Thursday, August 13, 2015

Part Three
Members in the Church

     Many of us attend regular church services, especially  Divine Liturgy on Sundays and on some Feast Days, but why and is that all there is? What does it mean to be an Orthodox Christian and members of the Church? Is everyone that goes to church really worshiping the true God in heaven?  Can we distinguish between true Christians and those who are not. Just attending church does not make us into Christians although it does contribute.  However, there are, according to God’s law, three attributes that distinguish true Christians, being faith, holiness, and justice. In order to possess these virtues  one must possess the Holy Spirit. Thus a true Christian contains Holy Spirit and before men  he confesses that Christ is the Son of the living God.

     The virtue of faith is the firm belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. The virtue of holiness means that we struggle to live without sin and obey every commandment of the Gospel. Sinlessness is possible to those who desire to do God’s will, for He makes it possible. The virtue of justice is practiced when we deal with all men in fairness and honesty in accordance with the Christian law.

     A true Christian is a vessel of the Holy Spirit, and confessing Christ, he behaves in conformance with the will and law of God, keeping his soul free from all contamination of flesh and spirit. Those who are destitute of these things will be excluded from the kingdom and bridal chamber of Christ, for He says: “Whoever therefore shall confess me before men, I too will confess before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever shall deny me before men, I too shall deny before my Father who is in heaven” and “he that believes not on the Son is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.”  These words of Christ makes it evident that God cannot approve us if we are without faith, making faith an essential attribute of a Christian, who also must confess the true Faith.

     Concerning the gift of the Holy Spirit and the sanctification of the soul, St. Paul says: “Now if any man does not have the spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Also: “But as many as are led by the Spirit of God; they are sons of God” (Rom. 8:9-14).  That is why St. Paul upon coming to Ephesus and finding disciples there, said to them: “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed? And they said to him: We have not so much as heard that there is a Holy Spirit. And he said unto them, unto what then were you baptized? And they said, unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, Truly John baptized into the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on Him who should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with languages and prophesied.” It is evident that no one can be considered a Christian who has not received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that every Christian is baptized in Holy Spirit in order to become holy and a member of the Church of Christ. For this reason it is written: “Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” 

     Concerning the virtue of justice (righteousness), Christ says: “Not everyone that says to me Lord, Lord shall enter in the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? And in your name have cast out demons? And in your name have done many wonderful works? And then I will reply unto them, I never knew you; depart from me you workers of iniquity” (Mat. 7:21-23).

      It has been shown that in every Christian these virtues are present, faith with full knowledge, holiness, and justice necessary for membership in Christ’s Church. These three attributes correspond to the three persons of the Holy Trinity. The Son requires faith, the Holy Spirit requires holiness, and the Father requires justice. Everyone of us can acquire these three virtues by obeying the laws that God has handed to the Church, which we will deal with in Part 4 of this series.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Part Two

The Church's Attributes

     The Church is described in our sacred Creed as being one, holy, catholic, and apostolic and it will prove to be beneficial to review what these terms mean to all of us in the Church.. 

The Church bears the name apostolic because of having received it’s basic teaching directly from the holy apostles. Being apostolic is critically important for it means that the Church was established with the apostolic tradition both written and verbal. The Lord established this, saying to the apostles: “Go, therefore and teach all nations. baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you;  and lo, I am with you always, even unto the close of the age” (Mat. 28:19-20). So The Church preserves and teaches the pure teaching of the apostles which they had received from Jesus Christ. No other Church is genuinely apostolic except Christ’s holy Orthodox Church.

     The Church bears the name catholic because it is for all people and nations, as the new testament. The Church of Christ is called catholic because it is the same in relation to all the nations of the earth and among all nations, not undergoing change with respect to time and place. It receives all men alike and equal before the law and are entitled to honor maintaining the same principle regarding all men. The old testament was for a single people, the Jews. The new testament is for everyone and excludes no one from entering the Church because it is catholic it welcomes all. The Church’s beginning was when Christ established it at Caesarea and Philipi, in response to Peter’s confession: “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God.”