The Religious Authority of Christ

Christ is the object of the true religion which reconciles man with God and restores friendship between them through the perfect mediator possessed of all the requirements for this purpose. This is because Christ is the true redeemer of man and the saviour who gave Himself as a ransom for many. It is because Christ is the true mediator who understands the will both of God and of man, and is also the only holy one, holy above all others, who shares holiness, life, and immortality with those ransomed and saved by Him. The Church celebrates this unique holiness of the Theanthropos when she sings in her Divine Liturgy: “One is holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.”

Naturally, every science derives from its object, as from an original source in it, all the truths about itself, and it is from these and by these that the science is constructed. Nevertheless, the foundation of the science is the truth of its object and without this the science is not constructed or even in existence. Let us apply this truth, common to all the sciences, to religion also, because religion too is built up and exists as a religious science – a science of souls, a practical science – which seeks to discover the laws by which the soul is healed of its diseases, cleansed from all filth and all sin, and led to God the Father by Christ, to find there adoption as a son.

Just as in the sciences the truths spring from the very objects of which they are the sciences, so too in religion and the religious sciences, all religious truths spring from the object of religion. If this is removed and all the religious sciences concur, the concept of a true religion vanishes altogether.

In the true religion, the object is a person. In fact, it is the Theanthropos, and it is His will which controls the religion and results in the religious laws which guide the activity of those who believe upon and confess Him. He is the sole and original source of true religion. From this one source are derived all the other principles, which are less important and subsidiary, and are compelled to fulfill their tasks in the name of the one, absolute source in the religion, and in the law which flows forth from that same source.

The authority and office of Jesus Christ in the true religion are that of the high priest, and are absolute, for Christ alone is high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek, not after the order of Aaron. Hence it is from the pure will of Christ, the high priest, that all religious laws spring.

Christ was not high priest without beginning, just as He was not man without beginning. He became man in time, and He also became high priest anointed with the Holy Spirit, as foretold by David: “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity: therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of gladness beyond thy fellows” (Psalms 44:7; LXX).

It is for this reason that true religious laws are pure and holy, for it is the will of Jesus Christ which makes them pure and holy. Therefore, only the Orthodox Church of Christ is pure and holy, for only she, the undefiled bride of Christ, has a bridegroom and high priest who is holy, free from evil, untainted by sin, set apart from sinners, and raised high above the heavens, according to St. Paul. Thus who can accuse Orthodox Christianity of impurity and unholiness? Long ago Orthodoxy challenged and even now challenges those who wrongly accuse it of impurity, by repeating that which Christ declared to the Jews concerning Himself: “Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?” (John 8:46).

The Jews were unable to utter anything when challenged by Christ to accuse Him of sin which He had not, for He was both by nature and by choice without sin. Similarly, both long ago and today, unbelievers in their stupidity, when challenged to confront Orthodox Christianity of sin which it does not know, being by nature sinless and holy, have nothing to utter and close their mouths as if they were clams.

Orthodox Christianity is pure, sinless, and holy, for it springs from the pure, sinless will of Christ who is the absolute ruler of true religion in perpetuity, and possesses a true priesthood which passeth not away. Hence anyone who acknowledges that the will of Christ is pure and sinless, must, if he is reasonable, also confess that the religion which springs from such a sinless and pure will is itself without sin and consequently true, for these two attributes are bound and fastened together as the effect with its cause.

A good result cannot come from a bad cause, nor can a bad result come from a good cause. Thus in the true religion, the pure, sinless will of Christ is reflected, and one who looks upon the Church of Christ also gazes at the pure will of Christ, without which a pure and sinless religion could not have come into existence.

Sinlessness also is associated with truth. Therefore, Orthodox Christianity is not only sinless, but also true as well, because the will of Christ from which it springs is sinless and true. Just as no one can prove that the Christian religion is not blameless and holy, so no one can prove that it is untrue, either. In this religion, holiness and truth exist because its laws and precepts lead to holiness and truth, and have the distinctive mark of holiness and truth, for they spring from a sinless, unerring will.

