Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Translated by Seraphim Larin / Dr Steven Bushnell
The Faith, Chs. 1-3
The wonderful plan of salvation
Christ — Head of the Church
From death to life
Thank the Lord
The Church grows and expands
Mystery of the salvation of all peoples
Christ’s incomprehensible love
Morals Chs. 4-6
a) General arrangement of Christian life, to strive toward unity
b) General rules, shed yourself of the old man
To live in love
Not to participate in the works of darkness
c) Specific rules, Christ and the Church — the example for men and women
Relations between children and parents, servants and masters
d) Life — the war against evil spirits
Farewell and blessing
Among the books of the New Testament, the Epistle to the Ephesians is outstanding for its special eminence and solemnity. More than likely, it was written by the Apostle Paul during his two-year confinement in Caesaria (in Palestine) around 61 A.D. (Acts chs. 23-26). The writing of the Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon can also be attributed to this period.
While the other epistles of Saint Paul were usually written in response to some concrete problems and active concerns that had arisen in one or another church, in his Epistle to the Ephesians the Apostle shares his elevated thoughts and feelings with which God enlightened him during his imprisonment. It is quite possible that the Apostle wrote this epistle not only for the Ephesians but also for other churches of Asia Minor established by him in his earlier missionary travels. Here, apart from the Ephesian church, there were others included, such as Perea, Laodicea, Miletus, Patara, Smyrna, Troas, Colossian, and Lystra, situated in the southwestern part of Asia Minor. Consequently, the Epistle to the Ephesians should more likely be referred to as a regional rather than a local letter. Indeed, in some of the ancient writings regarding this epistle, the word Ephesian is absent. Nonetheless, inasmuch as Ephesus was the major city in this part of Asia Minor, the application of its name to the Epistle is quite appropriate.
Ephesus was a coastal city on the southwest side of Asia Minor (now Turkey) and was famous as a center of trade, the arts, and learning. Being the main city (the metropolis) of the proconsular province of Asia, it was a strong center of paganism. It contained the famous Ephesian temple of Artemis (Diana), and the city was dedicated to her. This was also a center of heathen magic, emanating from the mystery of Artemis: the masters derived a handsome income from selling pieces of parchment (to be worn as amulets) that contained secret words and also images of the goddess and her temple. Ephesus also had not a small number of Jews, who had their own synagogue.
The Apostle Paul visited Ephesus in the year 54 A.D. (Acts ch. 18) and established a Christian Church. However, the Apostle did not stay long, as he was hurrying to partake in the celebrations at Jerusalem, leaving Priscilla and Aquila (husband and wife) at Ephesus. Both were zealous in their efforts to firmly establish Christianity among the newly converted. Apollos, an educated Jew from Alexandria, came to their aid and, through his oratory and learning, did much to consolidate Christianity in the city.
On his third missionary journey, St. Paul revisited Ephesus (Acts ch. 19), where he found two followers that had just accepted the baptism of John. He confirmed them in the Christian faith and convinced them to be baptized through Christian baptism. Afterwards, he bestowed the Holy Spirit upon them by the laying on of hands. Following this, beginning with preaching in the synagogue (as was the custom), St. Paul began to proclaim the Gospel throughout Ephesus. He continued preaching for three months, “But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples,” continuing to preach in the school of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the citizens of the province of Asia, both Jews and Hellenes, heard the sermons on the Lord Jesus. Many signs and miracles reinforced the Apostle’s sermons, so that Christ’s Church grew deep roots in the area.
Unfortunately, civil unrest against the Apostle created by Demetrius the mercenary, forced the Apostle to leave Ephesus prematurely (Acts 19:23-20:1). Some time later, heading towards Jerusalem for the celebration of Pentecost, St. Paul sailed past Ephesus. Mooring at Miletus, he invited all the elders from Ephesus and its surrounding areas there so that he could give them their final instructions.
In bidding farewell, the Apostle said:
You know from the first day I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God. And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the Kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears (Acts 20:18-31).
After this, before the tearful elders escorted the Apostle to his ship and made their final farewells, everyone knelt and said prayers. So ended the personal association of Apostle Paul with the Ephesians, although — as can be seen in the Epistle — not his concerns for them.
Consequently, the Apostle’s devoted pupil St. Timothy, to whom he sent two of his epistles, occupied the Ephesian cathedra (until his death). Thereupon, Christ’s beloved Apostle John “the Theologian” accepted the concerns of the Ephesian Church. In 431 A.D., the Third Ecumenical Council was held in Ephesus.
In his Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle reveals the great and incomprehensible paths by which God is leading humanity toward salvation. As the Ephesian Christians were living in the shadow of the magnificent temple of Diana and witnessing the daily pomp and ceremony of the heathen rituals, the Apostle contrasts this to the greatness of Christ’s Church, which incorporated human and Angelic worlds.
In the first faith-instructive part of his Epistle (chs. 1-3), the Apostle expounds God’s amazing providential paths, summoning Jews as well as the heathen to merge into the Church headed by our Lord Jesus Christ. In the second, morally instructive part of the Epistle (chs. 4-6), the Apostle exhorts the faithful to lead lives worthy of their high calling as members of Christ’s Church, and, above all else, to strive for unity and piety. In this Epistle, the Apostle draws a majestic picture of humanity’s salvation. Even before the world’s creation, God predetermined to save all through His Son, but accomplished His plan when the “fullness of time” had arrived, i.e., the world had matured enough to receive the Christian faith. Central to the mystery of redemption is Christ and His Church, who appears as His mystical body that encompasses Heaven and earth. The Church has not reached its full bloom, but through the continuous influx of additional members, she is perpetually growing, spreading and being perfected. Every Christian who is becoming morally perfected participates in the Church’s growth.
Judging by the inspired tone of the Epistle, it can be concluded that while imprisoned, God bestowed the Apostle Paul with particularly elevated enlightenment and revelations on the mysteries of faith. The Epistle to the Ephesians was prompted by a desire to share his joyous thoughts and feelings with the faithful.
The Apostle begins his Epistle with the accustomed
Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the Saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Continuing on, the Apostle summarizes the contents of his Epistle and, in accordance with the then acceptable format, does this in one exposition — as though in one breath. This exposition became somewhat lengthy — 180 words — the longest in the whole Bible! Consequently, for the purpose of greater clarity we have broken it up into a number of proposals. It is as though the Apostle, at a glance, embraces the majestic and immeasurable panorama of the framework for the salvation of the human race — past, present, and future. In his ecstasy, the Apostle thanks the Triune God — the Father, having preordained and fulfilled all, — the Son, having redeemed and renewed us, — and the Holy Spirit, having enlightened and enriched us.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.
Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence.
Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven and which are on earth — in Him.
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
In Him you also trusted after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
In its own way, the contents of this introduction to the Epistle represent a symbol of faith, a creed, in which the most important truths of the faith are summarized.
Intending to create a world and endow people with a free will, God had foreseen from time immemorial their sinful downfall and consequently, in council with the Holy Trinity, traced their path to salvation. Everything occurred exactly as God had foreseen. However, God did not accomplish His plan of salvation of sinners immediately. When the time came, He sent them His only Son, Who became incarnate and lived among humanity for a short time, teaching them how to believe and live correctly. He suffered and died for the sins of mankind, then rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father, as God-Man and head of the Church. Later, God sent the Holy Spirit and, through the Apostles, commenced to gather people into one spiritually inspirited family — the Holy Church, the keeper of truth and grace. In the Church, the faithful are cleansed and illumined; here the Holy Spirit endows them with gifts of grace and directs them toward a virtuous life. By perfecting their virtues, Christians enter into a heavenly realm, into the Kingdom of glory. In reviewing this continuous range of God’s mercies, an ecstatic Apostle repeatedly exclaims: Blessed is God!
