Archive for the ‘scripture’ Category

Wednesday after Pentecost Romans 1:18-27 May 28/June 10 2009

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

Two sins that lead to all others.

It’s always about you.

Idolatry.

Sexual immorality.

The delusion of the age.

We must have courage.


Immediately after Pentecost, we begin reading The Epistle of Paul to the Romans. This is arguably the most difficult, theological and “head spinning[1]” Epistle in the New Testament.

 

As with all Scripture, however, there are always simple messages that we can glean , as long as we read with purpose, expecting to be instructed in righteousness[2] by some detail we read

 

Much of the things St Paul says in today’s reading are very simple. It would be good to talk about them now, while we still can.[3]

 

It would be a great mistake to regard Paul’s words as only referring to idolaters and sexually immoral people, whom Paul refers to here:

 

23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” (idolatry)

 

“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.” (homosexuality, or in our political speak of the day, both “Gay” and “Lesbian” relations)

 

The most important part of the entire reading is the first verse, and it’s follow-up, which describe two kinds of sins:

 

“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;”

 

The scriptures must be read in a personal way. This does not mean that they will tell us what car to buy,  or whether or not to do missionary work in another country, but they will speak to our personal hearts, if we listen. Although Paul goes on to describe some of the more extreme examples of holding “the truth in unrighteousness”, we err greatly if we do not consider this admonition to also refer to us.

 

When we read these words, we must wonder in which way they refer to us. To ponder this, we first must understand what holding “the truth in unrighteousness” is.

 

Let’s define it as: saying we believe something, but not doing what we say. This describes all sin. Now, St Paul’s words are very personal, and should make us tremble!  The Holy Theologian tells us:

 

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.  (4)  He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1John 2:3-4)

 

And:

 

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1John 4:20)

 

Do we “hold” the truth, and yet remain unrighteous, with our passions and sins and selfishness and laziness and all the rest? If so, then St Paul’s admonition applies to us.

 

Let us not despair, because if we are true Christians, with the “honest and good heart[4]” that our Savior described, then although we are guilty of sins, we will not  be guilty of the greater sins which St Paul described (which lead to all terrible, immoral sins):

 

21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…”

 

I have told many people many times that sin, of itself, will not kill us. If it were absolutely deadly, no one would live. Only unrepentance will lead to death. God will forgive all sin, except that unforgivable sin[5] – to not repent. If we do sinful things, AND justify them, we have become vain in our imaginations and have darkened hearts – and God will not abide where there is darkness.

 

Death from sin is a process, with progression, just as gaining eternal life is a process with progression. All sins lead to death, because, unchecked, sin leads to more sin, and eventually, the corruption of the mind so that we are unable to stop sinning. All righteousness leads to more righteousness, and eventually, we are free from sin. Which way are we progressing, towards Jerusalem, or towards Jericho[6]? The way we live our life, the priorities we have, the beliefs we espouse, our own personal honest and integrity – these will determine which road we walk.

 

St Paul’s admonition censures two great sins which lead to all the rest of the woes and illnesses of the heart:

 

1. Holding the truth in unrighteousness, that is, being sinners.

 

And

 

2. The greater sin, which is one of the heart – to not glorify God, and as a consequence of not carefully attempting to follow the commandments, making excuses for our sins, and becoming vain in our imaginings and darkened in our hearts.

 

As for the first sin, there is repentance, and the grace of God which will help us. As for the second, there can come a time when we are incapable of repentance, because our lack of care regarding personal purity and the following of the commandments will have lead us to have a “hardened heart” like Pharaoh. From this sin there is not repentance.

 

If we fear the first, and struggle against it, we will not commit the second.

 

Now, we must say something about the immoral sins that St Paul mentions.

 

Absolutely, these denunciations of Paul refer to what they appear to be referring to: worship of idols, and immoral same sex sexual acts. Of course, our society tries all day long to find some way to change the meaning of these words, but they are very clear. God considers sexual activity between those of the same sex to be impure, “unseemly” and “unnatural”.

 

We must pause here to make two important points.

 

This passage does not mention adultery, but it is also a grave sin, mentioned at many other places in the scriptures. Also, there are different kinds of sins and weaknesses. We understand that even to “look at a woman to lust after her” is adultery, so the church has always understood, as her High Priest has taught us, that sin can occur, even if it is only in the mind.

