Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
We then, as workers together with Him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For He saith, ‘I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee.’ Behold, now is the accepted time! Behold, now is the day of salvation!)
St. Paul urges all of us to be diligent in our Christian walk not to waste our baptismal grace, not to freely receive the grace of God and then turn around and despise it through neglect. Inasmuch as we have heard (and maybe even preached on occasion) our salvation in Jesus Christ is by faith, the Apostle goes to great pains to speak of the labors or endeavors of salvation – the “work” of salvation both here and elsewhere in his Epistles. He speaks here and elsewhere of being a co-worker with God – “workers together with Him,” he says, of co-laboring with God and being God’s partner. He uses the Orthodox understanding of synergy (which is the Greek word used here) meaning “working together with.”
In some ways, this concept goes directly back to the Garden of Eden when God created man and woman, not as His divine equals, but as those sharing with Him in His divine image and likeness; of being, if you will, the right and left hands of God in the work of Paradise. In the chapter just before the one read this morning, St. Paul lays the groundwork by referring to himself and the other Apostles as “ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us . . . to be reconciled to God.” God has given them the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cr. 5:18-21). In part, this is what our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ taught His holy Apostles that whoever hears them hears Jesus Himself and whoever rejects them rejects Jesus Himself (Mt. 10:40; Lk. 10:16; Jn. 13:20). Jesus is closely and inseparably bound to His Church – her Apostles and her baptized. They have one voice – we have one voice – because we commune in the one Lord and share one faith, one hope, one baptism (Ep. 4:4-6). This is what we pray in the Our Father when we ask (as our Lord has taught us) for our heavenly Father’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Our Father). God’s will remains nebulous and shadowy until it is enfleshed in us who become and are His co-workers, “workers together with Him.” This may or may not be a new idea for us, but it is one we need to be reminded of constantly and urged to live out faithfully. This is why the quality of our witness is so important and why we need to be vigilant in our social media postings and in all the other ways we relate to our neighbor since we bear the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven in the midst of this dim world.
We are “workers together with Him,” not only in our own salvation (Pp. 2:12-13), but in the salvation of others. We can either impede the work of God’s saving and sanctifying grace in our own lives and in the lives of those around us, or we can cooperate with God and be channels of His grace flowing freely to anoint and enlighten not only our darkness but the darkness of this world. It is quite possible for us to “quench the Holy Spirit” and stifle His Presence both in us and in others by our faithlessness and our disobedience (1 Th. 5:19). In fact, St. Peter, in one of his apologies to the authorities in Acts, says quite plainly that God gives the Holy Spirit “’to those who obey Him’” (Ac. 5:32). We can either collaborate with God and His Spirit or get in His way. And, when the saving and sanctifying grace of God is flowing, it is our duty, indeed our responsibility, to not receive it in vain so as to make it of little or no effect in our lives or in the lives of those around us. Just as God was not loath to create a creature capable of partaking of His divine nature (2 Pe. 1:4), so He is not loath to consider us His partners in the work of salvation and sanctification – our own or others. “For we are God’s fellow workers,” says the Apostle, “you are God’s field, you are God’s building” (1 Cr. 3:9).
Today is the day of salvation, beloved! Why, then, do we linger as though we have all eternity? What deludes us into stalling or lulls us into postponing the good work of God begun in us and in this world through Jesus Christ (Pp. 1:6)? Just as surely as the Theotokos has been made “mediatrix of salvation” by the giving of herself to the divine will, so we, too, are “ministers of God,” mediators of God to this dying and benighted world! We share in Jesus’ mediation between God and men when we yield ourselves to the grace of God alive and at work in us (1 Tm. 2:5-7). Knowing this, does this even make a difference to us and in our spiritual lives? Do we even care? Are we on the brink of receiving the grace of God in vain, which is to say, of receiving it to our judgment and condemnation before the dread Judgment Seat of Christ God? Now is the day appointed by God for our salvation and the salvation of this world. What are we waiting for? What more do we need or want? Not tomorrow, not another day off in the future. But, today! Now, today, God is hearing us in our repentance and cry for mercy. Now, today, “the Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come!’” (Rv. 22:17). Tomorrow may never come! Will the blood of this world – of our neighbors, of our loved ones – be required of us as God warns His Prophet Ezekiel whom He had appointed as watchman of Israel, if we fail to call ourselves and this world to repentance, to return to God and hear once again in faith and obedience, “’Thus saith the Lord . . . .’” (Ek. 3:17-21)? What is it that we do not understand when the Lord Himself commands us, “’Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! (Mt. 4:17; Mk. 1:15)?
We come to this holy house, but do we do so in faith and reverent fear and in repentance? Or, are we cavalier with the grace and mercy of God? Why, then, are we warned – you and I – not to receive the grace of God in vain? What useful purpose does a warning serve if there is, in fact, no consequence, no judgment? But, there is! For “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the Judgment” (Hb. 9:27). Do we come, then, to this Eucharistic Table of the Lord and drink condemnation unto ourselves because we fail to examine our hearts and lives, our faith and our morals? Do we neglect confession and repentance because we “feel” okay and think we have no sin to confess and repent of, and so we commune unworthily “not discerning the Lord’s Body” (1 Cr. 11:17-34)?
Our Lord once said, “’A little while longer the Light is with you. Walk while you have the Light, lest the darkness overtake you; . . . .’” (Jn. 12:35). There is coming a day, brethren, when the sun will set and the light will fail to shine. So, there is coming a day when the Light of Jesus Christ will set and the mercy of God will be of no avail. And the darkness we have chosen for ourselves will be ours forever. “’While you have the Light,’” my beloved, “’believe in the Light,’” Jesus says, “’that you may become [and remain] sons of light’” lest the grace of God be received in vain by you (Jn. 12:36).
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
2 Cr. 6:1-10Lk. 5:1-11