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THE GREEK ORTHODOX THEOLOGICAL REVIEW — VOL. I, NO. 1

JS RomanidesThe original destiny of man was and now in Christ again is to become perfect as God is perfect (Matt. 5,48; 5, 1). God has predestined His elect to become “conformed to the image of His Son.” (Rom. 8,29.) Man is not to please himself as Christ did not do things to please Himself (Rom. 15, 1-3). Rather He died so that the living should no longer live for themselves (II Cor. 5,15) but must love each other with a love that does not seek its own (Rom. 14,7; 1-3; I Cor. 10, 24; 10, 29-11,1; 12, 25-26; 13; II Cor. 5,14-15; Gal. 5,13; 6,1; Eph. 4,2; Phil. 2,4; I Thes. 5,11). To share in this love of God is also to share in the life and truth of God. Love, Life, and Truth in God are One and can be found only in God. Therefore they are not to be found in definitions, but in the Person of God.

The turning away of love from God and neighbor towards the self is also a breaking of communion with the Life and Truth of God which cannot be separated from His Love. The breaking of this communion with God can be cosummated only in death because nothing created can continue indefinitely to exist of itself. (Athan. De Incarn. Dei, 4-5) Thus by the transgression of the first man the principle of “sin” (the devil) entered into the world and through sin death, and so death passed upon all men because of which (death) all have sinned.” (Rom. 5,12) Because of death, which is in the hands of the devil (Heb. 2,14b), all have sinned since “the sting of death is sin.” (I Cor. 15,56.) Not only humanity, but all of creation has become subjected to death and corruption by the devil (Rom. 8,20-22).

The power of the devil, who is himself the principle of sin, is death and corruption (Heb. 2,14). It is through death and corruption that all of humanity and creation is held captive to the devil and involved in sin because it is by death that man falls short of his original destiny which was to love God and neighbor without any concern for the self. Man does not die because he is guilty for the sin of Adam. (John Chrysostom, Commentary on Romans, 5,12.) He becomes a sinner because he is yoked to the power of the devil through death and its consequences. (Cyril of Alexandria; and Theodoret of Cyrus.)

The power of death brings with it the will to self-preservation. Because man is continuously faced with death he automatically becomes concerned with himself. Because he is afraid of becoming meaningless he is always trying to prove to himself and to others that he is worth something. He thirsts after compliments and is afraid of insults.   He seeks his own and is jealous of the successes of others.   He likes those who like him and hates those who hate him.  He seeks security and happiness in wealth, glory, and bodily pleasures, or else can imagine that his destiny is to be happy in the possession of God by an introverted or individualistic process which excludes  any real and active selfless love for others.   Because of anxiety and fear he can become and usually does become  individualistic and very easily can mistake his desires for self-satisfaction as his normal destiny.   On the other hand, he can become excited over some general ideological principles of vague love for humanity and yet hate his next door neighbors.  These are the works of the flesh of which St. Paul speaks (Gal. 5,19-21).  Underlying every movement of what the world has come to regard  as  normal man is the quest for security and happiness.  These are not by any means normal but rather the consequences of the perverting powers of death and corruption through which the devil pervades all of creation dividing and destroying.  This power is so great that even if man did want to live according to the law of God it is impossible because of the sin which is dwelling in the flesh (Rom. 7).   “Who will deliver me from the body of  this death?” (Rom. 7,24.)

The power of the devil has been destroyed once and for all by God in Christ (Gal. 1,4; Col. 1,13; 2,15). Through the death and resurrection of Christ he who has the reign of death has been destroyed and those who were slaves to the fear of death have been delivered (Heb. 2, 14-15). “Therefore God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.” (II Tim. 1,7.) Through the destruction of the devil man is liberated from the tyrannizing power of death and is made free to struggle for a life of selfless love within the body of Christ which is the Church.»

Baptism, therefore, is not a negative forgiveness of guilt inherited as a consequence of the sin of Adam. On the contrary, it is a release from the powers of the devil. It is the destruction within man of the evil principle of fear, individualism, and division (I John. 4,18). This abolition of the power of the devil, however, does not happen with only a passive participation of the one being baptized. He must have not only faith, but also the desire to die with Christ in the waters of baptism. It is only through dying to this world that one can undertake an effective struggle against the devil and strive for selfless love within the life of a local community.  Love is not a general sentiment of good feelings, but a situation whereby one must love his neighbors in the flesh (Matt. 25,40-46; I John 4,20).   “If any provide not for his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.” (I Tim. 5,8.) Therefore baptism cannot be considered as an entrance into a general or universal idea of Christianity. It is an entrance into the life of a definite local community.

—Protopresbyter John S. Romanides, Man and His True Life: According to The Greek Orthodox Service Books

…to be continued.

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