Toward understanding the Bible
The Book of Acts and
Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Translated by Seraphim Larin / Irina Zerebko
Edited by Donald Shufran
Contents: Preliminary information. Book of Acts. Ecumenical Epistles. Epistle of Ap. James. Epistles of Ap. Peter. Epistles of Ap. John the Theologian. Epistle of Ap. Jude. Selected Teachings.
Because of the increasing diffusion of Christian communities throughout the extensive Roman Empire, it was natural that the Christian mind began to raise questions of religious/moral and practical nature. Unable to attend to these queries personally, at the point of their origin, the Apostles responded to them through letters-epistles. Consequently, while the Gospel embodies the very fundamentals of the Christian faith, the Apostles' Epistles unveil the different aspects of Christ's Teachings in finer detail and indicate its practical application. Because of the Apostles' Epistles, we have a living witness of their Teachings and how the first Christians developed and lived within their communities. The Church always considered the Apostles' Epistles as the word of the Holy Spirit and as the pure source of the Truth (Luke. 12:12, John. 16:13, 17:17-19). Albeit living conditions change continuously and each year presents new problems, essentially these are the same problems that existed in apostolic times and throughout the ages of mankind's existence. That is why in these Apostolic Teachings, one can find correct guidance toward resolving personal problems as well as discovering the ageless treasures of Christian teachings on faith and life.
This brochure will acquaint the reader with the authors and under what circumstances the Book of Acts and Apostolic Epistles were written. At the conclusion, we shall cite some selected teachings from these Holy Books.
The Book of Acts
This Book of the Holy Apostles emerges as a direct continuance of the Gospel. Its author's aim is to describe events that occurred following the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and outline the inaugural establishment of Christ's Church. This Book narrates in especial detail the missionary efforts of Apostles Peter and Paul. In his discourse on this Book, St. John Chrysostom explains the great meaning this Book has for Christianity, as the lives of the Apostles contain facts which confirm the truth of the Gospel's teachings: "The actual Book contains within itself the essential truth of the Resurrection." That is why on Easter night in church, before the Resurrection of Christ is hailed, a number of chapters are read from the Acts. It is for this same reason that during the period from Easter to Pentecost, the whole Book is read in sections during daily Liturgies.
By the Acts' author's own citation (Acts 1:1-3), this is his second Book written for Theophilus, who lived in Antioch. From this, one can conclude that the Book of Acts was, by its nature, written as a continuation of the third Gospel, and its author appears to be Evangelist Luke, former fellow-traveler and colleague of Apostle Paul. There is also a stylistic likeness between The Gospel according to Luke and the Acts. Reference to the Book of Acts can be found in the writings of the early writers like St. Ignatius Theophorus (God Bearer), St. Polycarp, and St. Justin the Martyr. Through the works of the second century writers - St. Irenaeus of Lyon, Clement of Alexandria, Tertulian, Origen - as well as in the ancient Syrian translation of the Bible known as "Peshito."
The Book of Acts describes the events from the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ to the arrival of Ap. Paul in Rome, and covers an almost 30-year period. Chapters 1-12 deal with Ap. Paul's activities among the Jews of Palestine; ch. 13-28 deal with Ap. Paul's activities among the heathens, outside the Palestinian boundaries. The narrative of the Book concludes with the indication that Ap. Paul spent 2 years in Rome, without any restrictions, preaching Christ's teachings (28:30-31). No mention is made of the Apostle's martyr's death that followed 2-years later under the reign of Emperor Nero, in the year 67 AD. It is clear from Church tradition, that after being acquitted in Caesar's court, Ap. Paul performed his fourth missionary journey by travelling again to Jerusalem. From this, it can be concluded that the Book was completed in Rome around the years 63 or 64 AD. St. Paul's Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon mentions Luke as being with him in Rome. In this way, the Book of Acts paints a picture of how Christ's Church, having asserted itself among the Jews in Palestine (in accordance with God's prophesy) amid stubborn disbelief from the majority of the Jewish people, subsequently transgressed into the world of heathens and slowly spread throughout Asia Minor and eastern Europe.
