(To be checked)
Contents: Chapter 5 -- Christian Life; Chapter 6 -- The Ten Commandments of God's Law.
Genuine good Christian life may be led only by those who have faith in Christ and who strive to live by this faith; that is, those who by their good works fulfill the will of God. Good works are an expression of our love, and love is the foundation of all Christian life. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God, in him (John 4:16). For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Thus God by this act revealed His love to mankind.
Love which is not accompanied by good works is not true love, but is merely lip service. That is why the Word of God says, Faith without works is dead (James 2:20). The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 7:21). For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10).
Furthermore we have received from God special means for discerning good deeds from evil. The means are the internal law of God, or conscience, and the external law of God, or the commandments of God.
The word conscience denotes the internal, spiritual strength of a man, or the manifestation of the soul of a man. The conscience, as the internal law of God ("voice of God"), is present in every person.
The conscience is the internal voice which tells us what is good and what is evil, what is proper and what is improper, what is righteous and what is not. The voice of the conscience obligates us to do good and to shun evil. For every thing good the conscience rewards us with internal peace and calm. For everything wrong, incorrect, improper, or evil, the conscience judges and punishes so that a person acting against the conscience feels himself in moral discord, tormented by pangs of conscience.
But the conscience, as the spiritual strength of a man, requires development and improvement along with other spiritual faculties of a man, namely, his mind, heart, and will. The mind, heart, and will of man have become darkened from the time of Adam and Eve. From that time the voice of conscience has been shown to be weak and insufficient as a manifestation of spiritual strength. If man does not develop spiritual strength in himself, then the internal voice of conscience in man falls asleep by degrees and dies, as in a "man without conscience."
From this it is clear that the internal law of conscience alone is not enough for man. Even in Paradise God revealed His will to the first people. It follows that in order to exist in an innocent, righteous state, it is necessary for a man to have the external law from God. Even more so it is needed as a result of the fall from Grace.
In order that man would always remain in "fear of his conscience," the Lord God gave us the external law, the commandments of God.
This law was given in its simplest form in Old Testament times, when Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai. The most important Ten Commandments were written on two stone tablets. These commandments were made more profound and lofty in the Savior's Sermon on the Mount, in His nine points known as the Beatitudes. But the Lord also confirmed that the Old Testament Ten Commandments were to be known and fulfilled.
The Savior said, Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill (Matt. 5:17).
When a young man asked, Good Master,what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? -- the Lord answered right away, If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments (Matt. 19:16-17).
However,the Lord taught that these commandments, according to His interpretation, must be kept to a high degree of perfection. Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ suggests that believers should not only shun transgression of the Law, but should not even think about it or desire it, thus requiring from them a more clean heart.
Indicating these two aspects of love, the Lord Jesus Christ in answering the question, Which is the greatest commandment in the Law? said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets (Matt. 22:37-40).
To love God is our first and most important obligation, because He is our Creator, Provider, and Savior. For in Him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28).
Then follows the obligation to love our neighbor, which serves as an expression of our love for God. Whoever does not love his neighbor does not love God. The Apostle John the Theologian explains, If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (I John 4:20).
By loving God and neighbor we discover true love for ourself, because true love for ourself consists in fulfilling our obligations towards God and neighbor. It is expressed in care for one's soul, in cleansing oneself of sin, in subordinating the body to the spirit, in limiting our personal necessities. We must guard our health and care for the development of our spiritual strength and capacities in order to manifest our love to God and neighbor.
By this concept, love of ourself is shown not to be a detriment to our neighbor. On the contrary, we owe love to ourselves in order to bring sacrificial love to our neighbor. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (his neighbors) (John 15:13). Love toward ourself and love toward our neighbor must be offered as a sacrifice of love to God. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks about this thus: He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he that taketh not his cross (i.e., who, from all his superfluous burdens of life, refuses the suffering and trials which the Lord sends, but instead goes the easy path of wickedness) and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me (Matt. 10:37-38).
If a man first of all loves God, then naturally he cannot fail to love father and mother and children and all his neighbors; and this love is sanctified by Divine Grace. If a man loves anyone of these without loving God, then such love may even be criminal, as, for example, when a man for the happiness of a beloved friend might deprive others of their happiness, treat them unjustly, cruelly, etc.