Because of its structure, this introduction to the Epistle could be likened to a laudatory hymn. This plan can be compared to one of the characteristic ancient hymns, expressed in Psalm 136:
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever!
Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy endures forever:
Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever:
To Him who alone does great wonders, For His mercy endures forever.
To Him who by wisdom made the heavens,
For His mercy endures forever;
To Him who laid out the earth above the waters,
For His mercy endures forever,
To Him who made great lights, For His mercy endures forever —
The sun to rule by day, For His mercy endures forever;
The moon and stars to rule by night, For His mercy endures forever.
Undoubtedly, in terms of style, there is a marked similarity between the two laudatory hymns — of the Old Testament and the New Testament. While the theme of the Old Testament hymns are limited to the Jewish people and outline only temporary earthly blessings, the theme in the Apostle’s hymn, embraces all peoples and includes present as well as future blessings. Psalms of the Old Testament essentially praise God as a wise Creator, as the Deliverer of the Jews from neighboring hostile neighboring tribes and give thanks to Him for their harvest and abundance of earthly produce. All the attention in them is directed at the visible and transient. Only with the arrival of Christ did the horizons of faith widen and did humanity receive the ability to contemplate and value spiritual blessings, preferring eternal life to a temporary one. Not only the Jews but also the heathen are children of God. With the advent of the Reconciler, the former animosity and division had to give way to the process of unification of everyone into one great family — the Church of Christ.
For all these blessings we must continuously thank God through the worshipped Trinity: God the Father, Who foresaw everything, predetermined and brought it to fulfillment; God the Son, Who redeemed, cleansed, and reunited the faithful with Himself; and the Holy Spirit, Who illuminated, blessed, and endowed them with spiritual powers.
By evaluating the all-embracing contents and laudatory tone of the actual introduction to the Epistle, and in following the opinion of many biblical specialists, it can be referred to as a typical eucharistic (liturgical) prayer of Apostolic times.
“Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (1:4). Moral irreproachableness and piety — these are the aims for building our habitat of salvation. We were created to reside in these attributes, but having sinned, lost them. God restores piety and purity within us — not only as an inner quality, but also as an active and directing power, which has to be expressed in works of love. Objects too can be holy — church vessels and animals brought as sacrifices to God must be pure in the sense of physical flaws. A Christian must be holy and pure not only in the sense of being free of deficiencies, but also in exhibiting a living and active love.
In the center of the habitat of salvation of the human race, stands our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God. We are chosen in Him, redeemed and granted sonship by Him, and from Him we receive blessings and illumination.
Words of praise to His glory do not mean that God is in need of praise but that we, in acknowledging His mercy toward us, must feel the need to thank Him and, consequently, love Him more and more. Filial love toward God is precisely that feeling that gives birth to everything good. Overwhelmed with ecstasy from seeing the enormous outpouring of God’s mercy on us through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul wants the Ephesians to partake of this contemplation.
Although St. Paul spent two years preaching in Ephesus and taught many local faithful, he is aware that deep attainment of true faith requires enlightenment from God. He therefore begs God that He Himself illuminate the hearts of the faithful. Only those made wise and enlightened from above are able to understand the intrinsically superlative nature of the Christian faith and evaluate the immensity of all that God has done and is doing for them. Having summarized the contents of his Epistle, the Apostle now turns to articulating the main theme, that is:
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the Heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He (Father-God) put all things under His feet (Christ’s), and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
The majority of the Jews imagined the Messiah as a king-conqueror, who would bring the Jewish people glory and prosperity. To their understanding, messianic blessings meant earthly good fortune. They did not comprehend that the basic misfortune and tragedy for the human race — which included the Jewish people — was contained in sinful impairment. This primal cause for the entire world’s misfortunes and sufferings cannot be removed with any political reforms or social re-education. In order to cure the human race of its ulcer of sins so as to give it moral regeneration, the Messiah in the first instance had to shed His blessed blood and die a death of redemption on the Cross. In order to implant a foundation of Christian faith in His people, the ancient Prophets predicted the suffering and death of the Messiah. However, the majority of Jews were incapable of comprehending these prophecies. Comprehension of this deep mystery is beyond the reasoning powers of the human mind.
Indeed, to see Jesus Christ, incarnate Son of God, degraded, ridiculed, and suffering the lowest form of death, requires enlightenment from above. As a former zealot of the law who saw in Christianity a dangerous heresy, St. Paul was an expert on the Old Testament and knew from personal experience how difficult it was for an individual — thinking in earthly terms — to comprehend the mystery of redemption. After all, he himself did not arrive at his faith through logical discourse or diligent study of the prophecies, but from having received a direct revelation from God. Taking this into account, the Apostle implores God to illuminate the Ephesians’ senses so that they could comprehend how wise and great is He, in what He did for them through His Only Son.
Not only is the work of redemption a mystery, but the whole Christian teaching should be accepted as a revelation by God rather than as a harmonious, logical, philosophical system or as a sum of beneficial rules of life, gathered over centuries of experience.
Irrespective of how intellectual or scholarly a person may be, he is incapable of independently evaluating the superiority of the Christian faith above other teachings. On the contrary, he may sooner see in it illogicalities, unproven assertions, impossible demands, and doubtful promises. Today, just as it was two thousand years ago, the Christian faith will always be God’s mystery, which is revealed by God and is accepted by belief. In succumbing through belief to this God-revealing truth, a person does not reject his common sense, but on the contrary, places himself on the path of enlightenment and of God’s other profound mysteries. Just as the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians: “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages of our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:6-8).
The spirit of wisdom and revelation (1:17): Wisdom is the ability to discern the correlation between cause and effect, to comprehend the relations between the various truths of the faith. While applying personal wisdom is profitable, it is not sufficient. Apart from this, it is essential that God revealed to the soul that which transcends earthly logic and is not subject to everyday experiences: It is necessary for God to allow a person to become edified. Spiritual wisdom and revelation are fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Enlighten the eyes of the heart (1:18): The heart is the inner person. The understanding of the heart is deeper and more all-encompassing than the understanding of reason. The heart is not only a spiritual center of the conscious life of a person but also the sub-conscious one — the center of feelings, private wishes, and ambitions, a place where the conscience is active. The state of this heart is a direct reflection of the level of knowledge acquired of Christian truths. They are attained more fully and more deeply by the dimension of one’s moral completeness, by the extent of cleansing of the heart. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him” (1 Cor. 2:14).
Verses 20 to 23 contain important teachings on the exaltation of the Risen Christ as God-Man, above all creatures, and of the subordination of all creation to Him. Here we see the elevation of human nature in the face of our Savior and attest that our Lord Jesus Christ, even as a man, is King and Lord of Heaven and earth, Angels and people. Christ, being God by nature was always higher than any of His creations. Now, as God-Man, He has been exalted higher than not only those found on earth, but also above all the angelic ranks — “principalities and powers and might and dominion” — higher than any beings that we know and than those about whom we will find out only in the next life. The God-Man Christ is the head of the universal society, the universal “organization,” the head of the ecumenical Church.
