21 October 2015
Scriptural Basis of the Orthodox Faith
Theology - The Orthodox Church
The Scriptural Basis of the Eastern Orthodox Church
Bishop Anatolius of Mohilew and Mstislaw
An excellent book for explaining to Protestants and others who accept the Holy Scriptures as a guide, that the Church established by Christ has been maintained by the Holy Spirit and still exists - the Orthodox Church. Practices, tradition, doctrine of the Orthodox Church are answered by scriptural references. Concise, yet comprehensive. Prayerful reading of it can only lead to the eventual conclusion that The Church is the Orthodox Church. 0-89981-028-4 Price: .50 [3 copies for $1.00]
Scriptural Basis of the Orthodox Faith
The Orthodox Faith
Anatolis, Bishop of Mohilew and Mstislaw
Translated by Nicholas Bjerring
original edition 1873, Reprinted 1974
Eastern Orthodox Books
The Orthodox Faith
"If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater."
I John v. 9
"Without faith," dear brethren, "it is impossible to please God," thus teaches the inspired Apostle St. Paul, "for he that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" [Heb. xi. 6]. "For what man knoweth that things of a man, save the spirit of man, which is in him? even so the things of God, knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" [I Cor. ii. 11]. God, in his infinite goodness, has revealed to his Church such a knowledge concerning Himself, that human reason, in its own strength, and by its own exertions, is unable to attain to an equal knowledge. But, if God has revealed Himself to us, then we can make no more blessed use of our reason, than to subject it to the belief in the divine revelation, to believe the Word of God; for if reason cannot but sanction a belief in human testimony, then without all doubt the divine testimony merits from us a greater belief. "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater," saith St. John [I John v. 9], and the truth of his revelation God in his own time confirmed by supernatural signs of his omnipotence, -- by wonders and prophesies.
In accordance, then with the divine revelation, and with the teaching of the Church, we believe in one God [Deut. vi 4; I Tim. i. 17], in three Persons, who in the Holy Scriptures are called God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost [Matt. xxviii. 19]. God the Father was not born, and does not proceed from another person; God the Son was born before all eternity; God the Holy Ghost proceeds before all eternity, from the only God the Father; but these three Persons of the most Holy Trinity are of perfectly equal divine dignity. This triune, self-existing [Ex. iii. 14], eternal [Is. xli. 4; Ps. xc. 2], infinite [Luke 1. 33; Ps. cii 28], omnipresent [Jer. xxiii. 24], all-wise [Rom. xi. 33], omniscient [I John iii. 20], all-good [Ps. cxlv. 9], all-just [Ps. cxlv. 17], all-holy [I Sam. ii. 2], and omnipotent [Ps. cxv. 3].
God, in the beginning of time, called by his omnipotent Word the visible and invisible world [Gen. i. 1] into being from nothing; that is, first God created the blessed realm of his own glory, when He gave to the purest spirits of angels their being [Job xxxviii. 6,7]. In the beginning all the angels were good and holy. Some of them, immovable in holiness, in love, and in striving after good, constantly praise God [Ps. ciii 20], and fulfill his counsels respecting nations, countries, and [Is. vi. 3] churches; and even every single believer receives through the blessing of God in baptism, a guardian angel [Matt. xviii.10]. These angels, however are of assistance in the attainment of salvation, only to those whose own will it is to inherit eternal life. [Heb. i. 14; John i. 12; Ps. xxxiv. 8]. Other angels have not remained steadfast in goodness, but have sinned before God [Jude 6]; and having remained forever in wickedness, have become the eternal enemies of God and man; and who endeavor, with all kinds of temptation, to bring men under the yoke of sin [II Thess. ii. 9, 10], in order to plunge us into the same misery to which they are themselves subjected [Matt. xii. 43, xxv. 41; IIPet. ii. 4]; wherefore they are called devils [John viii. 44].
After the creation of the spirits, the triune God created in six days out of nothing, by his sole word, "Let it be!" the visible world, i.e. the habitable earth, the surrounding firmament, besides all the lights of Heaven, all that fills the earth, the worlds, and the air; and finally, the first man [Gen. i. 3-28], from whom is descended the whole human race [Acts xvii. 26]. God first formed from earth the body of the first man, Adam, breathed into him an immortal soul [Gen. ii. 7], and formed out of his rib a companion [Gen. ii. 22] during a deep sleep, into which God had caused him to fall. The first man, since, through the grace of God, he was innocent and free from sin [Eccl. vii. 30], resembled not only the angels of God, but had in himself even the image of God [Gen. i. 27], which immediately at his creation was granted him, i.e. he possessed clear and perfect wisdom [Gen. ii. 20, 23], his will striving only after goodness [Eph. iv. 24], so that in his heart, true righteousness and holiness burned with pure love to God alone; therefore the conscience of the first man was calm and peaceful. In such a state our first parents held complete dominion over all the creatures surrounding them [Gen. i. 26], and even the abode of our first father, called Eden [Gen. ii. 8], was a place of unspeakable bliss and purest joys.
