During a conversation recently, I was asked to explain how we determine the truth among all the different teachings in the world. How do we know the Church is teaching the truth? I believe this question haunts many today in the Church who are seeking to know the truth. With the availability of the internet and a different church on ever street corner in America, it can be quite confusing to determine the truth about God.
Today the Church commemorates the Father of the First Ecumenical Council, those holy bishops of the Church that gathered in Nicaea in 325 AD. They gathered there for one purpose. Many in the Church had begun to teach different understandings about God and His saving mission. The bishops, in prayer and unity with the Holy Spirit, debated and discussed, setting in motion a Sacred Tradition of the Church.
In today’s Gospel lesson we hear Jesus praying to the Father, “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.” (John 17.8) Earlier Jesus had promised the Apostles, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak.” (John 16.13)
These two guarantees by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ were the foundation of that great council and every council. Since Jesus had given us His word which He received from the Father, and the Holy Spirit would speak what was given by the Father and guide the Holy Apostles into all truth, the only safe position for the Church to hold was to insist that all teachings about God must be found in the teachings of the Holy Apostles who the Holy Spirit had guided.
Fast forward to today. When the clergy preach, we are required to only teach that which we have first received from the Church as truth. So long as we remain dedicated to this premise, we can trust what the Church teaches about Christ. It is ALL ABOUT Christ. Jesus Christ is our savior. He is our great “Mediator between God and man.” (1 Timothy 2.5) Every dogma of the Church is about Christ for this very reason.
In the Church it is never about the priest, or the parish council, or the founders and builders. It is about Christ. Everything we do as Orthodox Christians has (or should have) this focus. Even our prayers to the saints, are requests from them to pray to Christ for us. So if we find ourselves reading a blog, or having a conversation, or hearing a sermon, and the information we hear cannot be verified by reading the Holy Apostles, then we cannot trust that it is truth. God is truth, and He promised to guide the Holy Apostles into all truth. If the Holy Apostles didn’t believe it, we shouldn’t believe it.