The expression “justified freely” means that we do not have to pay a price for this justification. This is because “the wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23), as it says in the same epistle to the Romans, and the Lord Christ paid this price for us with His death, by shedding His blood on the cross.
We, therefore, obtain justification without having to pay the price ourselves, hence it is free.
Baptism, however, is not the price, but the means to this justification.
For example, our Protestant brothers and sisters say that we are saved through faith. But faith is the means, and not the price. The price is nothing other than the blood of Christ; as the Bible says: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. ” (Heb. 9:22) and the Lord Christ joined these two means; faith and baptism, together, when He said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; ” (Mark 16:16)
It is not we who linked salvation with baptism, but the Lord Christ Himself and also the Holy apostles like St Peter who, when speaking about Noah’s Ark, said “in it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also. ” (1 Pet. 3:20-21)
And St Paul also said: “He saved us, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit .”(Titus 3:5)
Perhaps you might object, saying: So if I am not baptised I will perish, and yet Christ died for my sake?
Christ certainly died for you, but you will need to follow the course which the Lord Himself laid down for your salvation. For this will be the means by which you gain that salvation which Christ has offered to you free.
In spite of the blood of Christ, is it possible to be saved, for example, without repentance?
Christ’s blood alone is sufficient for salvation, but there are also His words: “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. ” (Luke 13:3 and 5) Repentance isn’t a price that has to be paid for salvation, but rather an essential means by which one can receive the justification which was won by the blood of Christ.
Baptism is also an essential and requisite part of being justified freely through Christ’s blood. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said: ” Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. ” (John 3:5)
And faith, too, is another vital and necessary means whereby one can obtain that free justification which was won by Christ’s blood.
Thus we have to differentiate between the price and the means.
The cost of justification was the blood of Christ alone. And the necessary and vital means whereby we can attain it are faith, baptism and repentance.
St Peter linked these three means together on the Day of Pentecost after the Jews believed and were cut to the heart. When they asked him what they should do, St Peter answered them: ” Repent, and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38) So here we have the three means: faith in the name of Jesus Christ, repentance and baptism.
All these are means, but the one and only price paid for justification was the blood of Christ, and He alone paid that on our behalf.
We obtain this justification for free since we haven’t paid anything for it. By which I mean that we haven’t had to give our blood for it.
We gain it through faith, baptism and repentance, the three means to justification combined. They are simply the means while the only price paid for justification was Christ’s blood.
It is then that we can enter into good works, which are the fruit of faith and repentance, and the result of the activity in us of the Holy Spirit which we have received through the sacrament of the holy chrism and the renewal and sonship which we were given at baptism.
Speaking of this righteousness, St John said:
” If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” (1 John 2:29).
The Lord Jesus Christ paid a price for your justification, and that was His blood. And He gave you this for free so that you wouldn’t have to pay for it ever again. All you need to do is to follow the course to obtain it which our Lord Himself defined.
In order to explain this to you a bit further, I could say for instance: Let us suppose that you have a cheque for a very large amount of money, which you have perhaps acquired freely, as a result of an inheritance, but which you haven’ yet been to the bank to collect as money. Obviously you still don’t possess this sum, even though it is credited to you, because you haven’t yet been through the procedures for realising it.
I will say it just once more: the price paid for justification was the blood of Christ-that and nothing else! And we obtain that justification freely, by way of faith, baptism and repentance.