Had our first parents continued in the state of innocence, and had they kept the commandment given them by God, they would have remained blissful, not only themselves, but they would also have transmitted their immortality and bliss to their posterity -- the whole human race. But the original innocence and felicity of our first parents ceased as soon as, having been seduced by the evil spirit that had entered into the serpent, they had eaten of the fruit of the tree forbidden by God [Gen. ii. 16, 17]. By the transgression of the divine commandment, they plunged themselves and the whole human race into the saddest and most miserable condition [Rom. v. 14]. Since that time we are begotten from sinful seed, conceived in sin [Ps. li. 7]; all the inclinations of the heart draw man to evil from early childhood [Gen. vi. 5]. Evil thoughts and desires are constantly arising in his reason and mind [Rom. vii. 18]; each human being feels in himself an overbalance of sinful emotions above good and blissful wishes [Rom. vii. 19]; all men have become objects of the anger of divine justice [Eph. ii. 3]; the whole human race has come to resemble the leper, who is not able to help himself by his own strength. None among men, even among the just, could discover any remedy to satisfy the divine justice for the sins of the human race; for also the just feared the divine judgment, since they felt in themselves the power of sin [I John i. 8]; no angel, however exalted in nature, was able to restore man to his pristine condition, to open to him anew the ways to eternal salvation, for creative power was thereto necessary [Eph. ii. 10]; no created spirit ventured to take upon itself the mediation of reconciling man to God, because the offended God -- an infinite being -- needed an infinite satisfaction -- a sacrifice of inestimable worth [Heb. vii. 23, 24].
But God, foreseeing from all eternity the miserable condition of mankind, caused by the fall of our first parents, had predetermined, moved by his goodness and love, to give us again eternal felicity [Eph. i. 4]. To this end, it pleased our Heavenly Father, before the creation of the world, that man should again be placed in a condition, in which it would be possible for him to attain eternal happiness [John iii. 6]. The only Son of God willed to become man [Ps. xl. 7,8], in order to satisfy the justice of God for the sins of mankind, and to offer men the means of their redemption [Heb. x. 7-10]; at the time it pleased the Holy Ghost to come to us, to sanctify and renew us [Tit. iii. 5]. But in order that it may be known to men if only in part, what great benefits the mercy of God has designed for the human race, the Holy Spirit has revealed in the Sacred Scriptures, and we believe, that the second Person in the Holy Trinity, who redeemed us from sin and eternal death, is the only Son of God [John i. 18], the Wisdom [Prov. viii. 22] and the Word of the Heavenly Father [John i. 1]. He was begotten of God the Father before all eternity, in an inconceivable manner without passions; true God [I John v. 20] from the true God, being of one essence in the Godhead with the Father [John x. 30], by whom every thing has been created [John i. 3]. As of the light that is seen in the sun, that light is born, which being of one and the same nature with the first, is seen in the whole world.