This teaching by the Apostle Paul on the Lord Jesus Christ's being head of the Church is exceptionally important because it explains the relations between Christians. Just as different members of the human body with the head produce one living organism, so do all believers in Christ combine to form a physical-spiritual organism. Those who are baptized in Christ are endued with Him and become as one with Him. That is why Christ is active in a Christian, as a constructive and directive power. The organic and physical life of a body is dependent upon the head. Likewise, psychologically, the head as the receptacle of the brain — the main organ of mental activity and inner feelings — is recognized as the primal beginning of human activity. This comparison of the Church to a body, governed by a head, gives rise to the thought of the complete reliance of the Church on the Lord Jesus Christ, to the fact that Christ Himself governs the life of the Church and her ways in the history of humanity.
Consequently, all Christians represent nothing but an organic whole, which can be likened to a living organism. But Christ is not only the Head of the Church in an executive meaning but also in the sense of nurturing it, providing strength and participating in her growth. He inspirits her members, improving them morally. Just as any organism grows and strengthens naturally, so is the Church called to grow and progressively improve.
The words “Which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (1:23) mean that after Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, the Church, being abundant with Christ’s Divinity, abounds with material and spiritual peace. Before the coming of Christ, the human race only inhabited earth — a microscopic particle of dust in the limitless universe. Because of their sinfulness, Heaven — the world of Angels and higher spirits — was a spiritual plan that was inaccessible to people. Apart from that, sin had wedged divisions among them. They divided themselves into detached nations, while some were even hostile to one another. A myriad of religions erupted. It was a time of physical and spiritual fragmentation and alienation. On the other hand, Christ renovates people spiritually and unites them with Himself. Dwelling within the faithful, He unites them into one community — one mystical body. The Church is a spiritual organism that has no area where Christ’s Divine power is not active: she abounds in Christ. Before His incarnation, the Son of God filled the world with His omnipresent nature, although at that time it was in an invisible form. Now, having become incarnate and ascending into Heaven as God-Man, He fills the world with His visual presence. In this way, Christ elevated our human nature into that sphere of existence that was previously inaccessible to us. The Church — being the body of Christ — and because of Him — has fullness in everything and can therefore be called the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Being members of the Church, Christians appear as members of a great universal organization to which Angels and righteous people in the heavens belong. The Old Testament Jews expected that with the arrival of the Messiah, the boundaries of their small Israeli kingdom would expand. God made much more than what they wished for. Now, together with other believers from other peoples, they have become members of a boundless and glorious Kingdom of God. Sooner or later, all earthly kingdoms will crumble and only God’s Kingdom will grow and strengthen.
Further on, the Apostle explains to the Ephesians that with the coming of Christ, a new era had dawned on mankind. Before Christ, like other peoples, they were morally dead, incapable of living with spiritual interests and aiming for Heavenly blessings. Being shackled with chains of sin, they were the devil’s prisoners.
In the first instance, the greatness of God’s providence manifested itself in liberation from the tyranny of the prince of darkness, who vanquished through sin. God spiritually resurrected the morally dead; i.e., He gave them spiritual powers and gave them the ability to lead spiritual lives. He implanted in them the need for moral improvement and through this, opened the path to eternal joy. All this was done not because of some achievements on the part of humanity but exclusively because of His benevolence. The Apostle writes:
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespass and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Non-spiritual people are referred to as dead (2:5), as being unable to live with elevated interests, who do not feel the presence of God and are therefore alien to Him. Such was the condition of every person until he believed and was baptized. Being steeped in Greek culture, the Ephesians prided themselves on their knowledge of philosophy and literature, understood the arts and boasted of the fact that they knew how to live happily and successfully. Nonetheless, that was not real life but moral decadence. Not realizing this, they lived according to the devil’s will, the prince of the air (Eph. 2:2, 1 Cor. 10:19-21, 2 Cor. 4:4), who vanquished them with various passions and was pushing them toward eternal death. With the coming of Christ, this evil spirit lost all his authority over the believers, but he continues to rule over the opponents — those that oppose the Gospel’s sermons. The Apostle calls him the prince of the air (or the prince, of the power of the air Eph.2:2) — in the sense of him controlling the fallen spirits, which while not visible to the eye, indeed surround us from all sides and try to influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions. At the end of this Epistle, the Apostle will discuss how to withstand their traps.
The Apostle calls the heathen children of wrath (2:3) who deserve condemnation and punishment. Being spiritually dead, succumbing to their passions, and carrying out the will of fallen spirits, the heathen were totally useless for the Kingdom of Heaven. They represented moral decay that awaited one end only — rejection from God.
"You are saved by your faith through grace, and it [faith] is not from us, but is a gift of God” (2:8). Our salvation is the work of God’s endless grace, for which we should thank Him constantly. There can be no talk of some sort of entitlement before God. However, these words should not be construed as though they mean that the Apostle rejects the need for good works in the way the sectarians explain it. Indeed, if one is to consider the passages in the light of prior and subsequent statements, then it becomes clear that salvation came to people not from some kind of accomplishments on their part, but by the grace of God, i.e., God’s mercy. Faith is the minimal — though essential — requisite, which makes a person receptive to God’s revelations and to His regenerating power. While a person doesn’t believe, he is spiritually blind; he is not capable of understanding anything spiritual nor of living according to any spiritual interests. He is in effect dead. Seeing a human being’s impotence, God feels pity and by His grace, reveals Himself to man’s consciousness and helps him to believe. It is as though God knocks at everyone’s heart, offering His help: turn to Me, open your eyes and accept the life-giving truth (Rev. 3:20). That is why here the Apostle calls faith a gift from God. Indeed, a human being does not arrive at faith as much from personal endeavors as from enlightenment from above. It is God that elevates a person from the earthly to the Heavenly, from physical to spiritual.
When a person responds to God’s call and accepts His light within himself, he is designated as saved not in the sense that he is guaranteed Heaven and that he doesn’t have to do anything else, but only in that he has started on the path of salvation. Faith in Christ allows a person access to all His abundant gifts. Naturally, all life — be it plant, animal, or spiritual — manifests itself correspondingly with its activity. If the Christian faith has indeed penetrated into a person’s heart and changed his outlook on life, then naturally it will become apparent in his works of love and his spiritual growth. That is why the Apostle, having mentioned faith, adds: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephes. 2:10) That is, before, being spiritually defunct, you were incapable of performing good works. However, Christ has recreated you as though anew, and you are now capable of working good deeds. Of course the word “works” should not be understood in Judean — in the sense of works of the law that consisted of performing outward rules and customs — but in the sense of benevolent activity filled with love. That is why in Apostolic times, the Christian faith was named “the way” (Acts 18:25, 19:23). It is not a condition frozen in conceited assuredness but an active endeavor to improve. A benevolent life is as normal to faith as good crop to a fruit-bearing tree. On the other hand, absence of enthusiasm, apathy to questions of faith, and indifference toward spiritual life in a Christian are testimonies that the glow of faith is dimming and that he is dying spiritually.
In order to reveal more clearly the greatness of God’s mercy, the Apostle reminds the former heathen in what spiritually adverse conditions they lived before converting to Christ. While the Jews at least believed in God and had a certain understanding of pious living, the heathen were fully enfolded in dark superstitions and were sinking in their iniquities. That is why, having believed in Christ:
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision made in the hands by flesh — that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the father.
Here, the cardinal thought is that the heathen should be more grateful to God than the Judeans. During the whole of the Old Testament period, God — through His Prophets — was preparing the Jewish people for the coming of the Messiah-Savior. Consequently, at the close of this period, many Jews were awaiting anxiously for the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the Lord Jesus Christ, having come down to earth, began immediately to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mat. 10:16). At the same time, God’s plan included the salvation of heathen peoples. That is why Christ said to the Jews “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). The aim of the Old Testament law was to protect the Jews from heathen influences and the moral decay of neighboring people. He taught the Jews how to believe and live correctly and promised them His patronage for fulfilling His commandments. While The law was like a protective wall against the corrosive influence of the heathen, it was also a barrier that impeded the spread to other people of the positive aspects of the Old Testament revelations. In this sense, the law became a wall of impediment and animosity and, as such, was subject to annulment — sooner or later.
