June 3 Epistle Reading

Romans 5:10-16 

10 For if, when we were
enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more,
being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

11 And
not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus
Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

12
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;
and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

13 For
until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is
no law.

14
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had
not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the
figure of him that was to come.

15 But
not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the
offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by
grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto
many.

16 And
not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the
judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is
of many offenses unto justification.

I decided to dwell for a moment on this concept of justification. OrthodoxWiki defines justification as "the process or state of becoming righteous". We also find there that in the Epistle to the Romans, the word "justification" is used 3 times.

In 1980, Alexander Kalomiros gave a keynote address at the Orthodox Youth Conference entitled "The River of Fire"  where he touched upon this concept of justification in the following quote:

"This paganistic conception of God’s justice which demands infinite
sacrifices in order to be appeased clearly makes God our real enemy and
the cause of all our misfortunes. Moreover, it is a justice which is
not at all just since it punishes and demands satisfaction from persons
which were not at all responsible for the sin of their forefathers. In
other words, what Westerners call justice ought rather to be called
resentment and vengeance of the worst kind. Even Christ’s love and
sacrifice loses its significance and logic in this schizoid notion of a
God who kills God in order to satisfy the so-called justice of God.
Does this concept of justice have anything to do with the justice that
God revealed to us? Does the phrase “justice of God” have this meaning
in the Old and New Testaments? Perhaps the beginning of the mistaken
interpretation of the word justice in the Holy Scriptures was its
translation by the Greek word dikaiosune. Not that it is a mistaken
translation, but because this word, being a word of the pagan,
humanistic, Greek civilization, was charged with human notions which
could easily lead to misunderstandings. First of all, the word
dikaiosune brings to mind an equal distribution. This is why it is
represented by a balance. The good are rewarded and the bad are
punished by human society in a fair way. This is human justice.
"

Fr. Thomas Soroka from The Path
shared in today's podcast an interpretation of these scriptures by St.
John of Chrysostom saying:

"…the result of Christ's actions is greater than the result of
Adam's… "what Paul is saying here seems to be something like this, if
sin, and the sin of a single man; moreover, had such a big effect, how
is it that grace, and the grace of God, not of the Father only, but also
of the Son, would not have an even greater effect. That one man should
be punished on account of another does not seem reasonable but that one
man should be saved on account of another is both more suitable and more
reasonable. For if it is true that the former happened, much more
should the latter have happened as well…

The free gift is much greater than the
judgment. For it was not just Adam's sin that was done away with by the
free gift but all the other sins as well. For it was not just that sin
was done away with, but justification was given too. So Christ did not
merely do the same amount of good that Adam did of harm but far more and
greater good."

And in chewing on the concept of "justice", I find St. Isaac the Syrian's thoughts helpful (also known as St. Isaac of Ninevah):

"Mercy and justice in the same soul is like the man who worships God and
idols in the same temple. Mercy is in contradiction with justice.
Justice is the return of the equal. Because it returns to man that which
he deserves and it does not bend to one side neither is it partial in
the retaliation. But mercy is sorrow that is moved by grace and bends to
all with sympathy and it does not return the harm to him who deserves
it although it overfills him who deserves good. … And as it is not
possible for hay and fire to be able to exist in the same house, the
same way it is not possible for justice and mercy to be in the same
soul. As the grain of sand cannot be compared with a great amount of
gold – the same way God’s need for justice cannot be compared with his
mercy. Because man’s sin, in comparison to the providence and the mercy
of God, are like a handful of sand that falls in the sea and the
Creator’s mercy cannot be defeated by the wickedness of the creatures."

Kalomiros in his River of Fire address quotes St. Isaac:

"How can you call God just when you read the passage on the wage given to the workers?
'Friend, I do thee no wrong; I will give unto this last even as unto
thee
who worked for me from the first hour. Is thine eye evil, because I am
good? How can a man call God just when he
comes across the passage on the prodigal son, who wasted his wealth in
riotous living, and yet only for the contrition which he showed, the
father
ran and fell upon his neck, and gave him authority over all his wealth?
None other but His very Son said these things concerning Him lest we
doubt
it, and thus He bare witness concerning Him. Where, then, is God's
justice,
for whilst we were sinners, Christ died for us…

"Do not call God just, for His justice is
not manifest in the
things concerning you. And if David calls Him just and upright, His Son
revealed to us that He is good and kind. 'He is good,' He says, 'to the
evil and impious'"

Do not say that God is just…David may call him just and fair, but
God's own Son has revealed to us that he is before all things good and
kind. He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked (Luke 6.35). How can
you call God just when you read the parable of the labourers in the
vineyard and their wages? 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong…I choose
to give to this last as I give to you…do you begrudge my generosity?'
(Matthew 20.13)

Likewise how can you call God just when you read the parable of the
prodigal son who squanders his father's wealth in riotous living, and
the moment he displays some nostalgia his father runs to him, throws his
arms round his neck and gives him complete power over all his riches?
It is not someone else who has told this about God, so that we might
have doubts. It is his own Son himself. He bore this witness to God.
Where is God's justice? Here, in the fact that we were sinners and
Christ died for us …

O the wonder of the grace of our Creator! O the unfathomable
goodness with which he has invested the existence of us sinners in order
to create it afresh!…Anyone who has offended and blasphemed him he
raises up again…Sin is to fail to understand the grace of the
resurrection. Where is the hell that could afflict us? Where is the
damnation that could make us afraid to the extent of overwhelming the
joy of God's love? What is hell, face to face, with the grace of the
resurrection when he will rescue us from damnation, enable this
corruptible body to put on incorruption and raise up fallen humanity
from hell to glory?…Who will appreciate the wonder of our Creator's
grace as it deserves?…In place of what sinners justly deserve, he
gives them resurrection. In place of the bodies that have profaned his
law, he clothes them anew in glory…See, Lord, I can no longer keep
silent before the ocean of thy grace. I no longer have any idea how to
express the gratitude that I owe to thee…Glory be to thee in both the
worlds that thou hast created for our growth and delight, guiding us by
the path of they majestic works to the knowledge of they glory!

I might as well copy and paste the whole "River of Fire" text in here because I'm finding much depth and rich morsels on that yellow page…such good reading!!!!

St. Anthony discusses God's justice in the first volume of the Philokalia.

"God is good, dispassionate, and
immutable. Now someone who thinks it reasonable and true to affirm that
God does not change, may well ask how, in that case, it is possible to
speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good and showing mercy to
those who honor Him, and as turning away from the wicked and being angry
with sinners. To this it must be answered that God neither rejoices nor
grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions; nor is He
won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is
swayed by pleasure. It is not right that the Divinity feel pleasure or
displeasure from human conditions. He is good, and He only bestows
blessings
and never does harm, remaining always the same. We men, on the other
hand,
if we remain good through resembling God, are united to Him, but if we
become evil through not resembling God, we are separated from Him. By
living
in holiness we cleave to God; but by becoming wicked we make Him our
enemy.
It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our
own sins that prevent God from shining within us and expose us to demons
who torture us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain
release
from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him
to change, but that through our actions and our turning to the Divinity,
we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God's
goodness.
Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the
sun hides itself from the blind."

In closing:

As a grain of sand weighed against a large amount of gold, so, in
God, is the demand for equitable justice weighed against his compassion.
As a handful of sand in the boundless ocean, so are the sins of the
flesh in comparison with God's providence and mercy. As a copious spring
could not be stopped up with a handful of dust, so the Creator's
compassion cannot be conquered by the wickedness of creatures.

– St. Isaac of Syria

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