Thus, although all the commandments and the Law of God are contained in two commandments of love, in order to more clearly show us our obligations to God and neighbor, they are further broken down into the Ten Commandments. Our obligations to God are described in the first four commandments, and our obligations to our neighbor -- in the last six commandments.
1. I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods beside Me.
The first commandment of the Lord God asserts His existence and admonishes us to honor Him, the One true God. We must not render divine homage to anyone but Him. That is, we must study what is written by God and about Him, or богопознание (knowledge of God, also theology).
The knowledge of God is the highest branch of knowledge. It is our first and most important obligation. All scholarly human knowledge loses its true meaning, its underlying idea and purpose, if it is not illumined by the light of theology. Instead of good, such knowledge leads to a life of much evil.
In order to acquire knowledge of the true God, we must:
This commandment imposes on us definite obligations of worship. We must:
Sins against the first commandment are:
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.
The second commandment of the Lord God prohibits idolatry, that is, forbids making any idols for worship, or rendering homage to likenesses of anything that we see in heaven (sun, moon,stars), or that is found on earth (plants, animals, people), or found in the waters (fish). The Lord forbids worshipping and serving these idols instead of the true God, as pagans do.
In forbidding worship of idols, one must never be confused about the Orthodox veneration of holy icons and relics. Protestants and various sectarians criticize us for "worshipping them." But in venerating holy icons we do not consider them gods or idols. They are only likenesses, representations of God, or of the angels or of the saints. The word icon comes from the Greek and means likeness. In venerating icons and praying before icons, we do not pray to the material icons (the paint, wood or metal), but to the saint who is represented thereon.
Everyone knows how much easier it is to turn one's thoughts to the Savior when he sees His Most-pure Image or His Cross, than when he sees only empty walls, or a bookcase.
Holy icons are given to us for venerating the memory of the acts of God and His saints and for devoted elevation of our thoughts to God and His saints. Veneration of icons warms our hearts with love for our Creator and Savior. Holy icons are similar to the Holy Scriptures, except that they are written with faces and objected of letters.
Even in the Old Testament icons were used. At the same time that Moses received the commandment forbidding idols, he received from God instructions to place in the Tabernacle, the mobile Hebrew temple, holy gold icons of Cherubim on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. The Lord said to Moses, Make them in the two ends of the mercy of the seat... and there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat from between the two Cherubim which are upon the Ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel (Exod. 25:18,22). The Lord also ordered Moses to make likenesses of cherubim on the veil separating the Sanctuary from the Holy of Holies; and on the interior side of the veil covering, a fine cloth of ancient times, thought to have been made of linen, fine wool, cotton or silk, which covered not only the top but the sides of the Tabernacle (cf. Exod. 26:1-37).
In Solomon's Temple there were sculptured and embroidered icons of Cherubim on all the walls on the Temple veil (cf. I Kings 6:27-29; II Chron. 3:7-14). The Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant were consecrated (cf. II Chron. 3:10). When the Temple was ready, the glory of the Lord (in the form of a cloud) filled the temple (I Kings 8:11). The likenesses of the Cherubim were pleasing to the Lord, and the people, looking at them, prayed and worshipped.
There were no icons of the Lord God in the Tabernacle or in the Temple of Solomon, because He had not yet revealed Himself in the flesh as God incarnate. There were no likenesses of the Old Testament righteous men, because the people had not yet been redeemed and justified (Rom. 3:9, 25; Matt. 11:11).
The Lord Jesus Christ sent a miraculous icon of His Face to King Abgar of Edessa. It was known as the Icon-Not-Made-By-Hands. Praying before the Icon-Not-Made-By-Hands of Christ, Abgar was healed of an incurable illness. The Evangelist Luke was a physician and an artist. He painted and left for posterity icons of Mother of God. Several of them are found in Russia and Greece.
Many holy icons have been glorified by miracles.
Likenesses of animals or even of the Devil do not defile a holy icon if they are necessary to depict an event necessary for visual instruction. As is know, mention of them in writing does not defile the Holy Scriptures.
