putting the clay on his eyes, asked him to wash his eyes in the pool. If the man did not wash his eyes, he would not be healed. So, can we say that the washing healed him? NO. He was healed by the grace of Christ; but the washing, though not the reason of his healing, was a condition for his healing. In the same way, we are saved by the blood of the Lord, but the good works, though not the reason of our salvation, are a condition for our salvation.

"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13).

God's Grace + Faith + the Holy Sacraments + Repentance + Good Deeds = Salvation

To study this issue in more depth I recommend reading this book "Salvation in the Orthodox Concept" by HH Pope Shenouda. Also you may read the articles under Soteriology in this link:
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