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The "purity" of the Church

There are certain religions in our day, which maintain that they comprise the "pure Church of God" and that this "purity" of theirs is proof enough of the veracity of their faith.  We intend to show herebelow the error of this assertion - as projected by people who never understood the meaning of the Christian Gospel.



1. Is there such a thing as a Church of the "pure"?

In Israel of old, there were many who were unfaithful and hypocrites, in spite of the fact that this people was, at the time, the Church of God.  The Apostle Peter tells us that exactly what happened with ancient Israel would also happen with Christians.

This is described in the entire chapter of 2 Peter 2:

1But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; 6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; 7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— 9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,10 and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, 11 whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, 13 and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. 15 They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet. 17 These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.  18 For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. 19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. 20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. 21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

The Apostle begins this chapter by mentioning that there would be false prophets among the Christians - just as there were among the people of Israel - and that because of their behaviour, they would become the cause for the path of the Truth (the Orthodox Church of the Lord) to be blasphemed. They would create heresies, they would be greedy and would also exploit their brethren, according to verses 1 and 2.

In verse 9, it says that all of them will receive their just deserts on the day of judgment, while the righteous and faithful Christians will be duly rewarded. But also, this obviously implies that this ugly situation would be prolonged, through to the day of judgment !!  Therefore, there would be no Church with "only the pure", as certain pietistic groups assert.

In verses 10-14 and 16, the Apostle Peter says that those pseudo-Christians would be interested only in their immoral pleasures and in blaspheming, and would be exploiting the faith for material gain. And finally he compares them to pigs, inasmuch as after being cleansed through Baptism, they fall once again into the bog of sin; and that they would also be like dogs that return to eat their own vomit. (verse 22)

Clearly, (according to verse 21), it would be better for them to not have become Christians at all, rather than become Christians but continue sinning INSIDE THE CHURCH.  Here, the Apostle is referring to those among Christians, who would be Christians only in name.

Does the Apostle say anywhere here that God would reject even the righteous for the sake of the irreverent? Of course not!  This sycophantic idea that turns against God can be found only in the morbid imagination of those who want to justify their existence as "Christians", outside of the Orthodox Church.

What does Jesus Christ teach  us? In Matthew 13:24-28 and 36-43, He narrates a parable - the parable of the sown wheat and the weeds (the "tares"). In there, it is more than clear that even though Jesus Christ sowed the wheat (that is, the genuine Christians), Satan was also sowing weeds in the space of God's Kingdom - the Church. Those "weeds" were to multiply - until the end of Time - together with the wheat. (verse 39)

It is interesting, that the servants of God ask for His permission to uproot the weeds from the Church, leaving only the clean wheat (verses 28-30).  And indeed, throughout the duration of Christianity's history, there have been many who endeavoured to create a "church of the pure", by removing the pseudo-Christians (the "weeds") from that church.  But the Lord was categorical, when He said: "No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, 'First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn'." 

He clearly specified that both the wheat and the weeds should be left to multiply together, until the harvest. Then, at the time of harvest (the end of Time) they would be separated by the Angels (the "reapers"). They will be collecting all the scandals from within God's Kingdom, and will burn them in the fire.

But, these groups that we are speaking of did not wish to listen to the words of the Lord.  They wanted to separate the weeds from the wheat on their own, and thus create a "church of the pure".  However, not only did they fail, but they even reached the point of regarding genuinely Orthodox Christians as "weeds", thus blaming the Orthodox Church of the Lord as a whole.  In this way, they ended up separating even themselves from the "field" of the Church, by composing their own rules of justice. They did not trust the words of the Lord Jesus.  They sought to undertake the labour that was assigned only to the angels.  They also did not wait for the Lord at the Day of Judgment; instead, by regarding themselves as equally capable of reading people's hearts like God, they opined that the Church of the Lord was unworthy, and that they had to isolate themselves from Her.  They then made a "field" of their own, but soon discovered that it too had weeds in it!  Except that now, they do not abandon their own "field", but instead, they say "What can we do? We are just sinful people!"