Nor does veneration of holy relics contradict the second commandment. In the holy relics we honor the Grace of God, which acts through the remains of the saints.
For Christians, idolatry in the form handed down us from pagans is impossible. However, instead of uncivilized idolatry, there exist among us much more subtle forms of idolatry, such idolatry as worship of sinful passions like greed, gluttony, pride, vanity, lust and so on.
Covetousness (greed) is the desire to acquire wealth. The Apostle Paul says that covetousness... is idolatry (Col. 3:5). For the rich man love of gain is an idol which he serves and worships more than God.
Gluttony consists of love of dainty dishes and drunkenness. The Apostle Paul says about people who put the feeling of satisfaction for food and drunk as the highest thing in life, that their god is their belly (Philip. 3:19).
Pride and Vanity. The proud and vain man has an excessively high opinion of his worth, his intelligence, beauty,and wealth. The vain man considers only himself. He considers his ideas and wishes higher than the will of God.He regards the opinions and advice of other people with contempt and derision, but his own ideas not reject, no matter how false they may be. The greedy and vain person makes an idol of himself,both for himself and for others.
By prohibiting these lesser idols, the second commandment inspires the following virtues in their place: unacquisitiveness, generosity, self-denial, fasting, and humility.
3. Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.
The third commandment forbids us to pronounce the name of God in vain, without due reverence. One uses the name of God in vain when one pronounces it in empty conversation, in jest and in sport.
Forbidding the use of God's name thoughtlessly or disrespectfully, this commandment forbids the sins which come from thoughtlessness and irreverence in regard to God. Among such sins are:
Reverent, lawful vowful vows are not forbidden by this commandment. God Himself used an oath about which the Apostle Paul reminisces in his epistle to the Hebrews: For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife. Wherein God, willing more confirmed it by an oath (Heb. 6:16-17).
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.
The fourth commandment of the Lord God directs that six days be spent in labor and devoted to duties such as one's vocation, but that the seventh day be devoted to the service of God, for holy work and acts pleasing to God.
Holy works and acts pleasing to God are understood to be: work for the salvation of one's soul, prayer both in church and at home, study of the commandments of God, enlightenment of the mind and heat by wholesome learning, reading of the Holy Scriptures and other spiritually helpful books, pious conversation, helping the poor, comforting the grieving, and other good deeds.
In the Old Testament, the Sabbath (which in Hebrew means rest, peace) is celebrated on the seventh day of the week, Saturday, in remembrance of God's creation of the world (on the seventh day God rested from acts of creation). In the New Testament, at the time of the Apostles, it began to celebrated on it is first day of the week, Sunday, in remembrance of resurrection of Christ.
In the category of the seventh day it us necessary to include not only the day of the Resurrection, but also other feast days and fasts established by the Church. In the Old Testament the Sabbath also included other feasts: Passover, Pentecost, the Feast of Tabernacles, etc.
The most important Christian feast day is called "The Feast of Feasts" and "The Triumph of Triumphs," the Bright Resurrection of Christ, called Holy Pascha (Easter), which occurs on the first Sunday after the spring full moon, after the Jewish Passover, in the period between the 22nd of March (April 4th new style) and the 25th of April (May 8th, new style).
Then follow the twelve great feasts established to honor our Lord Jesus Christ and His Mother, the Holy Virgin Mary:
Of the remaining feast days, some of the most important are:
Fasts established by the Church are:
On day fasts:
There is no fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays in the following weeks: in Bright Week, the week of Pascha; in the interval between Christmas and Theophany; in the week of the Holy Trinity (from Pentecost until the beginning of Peter's fast), in the week of the Publican and the Pharisee (before the Great Fast); and in Cheese-fare week immediately preceding the Great Fast, when dairy products, but not meat, are allowed.
At the time of the fasts it is especially necessary to resolve to cleanse oneself of all bad habits and passions such as anger, envy,lust and enmity. One must retrain from a dissipating, carefree life, from games, from dancing. One must not read books which give rise to impure thoughts and desires in the soul. One must eat meat or dairy products, since according to the experience of the Saints these foods strengthen our passions and make it more difficult to pray, but only permitted fasting foods such as vegetables, and when permitted, fish, and only making use of these foods in moderation. During a fast of many days one should have confession and receive Holy Communion.