Elevating and ennobling everything that was truly valuable in the Law of Moses, Jesus Christ abolished everything in it that was insubstantial and had a temporary character — everything that related to customs and national practices that fed chauvinism and encouraged alienation. By the words of the Apostle, Christ “Abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances” (2:15). Sin is a divisive beginning not only between people but is a wall between people and God, between Heaven and earth. Having washed away mankind’s sins with His blessed blood, shed on the Cross, the Lord Jesus Christ obliterated the source of animosity between God and man. In reconciling themselves with God and drawing nearer to Him, people naturally drew closer to one another. Therefore, everything external and transitory that up to this point in time separated them — including the customs of Moses’s law — was subject to removal. The worthy call to enter the Kingdom of Heaven was directed to everyone without exception — to the insiders (Jews) and outsiders (heathen). Both have access to God through Christ only: “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
The matter of mankind’s salvation can be likened to exiles receiving clemency. Individuals convicted of crimes against the state are exiled to distant and forsaken islands and, naturally, their welfare is of no interest to anyone. Here in exile, they suffer severe deprivations, live in destitution and starvation, and suffer a range of diseases. Competing for the scarce resources of the island, the exiles form opposing camps with the aim of wiping one another out. All are enraged, as there is no hope of any improvement. Then eventually, after many years, there is a change in authority as a new king assumes power. Having been informed of the parlous state of the outcasts, the new king takes pity and grants them amnesty. He personally sets sail for the prison island, picks them up on his ship and orders his servants to wash, clothe, and feed them. He returns to his rich kingdom and promises them self-sufficiency through honest work and full citizen's rights. Imagine the joy of the former prisoners: suddenly, fate has turned sharply for the better. Because of the king's clemency, those things that were the cause of their animosity and reason for their willingness to kill one another, have suddenly lost all their relevance. The meager household items are no longer needed by anyone because they are returning to their homeland, filled with hopes and good fortune. The past should be forgotten, they should forgivingly embrace one another and forever give praise to the king for his mercy.
Similarly, our Lord Jesus Christ came to earth to save sinners. He did not commence to judge conflicts between opposing sides or grant supremacy to one people over another. He came to grant mercy to them, for everyone to partake of a new life, to unite everyone into one people of God — because “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Having reconciled them with Him and among themselves, the Lord Jesus Christ simultaneously reconciled them with the realm of Angels. In observing all these great works of mercy by God, overtaken with spiritual rapture, the Apostle exhorts everyone to thank God.
Under the law of commandments (2:15) the Apostle implies the decisions of the Old Testament Law concerning circumcision and sacrificial offerings, the celebration of Saturdays and new months, the use of food — which should be considered clean and which, unclean. All these matters were at one time healthy and necessary, but in Christianity they had lost their significance and, consequently, had to give way to more important rules of moral character.
A new person (2:15) or a new creation: In accepting Christianity, the outward appearance of a person remains unchanged while his inner features become completely different. Now he is filled with new feelings and thoughts; he has a new outlook on life and new values; he is inspired with fresh ideals; and he has a new, inspired goal in life.
In speaking of the Church as a community of faithful, the Apostle arrives at two analogies: body and structure. With the likening to a body, the Apostle emphasizes the thought that in the Church, as in any living organism, there are no superfluous members and, on the contrary, each member compliments one another, which is essential for the good of the whole. In comparing the structure (or temple), the Apostle uncovers the greatness and harmony of the Church, her potency and resoluteness, her beauty and consonancy. She is like a towering building that has its beginnings on earth and reaches into the Heavens. However, this edifice is incomplete.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone, in Whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
As a potent and majestic edifice, the Church is established on the foundations of the Apostles and Prophets, having Jesus Christ as its cornerstone. Both portrayals — body and structure — communicate about the oneness of Christ’s Church: she has one teaching, one faith, one aim, and one enlivening grace. All this was implanted by the Apostles and Prophets. Consequently, they appear as the foundations of the Church. However, in the ultimate, everything revolves around faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Teachings: He is the Savior of mankind, Who reconciled sinners with God; He is the Teacher of truth; He is the source of regenerating power; He is the way to salvation. Without Christ, there can be no Church, just as there can be no building without a foundation. If an effort is made to shift the core of Christian teachings onto some other values, then the whole structure of the Church will fall apart. That is why the Gospel metaphorically calls Him the cornerstone (see Psalm 118:22, Mat. 21:42, Luke 20:18, 1 Peter 2:7).
In the metaphor of the Church as a construction, every person in the beginning represents raw and rough material, unrefined stone that requires a great deal of effort in order to make the “stone” suitable for the building. The teaching on the Church as a construction has been developed in the very popular book of ancient times, titled The Shepherd of Hermas.
In contemplating the mystery of salvation, the Apostle is enraptured because the details of this mystery were not known to former generations — not even to the Angels in Heaven! All the more unexpected was the fact that God had preordained that even the heathen be called to unite in Christ’s Church on an equal footing with Israel. The Apostle thanks God for making him worthy to be the bearer of this mystery. Although suffering many sorrows for his sermon, he does not despond, and he suffers them patiently, urging the converted heathen not to despair over him.
For this reason, I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles — if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery, as I have briefly written already, by which, when [now] you read this [Epistle], you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy Apostles and Prophets: that [it is necessary] the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel, of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power. To me, who am less than the least of all the Saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.
The mystery of the conversion of heathen peoples to the faith “was not made known to the sons of men” (3:5). This mystery was not known to Paul himself until God revealed it (Gal. 1:12). It is true that some Prophets foretold that previously heathen peoples will turn to the true faith and will praise God (see Psalm 22:27-28, 72:10-17; Isaiah 2:2, 11:1-10, 42:1-12, 49:6, 54:12-14, 55:5, 65:1-3; Daniel 7:13-14; Haggai 2:6-7). However, the knowledge that they — together with the Jews — will mutually share all the blessings of the Heavenly Kingdom and form God’s united people was closed to mankind. Like the other Jews of that time, St. Paul had understood the prophesies of the conversion of the heathen in the sense that some heathen will obtain mercy from God and will be made worthy to occupy a subordinated place in the Messiah’s Kingdom. On the other hand, the Jews, being the chosen people, would receive privileged positions therein.
However, having received God’s revelation, the Apostle understood that the Messiah came to earth to save all nations. God gives citizenship to His Kingdom not as a matter of right but through His mercy. Consequently, there can be no talk of privileges and worthiness, and that is why differences in nationalities lose all meaning in the New Testament. Before the coming of Christ, God’s plan for saving mankind was secret, which even the Angels did not comprehend fully. Although being in continual presence of His greatness and being far more knowledgeable than any human, the Angels know only that which is revealed to them by God. God reveals enough of His plans to the Angels that they can carry out His will. The reasons why He determined something one way and not another or what His future plans are and how events will flow following their accomplishment remain closed to them. They will understand all this at a later time, when all these plans are accomplished. With the unfolding of events, the Angels are given the opportunity to fathom the mysteries that lie at the basis of those events. The earth, people, and especially the Church are the main stages of the wonderful works of God. After the devil and his cohorts were driven out of Heaven, the center of conflict between good and evil became our earth. In seeing God’s directing providence in people’s lives, the Angels participate in the events on earth through His dictates. Bearing in mind these observations of the developing New Testament events, the Apostle writes: “For we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to Angels and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9).