To avoid every possible case of misunderstanding, the Lord Jesus Christ repeated the same thing in another parable:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, to separate the wicked from among the just..."

Anything else that may be said will be redundant.  So, if someone disagrees with the words uttered by Jesus, he must first show us a "church" that is comprised ONLY of good fish, without a single bad one.  He must also prove to us that the people in his religion were chosen by angels; but more importantly, he has to prove to us that the end of the age has already come!  Furthermore, if the angels had indeed separated them, then there is no excuse whatsoever for any conversion of their members, from "wheat" to "weeds", given that the outcome of the angels' selection is final and eternal (Matthew 13:42-43, 50).


2. The fruits of the tree

But, one may ask:  "Then why did Christ say that you can tell a tree by its fruit, and that a good tree bears good fruit while a bad tree bears bad fruit?  Doesn't that indicate that you can tell a true religion from its fruits? (Matthew 7:16-20)

If we pay attention to the meanings in this verse as well as His very words, we will see quite clearly that the "tree" of which the Lord speaks is not every religion, but every prophet or false prophet.  It is what He says in verse 15 as well:  "Beware of false prophets...".  Besides, if He was implying religion, the verse would not have made any sense; there is no such thing as a "Christian" religion, in which ALL of its followers bear ONLY good fruits, or ONLY bad fruits!   The good and the bad can be found in every place! 

What we should be asking, is:  "Why this distorting of Scriptural verses?"  The answer is obvious: "So that the Church of the Lord can be accused".


3. Observations and criticism

These pietistic groups, who believe that they must proceed with such a labour of separation, have concocted various methods in order to present themselves as the "church of the pure".

One prevalent method is the psychological oppression of their followers. When one of them sins and is detected, the rumor is propagated and everyone begins to criticize the sinner. Most of them will keep less and less company with him and thus eventually force him to either comply with - or depart from - the team, or, to feign piety.

Another method is the disfellowship or excommunication of the unruly member.  When someone is disobedient and the others learn of this, they make sure that the "pastor" of their team learns of it.  However, when they do not know the disobedient individual, they deny that he has any kind of relationship with their religion.

- He is not one of ours! You must be making some sort of mistake!  they will say.

But, if they are told that there is evidence the "unruly" one belongs to their team, they will say:  "He is not a Christian! You can't regard him as a member of ours, because we only accept as members of our "church" those who live Christianically. This person has distanced himself on his own, and is no longer ours. HE HAS LEFT US, FOR THE WORLD."

The group's hypocrisy is now more than obvious. Why do they measure with double standards? Why don't they say the same thing about the Orthodox Church of the Lord?  Why don't they say that "those who are unruly have distanced themselves and are not regarded as Orthodox" ?  Instead, they prefer to claim that "the Orthodox tolerate the bad ones" and that "the Identity Cards of criminals state 'Christian Orthodox'."   Now, why don't they remember the ID cards when it comes to members of their own religion?  To them, when it is about a bad "Orthodox" person, it becomes important what the ID card states, and not his conduct. But when it comes to a bad member of their own faith, his conduct is important, and not the statement on his ID card, in order for them to agree that that person belongs to their team.  If they were consistent with themselves, they would likewise say about the Orthodox, that "a true Orthodox is the one who lives Christianically, and not by what it says on his ID card".  That way, they wouldn't have left the Church of the Lord because of scandals, nor would they have used scandals as an excuse for their departure.

The Church does not expel anyone, in the manner that Her Shepherd exemplified (John 6:37): "the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out."

But these groups DO EXPEL. They do not follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ - Who left the 99 sheep in order to find the one that was lost - nor did they ever understand the Gospel. They are instead following the example of the Pharisee, who, instead of repenting over his own sins, looked for faults in others and vindicated himself.





Translation:  K.N.

Article published in English on: 15-8-2011.

Last update: 15-8-2011.