by Archpriest James C. Meena
It seems imperative to me that we, as Christians, understand a basic fact. Though Christ gave us an overriding Commandment of love for God and for our neighbor which seems to obviate the necessity to adhere to the Commandments as they are outlined in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, we need to understand that by our very nature as human beings and by reason of our propensity for sinning and succumbing to temptations, it is often necessary for us to have detailed rules by which our life can be governed. Not every person can follow the loftiest of the Commandments, the love of God and man, without understanding some of the components that are required in making up and fulfilling those Commandments of love.
A Commandment is not merely a law. It is a clarification of the relationship between man and God and between man and man. Above all, the Commandments help us to understand how we are to relate to God and to our neighbors. There is, however, a First Premise. That First Premise is the belief that God IS.
When we speak The Creed, our Confession of Faith, the first two words of that credal statement, "I believe", are the beginning of all the Commandments, of all the Laws, of all the Canons, of all the Sacred Traditions of the Church and upon these two words all these things hang. The First Premise is to believe.
Without a secure and sure belief in the existence of God nothing else is possible in the way of religious understanding or the comprehension of the meanings or intentions of the Commandments that were given to us by Moses and crystallized by Christ.
"All things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23) The First Premise is GOD IS. He could say nothing more magnificent or profound about Himself than "I AM". He required of those to whom Moses carried the message the First Premise, to believe. "This is what you must say to the sons of Israel:" said God. "I AM has sent me to you. Tell them that I AM the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. This is My Name for all time and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. The requirement is faith that He exists.
"And by this Name shall I be invoked for all generations to come." The First Premise. "I AM!". God is! (Exodus 3:13-15).
"I am the Light of the world," said Jesus. (John, 8:12, 9:5) "I am the bread of life," (John, 6:48) "I am not of this world," (John, 8:23) "I am the gate of the sheepfold." (John, 10:7) "I am the good shepherd." (John, 10:14) "I am the Resurrection and the life." (John, 11:25) "I tell you most solemnly that before Abraham ever was I AM!" (John, 8:58). These words of Jesus all come out of the First Premise that GOD IS! They say, "I AM WHO I AM!", I do not need to prove Myself to you beyond that which I have already revealed. I do not need to justify My existence for I require faith of you. If I were to justify My existence you would not need to ever again utter those words, "I BELIEVE!" The First Premise that GOD IS is the beginning of all that which develops thereafter and whether we develop rationally or irrationally depends upon the confidence we have in the God Who confesses His Own Existence. "The fool says in his heart, there is no God." (Psalm 14:1, 53:1)
If we believe what the scriptures teach us about Him. St. Paul says: "All scripture is inspired by God and can be profitably used for teaching, for refuting errors, for guiding peoples' lives, and teaching them to be holy. That is how a man who is dedicated to God becomes fully equipped and ready for any good work." (II Timothy 3:16-17)
I Believe! Jesus said, "All things are possible to him who believes." (Mark 9:23) The ability to believe in God is an act of will which grows out of a certain degree of reason, but an act of will nonetheless.
But more than this it is an act of love and trust invested in all those who, throughout history, have testified to the reality of God, who have borne the message of God to mankind and finally, it is the ultimate act of love and trust in God Himself. The God Who Is! The God Who says nothing greater or more profound of Himself than: "I AM WHO I AM!"
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America