In the Book of Acts, we see the fulfillment of the Savior's prophecies concerning those miracles, which the Apostles will perform in His name, and the triumph of Christ's faith over the world. We observe, how notwithstanding human weaknesses, having no apparent material means or possessions for disseminating the Gospel's teachings, after the Holy Spirit descended upon them, the Apostles became as if different people. Notwithstanding all the persecutions, they fearlessly, with great valor and self-sacrifice, preached the teachings of Christ throughout the four corners of the then cultured Greco-Roman world, establishing many Christian communities in a short period of time. The Book of Acts clearly testifies that the Apostles' sermons are not the work of man, but the work of God. (Let us remember the wise Gamaliel's counsel to the Jews about not persecuting Christ's followers, Acts 5:38-39). The narratives on the life of the early Christians that "were of one heart and one soul," is especially instructive, as they ran contrary to the lives of the then rest of the world, which was drowned in egoism and every type of sin and iniquity. To the pastors of Christ's Church, this Book is important in that it gives them an archetype of Church life and its management on the principles of "through council" (Acts ch. 15). Through narrative and direct instruction, it indicates what type a person should be that serves the Church (Acts 20:18-35).
However, the most important content in this Book is that, unlike any other, it witnesses about the greatest Christian truth: Christ's Resurrection. Indeed, the truth of Christ's Resurrection is best proven through miracles performed in His name, and the Book of Acts, in the main, narrates the miracles performed by the Apostles.
The name Catholic (universal) is applied to the seven Epistles written by the Apostles: 1 by James, 2 by Peter, 3 by John the Theologian, and 1 by Jude. In the arrangement of the New Testament of Orthodox publication, they follow immediately after the Book of Acts. Even in early times the Church called them Catholic or Ecumenical. "Catholic" in a sense meaning "circular," because they are not directed to private individuals but to all Christian communities in general. The first time the whole arrangement of the Catholic Epistles was called as such was by Eusebius (beginning of the 4th century AD). The Catholic Epistles are distinct, in as much as they carry somewhat general and basic educational directives of faith, while the Apostle Paul's subject matter was adapted to local churches at which they were directed, and have more special character. While the Apostle Paul's writings are conspicuous in revealing his personal character and the circumstances in his apostolic work, the Ecumenical Epistles enunciate the general mandatory rules and piety for all Christians, and contain hardly any biographical data.
Epistle of St. Apostle James
The author calls himself "James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." In the history of the New Testament, there are three known individuals named James: 1) James, son of Zebedee - one of the Twelve and brother of St. John the Theologian; 2) James Alphaeus, brother of St. Apostle and Evangelist Matthew, and also one of the Twelve; and 3) James, called "brother of the Lord," being one of the Seventy disciples of Christ and whose brothers were named Joses, Judas and Simon (Matt. 13:55). He later became the first Bishop of Jerusalem and earned from the Jews the name "Just." In contrast to the other two that belonged to the Twelve, he was called "the Less."
St. James Zebedee's early death came about through martyrdom (around the year 44 in Jerusalem, according to Acts 12:2). St. James Alphaeus preached among the heathens. Aside from that, James's Catholic Epistle was directed at the Jews, scattered throughout the lands, (1:1) although Church tradition ascribes this letter to the third James - "brother of the Lord," first Bishop of Jerusalem. Because of his righteousness, he enjoyed great respect from all the Jews (including the non-faithful), and in his role as Bishop of Jerusalem, could regard all Christian Jews, wherever they may be, as under his hierarchical direction.
It is known that James, "brother" of our Lord, led a very strict ascetic life, was chaste, didn't drink wine or any other alcoholic drinks, did not eat meat, wore linen clothing, strictly observed the laws of Moses and would often isolate himself for prayer, in the Temple of Jerusalem. He was the eldest son of Joseph (who was betrothed to the Blessed Virgin) and his first wife. According to tradition, he accompanied Joseph, Mary and the infant Christ during their flight to Egypt. Initially, like his brothers, he did not fully believe in the Lord Jesus as the Messiah. However, subsequently he came to believe with all his heart, for which our Lord, upon His Resurrection, honored him with His extraordinary appearance (1 Cor.15:7). Enjoying enormous respect among the Apostles, he presided over the first Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (Acts ch. 15). It has to be assumed that all his activities were concentrated in Palestine. Around the year 64, he met a martyr's death, being thrown from the top of the Temple of Jerusalem by the Jewish leaders. In enumerating the reasons for the fall of Jerusalem through the war with Rome, the noted Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, stated that the Lord punished the Jews for killing James the Just. Tradition ascribes the composition of an ancient form of Divine Liturgy to St. James, and to this day in Jerusalem and elsewhere, on his commemorative day (23 Oct.), this liturgy is performed throughout many churches.
