Eastern Orthodox Church Rebuke
The Eastern Orthodox Church, though separated from the Roman Catholic Church since the mid-11th century, nevertheless retains the same fundamental problem of the Roman Catholic Church (referred to going forward as the RCC): Both are alternatives authorities to Christ which offer an alternate pattern of justification before God in contrast to His way of reconciling people to Himself which He has set forth in the Bible. Though these churches have competing doctrines in certain areas, divergent traditions, and definitions of what is authoritative which do not align, it remains that both are in opposition to the Word of God and do not represent the true church of Christ like each claims to.
Infant Baptism: Like the RCC, the Eastern Orthodox practices infant baptism. This falsely makes people think that they’ve been a Christian “as long as I can remember” or “from when I was a baby.” The Bible does not teach such a thing nor can any example of this be given from the Bible that does not involve much speculation and reading unwarranted conclusions into the text. When Jesus said “suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God”, He was not teaching infant baptism. He was teaching that we should value children and that they have certain qualities which reflect God’s kingdom that adults need to learn from and emulate in order to inherit it. The basic requirement necessary for Christian baptism to be valid and significant in God’s eyes is something which children, especially infants, do not have the mental capacity to exercise- a good conscience towards God (see 1 Peter 3:21 in its context).
The Priesthood: And like the RCC, the Eastern Orthodox Church is centered around its priesthood and could not function without it. And also like the RCC and any church now which has a separate class of priests, this Priesthood opposes Christ, since Jesus Christ’s High Priesthood is the only valid Priesthood under the New Covenant. No other cannot actually mediate between God and men.
1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus..”
Hebrews 7:23-28: “And they (the Levitical Priests of the Old Covenant) truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. 26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. 28 For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” (Reference also Matthew 9:6 and 1 John 2:1-4).
There are two established Priesthoods spoken of in the Bible. The Priesthood of Aaron, Moses’ brother (aka: The Levitical Priesthood) and the Priesthood of Melchizedek. You can see the two established Priesthoods of Aaron and Melchizedek compared in the Book of Hebrews chapter 7. The Priesthood of Melchizedek is reserved for none other than Jesus Christ, as a simple reading of Hebrews chapter 7 shows (by the description of Melchizedek there it is also obvious that the Old Testament character of Melchizedek was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ). This Priesthood has now negated the need for the Levitical Priesthood, which was a necessary institution for Israel until the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, should be a reality. And even if this Levitical Priesthood were still valid, it was only open to male physical descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron (see Numbers 16:40). Anyone who is not a natural Israelite, descended from the tribe of Levi through Aaron, would automatically be disqualified from this Priesthood anyway. In the Bible men were put out of this Priesthood simply for not being able to prove that their genealogy qualified them for the Levitical Priesthood (see Nehemiah 7:61-65). So where does that leave the RCC and Eastern Orthodox and any other priesthood now? They are utterly incompatible with God’s way of justification. There is also the truth that God’s people as a whole are called a royal priesthood (see 1 Peter 2:9) and priests unto God (see Exodus 19:6 and Revelation 1:6). Yet these passages are obviously speaking in a very general sense and apply to anyone who is a part of God’s people, rather than to an established group of priests.
Jesus Christ is the only acceptable advocate and intercessor for man before God the Father. We must go to God through Him on His terms with a heart and mind which is totally broken over our sin, utterly contrite and alienated from it so that the principle of gratifying self is renounced and our principal aim is to now please God. The only valid witness that one is justified before God and reconciled to Him is when He comforts that individual by His Holy Spirit; and gives them further leading along the path of righteousness in line with His Word. Like the RCC, the Eastern Orthodox Church’s prescribed way of relating to God through its priesthood opposes actually going to God through Christ in order to be properly reconciled to Him and enter into His narrow way to eternal life.
Communion: And like the RCC, though using different terms, the Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that the bread and wine used in its communion becomes the actual body and blood of Christ. Again, this is offering spiritual life that is a counterfeit of the authentic eternal life which Jesus Christ offers.
Apologists of this doctrine will say that Jesus turned the bread and wine at the last supper into His very blood and body. They quote Matthew 26:26-28 “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
What they are not likely to quote is the very next verse, Matthew 26:29, which proves that He had been speaking figuratively in the previous verses. “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
The bread and wine represent His body and His blood; they are not His actual body and blood. Here is a parallel passage showing what it means to eat and drink Christ’s body and blood in truth, spiritually speaking (as Jesus said He intended to be understood).
John 15:1-6: I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. 3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”
Abiding in Him means keeping His Word and seeking Him on the terms He has laid out in His Word. That surely includes rejecting concepts and practices which are out of line with this.
Bowing before images, veneration of statues, etc: The Eastern Orthodox Church uses icons in its worship. Those who defend this practice will not confess to worshiping these things, but God said in Scripture that to represent Him (the Eastern Orthodox Church indeed uses icons intended to represent Jesus Christ) by a statue or an image is a form of idolatry; and bowing down before images is idolatry, period. Exodus 20:4-6: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
Praying to saints: And related to what has already been shown about the Bible’s teaching that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and men, it is also misguided and idolatrous to pray to saints and seek their intercession (which is also involved in the Eastern Orthodox Church’s use of icons). This is assigning powers to mere humans which belong to God alone. Again, 1 Timothy 2:5 quoted above. And though the Eastern Orthodox Church doesn’t officially call Mary a co-redemptrix with Jesus like the RCC does, it still invokes her frequently in its prayers and thus venerates her in an idolatrous way.
Significantly more could be said, yet with these things considered, no matter how upright an Eastern Orthodox practitioner may seem, they are at the very least involved in a system which practices idolatry and promotes an alternate justification system to the one which God appointed in the Bible. That is why it is not improper to call the Eastern Orthodox Church a false church that is anti-christ (i.e. in place of the real Jesus Christ) in its nature. Jesus is not only the only way to the Father (John 14:6); there are also many false ways to Jesus which will end in destruction, leaving those who take them rejected by Him and outside of His kingdom (Matthew 7:13-27, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, etc).
The Sufficiency of Scripture: The Eastern Orthodox Church doesn’t believe in this- otherwise it would not regard its tradition and its councils on the same level of Scripture (like it indeed does).
2 Timothy 3:15-17: “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Matthew 4:3-4: “And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
Can someone live by every word of God and esteem God’s Word appropriately while being in the Eastern Orthodox Church?
Deuteronomy 4:2 “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”
Isaiah 8:20: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
When the Bible speaks of cleaving to the traditions of the Apostles, it is speaking of cleaving to the traditions of the Apostles. We surely have these in the writings of the Apostles (remember that Christ’s Apostles wrote the four Gospel accounts too). It does not command adherence to extra-biblical tradition. 2 Thessalonians 2:15: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”
Yet the Bible does talk about extra-biblical tradition- harshly (Mark 7:5-13).
True Christian unity cannot be separated from agreement with, and adherence to, God’s Word.
John 8:31-32: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
John 17:17-21: Sanctify (i.e. set them apart as holy) them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
You cannot obey His voice and keep His Word if you are heeding a person or group in their opposition to the voice of the Chief Shepherd. Such opposition is especially blatant when there is idolatry present and an alternative justification system to God’s way of reconciling people to Himself which He has set forth in Scripture like there are in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Roman Catholic Churches, and their many variants.
Deuteronomy 13:17-18: “And there shall cleave nought of the cursed thing to thine hand: that the Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger, and shew thee mercy, and have compassion upon thee, and multiply thee, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers; 18 When thou shalt hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep all his commandments which I command thee this day, to do that which is right in the eyes of the Lord thy God.”
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