Those who break the fourth commandment are those who are lazy on the first six days, doing no work, as well as those who work on a holy day.
No less guilty are those who may cease worldly pursuits and work, but who spend the time in amusements and games, who indulge in pleasure and drunkenness, not thinking about serving God. Especially sinful is indulging in distractions the evening before a feast day, when we should be at the Vigil, and in the morning, after the Liturgy. For Orthodox Christians a feast day begins in the evening when the All-night Vigil is served. To devote this time to dancing,movies, or other diversions instead of prayer, is to make a mockery of the feast day.
5. Honor thy father and thy mother that it be well with thee and that thy days may be long on the earth.
The fifth commandment of the Lore God orders us to honor our parents and for this promises a happy and long life. To honor parents means to love them,to be respectful toward them, to refrain from offending them by either word or act, to obey them, to help them in labor, to care for them when they are in need, especially when they are sick and old, and to pray for them to God both during this life and when they die. Disrespect toward a parent is a great sin. In the Old Testament, anyone who slandered his father or his mother was punished by death (Mark 7:10; Exod. 21:17).
We must also give equal honor to those persons who have authority over us as parents to us. Among such people are pastors and spiritual fathers, laboring for our salvation, instructing us in the faith and praying for us; government officials, who work for our domestic tranquility and defend us against oppression and plundering; teachers and benefactors, who try to teach us and provide everything that is good and useful us; and in general, our elders, having much experience in life and who therefore can give us good advice. It is a sin not to respect our elders, especially those in old age. It is a sin to regard their experience with distrust, indifference, and sometimes to refer to their remarks and instruction with derision, to consider them "backward" people, and consider that their view is outmoded, has served its time. Even in the Old Testament the Lord said through Moses, Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy God (Lev.19:32).
But if it happens that parents or superiors require of one something that goes against our faith and the Law of God, then must say to them, as the Apostles said to the leaders of the Jews: Whether it be right in the sight of God to heatken unto you more than unto God, judge ye (Acts 4:19). Then one must suffer for the faith and the Law of God mo matter what happens.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
The sixth commandment of the Lord God forbids murder, taking the lives of other people, or taking one's own life (suicide).
Life is greatest gift of God. Therefore, to deprive oneself or someone else of life is a most terrible, grave, and enormous sin. Suicide is the most terrible of all sins committed against the sixth commandment, because in suicide, besides the sin of killing, there is also the grave sin of despair, grumbling against God, and insolent uprising against the Providence of God. Furthermore, suicide precludes the passibility of repentance.
A person is guilty of murder even if he kills another person accidentally, without thinking. Such a murder is a grievous sin, because in this case the murderer is guilty due to his carelessness.
A person is guilty of murder even when he does not commit the murder himself, but promotes the murder or allows someone else to do it. For example:
Other sins against the sixth commandment are: wishing that someone were dead, not rendering help to the indigent and sick, not living with other people in peace and concord, but on the contrary, maintaining hatred, envy, and malice toward others, instigating quarrels, brawls, and distress among others. Sin against the sixth commandment is doing anything which injures the weak, children in particular. The Gospel of Christ says, Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer (I John 3:15).
Besides physical killing, there is yet a more terrible and accountable murder: spiritual killing. Along the sins of spiritual murder is subduction. That is, when one leads astray or seduces his neighbor into unbelief or into a life of vice, and by this renders the soul of his neighbor liable to spiritual death.
The Savior said, But whosoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me , it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea ... woe to that man by whom the offense cometh! (Matt. 18:6-7).
In order to avoid sin against the sixth commandment, Christians must help the poor, serve the sick,comfort the sorrowful, lighten the conditions of the unfortunate, with everyone be kind and loving, reconcile themselves with anyone who has gown angry, forgive offenses, do good to enemies, and refrain from harmful examples, either by word or deed, especially before children.
It is impossible to equate criminal murder with the killing that occurs in battle. War is a great social evil, but at the same time war is an enormous catastrophe permitted by the Lord for a lesson and correction of people, just as He permits epidemics, starvation, fires, and other misfortunes. Therefore, killing in a war is not viewed by the Church as a particular sin of man. Furthermore, every soldier should be ready, according to the commandment of Christ, to "lay down his life for his friends," for the defense of his faith and his homeland.
