BEAUTIFUL IS THE GOSPEL OF ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS
There is one God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, "and one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten begotten of the Father before all ages.” As there is one God and one Lord, there is one Church and one Gospel. Why then are there so many false gods and false gospels in the world? One reason, is because the pristine and beautiful Gospel of Orthodoxy is hidden from them, partly because we Orthodox Christians fail to be the light of the world. Perhaps we need to remember that Christ tells us: “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” We hold the truth, perhaps unjustly, and perhaps we fail to follow it ourselves and thus it remains hidden.
For what reason did God descend to earth in the form of a man, instead of as an angel or archangel? The reason has great importance to every one of us, for each of us are precious to God, the only Lover of Man. Whether we know it or not, we are a part of His great plan and we have much to gain if we comprehend it and cooperate, and much to lose if we do not. In becoming a man, He demonstrated the importance of mankind, far beyond all other creatures; for man is truly the most wonderful of all. We were created by the hands of God in His image, who bestows His spirit upon us.
God came to us as a man, being part of His mysterious plan, which is the reason for the existence of all creation. For God’s plan is to form Man and men in His own image and likeness. In the book of Genesis, the perfect Man was proclaimed as God’s ultimate plan even before the creation of Adam, when God said:
“Let us create man in our own image and after our own likeness . . ”
Man is very important to God, that although many had become depraved and inimical towards Him, and by rejecting Him fell into countless sins and iniquities, yet while we were in such a deplorable condition, the Logos of God, “came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary and without change became man” “He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; suffered and was buried. And rose on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Christ is the Godman, and has many titles, one of them being: “I am the Good Shepherd, and I lay down my soul for my sheep.”
At the commencement of His ministry He cried out: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here!” The Forerunner of Christ had previously done the same when he began his ministry, with same message, for he cried out to the people: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here! ” Humbling our selves in repentance is the most important thing, to enable us to hear the Good News or Gospel, for without repentance we will not hear even though we have ears. Repentance changes everything; it closes the door to sin and opens the door of the soul which the Lord enters and fills the depths of the soul with the beautiful Good News or Gospel. The soul then rejoices and becomes exceedingly glad, for heaven has come down to earth, and God has bestowed all the joys of Paradise into the soul of each faithful believer.
Christ taught His disciples the Good News or Gospel, which they heeded because they were already on the path of repentance and had ears to hear. Eventually they would preach first to the Jews and then to the nations the Good News or Gospel, which fills men and women with great joy. These few disciples having become apostles, began the overthrow of the old world of idolatry, and eventually the Church they established became the kingdom of heaven on earth!
Accompanying the preaching of repentance, the order of the Lord for triune baptism was obeyed, concerning which those who enter the Church must come in through this door. We must be baptized into Christ’s death in order to arise in His glorious Resurrection. Not any baptism, but the triune baptism in the Church is necessary. For such baptism washes away all sin and renders the candidate sinless and ready to receive Holy Spirit. After the fall of Adam and before Christ there never was a sinless man. The Jewish priests who offered animal sacrifice, first had to make an offering for their own sins each time. However, the sinless Christ offered himself as a continuous sacrifice rendering a man sinless in holy baptism.
In Orthodoxy we deny any other baptism, and we confess: “I believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” As there is one God and one Church and one Godman, so there is one baptism. This baptism does not exist outside the Church, for it can only be performed by an Orthodox priest who blesses and sanctify the waters, by invoking the Holy Spirit. It requires confession of sins by the candidate, with the intention to avoid sin. Only Orthodox baptism preserves the commandment of the Lord – triune immersion under the waters . Baptized into His death and triune emersion into His resurrection, for He says: “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” As Christ commanded, so did the Apostles in their Canon on Baptism:
APOSTOLIC CANON 50
If any Bishop or Priest does not perform three immersions (baptisms) in making one baptism, but only a single immersion (baptism) that given into the death of the Lord, let him be deposed. For the Lord did not say, Baptize into my death, but, “Go you and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
After becoming ridding themselves of sin, the disciples and all Orthodox Christians received baptism of the Holy Spirit, who came upon them in fiery tongues, and remained in them.
The beautiful Good News of the Orthodox Gospel is that it is reality, not an illusion; it is not pie in the sky; it is not by chance getting to Paradise. It is not anxiously waiting for the second coming or appearance of Jesus in the clouds; it is not a horrendous stay in the gloomy burning fires of an imaginary purgatory. It is living in the Kingdom of heaven here and now in this world; it is entering in and delighting in Paradise; it is the indwelling within us of the Father Son and Holy Spirit; it is heaven now on earth and eternal life. For this reason millions of Saints and Martyrs, ascetics and all the pious, gave up everything, even their lives, for they were enjoying Paradise in this life, desiring it to be permanent. That is why we Orthodox greet each other: “ Christ is among us!” And the reply: “He is and always shall be.” Christ fulfills His promise: “Lo, I am with you even to the close of this age.”
As we approach the Forty Day Fast, let us sweeten our souls by reflecting on the sublime graciousness and promises preserved in the Beauty of the Gospel of Orthodox Christians, and read them as frequently as possible, for the Holy Scriptures are like honey to the mouths of our souls, each word being filled with divine grace, for all the words of Scripture are directly inspired by God and permanently recorded by the most blessed Evangelists.