From the Desk of Michael Callahan,
Presiding Bishop of the Apostolic Western Orthodox Church
Beloved Children in Christ,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age (Galatians 1:3-4).
Today, I find it crucial to elaborate on some common misconceptions that sometimes arise when our faith is compared to Reformed Theology. This letter, as always, is penned in the spirit of understanding and edification, not condemnation.
The Narrow Path of Faith and Obedience
Our Lord Jesus Christ instructs us: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). This “narrow gate” isn’t just an acknowledgment of Christ; it is a journey enriched and guided by His teachings, apostolic traditions, and the sacraments.
Jesus and the Eucharist: Not a Figurative Teaching
The role of the Eucharist as the “Bread of Life” is pivotal in this journey. In John 6:53, Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Our Ancient Faith vehemently denies that this was meant to be taken figuratively. When many of His disciples left Him because of this difficult teaching, He did not retract His words but instead turned to His apostles and asked, “Do you also wish to go away?” (John 6:67). He confirmed that this teaching is not optional but essential for eternal life.
Sacraments as God’s Work in Us, Not Human “Works”
Our participation in the sacraments—Baptism, Chrismation, and the Holy Eucharist—is often mischaracterized as a “works-based” approach to salvation. To clarify, we must state unequivocally that the sacraments are God’s work in us. They are means of grace, divine channels that apply Christ’s redemption in our lives. As St. Augustine remarked, “God does not save us by the sacraments as by ‘works,’ but by His grace which works wondrously through the sacraments.”
The Faith of the Early Church
Early Church Fathers echo these teachings. St. Ignatius of Antioch noted, “Those who confound the reality of the flesh [of Christ], deny the gift of God, which is the life acquired through the Eucharist.” In other words, the Eucharist is not a mere symbolic gesture; it is an essential element of our spiritual life.
Faith Perfected Through Love
We agree with St. James: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). Our sacramental engagement is the action that accompanies our faith, not as an attempt to earn salvation but as a loving response to God’s freely given grace.
No Salvation with ‘Lord, Lord’ Alone
The words of Christ are clear: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Faith, if it is to be saving faith, must be obedient and encompassing, accepting the totality of Christ’s teachings, sacraments included.
We are called to a faith that goes beyond mere words or intellectual acceptance. Our faith is sacramental, apostolic, and obedient to the teachings of Christ, handed down unbroken from the Apostolic Age. As such, our relationship to the sacraments is not a matter of “works” but of living in the grace and love that God has so generously extended to us.
With earnest prayers for your journey towards eternal life,
+ Michael Callahan
Apostolic Western Orthodox Church
“Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.”
—1 Timothy 4:15
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.