The Epistle of St. Apostle James was reserved for the Jews: "To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad," which did not exclude the Jews living in Palestine. The time and place of issue of the Epistle is not indicated. Apparently, it was written not long before his death, probably between 55 and 60 A.D. The place of its composition was probably Jerusalem, as that is where he resided.
The motive for the Epistle were those sorrows which the scattered Jews endured at the hands of heathens, and especially from their own disbelieving brethren. These ordeals were so great that many became dispirited and wavered in their faith. Some complained against the outward misfortunes and against God Himself, although they continued to see that salvation will emanate from Abraham. They had an incorrect view on prayers, underestimated the meaning of good deeds, yet willingly became teachers of others. With this, the rich elevated themselves above the poor and brotherly love began to cool. All this prompted St. James to give them essential, moral therapy in the form of an Epistle.
The second chapter of St. Apostle James's Epistle contains invaluable instructions on the essence of faith, which must be made up not of some abstract acknowledgment of Christian truths, but rather through living acts of compassion. The 5th chapter speaks of the designation and power of the Sacrament of Chrismation.
Epistles of St. Apostle Peter
Apostle Peter, formerly known as Simon, was the son of a fisherman named Jonah from Bethsaida in Galilee (John 1:42-45) and brother of Andrew the "First-called," who was the one that brought him to Christ. St. Peter was married and had a house in Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29-31). Having being called by Christ the Savior while fishing on the lake of Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee; Luke 5:1-8), he always expressed extraordinary loyalty and zeal, for which he earned, together with the Zebedee brothers, an exceptional closeness to Christ (Luke 9:28). Being strong and ardent of spirit, he naturally assumed an influential role among Christ's Disciples. He was the first to resolutely acknowledge Lord Jesus as Christ - i.e., Messiah (Matt. 16:16) - and for this, earned the name Rock (Peter). It was on this rock of Peter's faith that Christ promised to build His Church, which even the gates of Hell would not prevail against (Mat. 16:18). Peter's three renunciations of Christ (on the eve of Christ's Crucifixion) were washed away with bitter tears of repentance. Consequently, after His Resurrection, Christ reinstated his apostolic standing thrice, matching the number of his renunciations, charging him to "feed my lambs" and "tend My sheep" (John 21:15-17). After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Apostle Peter was the first to assist in the spread and affirmation of Christ's Church by making a fiery speech on Pentecost and converting 3000 souls to Christ. Shortly after, having cured a man "lame from his mother's womb," Peter's second sermon converted an additional 5000 Jews to Christianity (Acts ch. 2-4) From the 1st chapter through to the 12th the Book of Acts narrates his apostolic activities. However, after his miraculous release from prison by an Angel, and being forced to hide from Herod (Acts 12:1-17), he is mentioned only once and that is in the passages about the Apostolic council (Acts ch. 15). Other data on Peter has been preserved only in the Church tradition records. It is known that he preached along the shores of Mediterranean sea, in Antioch (where he ordained Bishop Evodius). Apostle Peter preached also to the Jews and Proselytes (pagans that have converted to Judaism) in Asia Minor, and later - in Egypt, where he ordained Mark (the author of the Gospel "according to Mark," transcribed from Apostle Peter's words; Mark was not one of the twelve Apostles) as the first Bishop of the Alexandrian Church. From here he crossed over to Greece (Achaia) and preached in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:12). He then evangelized in Rome, Spain, Carthage, and Brittany. Toward the close of his life, Apostle Peter returned again to Rome where he accepted martyrdom in 67 AD, by being crucified upside down.
Apostle Peter's First General Epistle is directed "to the pilgrims dispersed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" - provinces of Asia Minor. It must be understood that "pilgrims" would, in the main, be converted Jews as well as converted heathens that were part of the Christian communities. These communities were established by Apostle Paul. Apostle Peter's reason for writing the Epistle was his wish to "strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:31-32) when disagreements arose in these communities, and also when they were persecuted by the enemies of Christ. Internal antagonists in the form of false teachers appeared among the Christians. Taking advantage of Apostle Paul's absence, they began to distort his teachings on Christian freedom and began patronizing every type of immoral profligacy (1 Peter 2:16, 2 Peter 1:9, 2:1).
