One in Adam, One in Christ

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6)

St Paul came to the realization that God willed the salvation of the human race, not just the Jewish race.  He came to understand that the Law given to help humans do God’s will had not accomplished its goal and had in fact divided humanity with Jews believing they were to have nothing to do with Gentiles.  St Paul came to the startling conclusion that God was saving all humans and in so doing reuniting them all into one people, no longer two separated by the Law.  However, realizing this truth was one thing, actualizing it in community life proved to be quite a difficult challenge.  For St Paul was telling Jews to embrace Christ’s love and sit and eat with the Gentiles because all the rules for keeping Torah or keeping Kosher were not the way to salvation.  Salvation is love for God and neighbor which the Law cold never realize.

What drove Paul to see that Jew and gentile now constitute one people of God was not his own imagination or sense of social justice, and it certainly was not his “straight” reading of his Bible. If anything, putting Jew and non-Jew on the same level cuts against the Old Testament grain. What drove Paul to this revolutionary, countercultural conclusion was the reality of the resurrection of Christ.   (Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam, What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, Kindle Loc. 2989-92)

What St Paul came to understand is the importance of Adam: Christ restores all humans to the one undivided humanity which existed before the Fall.  Adam is not mostly the 1st historical human but the type of all prefallen humans.  Adam is not about biological origins but truly falls to that level of a mere biological being through sin.   Christ comes to restore the full nature of humanity, to reunite the physical and the spiritual, created and Creator, humanity and divinity, the living and the dead, Gentile and Jew.

In [Romans] 1:14 he announces his universal focus when he states his obligation to both Greeks and non-Greeks (v. 14), claiming that the gospel is for the Jew first, but then also for the gentile (v. 16). This is not just a polite way to begin a letter, but an announcement of the letter’s focus: one gospel for two heretofore distinct peoples.  (Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam, What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins, Kindle Loc. 3008-11)

The sin of Adam and Eve led to the giving of the Law which resulted in a division in humanity between Jew and Gentile.  However, the Law was meant to give life to all humanity.  The fact that it had caused division rather than bringing about wholeness is in fact the limit of the Law.  The healing of humanity, the end of all separation and divisions, begins in Christ.

The 12 Apostles

St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom in one of his commentaries on the Psalms marveled at the great success of the Apostles: they were 12 men against the entire world, sheep in the midst of wolves and yet the sheep triumphed!   They triumphed not by means of civil power, but because they obeyed Christ the Lord, and their own disciples recognizing their obedience to Christ, in turn obeyed Christ as well.

St. John wrote in his commentary that the key for the Apostles, which is still key to all of us who wish to be disciples of Christ and to fulfill His Great Commission  (Matthew 28) is to have Christ in us.

The 12 Apostles

“In sending them, remember, he said this: “See, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves,” something no less a marvel than the former one. After all, for those in the guise of sheep to prevail over wolves is no less remarkable than for those apprehended in the midst to overcome; but even more remarkable is for men twelve in number to win over the world.  Exercise dominion in the midst of your foes. He did not say, “Conquer in the midst of your foes,” but Exercise dominion so as to indicate not the spoils coming from battle array but the lordship coming from command. After all, the  apostles, having Christ within them, prevailed in the manner of people doing everything by command. Hence all doors were open to them, and the believers obeyed more compliantly than any slave, selling their possessions and laying the proceeds at the feet of the apostles, not presuming to take anything for their own needs.”  (St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on the Psalms, pg.18)

Christian Unity: Being of One Mind

Philippians 2:1-2

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

“As  Christ in the flesh was visible, so the unity of the church is to be visible to all.   The unity of the church is manifest in Christians praying together, professing the same faith, and in the Eucharistic celebration, together with the bishop, who is the celebrant, the leader, and the teacher.    He is the local point of unity, the guardian and the charismatic teacher of apostolic tradition.”      (Veselin Kesich, Formation and Struggles, THE CHURCH IN HISTORY. Vol. 1,  pg. 131)

Of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas? Remaining in Christ

 Sermon Notes 2008   for Epistle for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost    (1 Corinthians 1:10-18) 

“I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or”I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul  crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

What would be the modern Orthodox version of St. Paul’s argument?

Let’s see:

I belong to the Greek Archdiocese.  I am for Constantinople.  I belong to the Antiochians.  I belong to the OCA.  I am for Moscow.

Or how about:

I am a follower of Fr. Ephrem.   I am of Fr. Seraphim Rose.  I am of Fr. Schmemann.  I follow Bishop Kallistos.  A follow Archbishop Lazar.

 Or:

I am for Kondratick.  I am for Metropolitan Herman.   I am for Archbishop Job.  I am for OCAnews.org.

The problems of the church are the same for the past 2000 years.  They are human problems, resulting from human sin, hubris, desire for power, jealousy, greed, control, lust.

St. Paul disagreed vehemently with St. Peter (Cephas).  He disagreed with St. Peter’s understanding of what it meant to follow Christ.  He disagreed with Cephas over how to interpret Christ’s teachings.   But St. Paul was still clear that each of them belonged to Christ and were trying to follow Christ.  

And St. Paul understood that it was not his goal or Peter’s goal to draw people away from Christ to follow them personally or them alone.

St. Paul spoke about being a father to his disciples, and he understood that the followers of Christ would be naturally attracted to those leaders who taught them the faith.    And he thought that was natural and good.

But St. Paul would not accept that Christians would make their leaders and teachers into different or divided religions.  If someone you want to follow as a Christian is demanding that you follow them alone, and if they say they alone have the only right interpretation of Christ, then be on your guard.  St. Paul would warn you away from such people.

For each Christian teacher should be leading you to Christ, uniting you to Christ, keeping you with Christ.  But if all they are doing is dividing Christ and pitting Christian against Christian, then they are not doing what St. Paul taught and you should have nothing to do with them. 

If any one Orthodox teacher or priest or bishop draws you away from the fellowship of other Orthodox and from the entire Body of Christ, then he or she is doing what St. Paul condemned.

Each of us should be working to unite all others to Christ and to the fullness of Christ’s Church – to the one, universal and catholic church we profess in the Creed.  That Church is not limited to Paul or Peter or Constantinople or Moscow or Ephrem or Schmemann or Herman or Job.  It is the responsibility of all church leaders and all Christians to unite all to one another and to Christ.

And as can be seen in the life of St. Paul who was willing to argue with his fellow apostles, union in Christ does not always mean compromise or avoidance.  Sometimes we need to deal with our disagreements and to argue with one another to discern the truth.