Jesus Christ is God incarnate. God taking upon Himself the bodily nature of man, able in this body to suffer like man. His coming and His teaching did not make us sinless, because it is obvious to us that there is still sin in the world continuing since the time of the Resurrection. What happened was that we could now resist the power – the inclination to sin that man was unable to free himself from. Christ, by uniting mankind and God in His own person, the true “likeness to God”, opened again for us the path to union with God that had been closed at the fall. This is how the Church has always taught “salvation” brought by Christ.
Protestants use the words “salvation” and “faith” somewhat differently from the Orthodox, and it is important for us to know the difference. The word “salvation” is used in the Scripture in two different ways.
The Apostles, taught distinguishing between the salvation of mankind as a whole, which has already been accomplished by Christ, and personal understanding and working with the gift of salvation on by each of the faithful, which depends upon the individual – the individual faith being a gift of God, having said which, Saint Paul added “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians. 2:12). In other words, our personal salvation depends upon our personal work, cooperating with God’s Grace.
The definition of personal salvation is the restoration of our original Garden of Eden communication directly with God. Therefore everyone of us is called to that salvation which is a lifelong process and can be said to be both in the future and in the present. The start of our salvation process is the acquisition of Faith – a gift from God available to every human being. A condition of this personal salvation is of course, in the first instance, repentance . It is however acquired through fulfilling Christ’s commandments, remembering that the early Apostolic Church never looked at one’s struggle to fulfil Christ’s Commandments (one’s works), as the means to earn salvation for one cannot earn salvation. Diligently keeping Christ’s Commandments leads to humility, and this is where our salvation really begins, when the individual understands that he needs and relies upon Christ totally and gains a full understanding of precisely who and what he is. Until he understands what a comprehensive sinner he is, he cannot properly repent.
In Part II, Command 8, Verse 8 of the Shepherd, it tells us “Abstain not from any good works, but do them. Hear, he said, what the virtue of those good works is which you must do, that you may be saved. The first of all is faith and the fear of the Lord, then charity, concord, equity, truth, patience, and chastity”. Note that the Church in those Apostolic days regarded Faith as a work, unlike today’s protestants who differentiate faith from works.