Apostle Peter's aim for this Epistle was to encourage, comfort, and confirm the Asia Minor Christians in their faith as he himself points out: "By Silvanus, our faithful brother as I consider him, I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God in which you stand" (1 Peter 5:12).
The place of the first Epistle is shown as Babylon (5:13). In the history of the Christian Church, the Babylonian Church in Egypt is well known where, apparently, St. Peter wrote his Epistle. At that time, both Silvanus and Mark were with him after leaving Apostle Paul, who was sent to trial in Rome. That is why the data of the first Epistle is dated to be between the years 62 and 64 AD.
Apostle Peter's Second General Epistle is written for the same Asia Minor Christians. In this second Epistle, Apostle Peter cautions the faithful with particular vigor against the corrupt false teachers. These false teachings resemble those that Apostle Paul discloses in his Epistle to Timothy and Titus, as well as Apostle Jude in his General Epistle. These false teachings posed a threat to the faith and morals of the Christians. At that time, there was a swift spreading of Gnostic heresies, which imbued into themselves elements of Judaism, Christianity, and various pagan teachings. (In essence, gnosticism is theosophy, which in turn is a fantasy clothed in philosophy). In real life, the adherents of these heresies were conspicuous in their immorality, and prided themselves in the knowledge of the "mysteries."
The second Epistle was written by Peter shortly before his martyr's ending: "I know that shortly I must leave my temple, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me." These writings can be put down to the years 65-66. Apostle Peter's final years were spent in Rome, from which it can be concluded that the second Epistle was written there in the nature of a "death-bed" testament.
Epistles of the Evangelist
St. John the Theologian
The style and individual expressions remind us of the Gospel according to John, while ancient tradition regarded him as a beloved disciple of Christ. St. John was the son of Galilean fisherman Zebedee and his wife Salome, who according to tradition, was the daughter from Joseph's betrothed first marriage. Consequently, according to the surrounding residents, he was regarded as Christ's cousin. His elder brother James was also one of the 12 Apostles. Because of the strength of their spirit, Christ called them "Sons of Thunder" - "Boanerges" (Mark 3:17). Submitting himself to Christ's summons (Mat. 4:21 and Luke 5:10), John left his parents' home, and together with Peter and James became one of His closest disciples (Mark 5:37; Mat. 17:1;). John was honored by the Lord with a special love: he rested his head on Christ's bosom at the Last Supper, and at the Cross was given by Christ unto His Blessed Mother, as Her son (John 13:23-25; 19:26). Although not naming himself, St. John speaks of himself as the disciple that Christ loved (John 19:26). Of all the disciples, only John did not leave his Teacher and stood on Golgotha at the Cross itself.
After Christ's Ascension and Descent of the Holy Spirit, St. John continued to live in Jerusalem for the next 15 years until the glorious Assumption of the Mother of God. Together with Peter and James, he took an active part in the establishment of the Jerusalem Church and together with them, was regarded as its pillar (Gal. 2:9). He and St. Peter traveled to pray for the newly baptized Samaritans so that they could receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-15). Later, he turned to Asia Minor with his sermon, established himself in Ephesus, from where he administered all the churches in Asia Minor. After being thrown into a vat of boiling oil and remaining miraculously unscathed, he was banished from Ephesus by emperor Domitian to an island called Patmos. During exile, he wrote his Apocalypse - Revelations. Later, he returned to Ephesus and at the end of the 1st century, wrote his Gospel and 3 Epistles. He remained chaste and unmarried, and at the beginning of the 2nd century died a somewhat mysterious death in Ephesus. Not naming himself in his Epistles, St. John writes about himself as an eyewitness to the earthly life of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-4).
The First General Epistle was written by John after he wrote the Gospel - "That which we have seen and heard we declare to you" (1 John 1:1-4) - and apparently in Ephesus at the end of the 1st century.