Seeing the enormous power and abundance of God’s grace that was working through him, the Apostle acknowledges his weakness and insignificance in spreading Christianity and accordingly writes: “To me, who am less than the least of all saints, this grace was given” (3:8). In other words, everything is done by God, and he is only a helpless instrument of His will.
Everything was created by Jesus Christ (3:9). Because God the Father created everything visible and invisible through His Son (Col. 1:16), now the Son takes upon Himself the work of recreating people.
The Ephesians may have been perplexed because God allowed His servants to be subjected to so many sorrows and hardships while at the same time the ungodly prospered. The Apostle does not respond to their confusion but just beseeches God to mature them spiritually, so that they will understand why it is imperative for everyone to pass through the furnace of suffering.
Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from Whom the whole family in Heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the Saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him Who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Just as the Apostle began his revelations to the Ephesians with a prayer, so does he conclude it with one. He petitions God to allow them to attain Christ’s great love. They can then believe more firmly and love Him greater and begin to enrich themselves with Christian acts of benevolence.
The inner man (Ephes. 3:16, Rom. 7:22) is that concealed part of a person, where all the noble and elevated abilities are revealed: love toward truth, yearning for benevolence, sensitive differentiation between good and evil, moral feelings, tendency toward spiritual values, and thirst for communion with God. The measure of an inner person’s suitability for accepting Christ is commensurate with the measure of his inner order and well being. Christ explains how He mysteriously dwells in the faithful: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). “Abide in Me, and I in you” (John 15:1-8). In his interpretation of the Epistle to the Ephesians, Bishop Theophan the Recluse explains in detail how to develop one’s inner person, (Epistle to the Ephesians, Moscow, 1893, p. 238-239).
“That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend” (3:18). It is success in developing love — not mental abilities or mastery of different talents — that gives a person spiritual wisdom and, with it, the ability to penetrate spiritual mysteries. Of all the mysteries of the faith, the most wonderful and inspiriting one — though unfathomable — is that of Christ’s love, which, like the air that surrounds us, cannot be grasped. By the words width, length, depth, and height, the Apostle seemingly draws a cross before the eyes of the faithful, reminding them that the love of Christ was revealed more than anywhere else, through His suffering on the Cross.
Therefore, everything is from God. He created us, then He restored the fallen, cleansed and illuminated the sinners, enlightened the senseless, strengthened the waverers. In observing this endless scope of God’s mercy, the Apostle is moved by the need to continuously praise God.
The Apostle's teachings about Christ’s Church being a universal community, all-inclusive with the mysterious body of Christ, are very important in strengthening our faith. Being parishioners of one church or another, we often lose sight of the true greatness and spiritual strength of the Church to which we belong. We are inclined to accept our church as a tiny island, lost in a boundless societal ocean, where the majority of people live according to heathen understandings and interests. Occasionally, it may seem to us that the foaming waves of countless heresies and the ever increasing moral dissipation may, in the end, swamp our small church and eventually, the whole of Christianity, so that Christ’s Church will remain but a memory. The Apostle helps in dispelling these dark thoughts by revealing before our spiritual eyes the greatness of Christ’s Church, which embraces both Heaven and earth. The Church is God’s Kingdom, which includes not only all the true faithful on earth, but also an incalculable multitude of Angels and righteous souls in Heaven — and all these countless saved souls and those seeking salvation are united by the Head of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why there is no organization that is greater or mightier than the Church. Our parishes are not some scattered islands but are projections or cliffs of a monolithic and majestic mountain, its peak stretching into Heaven. Irrespective of how hard the waves pound the base of the mountain, they are unable to disturb it. Therefore, we shouldn’t worry about the fate of the Church, which is continually growing and strengthening — at least in her Heavenly dominion. We just have to cling with all our might to and seek refuge in our Church, because while we are within Her, the earthly waves will not overwhelm us.
The second part of the Epistle to the Ephesians, including the last three chapters, from the fourth to the sixth, contains instructions on morality.
Having explained in the first three chapters that Christians make up the sole body of the Church, the Apostle concludes from the main thought of his Epistle as to how Christians — being members of Christ’s mystical Body — should live and act. He first depicts (a) the general arrangement of life, where the fundamental feature appears as unanimity in faith (4:1-16); he then defines (b) the general disciplines of Christian living (4:17-21) and subsequently (c) the personal rules of life concerning spouses, children and parents, servants and masters (5:22-6:9); and finally in the concluding part, (d) he calls upon everyone to do battle with the enemies of our salvation — the devil and his demons (6:10-18).
Having revealed the understanding of the Church as a consolidated community that unifies the faithful, the Apostle calls upon everyone to strive toward peace and concordance:
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (4:1-6).
The initial words “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (4:1) encompass everything that the Apostle was ready to talk about. The Lord separated you from the environment of morally decaying society, from spiritual darkness, and led you into His Kingdom of light, where everything is founded on the beginnings of truth and love. Therefore, live according to your worthy calling. Egoism, conceit, pride, and selfish exploitation of others for personal gain — these rule the world. Often in life, he who is more arrogant and aggressive achieves the biggest success. This brings forth animosity, conflict, and other misfortunes, which are destroying society.
In order to avoid this, strive to be humble and meek, show forbearance and love in everything. It is significant that the Apostle places as the basis of spiritual completeness that virtue with which our Lord began His Sermon on the Mount — humility, a modest opinion of yourself, coupled with hope of God’s help (“Blessed are the poor in spirit.”). From humility comes meekness, which averts all arguments. The common goal should be the preservation of unity of spirit (unanimity) in the unity of the world.
In order to induce Christians to aspire toward unanimity, the Apostle reminds them that they form one spiritual community, one mystical body of Christ, which is enlivened by the one Holy Spirit. In Christianity, everything leads toward unity. Indeed, everyone is called toward one Kingdom, everyone worships one God, everyone has one faith and the same mysteries (sacraments) (4:4-6). Everyone shares the same convictions, the same form of thoughts, the same spiritual values; everyone has a common goal, has the same source of regenerating grace.
Contemporary church activists should remember that when calling for unity and collaboration, this can only be achieved by unity in faith. As with the other Apostles, Paul directs his successors to preserve it:
“By which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:2). “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9). “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our Epistle . . . But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us” (2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6). “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim. 6:20).
Through oral tradition, the Apostle enumerates all that which he has taught. Following the Apostle’s directives, the Church through her pastors has always tried to safeguard the faith from various assaults of new ideas. The Apostles taught that it is not only important to believe sincerely but also to believe according to their teachings. In terms of faith, every personal interpretation, every “my” faith, inevitably leads the person away from the Church.
At the same time, further intructions by the Apostle show that unity in spiritual matters does not abolish personal qualities or the “talents” of one or another of the faithful. Just as every member of an organism fulfils the needs of the body with his specific function, so do all the members of the Church need to participate, through their natural and God-given talents, for the general good of the whole. Not only does God not remove the individual qualities of the person but, on the contrary, through His grace, elevates, strengthens, and reveals them in their best form. Apart from the natural qualities and talents of individual members of the organism, each is complemented with a particular grace, an especial spiritual gift that has to be applied for the general good.
But to each of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended” — what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things). And He Himself gave some to be Apostles, some Prophets, some Evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness and deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (4:7-16).
