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UNORTHODOX SOTERIOLOGOY OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

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This evening I shall further the series of sermons concerning the apostasy of Eastern Orthodoxy in general and Serbian Orthodox Church dogma in particular. Tonight and next Friday I shall be unrevealing in front of you my brothers and sisters the most unorthodox soteriology, which is to say the doctrine of salvation, the one held firm by Serbian Orthodox Church. The crucial inquiry that lies at the heart of this particular fallacy revolves around the question – in what way do we obtain the Divine salvation? This, without any doubt, represents the most important question of the entire paradigm of universe, of the paradigm of creation and if you will the paradigm of our very own eternal existence. Thus, the essential question that has to be raised is whether the God did offer to fallen mankind the way and the means for forgiveness of sins and thus the eternal life via easy or rather difficult way? To put this question even more bluntly I shall rephrase it in a following fashion: Does God care at all about the salvation of his fallen creation? If we answer affirmatively then we can, with upmost certainty, venture further in stating that our God has done absolutely everything necessary for salvation of humankind. Should we however answer negatively, in that case we are forced to deduce (and that must be visible and provable) that the Creator has put forward the absolute effort in order to hide the means of our salvation and thus make it incomprehensible and unrecognizable to men. Now do allow me to unfold this sermon by expounding Biblical truth about salvation which indeed represents grace of God, and hence forward I shall put before you Serbian Orthodox Church dogma with the lingering question of weather it truly represents the answer to the question of anyone’s salvation. All through the pages of the Word of God, Bible, one is faced with the abundance of testimonies certifying that God is God of infinite love. God’s revelation depicts Him as the Majestic One who has, even before the creation, in his omniscience had the foreknowledge concerning mankind’s sinful ways which shall result in its utterly fallen nature and God has in the infinity past already prepared a plan for mankind’s salvation. However, before I even step upon the holy turf of the topic of salvation itself I shall put before you my brothers and sisters the answer to most important question of all the questions and that one being: why is salvation necessary at all? It is of upmost importance for you and for all of our Orthodox brothers and sisters to understand and accept the fact that Scriptural revelation concerning the Creation itself, contained within the Book of Genesis is NOT a mythological or traditional rendering – but in fact it represents utterly truthful and most precise account of the actual occurrence. I emphasize this for the mere reason that majority of Serbs of these days, simultaneously claiming their Christian heritage, do not believe in Biblical account of Creation. They are, I shall say as the undeniable evidence indicates, much more inclined to cling to authenticity of the Evolution theory. On the other hand, as we do accept as a fact God’s creation, based of course upon incalculable amount and variety of evidence, it becomes infinitely easier to accept all the subsequent truths penned down within pages of the inerrant Holy Scripture. Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, renders the account of Gods creation of men as a crown of his Creation, as we read in Genesis 1:26, 27, 31. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them... And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” God’s initial plan for his crown creation included the eternal life that up to then only He possessed. Indescribable variety of plant and animal life forms just as well as the millions upon millions of stars in the sky or for that matter the very angels that serve the Creator were meant to invoke eternal admiration and awe towards God: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, were their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (Psalm 19 : 1 – 4) However Almighty God did not desire that the ruler of His creation be a mere slave of his Maker and thus out of his infinite goodness and the very respect of the free will of the creation after His own image, God allowed first people the option to chose. To chose the eternal life with the Creator in all the divinities of the created world, or on the other hand autonomous and deliberate choice of “eternal death and separation from God. “And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil... And the Lord God commanded the man, saying. Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2 : 9, 16 – 17) Sadly, just at the very time when the men made in the image of God was tested or to put it more precisely tempted to chose the fruit of the tree of life (that is eternal life) thus sealing firmness of his decision to live with God, a most dramatic moment occurred. Jesus Christ himself speaks about it “I beheld Satan as lighting fall from heaven.” (Luke 10: 18), indeed very much like the Old Testament prophets did, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground which didst weaken the nations! For thou has said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.” (Isaiah 14 : 12 – 15) “Thus saith the Lord God; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou was created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God’ thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created till iniquity was found in thee... Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground...” (Ezekiel 28 : 13 – 15, 17) Cherub, the angelic being of uttermost might and intelligence, thus driven by his desire to equate himself with God was cast down far from the throne of God. With him from the most High was cast away an entire legion of angels, one third to be precise. “And there appeared another wonder in heaven’ and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born... And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deciveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (Revelation 12 : 3 – 4, 9) Out of share envy and hate which filled his heart, Satan rushed to destroy, as soon as is seemed possible to him, the one that was meant to become ruler over the entire Creation. Man, and woman, were utterly unprepared, being still in “undefined” state before God. Their lips have not yet tasted fruit of the tree of life and Satan was most keenly aware of the fact. He approached them in a most cunning manner, planting into them a seed of doubt regarding God’s plan concerning their future: “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3 : 1 – 6) Due to such human frivolity, devil, whom our Lord Jesus Christ defines as “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8 : 44) succeeded in leading the first man and his wife and consequently billions of their offspring down the path that leads to everlasting death. By ignoring God’s will via tasting from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, humanity not only deservedly lost eternality but it deserved immediate death in line with God’s warning. On the other hand, God in His unwavering love towards humanity allowed only temporary spiritual death – death that manifested itself in humanities lost close coinonia with God. This very spiritual death subsequently through the “primeval” sin spread to all of Adam’s seed. To this very day innumerable human beings were, and are being born with the inbreed spiritual deadness, which is to say without closeness to God and without the eternal life. However, let us return, my brothers and sisters, for but a moment to the Garden of Eden, to the very moment of God’s encounter with our confused and much scared original familial source. Although the Word of God has bound him to annihilate the transgressors of his command, Almighty God in his sovereignty sacrificed an innocent being, an animal with which skin He clothed them. (Genesis 3:7, 21) However that did not represent the extent of his mercy – within the same time frame God announced the fulfillment of his eternal plan; a plan of absolute forgiveness of all human sins trough the Savior that shall be born of a woman (without any role for the man) Savior that will be victorious, in its absolute finality of the meaning, over Satan: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) From that very moment the eternally righteous God has geared human history future up to the moment of the incarnation of our divine Savior and through him the means of for salvation of humanity. HUMAN SINFULNESS AND GOD’S LOVE As I have already emphasized, sinfulness of humanity resulted in its mortality. And that was not all. Human nature became inherently disinclined in terms of fulfillment of God’s will and indeed it became rebellious towards everything emanating from God’s rightfulness and his holiness. That very nature that became part of all mankind, manifesting itself in rejection of God while at the same time doing the deeds of Satan, resulted in its amenability to God’s wrath and to eternal condemnation. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5 : 12) Sinful nature lead to first fratricide (as is penned down in Genesis 4: 8). Apostle John is utterly clear concerning the matter in writing “Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3 : 12) Human’s thus became susceptible to all forms of moral degeneracy – such as polygamy, vindictiveness and uncountable others. Holy Scripture contains some of those: “And Lamech took unto him two wives; And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Yillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, harken unto my speech: for I have slain a men to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.” (Genesis 4 : 19, 23) And lawlessness abounded among all. The Creator was much hurt for the depravity and evilness of his creation, yet the sin of humans reached such unimaginable proportions that God decided to destroy everything that breaths. He spared, saved, only eight – Noah and his family. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both men and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence trough them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6: 5 – 13) One hundred and twenty years upon God’s warning, the earth was flooded in such a manner that it annihilated all life outside Noah’s Arch. More than a billion rebellious and ungodly perished. Now I can with much certainty imagine a question from someone within our congregation – is God really merciful if he did such a deed? Why did he not turn his attention from the sinfulness of the world and just pardoned everyone? My dear brothers and sisters, do make no mistake our God is merciful, however he is at the same time absolutely holy and for just these reasons he could do not any less than what He did. What does the Holy Scripture resonate? “And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: and the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6 : 3) And as He is Holy, every sin for which any men or women does not will to repent absolutely has to be punished. In Noah’s day, repentance should have been upon every human mind, yet it was not “Which sometime were disobedient, then once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, herein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” (1 Peter 3 : 20) However, in this very day and age, Noah’s warning is shunned by great majority of humankind and sadly by majority of false self proclaimed Cristian churches. We, just like Noah, have remained the only ones to heed the Word about the coming judgement, just as the Holy Scripture reads “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by FAITH.” (Hebrews 11 : 7) The One who is full of mercy willed salvation of each and every one, yet He had to accept the will of the majority that stood firm in living outside God’s benevolence. At this juncture, it is of vital importance that it be stressed that the salvation is in its entirety God’s