It was written for the long established Asia Minor churches, whose congregations were mainly made up of former pagans. During this time, the teachings of gnosticism - which Apostles Jude, Peter, and Paul fought against - had increased throughout Asia Minor, replacing the rites of Judaism and crude paganism. The Gnostic false teachers rejected the Divinity of Jesus Christ and His Worthiness as the world's Savior, rejected the validity of His Incarnation, and treated iniquities lightly, contending that knowledge gives the individual full freedom and the right to moral dissipation.
Because of this, the tone of the Epistle is admonishing and accusatory. The aim of the Epistle is to verify the faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, so that all will receive eternal life through Him and dwell in Truth and Love.
The Second General Epistle. There are no authentic data to indicate the designation of this Epistle apart from those that are contained within the writing itself. Who "the elect lady and her children" were by name is not known. The only thing clear is that they were Christians. As to the time and place when the Epistle was written, one might think that this occurred at the same time as when the first Epistle was written in Ephesus. John's second Epistle contains only one chapter. In it, the Apostle expresses his joy about the chosen lady's children "walking in truth," promising to visit her and exhorting not to associate with false teachers.
The Third General Epistle is addressed to Gaius. The exact identity of this person is unknown. From the Apostles' writings and from Church tradition, it is known that there were a number of individuals that bore that name (Acts 19:29, 20:4; Romans 16:23; 1 Cor. 1:14 etc), but to which one it was written cannot be determined. Apparently this Gaius did not hold any hierarchical capacity but was a pious and hospitable Christian. As with the second Epistle, it can be assumed that the third Epistle was written at the same time and place, i.e. Ephesus, where Apostle John spent the last years of his life on earth. This Epistle is also made up of one chapter only. In it, the Apostle praises Gaius for his benevolent life, firmness in his faith in God and for his "walk in the truth" - especially his benevolent attitude toward travelling strangers and his generous relationship with the preachers of the Word of God. He also censures power-loving Diotrephes, conveys some news, and sends his greetings.
Epistle of St. Apostle Jude
The author of this Epistle refers to himself as "Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James." From this, it can be concluded that this is the same Apostle Judas of the Twelve, who was also called James, as well as Lebbaeus and Thaddaeus (Mat. 10:3; Mark 3:18; John 14:22). He was the son of Joseph (Blessed Virgin Mary's betrothed) from his first real wife, and brother to Joseph's other children: James (who subsequently became Bishop of Jerusalem and was known as "The Just"), Joses, and Simon who subsequently also became the Bishops of Jerusalem. According to tradition, his first name was Judas. When he was baptized by John the Baptist, he was named Thaddaeus, and when he became one of the Twelve Apostles, he was called Lebbaeus, perhaps to distinguish him from the betrayer, Judas Iscariot.
According to tradition, after Christ's Ascension, St. Jude's apostolic service saw him at first preaching in Judea, Galilee, Samaria and Idumea, and then in Arabia, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Armenia, where he received a martyr's death being crucified and shot with arrows.
By referring to his Epistle (verse 3) it can be seen that St. Jude's concern was "common salvation" and alarm at the intensification of false teachings. In a straightforward manner, St. Jude states that he writes because impious people have crept into the Christian community, converting Christian freedom into a reason for immorality. Undoubtedly, these false preacher-gnostics, believing that the world was not God's creation but that of lower forces hostile to Him, encouraged corruptness under the guise of "mortifying" the flesh. These are the same Simoniacs and Nicolaitans that are exposed by St. John in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of his Apocalypse. The purpose for the Epistle was to warn the Christians not to be captivated by these false teachings that seduce emotions. While the Epistle was written for all Christians, it can be seen by its content that it was designed for those circles of individuals that have been accessed by the false teachers. It can be assumed with certainty that this Epistle was primarily directed to those Asia Minor churches, to whom Apostle Peter wrote at a later date.
Undoubtedly this Epistle was written before the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in the year 70, and in describing all the remarkable manifestations of God's judgements, St. Jude would not have failed to mention this most astonishing event. The similarity of this Epistle with that of Apostle Peter's gives rise to the thought that it was written after Peter's, and that St. Jude took advantage of St. Peter's descriptive characteristics of the false teachers by applying them nearly verbatim.
The General Epistle of St. Jude is made up of one chapter and represents one continuous address, directed against the false teachers.