 

Any impure thoughts are debilitating to the soul, but when we fight them with courage and not with an attitude of “making excuse with excuses in sins”, we will eventually, with God’s help, be at peace. Sexual lust of all kinds can be a very strong and persistent temptation, and to even have this temptation is a sign to us that we are not yet righteous. We truly fall when we give in to the temptation and act upon it, and make it a thousand times more deadly to our soul when we make excuses for it. Can a person afflicted with sexual impurity (of any kind) be saved? YES, OF COURSE, but only if he struggles against it.

 

Our politically correct age is making it a sin to say there is sin. If we understand sin for what it is – something which debilitates the soul and makes it sick, then we can fight this view. To call homosexuality a sin (and to offer solutions for it) is an act of Christian love. My brethren, do not fall prey to the pernicuous propaganda of our age. All sin hurts, and leads to death. It must be fought, and we must equip others weaker than ourselves to fight it, not matter what our government or major papers or television programs try to tell us.

 

To have a moral opinion of life is not easy, and it takes courage. Many so called Christians are afraid to live this way. May God help us. If we attempt to live moral lives with great effort, we will not be prone to the great delusion that our society is trying to confuse us with. This is only solution for our modern predicament. If we are strict with ourselves, and try to live morally, we will not be confused when the world tries to sell us a bowl of pottage, whether by propaganda, coercion, threats or punishments.

 

 

 

Romans 1:18-27 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

 

 

Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

 

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-06-10.html

http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2009-06-10.doc

 

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[1] “Head spinning” – Sometimes when I try to understand the depth of Paul’s theology, as I think on the multiple layers of though contained in even one (LONG) sentence, my head spins!

[2] All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2Timothy 3:16  )

[3] The impending “Hate Speech” legislation and the overall tone of our society which considers the only sin to be proclaiming that there IS sin, will make any discussion of morality, and especially sexual morality, very dangerous. It will, unless God intervenes, soon be a crime to publicly espouse the church’s view about sexual morality, especially regarding homosexuality. People will go to jail for standing up for the truth, after being slandered as purveyors of “hate speech” and inciters of violence”. Are you ready for this? The only way to be ready is to live a moral life NOW, because when the time comes to stand (and loose your job or life or liberty in the process), you (and I) will not be able to do so, unless we are strengthened by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who only abides in a place that is pure.

[4] “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15  )

 

[5] The church understands blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to be lifelong unrepentance ”Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. (Mat 12:31)

 

Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:  (29)  But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: (Mar 3:28-29)

 

[6] See the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). Jerusalem is a symbol of righteousness, and Jericho of sin.

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Thoughts on Tuesday’s Scripture Readings

Monday, August 25th, 2008

 

"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ" (2 Cor 2:14-17).

The Apostle considers his preaching successful, by God’s grace, because He has made the Gospel known everywhere, even though some heard this Gospel to their own condemnation because they did not wish to receive it and live by it. "To the one we are the savor of death unto death, and to the other the savor of life unto life." But "who is sufficient for these things?" In other words this is not of us but of God (St. John Chrysostom). "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). The preaching of the Gospel is the proclamation of light and truth. Some people accept the light with joy, while others reject it, preferring to abide in darkness "because their works are evil." Our Lord also explains this at length in his early parables (Matthew Ch. 13). We should, then, struggle to obey the commands of the gospel, that we may receive the light unto salvation. "Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock" (Matthew 7:24-25).

St. John Chrysostom:

"Whether, saith he, one be saved or be lost, the Gospel continues to have its proper virtue: and as the light, although it blindeth the weakly, is still light, though causing blindness; and as honey, though it be bitter to those who are diseased, is in its nature sweet; so also is the Gospel of sweet savor, even though some should be lost who believe it not. For not It, but their own perverseness, worketh the perdition."

"For this sweet savor some so receive that they are saved, others so that they perish. So that should any one be lost, the fault is from himself: for both ointment is said to suffocate swine, and light (as I before observed,) to blind the weak. And such is the nature of good things; they not only correct what is akin to them, but also destroy the opposite: and in this way is their power most displayed. For so both fire, not only when it giveth light and when it purifieth gold, but even when it consumeth thorns, doth very greatly display its proper power, and so show itself to be fire: and Christ too herein also doth discover His own majesty when He "shall consume" Antichrist "with the breath of His mouth, and bring him to nought with the manifestation of His coming." (2 Thess. ii. 8.)" (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf112.v.v.html)

 

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For God so loved the world…

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

Today we are presented with the famous John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Do we really want to live forever? If we think of life in the world’s terms, many people would say no! “Truly all things are vanity, and life is but a shadow and a dream…” (from the Panikhida service).