Referring to Christ as the source of gifts of grace, the Apostle cites the following excerpt from Psalm 68, which pertains to the Messiah: “You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, Even from the rebellious, That the Lord might dwell there” (68:18). Citing the Bible in the Greek translation — known as the translation by the seventy, the Septuagint — the Apostle changes the word “accepted” to “gave” because that was closer to the meaning of the original Jewish word “lakah.” The meaning of the prophecy was that the Messiah, after descending into hell, rescued those interned (held in captivity) and released them to freedom. After this, He ascended into Heaven and gave all believers gifts of grace, having sent the Holy Spirit upon them.
It was to build and strengthen His Church that Christ appointed some as apostles, some as prophets, others as bearers of glad tidings, and some as pastors and teachers. The Apostles, who were the closest disciples to Christ, were entrusted with developing the Church. Prophets were inspired spiritual preceptors who received unique revelations. They were of great importance in strengthening the Church in the first century of Christianity (Acts 11:27, 21:10; 1 Cor. 14:3). Bearers of glad tidings (evangelists) were traveling preachers of the Gospel, missionaries. Like the prophets, the evangelists were not bound to any specific community. On the other hand, pastors and teachers were always the mentors of their communities. They preached, explained the Word of God, and responded to the daily needs of the faithful. Those individuals who were ordained by the Apostles as bishops or pastors through the laying of hands were vested with the right to break bread (Communion), baptize, dispense blessed gifts (Chrismation), and conduct community prayers (Church services). In his Epistles to Timothy and Titus, St. Paul explains in detail the responsibilities of bishops, priests, and deacons (assistants to the first two), as well as enumerating the moral qualities that they should have (see Acts 14:22 and 20:23-32).
In his Epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 12:4-31), the Apostle writes about general spiritual gifts that are granted to all believers, e.g., gifts of faith, wisdom, healing, and knowledge of languages. However, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, he pauses on those gifts that are essential to the very formation of the Church. It is important to remember that positions of authority within the Church — prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher — are not filled by one's own decisions but according to the nomination by one whom God empowers. In Apostolic times, the Apostles themselves appointed people to positions of responsibility. They later assigned this right to their successors — bishops (see Titus 1:5). In this way, through the Epistle to the Ephesians — as in his other Epistles — the Apostle Paul clearly enunciates that God established the hierarchy of the Church. Consequently, those who reject the clergy are going against that which had been established by the Apostles.
The aim of the Church hierarchy is to assist the faithful in achieving moral perfection (for the perfection of Saints see 4:12) and to build God’s body, i.e., to assist in spreading and strengthening it. The pastors of the Church should labor in that direction “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (4:13), i.e., with the Second Coming of Christ, when everyone will reach his maximum spiritual level.
In this way, according to the Apostle, the Church is not a stone frozen in a state of stagnation, but is a living body that is called to grow and improve. In its outward appearance, an oak tree distinctively differs from the small sapling from which it grew. At the same time, its essence remains unaltered. In the same way, the Church in its contemporary state is different from that Church of Apostolic times. However, her basic nature is the same: she embodies the same faith, the same grace, mystery, and hierarchal structure that she had in Apostolic times. In her long, historical path she has become enriched and grown strong. Her battles with heresy assisted in elucidating many Christian mysteries, while the spread of monasticism aided in reinforcing the rules of Christian living. The magnificent church singing, rich church architecture and icons — these are all the result of the Church’s internal and external growth.
"We should no langer be children” (4:14). The ideal for a Christian is to attain a childlike goodness and open-heartedness. “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mat. 18:3) was said in relation to the heart. At the same time, a Christian should not be naïve and credulous in questions of faith, “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” On the contrary, he should be sufficiently informed to be able to teach others how to believe correctly (1 Peter 3:15).
Inspirited with love, the object of our labors should be directed towards the good of our loved ones. In explaining this aim, the Apostle reminds the Ephesians how distant they were from this before their conversion to Christ.
This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind. And that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
In a word, beware that you do not return to the old ways. Sin is destructive not only because it contravenes the moral norm, but also is especially so because it clouds reason and hardens the heart of the sinner. That is why the sinner gets locked into a circle: in sinning he becomes unenlightened and, being in such a state, sins even more. He becomes like a rolling stone going down an incline: the further he goes, the more speed he gathers. Caught in a net of sin, the heathen did not simply give in to dissolution but did so with voracity. The Apostle explains to the Ephesians that had it not been for Christ, they would have all sunk in a quagmire of sin. But that situation is in the past. When during Baptism they replaced their old clothing for new, they were symbolically cleansed of their moral decay. Having been blessed by Christ’s grace, they became adorned with His virtues and, through this, were likened to Him (4:24).
Having clarified this profound transformation that occurred within them through Baptism, the Apostle switches to a somewhat more detailed explanation of what type of distinguishing spiritual qualities they should possess.
Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin:” do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
The directive here is quite clear. One needs just to pause at some of the thoughts. The directive “Be angry and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath” (4:26) summons us to swiftly make peace (and not before the setting of the sun) with those who have raised our ire. This is because during sleep, all our impressions and feelings experienced during the day are locked into our subconscious. Having fastened onto us, if they were bad and sinful, they will later influence our feelings and guide us in an iniquitous direction.
A Christian, being conferred with gifts on the day of his redemption, i.e., through Baptism, grieves the Holy Spirit (4:30) each time he sins, especially through the act of fornication. The practice of conferring gifts of the Holy Spirit immediately after Baptism by the mystery (sacrament) of Chrismation came into being during Apostolic times. At first, these gifts were conferred upon the newly christened through the laying on of hands. However, later — but during the lifetime of the Apostles — this was replaced with anointing by holy oil (1 John 2:20-27). Clearly, it was already in Apostolic times that during the anointing with holy oil (Chrismation) the formula “the seal of the Holy Spirit” came into use. That is why the Apostle used the word sealed, indicating that the person has received a spiritual seal. The important thing though is
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Everyone should emulate God in his or her love, just as a child emulates his father. To emulate God means to personally follow Jesus Christ’s example. The perfection of the invisible God became visible to all through the actions of Jesus Christ. That is why our Savior said: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Because Christ’s ultimate act of love was His redeeming sacrifice, the Apostle summons us to imitate Him by sacrificing ourselves for the good of our brethren: “By this we know love, because He [Christ] laid down His life for us. And [therefore] we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
To show the loftiness of a Christian calling more clearly, the Apostle once again calls on the Ephesians to avoid all those things in which they formerly indulged.
But the fornication and all uncleanness or covetous, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light."
They are empty words that are conversations along the lines that sin is not such a big deal because it is natural for our imperfect nature to sin, that God is merciful and will forgive everyone . . . and the like. The Apostle explains that all endeavors to justify one’s sinful actions will that much sooner attract God’s rightful judgment. Not only should sins be avoided but also they should be exposed.
Of course, in order to expose them beneficially, one has to command sufficient spiritual wisdom and experience. Peace-making (reconciling sinners with God) is the seventh beatitude, granted to those of pure hearts (Mat. 5:9). That is why, in his Epistle to the Galatians, the Apostle does not charge everyone but specifically those who are spiritual with the task of reforming sinners: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). In fact every spiritual individual that undertakes to improve another, should be circumspect and reserved, so as not to become conceited and subject himself to temptation: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). The safest thing is to leave the work of improvement to those directly responsible for this. It is specifically to his disciple, Bishop Timothy, that the Apostle gives the direction: “Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (1 Tim. 5:20). With the rest, it would be better to bear one another’s burden (Gal. 6:2) and to pray for one another so as to be healed (James 5:16).