From the beginning of the world thus had been predicted by God, step by step in several and manifold ways, the advent of the Son of God in the flesh into the world [Gen. iii. 15, xii. 3, xxvi. 4]; and not only was foretold by the prophets the time of his appearing [Gen. xlix. 10; Dan. ix. 24-27], but also the signs had been stated by which He was to be known [Is. vii. 14, xi. 1,2, liii. 4-12; Micah v. 2; Zach. ix. 9; Ps. ii. 2]. Finally, in the fullness of the time, these predictions, prophecies, and descriptions of his appearing were realized; and we believe, that the only Son of God, through the agency of the most Holy Spirit, descended into the body of the Holiest Virgin Mary [Luke 1. 35], took flesh from her purest blood [John i. 14], perfectly like ours, sin excepted, and in taking a human soul [John x. 17, 18; Acts ii. 27, 31], became true man [I Tim. ii. 5], without ceasing to be true God [Rom. ix. 5]; so the He is God-man, called on earth Jesus Christ, in whose person two natures, the divine and the human, are united, unmixed, unchanged, undivided, and inseparable. [*Dogma of the Fourth General Council of the Church] Therefore is the ever-Virgin Mother of Jesus Christ, the true bringer-forth of God [Is. vii. 14; Luke i. 43], without all comparison, more worthy of praise than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim. At the same time we believe that our Lord and God Jesus Christ, after He had taken human nature and human weakness, although proving his divinity by miracles, which before his coming had been unheard of [Matt. viii. 3, 13, ix. 22, xii. 13, xiv. 19, 25; Luke xvii. 14; John v. 8, ix. 43], yet became poor for or sakes [II Cor. viii. 9], suffered in the course of his life different dangers [Matt. ii. 13; Luke iv. 29], denials, and troubles [Mark xi. 12; Luke ix. 58], calumniations, humiliation, and persecutions; that finally, after He had illuminated us with the light of the true knowledge of God [John i. 18], and had revealed to us the will of the Heavenly Father [John vi 40], having been betrayed by his disciple for the satisfaction of the sins of the human race [I Tim. ii. 6; John i. 29], He suffered revilings, disgrace, and the torture of the Cross; died and was buried under Pontius Pilate [Matt. xxvi. 47-75, xxvii]. His body being in the grave, our Savior's soul descended into hell, to liberate thence the souls of those, who from the beginning of the world, awaited his appearing [I Peter iii. 18-20]; Eph. iv. 8, 9], but on the third day after his burial, He rose from the grave by the power of his divinity.
After the resurrection He appeared frequently within forty days to his disciples, in order to instruct them continually in the secrets of His divine kingdom [Acts i. 3]. The work of redemption being completed, our Lord Jesus Christ ascended in his flesh to heaven, before the eyes of His disciples [Acts i. 9], and is now sitting at the right hand of God [Mark xvi. 19], i.e., He received also in his humanity all power in heaven and on earth [Matt. xxviii. 18], for the promoting of the kingdom of grace, or the Holy Church instituted by Him [I Cor. xv. 25]. Directing for this purpose all the changes arising in the world, the Savior defends his Church by his providence, from all secret and open calumniation, malice, and persecutions of the enemy, so that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it [Matt. xvi. 18]; but for the continual edification of the Church, in which according to his promise, He is always present by grace [Matt. xxviii. 20], He institutes by the Holy Ghost her priests and teachers [Eph. iv. 11, 12], and directs and guides them by the same [John xvi. 13], to use the Word of His truth aright; wherefore the Church can never apostatize from the faith, or lack in the truth, or fall into error. Thus, trusting in the doctrine of the Holy Apostles, we acknowledge that our Lord Jesus Christ is the only chief Shepherd [I Pet. v. 4], the only mediator between God and man [I Tim. ii. 5], the only High Priest separate from among sinners [Heb. vii. 26], the only Head of His Body -- the Holy Church [Eph. i. 22, 23], the only King of this his kingdom of grace [Luke i. 33; I Cor. xv. 25]; for the Church is exclusively the kingdom of God on earth [Mark i. 15; I Pet. ii. 9], and Jesus Christ is God, who will not give his glory to another [Is. xlii. 8]. Christ's kingdom of grace shall continue to the end of the world [I Cor. xv. 25]. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with Him [Matt. xxv. 31], to judge the quick and the dead [John v. 29]; then shall follow the kingdom of glory and felicity, of which there shall be no end [Luke i. 33].
We also believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, who before all eternity, in an unconceivable manner, proceeds from the same God the Father [John xv. 26]; and we acknowledge, moreover, at the same time, that according to this procession, the Holy Ghost is true God [Acts. v. 3, 4], from the true God [I Cor. iii. 17; II Cor. vi. 16]], of one substance with God the Father and God the Son [I Cor. ii. 11; Matt. x. 20; Gal. iv. 6]; to be adored and praised together with the Father and the Son [Matt. xxviii. 19]; that the Holy Spirit spoke by the Prophets and the Apostles [II Pet. i. 20, 21], that through the mediation [John xiv. 16], and for the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, He guides us in the way of repentance [Ps. xxxix. 11]; through the secret working of his grace, awakens in us groanings of prayer [Rom. viii. 26], begins in us every good action, and cooperates with us in completing the same [Phil. ii. 13]; cleanses us from sin, and sanctifies us through the means of the mysteries or sacraments of the Holy Church [Tit. iii. 5, 6], and impresses upon our heart the pledge of the spirit of adoption [Rom. viii. 15], and leads every true believer to salvation.