Among the military there are many saints glorified by miracles.
However, even in war it is possible to be guilty of murder,when, for example, a soldier kills someone who has surrendered, or when a soldier allows brutality, etc.
Capital punishment of a criminal applies also to social ills and is a great evil. But it is allowed in exceptional cases when according to justice, it appears that it alone can stop a multitude of murders and crimes. But in terms of justice, the administrators carrying out the execution answer before God. Capital punishment of hardened criminals is often the only means by which they will be brought to repentance. Note that without the will of God, not a hair would fall from anyone's head.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
The seventh commandment forbids adultery, that is unfaithfulness to one's spouse and all unlawful lust.
God forbids a husband and a wife to break the bonds of mutual faith and love. Of the unmarried, God requires pure thoughts and desires, to be chaste in word and deed, in thought and desire.
In order to do this it is necessary to avoid everything that could give rise to unclean feelings in the heart: obscenity, immodest and shameless songs and dances, suggestive plays, movies, and pictures, immoral books, drunkenness, etc.
God's word commands us to maintain our bodies in purity, because our body is a member of the body of Christ and a temple of the Holy Spirit. Fornicators, and all who indulge in lustful acts or imagination sin against their own bodies, they weaken the health of their body, inflict illness upon it and impair its spiritual capability, especially imagination and memory.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
There are many forms of stealing:
Forbidding every form of taking property of a neighbor, this commandment instructs us to be unmercenary, honest, industrious, merciful. In order to avoid sin against this commandment, one must love one's neighbor as much as oneself, and not do anything to him that he would not like to have done to himself.
The highest virtue inspired by the eight commandment is complete poverty, renunciation of all property. But God does not obligate everyone to this virtue. He proposes it only to those who wish to attain high moral perfection. If thou will be perfect, go and sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven (Matt. 19:21).
Many spiritual heroes have followed the advice of this Gospel passage: St. Anthony the Great, St. Paul of Thebes, St. Nicholas the Wondeworker, and many others.
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness.
The ninth commandment of the Lord God forbids us to speak falsehoods about our neighbor, and in general forbids all lies. For example:
Repugnant to Christians are even those little white lies which are not intended to cause harm to a neighbor. Lying is not becoming to the calling of a Christian and not in harmony with love and consideration for one's neighbor. The Apostle Paul says, Wherefore putting away lying,speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another (Eph. 4:25).
It is never appropriate to blame or judge others, if we have not been specifically required to do so because of the responsibility of our position or duty. Judge not that ye be not judged, says the Saviour.
It is necessary to keep in mind that judging, reproach, and mockery will not reform a neighbor; only love, tolerance, and good harmony will. It is also necessary to always bear in mind that each lf us has many weaknesses and faults.
One must always keep a restraint on his tongue. One must speak only the truth and curb oneself from disparaging remarks and idle chatter. Speech is a gift of God. Jesus Christ said, But I say unto you, that every idle word men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned (Matt. 12: 36-37).
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, nor his land, nor his manservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's.
The tenth commandment of the Lord God forbids not only doing something bad to someone near us, but also forbids even bad desires amd thoughts in connection with them.
The sin against this commandment is called envy. A person who is envious, who entertains the idea of wanting something that belongs to someone else, can pass from the desire to the evil deed.
But beyond this, envy in itself can defile the soul, rendering it impure before God, as it is stated in the Word of God, The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord (Prov. 15:26, Wis. of Sol. 2:25).
One of the main tasks of true Christianity is to cleanse onr's soul of all impurity, in accordance with the admonition of the Apostle, Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (II Cor. 7:1).
In order to avoid sin against the tenth commandment, it is necessary to maintain a pure heart, free of any earthly attachment, free of all wicked thoughts and desires, and to be satisfied with that which one has, to thank God for it, never to desire anything that is anyone else's, but to rejoice for other sin what they have.
Spiritual leaflet "The Way Home. Issue DD-35(4)а --
GOD'S LAW. Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy
Part IV -- Christian Faith and Life
Chapter 5 -- Christian Life"
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