The state of an inveterate sinner is like a deep sleep, although he too can be awakened with God’s help. Apparently, the words: “Awake you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you life” (5:14) are taken from some Christian hymn of Apostolic times. Evidently, they are based on a text from the book of the Prophet Isaiah, who predicted the coming glory of Christ’s Church: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee” (Isaiah 60:1-2).
The Apostle subsequently explains that all his calls must not be taken as a general plan of some kind of uncertain future. On the contrary, every believer should maximize the use of his precious God-designated time toward preparing himself for eternity.
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
The Apostle calls the days of our life on earth evil (5:15) in the sense of their precariousness. We think that we have plenty of living ahead and that there is plenty of time to reform and do good — but quite unexpectedly, death materializes and terminates all the plans: you cannot turn back time. Consequently, the Apostle exhorts us not to be flippant and to endeavor to realize God’s will, i.e., to understand what to do and what to strive for. He who seeks God’s guidance will undoubtedly receive it — through external circumstances and internal prompting. All one has to do is learn how to hear God’s voice.
To the question of a novice “How many times do you need to pray in order to receive notification as to how one must act?” the monastic Elder Barsonuphius responds: “When you are unable to ask an experienced Elder, you need to pray three times on the subject matter — even if it’s something insignificant — then observe which way your heart is inclined and react accordingly. Such a notification is perceptible and understandable to the heart.”
“How should the three prayers be uttered: at different times or all at once?”
“Sometimes, they cannot be deferred. If you have spare time, pray three times over three days, unless there is an extreme necessity, like during the betrayal of Christ, when He left three times to pray and, having prayed, uttered the same words each time (Mat. 26:44). When you intend to do a God-pleasing deed but conflicting thoughts oppose it, this shows that this act is indeed agreeable to God. Pray and observe whether during prayer your heart is affirmed with good intentions and this virtue is growing and not receding, regardless of whether opposing thoughts pestering you remain. Know that to every good deed there is afflicting resistance because of the devil’s jealousy, but the good intention prevails through prayer. If the devil implants a specious good thought and together with this creates resistance to it — then prayer will weaken the imaginary good together with its imaginary opposition. In this instance, it is apparent that the devil opposes the thought that he himself implanted so that through this we will be deceived and accept his notion as being good . . . When thinking about something, even if it is about a strand of hair, and your thoughts are confused and remain so after calling upon God’s name — then know that the matter that you want to carry out has been instilled by the devil. Then, under no circumstances are you to do this, because anything done with confusion is not pleasing to God. However, when one opposes confusion (or when it happens that there are opposing thoughts to confusion), do not immediately regard this as harmful but examine this matter, is it good or bad. If bad, leave it, but if it is good, then reject the confusion and do it.”
Just as one link pulls another in a chain, so do vices. For example, abusing the use of wine leads to dissipation (5:18). Instead of physical pleasures, a Christian must seek spiritual solace — to be fulfilled with the Spirit, edifying himself with the singing of psalms, words of praise and spiritual songs (5:19). Concurrently, God should be praised not so much with the tongue as with the heart. It is known that Christian hymns started to appear even in Apostolic times (1 Cor. 14:26). Hence the letter from the heathen ruler Plintus to Emperor Trajan (at the beginning of the second century) mentions that Christians gather before sunrise and collectively sing praises to Christ as God.
Unquestionably, our gratitude to God should always form part of our prayers. Consequently, in his Epistle to the Thessalonians, the Apostle instructs: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks” (1 Thes. 5:16-18). “In everything” includes sorrowful events in life because “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28).
Having expounded on the general rules of Christian living, the Apostle turns to outlining specific rules and begins with those relating to the responsibilities of spouses. Here, he depicts matrimonial unity in the image of the mysterious union of our Lord Jesus Christ with the Church.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the Church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for Her, that He might sanctify and cleanse Her with the washing of water by word, that He might present Her to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that She should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the Church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
In this excerpt, one belonging to the church learns about the instructions read during the mystery (sacrament) of Marriage.
In order to understand correctly the Apostle’s directives regarding the relationship between spouses, it must be borne in mind that his aim was not to break centuries-old social structures. Where situations arose that required giving practical advice — be it regarding the relationship between members of a family or between employer and employee — as with the other Apostles, Paul endeavored to ennoble and morally elevate these relationships so as to remove from them cruelty and abuse. The principles of subordination and responsibilities are those established by God. They are essential for the welfare of society. Children should be subordinate to their parents, a servant — to his masters, workers — to those in charge, citizens — to the authorities, members of a community — to the pastors and teachers, and everyone concurrently — to God. All rights are coupled with obligations. Authorities are responsible before God for the use of their positions and the power bestowed upon them. If a leader is not concerned for the welfare of his subordinates and abuses his authority, he develops into a tyrant and could inflict much harm to society. He will be called to account for his actions before God. Similarly, if subordinates reject authority, anarchy arises and society disintegrates.
The family is the minutest cell of society. Nature itself indicates that each member of a family has his own rights, his own obligations, and a responsibility corresponding to them. In acknowledging the primacy of a husband, Christianity did not devalue women by leaving them in a secondary place. On the contrary, as we know from history, it liberated the woman from a previous position of slavery in which she was found, and it acknowledged her as a religious and moral equal with man. If the Apostle leaves the woman in a secondary position after man regarding life in the household, he does so in accordance with God’s establishment of his creation, by which both sexes have their own specific pre-eminence and limits of activity. The pre-eminence of a husband is physical skill and energetic will-power — while that of a woman is disposition toward practical activity, tenderness, and spirituality. Accordingly, it would be totally unjust to burden a woman with the same responsibilities as a man’s. Rights should correspond with obligations and vice versa. From this it follows that according to that which was Divinely appointed, it is fitting that the husband have primacy in family life because, strictly speaking, this primacy carries an aggregate of known responsibilities that are not according to a woman’s strengths. The husband must love his wife as he loves himself because she is the bone from his bones and flesh from his flesh (Gen. 2:23).
Because wives are inclined to find burdensome their husbands’ authority over them, while husbands are inclined to abuse their positions of supremacy, in this lecture the Apostle commands, because of that which this primacy violates in a marriage, husbands to love their wives and wives to subordinate themselves to their husbands.
In order to avert arguments regarding primacy and for the sake of the family, God conferred on every member of the family a special “obedience”: the husband has to be concerned with the welfare of the family and take decisions regarding the outer flow of family life, while the wife has to concentrate on the upbringing of the children and the personal aspects of family life. With regard to his wife, all the actions of the husband should emanate from his love for her, while in response, the wife cedes the primacy to him and the right to the final say. In an ideal situation, the relationship between husband and wife is similar to that between Christ and the Church: complete love to the extent of laying down His life for the Church and the grateful obedience of the Church to Christ.
The submission that is decreed to wives is not at all enslaving or constraining but is like giving to God, i.e., emerging from feelings of trust and gratitude. Leadership — always essential in any union or society — by a husband must be understood as primacy and not as domination. The husband appears as the natural head of the family because he carries the main weight of family responsibilities, which a wife would not be able to bear due to the relative gentleness of her nature and lack of physical strength. Love between spouses should primarily be a spiritual love and have a moral goal.
In the “washing of water” (5:26), the Apostle implies the mystery of Baptism with which Christ purifies those joining the Church of their moral uncleanness. In the same way, a husband should care for his wife's moral purity and the salvation of her soul. In addition to this, he should express his love through care for his wife as though for his own body, “to feed and warm her” just as the Lord does His Church. In relation to this, the Apostle reminds us of the Biblical foundation of such a love for a wife: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). With these words, the Apostle tries to predispose husbands to a strong union and, at the same time, show how marital dissension is so unnatural.
