The Intercession of Saints in God’s Divine Council

According to the Old Testament, the heavenly or divine council is the host of angels surrounding God, “advising” Him. You see this theme in Job 1–2, 1 Kings 22, and so on. But the theme begins all the way back in the first chapter of Genesis. In the Beginning In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth—but only the earth was without form, void, and dark. God spends six days…

The Good News and the Life of the Kingdom

What is the difference between the life of the Church and the Gospel message? Between the Mysteries of our faith and the good news of Jesus Christ? Are they identical, or should distinctions be made? The King and the Kingdom As Orthodox Christians, we are blessed with an immense heritage. From the central tenets of holy tradition to the various customs of nations that have over the centuries been grafted onto the vine of Christ’s…

Being a Faithful and True Witness

According to the Scriptures, being a witness for Christ is, in most respects, synonymous with martyrdom. While not all Christians face literal martyrdom in their lifetime, the call to carry a cross is a call to each and every one of us. Jesus Christ was the first true and faithful Martyr (Rev. 1:5), and all Christians should consider his own witness as an example for our lives. In certain parts of the evangelical church…

Ripe for Metamorphosis: The Great Feast of Transfiguration

Transfiguration is one of the twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox Church. It comes forty days before the Elevation of the Holy Cross, and is the next-to-last feast of the ecclesiastical year. In this feast we are reminded of our calling as Christians: to be transfigured, to mature into ripened fruit, and to be glorified in Christ. It is no coincidence that blessing grapes often accompanies this festal celebration. In places where grapes…

Salvation as Theosis in John 1

Theosis or “Christification” is what I’ve come to believe is the end-game of salvation: to be united with God and so be restored in His image and likeness. St. Athanasius summed it up by saying, “God became man so that man might become divine.” He didn’t mean that we cease being creatures, but that we take on God’s “communicable attributes”—we partake of and participate in God’s righteousness, holiness, immortality, wisdom, etc. The…

An Orthodox Commentary on the Gospel Coalition Controversy

In recent months, several key evangelical pastors have been involved in a public debate regarding the Christian doctrine of sanctification. In the Protestant framework,[1. Known as the ordo salutis or “order of salvation”] sanctification is the progressive transformation of a converted sinner into a true disciple of Christ. Having been justified by God’s grace, sanctification is the “setting apart” or consecration of Christians as people of God. For Orthodox Christians, distinctions between stages of…

Carrying the Cross and Suffering in Hope

Jesus didn’t suffer so that we wouldn’t have to. He suffered so that we could handle suffering with him. In other forms of Christianity, one is often told that Christ suffered and died so that we could be freed from a similar fate. A focus in Protestant theology is Christ appeasing the wrath of the Father, freeing us from a rightful punishment. But for the Greek fathers and Orthodox Christianity, the focus is largely on Christ as the…

Remember Us In Your Kingdom

To be “remembered” by God is vitally important in Orthodox spiritual life. But what does this mean? Before receiving the holy Eucharist at a Divine Liturgy, we confess: I will not reveal Your mystery to Your adversaries. Nor will I give You a kiss as did Judas. But as the thief I confess to You: “Lord, remember me in Your kingdom.” This is a reference to the penitent thief on the cross. In his dying breath, he begs of…