Christ is the one and only eternal high priest and mediator between God and sinful man. His will is the final source of authority in the Orthodox Church and in the religious community. From this will is derived every religious law and its absolute authority cannot be delegated to anyone else, but is inalienable and permanent.

However, it is the special task of the high priest to offer to God gifts and sacrifices for sin. Consequently, even Christ, as high priest, was obliged to offer to God the sacrifice of Himself for the sins of man. He offered as an eternal sacrifice His Body and Blood, a pure and holy sacrifice, a sacrifice eternally saving the sinner who repents and believes in it, but eternally punishing anyone who does not repent and does not believe in it. For as Christ is an eternal high priest, holding the office of high priest for eternity, so His sacrifice, which He has offered to God, is an eternal sacrifice, possessing the power to save believers eternally, and to punish unbelievers eternally.

A high priest such as the Theanthropos, who offers Himself as a sacrifice for us, is worthy of adoration and reverence because in our heart lies the duty of loving perfect love. There is nothing which surpasses the quality of the love which Christ manifested in offering Himself unto death for the eternal life of mankind. It was He who said: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this. that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12,13).

A high priest such as Christ, who was sacrificed for mankind, is worthy of the very greatest honour and esteem. Such a high priest is also a true shepherd who does not sacrifice the life of the sheep for his own life, but antithetically sacrifices his own life for that of the sheep. Christ, the one and only eternal high priest, further declared, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

As high priest. Christ truly possesses religious authority – eternal, unlimited, and absolute. As the high priest who offered an eternal sacrifice unto God the Father, Christ possesses an authority both eternal and absolute in the Christian faith and the religious life. For He Himself is the absolute lawgiver in the religion, the independent jury, and the absolute judge, as well as the fulfiller of the holy will of God – “a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (Hebrews 8:2).

No one may or is able to substitute for Him as eternal high priest or absolute lawgiver and judge. He alone proffers an eternal, perfect sacrifice, once and for all. “For this he did once, when he offered up himself” (Hebrews 7:27).

The highpriestly authority of Christ is the guarantee of our salvation, because without it we cannot be saved. If Christ had not died on the Cross to make expiation to God, and to win our redemption, we would be most wretched indeed, and it would be better for us not to have been born or to have seen the light of day. However, Christ, becoming high priest from God, offered Himself for our redemption – the righteous on behalf of the unrighteous – to lead us to God. He Himself became both the sacrificer and the victim, and offered Himself willingly as a sacrifice. Therefore, He deserves to be loved by us as much as He first loved us.

Christ is worthy of our obedience and allegiance to His religious laws, just as He was obedient and submitted willingly to the laws of God when He fulfilled all righteousness. He is high priest because He was first a minister and a servant of the will of God in Himself, and because He was trained first in the law of God, and no fault was found in Him. Moreover, He received the highpriesthood from God and not from Himself – nor yet from man, as those present-day “priests” who commit simony and make other spurious deals, receive it!

The highpriesthood is the prize of virtue. Because Christ is high priest, He is judged worthy of mediating between God and man, for God listens to the prayers of the righteous and virtuous, and He fulfills them. Christ became the pattern of outstanding and glorious virtue because according to the prophet of old, “His excellence covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise” (Habakkuk 3:4a; LXX).

The glory of Christ’s virtue covered the world and the earth was filled with His praise. After His Resurrection, Christ assured His disciples: “All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:18). The first authority that Christ was given is religious authority, to bring about the recognition of Christ as high priest by all people on earth. Therefore, the very first thing that we must do is to believe in Christ and to acknowledge that He is our redeemer and saviour who offered Himself for our redemption and the forgiveness of our sins.

We should obtain knowledge both of the religious nature of Christ and of His highpriesthood, and should adapt ourselves to obey the religious laws which our eternal high priest laid down. The only task at present to which we should tum our attention, and this is a task for each of us individually, as well as for all of us collectively, is in religion – the moulding of ourselves to the pattern of Christ, the firm establishment of the religious life, and the full knowledge of the holy Orthodox Church and of the blessings that result from her. This is the task for each individual and for all humanity, since it is naturally inclined to religion. But the problem remains of how this can be accomplished.

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