St. Mary's Anglican Catholic Church

Diocese of the Midwest

Q. What did your sponsors [at Baptism] then for you?

 A. They did promise and vow three things in my name… Thirdly, that I should keep God’s holy Will and Commandments, and walk in the same all the days of my life.

We have examined the first and second of the three vows or promises made on our behalf by our sponsors or godparents when we were baptized as infants or small children. This month we will examine the third promise. The second promise deals with faith or right belief. The third deals with obedience or right conduct in keeping with God’s will and commandments. 

How do we know the will of God and what He requires of us? Though we may learn God’s 
will through providence, conscience, science, and history, it is primarily through revelation that we can know God’s will. This revelation comes to us first and foremost in the person of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. God’s revelation to His people through history is preserved in the Holy Scriptures.(See especially Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:15) The third baptismal vow relates specifically to the “moral law” contained in the Scriptures. This moral law is encapsulated in the Decalogue or Ten Commandments and summarized further in Christ’s Summary of the Law. (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:1-21; St Matthew 22:37-39; St Mark 12:30-31; St Luke 10:27) Our Lord certainly affirmed the importance of keeping the moral law. If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. (St Matthew 19:17) Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill… Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (St Matthew 5:17, 19)

But it is also true that sinful man cannot hope to keep the commandments of God to the full; for as St Paul teaches, we are justified by our faith in Jesus Christ. (See especially Romans 3:28; 8:3-4; 10:10; Galatians 2:16; 3:11) Yet, St James asserted that faith that hath not works, is dead, being alone. (See St James 2:14-26) Over the centuries, commentators have claimed a fundamental dispute between Paul and James on the relationship of fiath and works to salvation; but this is a mistake. For Paul asserted that those who believe in God should be careful to maintain good works; and he exhorts us: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Titus 3:8; Philippians 2:12) James does not place works above faith, but rather teaches that through obedience to God’s commands, faith is made perfect or complete. (St James 2:22) As St Peter tells us, true faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, kindness, and love. (2 Peter 2:5-8) This is the sum and substance of our obedience, which makes us more Christ-like in faithful witness to the power of His Resurrection.