mercy and not in any way brought about by human deeds or even helped by them. Holy Scripture as I am most certain that you are aware presents us with, at first appearance, two rather puzzling and confusing extremes. We read within its pages about God as being upmost interested in procuring means of salvation to his fallen creation, while at the same time Holy Scripture teaches us about mankind that is utterly uninterested and indeed indifferent about God’s plan. Almighty God, although venerated and sovereign fills the Bible with mountains of evidence of his endless love towards His creation, and towards men in particular; now do allow me to quote just a few examples: “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.” (Jeremiah 31 : 3) “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked shuld die? saith the Lord God; and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” (Ezekiel 18 :23) “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn youselves, and live ye.” (Ezekiel 18 : 32) “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in haven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5 : 45) “...that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14 : 15 – 17) On the other hand, my brothers and sisters, as you remember I have already emphasized that the Holly Scripture tells us not only about a sinful mankind, mankind that is by its sinful birth does not belong to God and is under the power of the Satanic rule, but it indeed describes the entire humankind as one that has not even a trace of wish to seek Lord and to fulfill his will – persisting in its impiety as Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time pas ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” (Ephesians 2 : 1 – 3) Or shall we turn to 53rd Psalm and verses 2 and 3 : “God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” In Romans 3 from 10th verse Apostle affirms Prophet’s words and expands “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none that understadeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace have they not known; There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Now please do pay attention upon the fact that such depiction of relationship of Lord God and His most eminent creation is most decisively different from descriptions of polytheistic peoples and their deities. Within those, in contrast to the Christian dogma, deities are beings that are hardly interested, or involved in, (rather Epicurean strain of thought is most present) the fortunes of their earthly subjects, while those same earthly subjects are most keenly looking for most imaginative paths for pleasing their deities – even to the extreme point of human sacrifices. I shall, for your perusal, put forward to you my brethern and sisters several Old Testament examples of my words. “And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.” (1 Kings 18: 27 – 28) “For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom, and burnt his children in the fire, after the abominations of the heathen whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. He sacrificed also and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.” (2 Chronicles 28 : 2 – 4) Due to His omniscience Lord God was by no means surprised by the fact that the fallen man shall follow detour without any wish to live and create under the one and only Godly manner. Having known, even before the very Creation that the humankind will be in its fallen nature entirely without any interest in following upon the path of its Creator’s will, God has from before the beginning of time predestinated number of man for salvation and eternal life. Holy Scripture is beamishly clear upon that very point. PREDESTINED FOR ETERNAL LIFE Apostle Paul has with upmost clarity declared and expounded upon the Biblical truth concerning God’s predestination for salvation of the portion of the humankind. I call upon your close attention my brothers and sisters upon the Scriptural passage I am about to deliver to you. It is of vital importance that you recognize that Paul, out of shear exaltation of the message, delivers it in one breath (that is the entire message), “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise. Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1 : 3 – 14) Likewise Luke affirms Scriptural teaching about predestination within the opus of the Acts chapter 13 verse 48, writing: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” Word of God states distinctly “Book of life” which is in heavens, and within which are aforehand written names of those that shall be saved throughout history. God’s people were unquestionably fully aware of its existence be it in Old Testament and New Testament times. Thus we read, “Yet now, if thou wild forgive their sin - ; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.” (Moses’s words in Exodus 32 : 32) “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lam slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13 : 8) “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10 : 20) “And I intreat thee also, true yoke-fellow, help those woman which laboured with me in the gospel, with other my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4 : 3) Bien antendu, due to the adoption of eternal life within the heavenly kingdom, God had to devise in eternity past means of absolution of sins for those whom He had predestined. Given the time when sin has entered the Creation as well as the fact of its presence, throughout the history of humankind, was of such magnitude in God’s eyes, He choose, before Himself the only possible manner. Jesus Christ, eternal Son of God acceded the will of his heavenly Father and assented to take upon himself, at the right time, the fullness of damnation and chastisement for the sins of the world. His own words communicate the obedience to God’s plan for salvation: “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body has thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou has had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” (Hebrews 10 : 5 – 7) “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 6 : 38) When Peter writes about Christ’s sacrifices offered on the cross at Golgotha, Apostle clearly points to his readers that Christ’s crucifixion was planned in eternity past, before anything that become came into being – in other words before the Creation itself. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” (1 Peter 1 : 18 – 20) Luke reverberates Peter’s God inspired words in writing: “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do watsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” (Acts 4 : 27 – 28) To such majestic a plan of God centering upon substitutionary atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ coupled by numerous masses predestined to enjoy divinity of the eternal Kingdom, early Christians could not or would not add anything. Indeed they venerate God for his boundless mercy, offering praises and glory, as we read in Paul’s epistle to Romans 11 : 33 – 36: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counseller? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recopensed unto him again? For of him, a through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” I shall now point your attention to salvation through faith as is presented within the Old Testament renderings. My brothers and sisters, when we talk about the salvation in our own time, we implicitly understand God’s operations within four thousand plus years old history – which is to say according to infallible Biblical timeline beginning with Creation all the way to resurrection of Jesus Christ. I shall use Paul’s words related to predestination as the starting point of rendering of the evidence that God has without a single blink of an eye, time wise, taken up his crowning creation and bestowed it with the eternal life based entirely and solely upon their faith and response to His saving call. Paul thus writes in epistle to Romans chapter 8 and in verses 28 to 30: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethern. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, the he also glorified.” Thus it is utterly clear that the Apostle refers to people that God aforeknew and predestined, and whom God in equally predestined time of their lives called, justified and glorified. For just that reason I shall now clarify the very meaning of God’s call and our response to it, and rather expectedly I shall dwell also upon sinner’s excuse for failing in either embracing faith and in readily responding to God’s call for salvation. SAVED THROUGH FAITH While talking about utter and absolute dissonance of the pre – flood humankind I have stressed that only eight people have survived the catastrophe. Although at the very outset of God’s decision there were only several righteous, history previous to that deed teaches us that the number of people complacent to God was somewhat larger. Holy Scripture does inform us without leaving any room for false interpretation about Abel and Enoch. That represents thus absolute truth that is not prone to any doubt, nor does the fact that God has chosen and called them to his ministry. I have already pointed through Psalm 14 : 3 that “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Keeping that in mind, the question that necessarily becomes most prominent is the following: upon what basis have Abel, Enoch and Noah been saved and accepted by God? Did they earn their salvation through God by their pleasing deeds or was there another basis for their salvation and acceptance? Holy Scripture clearly states “And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters; And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years; And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him… But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. There are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. (Genesis 5 : 22 – 24; 6 : 8 – 9) Now, hearing what I have just read to you any reasonable person may deduce without much difficulty or doubt that the said characters have earned their salvation through their obedience or by being just in their generations, however we cannot allow ourselves to stumble upon a pitfall of subjectively picking certain passages of the Holy Scripture without regard to the precise context of the Word of God. I shall propose to you my brethren and sisters that the author of the epistle to Hebrews does answer that begs our attention to the following words, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obyed; and he went out not knowing whither he went… (Hebrews 11 : 4 – 8) And now I shall step just a few verses back to the very verse that most graciously in my humble opinion defines saving faith for all of us “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 1:1) As is plainly discernible from the precious truth contained within this verse, faith is absolutely not what majority if not all Serbian Orthodox faithful believe it to be. Faith, that is, is not religious tradition nor is it a set of folk customs. It is not by any means veneration of long gone forefathers which are held in high regard as supposed founders of national churches. On the contrary, faith that saves the sinner represents firm certainty in what God’s revelation teaches us. No one of us XXI. century creatures has witnessed any of the happenings from the ancient past which is diligently depicted in Holy Scripture. And yet just like the New Testament, or for that matter the Old Testament faithful we have firm certainty about the events penned down within the Bible, and I repeat again that not one of us has witnessed any of the said. Apostle Peter describes most precisely the fruits of the saving faith by words “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory;” (1 Peter 1 : 7 – 8) Saving of souls thus is possible, in accordance with Peter’s preaching, trough the faith in Christ whom we do not see with flash bound sight yet hold in firm certainty His redeeming death – as penned by Holy Spirit within Gospels. However, in order to dispel any possible false belief that it is feasible to “firmly” believe in God while at the same tame continuing to live and do contrary to His will, I shall remind you of the following verses “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, o vain man, that faith without works is dead? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2 : 14, 17 – 20, 26) Responding to masses that possessed solely, let us call it, intellectual faith in existence of a God and subsequently held belief that by such faith they have achieved state of salvation James underlines that it is but utterly logical that the real faith calls for and manifests itself in permanent avoidance of sin as well as in righteous deeds (righteous deeds are in fact a result of salvation and not prerequisite for salvation). Belief that God does exist is absolutely inadequate means for salvation as such a knowledge possesses Devil himself and despite such a knowledge is willful enemy of God. Faith that crowned all pre-flood people of God was indeed faith that bare fruit in acts that were in perfect accord with will of God. Having said that, I have to stress that neither faith nor righteous deeds do not originate in men but are an absolute representation of merciful God, which Paul ever so eloquently explains in Romans 8 chapter. The fact that sinful and fallen mortal humankind is gifted by the saving faith, without any input of himself or herself at all, is reinforced in Peter’s and Paul’s epistles “Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ… Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises… (2 Peter 1:1, 4) and Paul reverberates the same fundamental truth when stating “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3) Brothers and sisters, I shall pave the following section of my sermon upon the question of justification through faith during the times of the Law. Albeit, upon rather lengthy time period that one may brand as “age of conscience”, during which mankind lived without the explicit Word of God, upon the historical stage of God’s timeline appeared the age of the law. The starting point of this time period represents Moses’s reception of the God’s Commandments on Mount Sinai. (Exodus 20) After liberation of the people of Israel from centuries of enslavement by the Egyptians, YHWE, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob decided to proclaim and announce Israel as His chosen people in accordance with the covenant with Abraham their forefather. “And Moses went up unto God, and the Lord called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine. And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.” (Exodus 19: 3 – 6) Thus God announced His Commandments to Jacob’s descendants, emphasizing that they must be utterly obedient if they desire a blessed life, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the Lord your God. After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. Ye shall do my judgements, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments; which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 18 : 1 – 5) The Law that God gave to Israel was clearly and utterly perfect. Albeit, Jacobs descendants were just like all the other people of sinful, fallen nature and implicitly unable to fulfill the letters of the Law. In truth, the aim of the Law was intended to, on one hand, depict to every human being the absolute perfection of God, while on the other hand to most clearly prove to all the humankind its utter impossibility of fulfillment of the Law, regardless of the amount of effort anyone would put into it. Paul, who was a Pharisee prior to his conversion – reminiscing about mere possibility of fulfillment of the Law concludes “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good… For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin… I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7 : 12, 14, 21 – 24) The purpose of the Law was to prove the eternal truth that man can not be saved before God by his good works but only and solely by faith in atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Paul, upon becoming Christian and upon understanding the crux of the Law expounded “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall now flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3 : 19 – 20) “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2 : 16) “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall lie in them… Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” (Galatians 3 :10 – 12, 21 – 22) SAVED BY FAITH IN NEW TESTAMENT TIMES Books of the New Testament as they represent the narration of life and teaching of our Lord and Savior and his apostles do forfeit us many more details about salvation trough faith than is the case with the Old Testament books. Having said that I shall retrace my step and ascertain that in the Old Testament the Lord’s means of salvation is more than evident, yet pounding this subject through pouring through the New Testament represents an exercise of pure pleasure. Notion of salvation is depicted by Christ’s disciples in such a cristally clear manner that it would seem rather impossible for any true researcher of the Bible to come up with conclusions that would contradict the ones I shall offer. Thus let us begin “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) It is of importance, my brothers and sisters, to keep in mind that time wise the Old Testament period lasted up to the moment of Christ’s death and resurrection from the death. Tradition, introduced by God’s Law, and which regulated sacrificial animal sin offerings was still very much alive and in everyday practice throughout Israel during Christ’s earthly ministry. However, after fifteen hundred years or so form the time of the deliverance of the Law, and upon the outflow of the rivers of blood of the sacrificial animals, the history was timewise literally broken in two by the offering of the one true sacrifice. In fact, my brothers and sisters, all of the Old Testament sacrifices were but a type of the one that shall be offered for forgiveness of humankind's transgressions and sins. Quoting the author of the Epistle to Hebrews, chapter ten, verses from one to nine, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshipers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrfices