The following Orthodox Christian patristic quote recently featured as a status on my Facebook wall:
“Set your mind on following the path of saints. Prefer a simple style of life. Wear unremarkable clothes. Eat simple food. Behave in an unaffected manner. Don’t strut around as if you were important. Speak from your heart.” (Abba Philemon)
A protestant friend of mine (whose father is a protestant minister, and whose Greek-Cypriot grandfather founded the first Greek-speaking protestant congregation in Sydney), responded to the above by stating in a typical American Southern Baptist style “That ain’t biblical.” Unfortunately, this third-generation protestant is so blinded by his “Bible-based Christianity” that he only identifies the Bible as the letter of the law. His soul is so foreign to the Holy Spirit, that he cannot even recognise the Spirit of the Law. Alas, this is the case of Protestantism, which is simply the “Christian” version of a Jewish sect that existed in the time of Christ, known as the “Saducees,” who only accepted the written law and refused to accept the oral tradition or the Spirit of the Law of God.
Below I provide for you my response to my protestant friend regarding his “protest” against the quote from Abba Philemon, as if this holy saint and elder of the early Christian Church is supposedly guilty of writing anything “unbiblical.”
Anthony, don’t be quick to judge. The above quote is entirely Biblical, and it was written by a Pastor with authority and grace of the Holy Spirit. By reading the Book of Acts one can easily see that Philip was able to baptise the Samaritans but he was unable to impart to them the Holy Spirit. Only with the arrival of the Apostles Peter and John was the Holy Spirit imparted. This is because Christ chose the Holy Apostles and their successors with authority to heal the sick, bind and release sins, and impart the gifts of the Holy Spirit to those who are baptised into Christ. Abba Philemon was one such a Christian, chosen by the Apostles through their successors, the Apostolic Fathers, who chose and ordained Philemon as a Pastor of a parish within the Church of God which resides in Egypt, in the third century. I trust the pastors of the early Church who were ordained by the Apostles themselves, more than I trust the impostors of our age who have ordained themselves.
I agree that there are failures especially among Catholics (since the 10th century), and even among Orthodox (since the 20th century), but by no means do the early Pastors of the Christian Church fail from keeping and upholding the Bible in their statements. Their sermons are inspired by the Holy Spirit, because they received the imparting of the Holy Spirit from the hands of the Apostles themselves, and their writings are based entirely on the Holy Scriptures. I will now explain to you how the above sermon by the ancient Christian pastor, Abba Philemon, is entirely Biblical in content:
ABBA PHILEMON: “Set your mind on following the path of saints.”
BIBLICAL ORIGIN: Saint Paul who was not God, nor the Messiah, nor the Holy Spirit, but a mere man, but yet a chosen Apostle of Jesus Christ, nevertheless commanded the souls that he was given to oversee, to set their minds upon imitating him (Saint Paul) and following his (Saint Paul’s) path. Thus Saint Paul writes to the Church of God at Corinth: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:15-16). “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” (1 Corinthians 11:1-2). “Brethren, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us.” (Philippians 3:17). “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:7). “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12). “Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings…” (2 Timothy 3:10-11). “…so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:12). “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7).
ABBA PHILEMON: “Prefer a simple style of life.”
BIBLICAL ORIGIN: Apostle Paul commands us to live as simple lives as possible: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, [this] godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things. However, those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:6-10) . “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in SIMPLICITY and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.” (2 Corinthians 1:12). Our Lord Jesus Christ also advised us: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth where rust or moths corrupts or where thieves break in and steal but lay up treasures in heaven where moth and rust does not corrupt and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there will your heart be also… The lamp of the body is the eye. If, then, your eye is simple, your whole body will be bright.” (Matthew 6:19-22).
ABBA PHILEMON: “Wear unremarkable clothes.”
BIBLICAL ORIGIN: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4). “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” (1 Timothy 2:9).
ABBA PHILEMON: “Eat simple food.”
BIBLICAL ORIGIN: “But pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare…” (Luke 21:34-35). “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” (Proverbs 23:20-21). “He who keeps the law is a discerning son, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.” (Proverbs 28:7). “Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony.” (Proverbs 23:2).
ABBA PHILEMON: “Behave in an unaffected manner.”
BIBLICAL ORIGIN: “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.” (Romans 13:13). “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:3). “For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do–living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” (1 Peter 4:3). “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18).
ABBA PHILEMON: “Don’t strut around as if you were important.”
BIBLICAL ORIGIN: “But we will not boast beyond limits, but will boast only with regard to the area of influence God assigned to us, to reach even to you.” (2 Corinthians 10:13). “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:18-19).
ABBA PHILEMON: “Speak from your heart.”
BIBLICAL ORIGIN: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45).
All the above sufficiently proves that Abba Philemon, a holy saint of the early Christian Church, has not in any way defied the Bible by his sermon, but that what he has written is not only compatible with the Bible, but it is even entirely based on the Bible. This is why traditional Christianity is the true “Bible-based” Christianity, because it has the charismata (gifts) of the Holy Spirit, the authority ordained by God and passed by ordination by Christ to his Apostles and their successors, to interpret the Word of Truth within the context of Holy Scriptures.
The Orthodox Church possess not only the letter of the Law but also the Spirit of the Law. We Orthodox Christians are not saved by the letter of the law, but rather by the grace of the Holy Spirit, which has printed the Law of God in our hearts. Thus Orthodox Christians read the writings of Abba Philemon and can immediately identify them as God’s Law which is written in our own hearts. But when a Protestant, who is foreign to the Law of God, but carries in his heart only the leaven of the Pharisees and Saducees, when he sees a sermon like that of Abba Philemon, the Protestant cannot recognise it, because he is foreign to God’s law, and thus he can only respond with that all-too-familiar American Southern Baptist slogan: “That ain’t biblical.” But we cannot expect anything better from a Protestant, for they have not received the imparting of the Holy Spirit by the Apostles, and thus their eyes are blinded by the folly of their own imagination. They do not possess spiritual eyes to discern things of the Holy Spirit.
The Protestants can continue to “protest” against the Ancient Apostolic Faith, but they will always fail. For of the Apostolic Faith, namely the faith of St. Peter the Apostle, the first to preach Christ in Jerusalem and the first Patriarch of Antioch, Jesus said: “Upon this rock [of faith in the Son of God] I will build MY CHURCH [i.e. not Charlemagne’s Church, not Luther’s Church, not Calvin’s Church, but JESUS’ OWN Church] and the gates of Hades [i.e. the mouths of heretics] shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). Of this same rock of the Apostolic Faith, our Lord Jesus Christ also said: “And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” (Matthew 21:44).
May God enlighten the Protestant sectarians to depart from their man-made business enterprises and return to the One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic Church that Jesus Christ founded ….. that through oneness of Faith in One God, One Lord Jesus Christ, One Holy Spirit and One Holy Church, are members of the One Body of Christ and fellow heirs of the Kingdom of God.
The least among servants of the Lord’s altar and choir,
Stavros Markou, a sinner