But this is the case only because death and corruption reign in this world. This is so because the king and priest of this world — mankind — has rejected God, who is the only source of true life, joy, peace, and incorruption. Indeed, we have rejected him twice, in Eden and on the Cross – or rather, we continually reject Him each time we make a conscious choice to sin against Him. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

But our Savior answers, “be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (John 17). “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and on those in the tombs bestowing life” — true, incorrupt life, full of joy and peace. “O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.” (Homily of St. John Chrysostom on Pascha)

The paralytic accepted the gift of healing from Peter and John, and gave thanks to God. The rulers of the people rejected the gift, and demanded that that the apostles cease preaching in the name of Jesus. “Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” It is us to accept his gift of life, by living according to his commandments. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Let us believe in him, that we may have everlasting life! Let us stop beleiving in sin when it tempts us with pleasures, lusts, and the comfort of material wealth. Let us begin to instead believe our Lord when he tells us that “whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matt 16:25).

Acts 4:1-10

1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. 4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. 5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, 6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.


John 3:16-21

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

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Once when He descended and confounded the tongues…

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Today we read in Genesis the story of the tower of Babel. In this story, we learn how the human race was scattered over the face of the earth because, in our pride, we wished to build a tall tower reaching unto heaven. Thus, the confusion of our language was a great mercy of God, as it kept us from banding together for evil, so that, scattered abroad, we could learn humility and return to God.

On Wednesday, Father Seraphim mentioned how a Christian cannot think of the expulsion from paradise without thinking of the remedy – the holy Cross. Likewise, we should not think of the confusion of tongues without thinking of the remedy – the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. While the division caused by the confusion of tongues was for our benefit, it was not in line with God’s plan for us. Made in His image, we are made to be united to Him and to one another, as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one within the Godhead.

And thus, the Holy Spirit comes down on the day of Pentecost to unite us to Christ and to one another in the Church. Moreover, we each received this very same gift on the day of our baptism, being united to Christ’s Body in the Church, and we renew this union each time we partake of the Holy Mysteries.

Father Tom Soroka, speaking of this in his daily scriptural commentary (http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/thepath), quotes in particular the following hymn from the Pentecost service: “Of old the tongues were confounded / because of the audacity in the building of the tower, / but now the tongues are made wise / because of the glory of Divine knowledge. / There God condemned the impious because of their offense, / and here Christ hath enlightened the fishermen by the Spirit. / At that time the confusion of tongues was wrought for punishment, / but now the concord of tongues hath been inaugurated // for the salvation of our souls” (Aposticha for Pentecost).

Let us give thanks to God for His great mercies! And let us strive to come together, through prayer and repentance uniting ourselves to the Holy Church, and thereby to each other, that we may see fulfilled Christ’s last with for us: “that they may be one, as we [the Holy Trinity] are” (John 17).

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With God all things are possible

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Both the epistle and gospel readings for today talk about what we must do, about the moral life of a Christian. “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.” “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.” At the same time, both readings touch on our inability to obey the commandments fully. Did the young man observe all of the commandments? In the literal sense, perhaps – but probably not in their perfected sense, as interpreted by Christ in the sermon on the mount. For example, Christ explains that it does not suffice simply not to kill – rather, one must refrain even from anger without cause. (Matthew Chapter 5) But we are comforted: “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.” We are enjoined to “lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” Sin encompasses us, death and corruption reign in our members, but through Christ’s incarnation, sacrifice, death and resurrection they are defeated, and it is up to us simply to “receive with meekness” that which has been given us. We cannot save ourselves – we are too weak, too far removed from God. We cannot do good in our corrupted state. As the prophet Jeremiah says, (I paraphrase), just as a leopard cannot change his spots, so we cannot do good, being habitually sinful. But God’s Word is able to save us by changing us, by uniting us to Himself and abiding with us. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” We need only desire to change, and make an effort to lay aside the “filthiness” of our old self and be conformed to the image of Christ. The power to do so will come from Him.

Readings:

James Chapter 1:

Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”

Mark Chapter 10:

“And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

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