Here we present selected Apostolic instructions in alphabetical order.
Abiding in God: "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:6). "And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming" (1 John 2:28). "If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit" (1 John 4:12-13).
Born from above: "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves Him who is begotten of Him" (1 John 5:1).
Conscience: "And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God" (1 John 3:19-21).
End of the World, Judgment: "The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment" (2 Peter 2:9). "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10). "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells" (2 Peter 3:13).
Faith: "And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment" (1 John 3:23). "He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe in God has made Him a liar, because he had not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son" (1 John 5:10-11). "But let him ask with faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord" (James 1:6-7). "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works ...You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble! ... For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:14-26).
Family: "Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward - arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel - rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror. Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered" (1 Peter 3:1-7).
God, trust in Him and His love: "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6-7). "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him" (1 John 3:1).
Good deeds and righteousness: "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22). "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20). "As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness... giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins" (2 Peter 1:3-9). "If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him" (1 John 2:29). "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God" (3 John 1:11).
Knowing God: "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:3-4). "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things... But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him" (1 John 2:20 and 27).
Life: "The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us" (1 John 1:2). "And this is the promise that He has promised us - eternal life" (1 John 2:25). "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death" (1 John 3:14).
Light: "This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). "He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes" (1 John 2:9-11).
Love: "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the Apostles gave witness to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the Apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need" (Acts 4:32-35). "And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). "But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him" (1 John 2:5). "By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:16-18). "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).
"Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also" (1 John 4:17-21). "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:2-3). "This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it" (2 John 6).
Mercy: "For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13).
Obedience (serving): "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to Whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 4:10-11).
Passions: "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11). "While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For if, after they have escaped the pollution of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: 'A dog returns to its own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire'" (2 Peter 2:19-22).
Piety: "Pure and undefiled religion before God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27).
Prayer: "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16). "Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight" (1 John 3:21-22). "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him" (1 John 5:14-15).
Repentance: "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up" (James 4:8-10).
Salvation: "... knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18-19). "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10 and Osee 2:23). "If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:18 and Proverbs 11:31).
Sicknesses: "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (James 5:13-15).
Sin: "When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:15).
Temptations and sorrows: "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing...Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed" (James 1:2-4, 12-14).
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7). "For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps" (1 Peter 2:20-21). "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin" (1 Peter 4:1-2). "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people's matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter" (1 Peter 4:12-16).
Tongue, control of: "If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless" (James 1:26). "For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body" (James 3:2). "Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles" (James 3:5). "He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit" (1 Peter 3:10 and Ps. 34:12-16).
Truth: "I rejoiced greatly that I have found some of your children walking in truth, as we received commandment from the Father" (2 John 1:4). "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (2 John 1:9-11). "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth" (3 John 1:4).
Wisdom: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5). "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom" (James 3:13). "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17).
The World steeped in evil: "Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4). "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17).
"You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5). "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19).
Wrath: "For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:20).
In summarizing the Book of Acts and the Apostolic Epistles, both Ecumenical as well as Apostle Paul's (about which there will be a discourse in the next brochure), it must be said that they all doggedly persuade Christians to abide with spiritual solidarity in the blessed community called Church, that was established by the Savior. The path to salvation is open to all those that believe in the incarnate Son of God, Lord Jesus Christ, Who shed His blessed blood for the redemption of mankind's sins and gave His Church the Comforter. In order to be saved, man must follow the path shown by Christ. As well, he must not go alone but together with other salvation seekers, availing himself of assistance from the blessed community and receiving the necessary directions from its pastors. The main attributes of the community of salvation seekers are: a) New life, acquired by them from communion with God through Lord Jesus Christ; and b) Abiding in a spiritual light - i.e., in the purity of the Gospel's Truth and in mutual love. Outside the Church, there is nothing but the darkness of ignorance, sin, and hatred. This is the realm of the Devil, prince of this world. In living a blessed life of the Church, a Christian expands spiritually, grows more complete and for his acts, patience, and good deeds, and becomes deserving of eternal life.
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Missionary Leaflet # E40
Copyright © 2001 Holy Trinity Orthodox Mission
466 Foothill Blvd, Box 397, La Canada, Ca 91011
Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Edited by Donald Shufran 04/30/2001