I am an Orthodox Christian priest. I have been Orthodox my entire life and a priest since July 2007. From my perspective, in America at least, we have lost the functional understanding of our Orthodox Christian Faith. We must take seriously that our Traditions have purpose and are not a just a litany of tasks and obligations we must perform. To "boil down" the Faith to that creates an environment I believe is what the Apostle Paul taught against. Glory to God.
LIVE STREAM Bible Study Guide
The Book of Acts 21.39 – 22.16 – Homily 47
March 23, 2016
With Father Athanasios Haros
Every Wednesday at 7 p.m. EST
- When: March 23, 2016 & Every Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EST
- What: A Bible Study on the Book of Acts
- Click on the Link Below to Download the Study Guide for March 23:
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Study Guide to Prepare for LIVE Bible Study on March 23, 2016 – Session 48
THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY APOSTLES; A BIBLE STUDY ON THE BOOK OF ACTS
Based upon the Homilies of St John Chrysostom (SJC)
Study Guide – March 23, 2016, Acts 21.39 – 22.16 Homily 47
Prayer before reading of the Holy Scriptures: Shine within our hearts, loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of Your Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments so that, having conquered sinful desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, thinking and doing all those things which are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give glory, together with Your Father who is without beginning and Your all holy, good and life giving Spirit, always now and forever and to the ages of ages.
Chapter 21 v. 39-40 But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.” So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,
Paul takes full advantage of his citizenship.
SJC “He did not deny that he was a Christian: God forbid: for he was both a Jew and a Christian observing what things he ought: since indeed he, most of all men, did obey the law.”
Providence that Paul is arrested. SJC “Mark the providential ordering of the thing: unless the tribune had come, unless he had bound him, he would not have desired to speak for his defense, he would not have obtained the silence he did.”
Chapter 22 v. 1-5 “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.” And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent. Then he said: “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, “as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.
PATTERN: Paul’s condescension just like Christ. Paul speaks as one of the brethren he pleads with while at the same time is speaking from a high pace. (Note the imagery)
Paul establishes himself as devout, zealous, lacking nothing for the faith. SJC “But this he says, not only to defend himself to them, but to show that not by human intent was he led to the preaching of the Gospel, but by a Divine power: else, having been so educated, he would not have suddenly changed.”
‘As are you all today…’ SJC “All this seems indeed to be spoken on their side, but in fact it told against them, since he, knowing the law, forsook it.”
Christianity is not a religion of only the lower class, but even someone elite like Paul. Paul gives up all privileges and status to follow Christ. SJC “See how many witnesses he brings forward, the elders, the high-priest, and those in the city. Observe his defense, how it is not of cowardly fear (for himself, that he pleads), no, but for teaching and indoctrination. For had not the hearers been stones, they would have felt the force of what he was saying.” (Historical note: There is a modern tendency to claim that Christianity is based on liberation theology of poor classes rather than liberation of the soul.)
Gamaliel – see Acts 5.33-39
Chapter 22 v. 6-16 “Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me. “And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ “So I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me. “So I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’ “And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus. “Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, “came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. “Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. ‘For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
Two voices – Paul’s and the Lord’s – Those who were with Paul became witnesses. SJC “It seems to me at least, that their not believing was providentially ordered, that they might be unexceptionable witnesses.”
Witness after witness after witness are presented – SJC “Observe how it is interwoven, of persons and facts; and the persons, both of their own and of aliens: the priests, the elders, and his fellow-travelers: the facts, what he did and what was done to him: and facts bear witness to facts, not persons only.”
“God of our fathers” = if He is the Son of God as your father you should have believed. (See John 8.44)
“Call on the Name of the Lord” = GOD
Teaching on “Being a Witness to Christ” – (see Homily 47)
- We should be witnesses not only by word, but by actions
Such witnesses ought we also to be, and not to betray the things we have been entrusted withal: I speak not only of doctrines, but also of the manner of life For observe: because he had seen, because he had heard, he bears witness to all men, and nothing hindered him. We too bear witness (Mod. text have heard) that there is a Resurrection and numberless good things: we are bound to bear witness of this to all men.
- Allow your life to be affected by belief
By no means: for men would desire the testimony which is borne by the actions. Just so, if we say that there is a Resurrection and numberless good things, and then despise those things and prefer the things here, who will believe us?… Let us be trustworthy witnesses. But how shall we be trustworthy? By the life we lead. The Jews assaulted him: our passions assault us, bidding us abjure our testimony. But let us not obey them: we are witnesses from God.
- Live what you say; say what you believe
We say, that we have heard Christ, and that we believe the things which He has promised: Show it, say they, by your works: for your life bears witness of the contrary— that you do not believe…. It will be no small punishment to us that we were called to bear witness, but were not able to bear witness of the things that we have seen. We have seen Angels with our eyes, yea, more clearly than those who have (visibly) beheld them.
- The more witnesses; the more believers
If we would all bear witness to Christ, we should quickly persuade the greater number of the heathen. It is a great thing, my beloved, the life (one leads). Let a man be savage as a beast, let him openly condemn you on account of your doctrine, yet he secretly approves, yet he will praise, yet he will admire.
- False witnesses bring slander upon the Church
This has brought slanders on the awful articles of our creed, this has turned everything upside down, that no one takes any account of good living: this is a mischief to the faith. We say that Christ is God; numberless other arguments we bring forward, and this one among the rest, that He has persuaded all men to live rightly: but this is the case with few. The badness of the life is a mischief to the doctrine of the Resurrection, to that of the immortality of the soul, to that of the Judgment.
- An evil life makes man just another animal
(Such a) life works numberless evils, it makes men beasts, and more irrational than beasts: for what things are in each several nature of the beasts, these it has often collected together in one man, and turned everything upside down. This is why the devil has brought in the doctrine of Fate: this is why he has said that the world is without a Providence (Hom. ii. p. 15): this is why he advances his hypothesis of good natures, and evil natures, and his hypothesis of evil (uncreated and) without beginning, and material (in its essence): and, in short, all the rest of it, that he may ruin our life.
Life Application Challenge – (Homily 47) Be committed to a life of virtue!
Let us therefore do away with its fear, let us break asunder its bonds. For were there no other punishment, what punishment could exceed this— to be living always in fear, never to have confidence, never to be at ease? Therefore knowing these things assuredly, let us keep ourselves in a state of calm and be careful to practise virtue, that maintaining both sound doctrines and an upright life, we may without offense pass through this life present, and be enabled to attain unto the good things which God has promised to them that love Him, through the grace and mercy of His only-begotten Son, with Whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost together be glory, might, honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
About Father Athanasios C. Haros
Father Athanasios C Haros is the Pastor at the Transfiguration of Our Savior Greek Orthodox Church in Florence, South Carolina. His sermon series, known as “Be Transfigured” are found each week on the Orthodox Christian Network. You can find more information about his parish at www.GoFlorence.org, and www.LiveANewLifeInChrist.org.