The declaration “let the wife see that she respects her husband” certainly doesn’t mean a slave’s reverence, which has no place in Christianity. This respect is none other than esteem for a husband. A wife respects her husband as the head who is responsible before God for the welfare of his family.
The first Christian attitudes toward marriage can be seen from these and other Apostolic instructions. Husband and wife are God’s collaborators. As participants in God’s Kingdom and inheritors of eternal life, they are completely equal. However, the differences between them, as determined by nature, are not erased. A woman was created from man (from his rib) to help man, and not man to help woman, even though he is born “of a woman.” A woman, in terms of human importance and God’s purpose, is equal in all respects to a man. In a practical sense, she depends on him and presents herself as his helper. And the husband appears as head of the family and consequently of her; as stated in one of the prayers during the mystery (sacrament) of Marriage, “may they live according to God’s will."
In addition to these general directives dealing with responsibilities of spouses, the Apostle writes the following on marital vows:
“Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10-11). “But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy” (1 Cor. 7:12-14).
It is important to consider the Apostle’s concluding words, because in our time there are many mixed marriages in which only one side is Christian or Orthodox.
“This is a great mystery” (5:32). Marriage is a mystery in that the husband and wife becomes one flesh. But it is more so in the relationship between Christ and His Church — so much so, that the Apostle doesn’t even attempt to explain it.
Further on, he turns to expounding the obligations of children in relation to their parents and then parents to their children.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’, which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on earth.’ And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in Heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
Children have to listen to their parents, as the natural law of equity demands this. In relation to their children, parents must refrain from severity and bring them up in the law of God. Generally speaking, all family relationships should be in God — must conform to Christian teachings regarding moral freedom and moral purity. They must be built on the principles of fairness, mutual respect, and love, and they must not go beyond the bounds permitted by Christ’s rules.
The first commandment with a promise (6:3): Among the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, the fifth, which speaks of honoring parents was the only one that promised a reward: that it may be well with you and you may live long on earth (Exodus 20:12).
Later, St. Paul changes to the subject of the relationship between servant and master. He directs servants to obey their masters and masters to be fair and lenient to their servants. The Apostle does not touch upon the political or social question of the legality or illegality of slavery. In general, the Christian Church did not consider political and social reforms as her task, but only the internal regeneration of people. Naturally, the moral regeneration of society should have brought a correspondingly, favorable changes in the relations between people.
In concluding his moral instructions, the Apostle calls Christians to the war with the invisible enemies of our salvation — the devil and his servants. This directive lies at the core of Christian asceticism.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with you which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints — and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Our whole life is an unrelenting battle against temptations, which close in from all directions. Often they are spawned within us without any apparent inner reason. Sometimes they are initiated from other people or through our external circumstances. However, everyone should be aware that the greatest danger we face is that from the demons. Satan and his fallen spirits are not a product of a superstitious fantasy but are real beings, even though they are invisible. Using their experience of thousands of years, they are directing all their premeditated activity, snares, and cunning toward inflaming passions in people and pushing them into various transgressions. Through their naiveté, the majority of people are inclined to see their rivals and ill-wishers as their enemies, failing to take into account the presence of the active evil demons. As the Apostle explains, in reality, our war should be directed not against flesh and blood — against people, who are in the same dangerous situation as we are — but against spirits of evil. Of course nobody wants to suffer material losses. However, this is not the biggest danger. The real hazard is to lose the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life — this is what everyone should fear. This would be an unrectifiable tragedy!
The Apostle calls the evil spirits rulers not in the sense that they command authority over the world, but in that they control that part of humanity that is steeped in evil. Indeed, irreligious, depraved people and hardened sinners — to a small or large degree — carry out their will, even though the majority do this without realizing it. The evil spirits use these people and through them try to influence which way social and political matters are headed. The expression “in the heavenly places” means that evil spirits continually hover between heaven and earth. Like a swarm of mosquitoes, they surround us on all sides seeking an exposed spot to sting us.
For our protection, the Apostle calls on everyone to clothe himself with God’s complete armor, i.e., to utilize all those spiritual means that God has given us through Christianity. This complete armor of God is essential to us so that we can withstand the evil spirits on cruel days — at decisive moments of our life, such as during our heavy trials and in the hour of our death. According to many narratives by Saints, during the soul’s exodus from the body and its progression toward Heaven, the fallen spirits make their last desperate effort to destroy it.
This directive calls upon us to regard ourselves as Christ’s warriors. Whether we like it or not, we are in the center of a desperate battle with evil spirits, and to our dying day, they will keep attacking with different types of temptations in order to destroy us.
While the Apostle doesn’t explain in detail what he has in mind under the different attributes of martial armory, the general concept is clear. Our weaponry against demons is: sincere and firm faith (our shield), the guidance of God’s Word (the Holy Gospel, our spiritual sword), the love of the truth, a zealous Christian life (the armor of righteousness), and the readiness to spread the teachings of the Gospel (to bring glad tidings to the world). A more detailed description of these Christian virtues can be found in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount — see Matthew chs. 5-7. In this manner, the Christian way of life is the most reliable defense against fallen spirits. Conversely, evil spirits have free access to a person who is distant from Christ. They influence his thoughts and feelings, inflame him with passions, and thrust him into all kinds of evil. The most frightening thing is that the unfortunate individual doesn’t even suspect the dire straits that he is in.
In his conclusion to the Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul asks for prayers for himself. He does this with each of his Epistles, thereby teaching that a common prayer has immense power. Even the highest servants of the Church need them.
But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts. Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, Amen.
Thus, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle shares those elevated thoughts and feelings with which God enlightened him during his incarceration. He unveils those great paths along which God leads humanity toward salvation and the meaning of Christ’s Church that embraces both worlds, of humans and of Angels.
In the center of the mystery of salvation stand Christ and His Church, which appears as His mystical body that encompasses Heaven and Earth. The Church has not achieved its full stature, but with the constant augmentation of new members, she is continually growing, spreading and improving. Every Christian who is improving morally assists in the Church’s growth.
The teachings of the Apostle Paul regarding Christ as Head of the Church are important in clarifying the relationships between Christians. Just as the various components of a human body together with the head constitute a living organism, so do the faithful — together with Christ — form a single physical-spiritual organism. Having been baptized in Him, they are arrayed with Him, become as one with Him. Christ acts as a unifying and directing force within the Church. Her growth and progress depend on Him.
With the coming of the Messiah, the Old Testament Jews expected an expansion of the state of Israel. But God gave much more than this. He transformed their small earthly nation into His boundless spiritual Kingdom, into which the faithful of all nations have merged. While all earthly powers will fall sooner or later, only God’s Kingdom will forever endure and grow.
In this way, the Church is not a stone stiffened in stagnation but is the living and continuously perfecting body of Christ. In its outside appearance, a centuries-old tree differs from that little seed from which it came. However, its genetic nature remains the same. Similarly with Christ’s Church, even with all her outward differences from the initial Christian Church, she embodies the same faith, the same grace, the same mysteries, and the same hierarchal structure that the Apostles established within her.
Our life is an unceasing battle with evil spirits, which tenaciously attack us with a variety of temptations, attempting to destroy our souls. A Christian way of life and God’s grace are those reliable means, the weapons, by which we must protect ourselves. And the main virtue is a pure and unselfish love, first to God, and then to our neighbor.
He who endeavors to love with all his heart is on the way to completeness — and the evil spirits have no access to him.
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