for sin thou has had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.” Jesus Christ is described in first Peter’s and Revelation, among many places, as a Lamb that was slain for the sins of the entire humankind, “But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you…” (1 Peter 1 :19 – 20) “And I behold, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain… And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and has redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. And has made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:6, 9 – 10) From these passages, among many other, that pen down the account about Christ as the only real sacrifice we can without much difficulty deduce that the faithful of the Old Testament times were saved by the very same faith in Jesus Christ sacrifice on Golgotha. The only difference being in that while they were offering their sin sacrifices they were looking into the future time period – the moment of the offering of the one true sacrifice. On the other hand, and in no uncertain terms, the faithful of the New Testament period focus their faith into the past seeing through their spiritual vision crucified Christ that sacrificed himself for their sins. We should always keep in mind that our King, Lord and Savior has indeed fulfilled strict necessities of the God’s Law. Indeed Christ himself speaks, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5 : 17 – 18) It should be entirely clear that words of our Lord Jesus Christ concerning fulfillment of the law was by no means just a wishing thought much similar to the one in minds of numerous pious Jews of the era. No, his words reverberate an exceptional and majestic proclamation. To put it plainly, long awaited and most clearly prophesied Messiah has appeared – the Messiah who and in whom shall be revealed the entire meaning of the Old Testament. He was the anointed one (sublimely uniting in himself service of the Old Testament anointed kings, priests and prophets), he was the high priest and he was the sacrifice as we read in Hebrews “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Hebrews 9 : 11 – 12) Hundreds of prophecies were fulfilled in Him, beginning with the one made in the garden of Eden. He was Gods Messiah, the most exalted being ever born or to be ever born. Fulfillment of the law by him meant not only that He did indeed live sinless life but also that he took upon himself cumulative punishment for sins and curses that the law called for all the law breakers, as Paul writes in his letter to Galatians “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree;” (Galatians 3:13) Crucifixion of Jesus Christ carried in itself, among innumerable other aspects, the fulfillment of the last, up to that time, unfulfilled Old Testament prophecies. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed… Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand… Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53 : 3 – 5, 10, 12) In full and perfect recognition that in greatness of Lord’s sacrifice the ultimate exchange took place, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5 : 21) Through the unspeakable agony of the Son left by his Father, trough His death the celestial condemnation has been nullified. The final proof that Christ has indeed accomplished the deed of redemption of the humankind represents God’s act of resurrection of Christ, His subsequent ascension and finally him taking again His rightful place on the right side of the Most High. Thus, bringing this first part of the sermon to a close and prior to directing your attention in a direction of the soteriology of the Serbian Orthodoxy I shall but briefly emphasize the majestic results of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice as those relate to every Christian: Before the Most High he is declared fully righteous: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.” (Romans 3 : 21 – 22) Every Christian has been given righteousness of God: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5 : 21) Every Christian became perfect before God in Christ: “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all… For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10 : 10, 14) Every Christian has peace with God: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5 : 1 – 2) Every Christian is born of God and has become a son of God: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name… (John 1:12) Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3 : 1 – 2) Every Christian has received the Spirit of adoption: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself breath witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Romans 8 : 14 – 16) “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4 : 4 – 6) Every Christian has become a temple of the Holy Spirit: “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6 : 19) “Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” (2 Corinthians 1 : 21 – 22) Every Christian became dwelling place of the Father and the Son: “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14 : 23) Every Christian is called brother, sister or mother by Jesus Christ: “For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” (Hebrews 2 : 11) “And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12 : 49 – 50) Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost pray for every Christian before God: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should prey for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8 : 26 – 27) “But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7 : 24 – 25) Every Christian enjoys love of God: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8 : 38 – 39) Every Christian enjoys God’s protection: “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them… The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry… Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” (Psalm 34 : 7, 15, 19) “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8 : 31 – 32)

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