We believe, moreover, in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; acknowledge that she is therefore one, because true believers in Christ, in whatever times or regions they live, form one spiritual body [Eph. iv. 4-6], which as the body of Christ [Col. i. 24], has one head Christ the Savior [Eph. i. 22], and is animated by one Spirit of God. We believe that the Church is holy, because sanctified through the doctrine, through the sufferings and the blood of Jesus Christ [Eph. v. 25-27], she is yet continually sanctified by the prayers and the gracious mysteries of the New Testament. We acknowledge that the Church is Catholic or universal, because she is not limited to any place, to any time, or to any people [Col. i. 5, 6, iii. 11], but comprehends the true believers of all places, of all times and nations [Gal. iii. 9]. We call the Church Apostolic and Orthodox for reason that, although as the building of God, she can have no other foundation than Jesus Christ [I Cor. iii. 10, 11], she yet is built upon the doctrine of all the Apostles, which doctrine the Church also holds unchangeable, in the sense and understanding of the Apostles and Prophets [Eph. ii. 19-21], since in this way she preserves uninterruptedly from the Apostles the succession of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, by means of the ordination of her priests and teachers by the imposition of hands [Acts xiii. 1-4]. At the same time, we acknowledge it the duty of our conscience to follow the doctrine, the ordinances, the statutes, and the guidance of the Holy Church, because our Saviour in reference to the shepherds of the Church said: "He that heareth you, heareth me, and he that despiseth you, despiseth me" [Luke x. 16]; and because whoever shall neglect to hear the Church, shall be as a heathen and a publican [Matt. xviii. 17].
Finally we invoke in our needs and in our repentance the saints whose lives have been well pleasing to God, because standing on a higher grade of nearness to Him, they beautify, strengthen, and bring to God by their intercession, the prayers of the faithful [Rev. viii. 3, 4].
We surrender to the mercy of God the souls of those departed in the faith, who have failed to do worthy repentance [II Macc. xii. 43], hoping that the prayers that are offered for them may help them in securing a blessed resurrection, especially when they are connected with the offering of the bloodless Sacrifice of the Body of Christ, as well as the charities which are brought trustingly in their memory [John xiv. 13].
We acknowledge, moreover, and receive the New Testament mysteries [or Sacraments] of the Holy Church, inasmuch as we believe that in Holy Baptism we are born of the Holy Ghost to a spiritual and holy life [John iii. 5], and are become partakers of the evangelical grace [Mark xvi. 16], and we acknowledge only one baptism [Eph. iv. 5], because a man is born only once, either naturally or spiritually. In the anointing of myrrh [or chrismation] we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which prosper and strengthen us in the spiritual life [II Cor. i. 21, 22]. In the Holy Supper of the Lord, we receive, under the form of bread and wine, the real Body and the real Blood of Christ unto eternal life [John vi. 58]. In the confession, while the priest declares the forgiveness of the sins that have been confessed to him, we are freed from them invisibly by Jesus Christ Himself [Matt. xviii. 18]. In the ordination of priests, the Holy Ghost installs, by the imposition of Episcopal hands, regularly chosen men for the administration of the mysteries of Christ, and the feeding of his flock [Acts xx. 28]. In marriage, the matrimonial union between the bridegroom and the bride receives a higher blessing [Eph. v. 31, 32], and God is invoked in behalf of them, for the grace of pure harmony in the blessed production and the Christian education of children; in the last unction of the sick receive, by anointing the body with the holy oil, the infirmities of the soul, as well as of the body [Jas. v. 14, 15].
Lastly, in the belief in Jesus Christ, we expect the resurrection of the dead, which shall take place at the time appointed in the counsels of God, -- through his omnipotence, at the end of this visible world, in which the bodies of the departed, united with their souls, shall arise and become spiritual, incorruptible, and imperishable [I Cor. xv. 53, 54], and shall appear before the tribunal of Christ [Matt. xxv. 32], at which every one shall receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad [II Cor. v. 10].
And we hope, that for the faithful, who love God and do good, there shall follow thereupon such a blissful life [Matt. xiii. 43], as we are not able to imagine [I Cor. xv. 49]; but that the unbelieving and impenitent sinners shall be cast into eternal fire, and given up to eternal pain [Matt. xxv. 41, 42].
Thus, dear brethren, the eternal truth itself, Christ our Savior has taught us. This belief we have received from the Holy Apostles; such and no other doctrine our predecessors have held, and the general and local councils and the teachers of the Church have confirmed; our Orthodox Catholic Church follows this doctrine; for this faith the martyrs spilled their blood and preferred death to the present life.
Therefore, whoever abides firm and immovable in this faith even until death, testifying his belief by good works, so that neither tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor peril, nor sword shall separate him from the love of God [Rom. viii. 35], the same shall without all doubt, attain eternal salvation!