For a true Christian who cares about the salvation of his soul, it is essential that apart from faith unto God and hope in Him, they also have love, accompanied by good deeds. The Holy Apostle Jacob/James says the following about the need to combine good deeds with faith and hope:
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? … Even demons believe – and tremble! … For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (James 2:14, 19, 26).
The Lord Himself said:
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-24).
Love is called a cordial affection for your neighbours, which does not allow a man to do evil unto them, but always forces them to seek to do pleasant deeds for them, that the person himself would want.
Jesus Christ gave us two great commandments: first:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” – i.e. they are based on and reinforced by these commandments (Matthew 22:37-40). – Our love for God is expressed by the fulfilment of His Holy Commandments, as He Himself says, He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me (John 14:21). Love for our neighbours is known as such, in the words of Holy Apostle Paul to the Corinthians.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails (1 Cor. 13:4-8). These are the grounds by which true love for our neighbours is recognized.
The commandments of love for God and our neighbours were given by God even in the Old Testament to the Jewish people through Moses on Mount Sinai where the Lord Himself wrote them upon two stone tablets. On one tablet four commandments, and six on the other. The first four commandments outline a person’s duty to God, whilst the last six show responsibilities to our neighbour. The commandments are as follows:
- I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before Me.
- You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God.
- Honour your father and mother that it may be well with you, and your days may be long upon the good land the Lord your God is giving you.
- Your shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour
- You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife or his house, and neither shall you covet his field, nor his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, any of his cattle, or whatever belongs to your neighbour.
With the First Commandment, God commands us to know Him as the one God Unoriginate, Unknowable, the Creator of heaven and earth and all creatures, and to not recognise or honour anyone or anything else as God. It is necessary and pleasing for us to call the Holy Angels and Saints of God for our intercession before God, but to honour them not as God, but as friends of God and those who have pleased Him, who according to the will of God, bring our prayers to Him and seek for us His mercy and munificence and therefore, we must ask help from God through them. St. John the Theologian calls the Saints children of God, saying: As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Sins against the first commandment are:
1) Atheism – when people, whom the Psalmist justly calls “foolish” (Ps 35:1), say that there is no God.
2) Polytheism, or idolatry, when instead of the True God, someone honours many creatures and worships them as god.
3) Lack of faith – when people do not recognise the providence of God, the Saviour of the world, the grace of the Holy Spirit, and in general everything which our Holy Church teaches us to believe in.
4) Heresy – when people falsely philosophise the truths of faith, contrary to the teaching of the Holy Apostles, the Holy Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
5) Schism – when Christians, contrary to patristic tradition, introduce new rituals and rules into the church life, but alter old Christian customs.
6) Apostasy – when a Christian for the sake of worldly benefits and subservience renounces the true faith in God and converts to paganism, or another iniquitous confession.
7) Despair – when a Christian loses hope in God and despairs in His holy assistance.
8) Magic – when Christians, not relying on the help of God, trust in the mysterious forces of creation and especially to the power of evil spirits and try and attract others to it also.
9) Superstition – when people believe in ordinary things without any sensible reasoning and put their faith in them more than in God.
10) Laziness in prayer – when people negligently offer prayers to the Lord, as were laid out by the Holy Fathers for every Christian during the day, both at home and in the Holy Church.
11) Love for the creation more than the God – when people are distracted by their attachment to creation such that they forget God and often pronounce the word “adore,” i.e., treat something as if it were God.
12) Obsequiousness – when to please people, Christians do not fulfil God’s commandments, statutes, ceremonies and customs of the Holy Fathers.
13) Reliance on people – when someone expresses hope in the help of other people, or uses measures to acquire help from the powerful people of this world, but do not hope in God and do not ask for His help.
With the Second Commandment God forbids the worship of pagan idols (images of false gods) and give divine honours to creations: in heaven above, e.g.: the sun, moon, stars, etc.; anything in the earth beneath, i.e., animals, plants, etc.; anything in the waters under the earth, i.e., all fish, small insects and animals, dwelling in the depths of the earth, and so forth. In addition the commandment forbids all earthly passions and hobbies. The Holy Icons, which serve as a reverential reminder of the works of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Most Holy Mother of God and the Saints of God, should be honoured by all Orthodox Christians, as God’s mercy, granted to us sinners for our comfort and the decoration of Holy Churches and our homes. The custom of revering relics as such was given to us in the Old Testament, when according God’s command, Moses decorated the “tabernacle of testimony” with the holy ark, and cherubim of gold and embroidery on the walls of the tabernacle. We pray not to the icons, but before the icons, to those depicted upon them, i.e., to the Lord God, His Most Pure Mother, the Holy Angels and Holy Saints of God. The sins against the second commandment are:
1) Covetousness – when a Christian’s only goal of life is the acquisition of wealth.
2) Gluttony (delicacies, overeating, drunkenness).
3) Pride and vanity – when a person appreciates his abilities and advantages above all and flaunts them.
The Third Commandment teaches us not to swear with the name of God at those who offend or vex us, but to pray for all, according to examples of the Lord, Who prayed for those who crucified Him, Holy Protomartyr Stephen, whilst being stoned, and other Saints. This commandment forbids pronouncing the name of God in prayer and conversations without reverence and thoughtlessly, absent-mindedly; Swearing, making vows, lying under oath, etc. The sins against the Third Commandment are:
1) Abusing God, i.e. rude words against God.
2) Murmur against God, i.e., complaints and lament about the Providence of God.
3) Blasphemy, i.e. mockery of sacred objects, or desecration of them.
4) Inattention in prayer, when words of prayers are uttered absent-mindedly, without understanding their meaning.
5) False oath – when something untrue is claimed under oath.
6) Perjury – when something pledged before God is not fulfilled.
7) Violation of vows, given voluntarily to God.
8) Swearing, or thoughtless and habitual use of oaths in conversation.
With the Fourth Commandment, God commanded the Jewish people to devote the Sabbath day to the service of God (Sabbath – rest), because on that day He rested from all His work, i.e., He ceased to create new things, but controls all, provides for all. We Christians, venerate and celebrate the day ‘Nedelya’ (day of inactivity – Sunday), due to the Resurrection from the dead of Christ our God; so on this day and on all the great feasts established by the Holy Church, we must leave worldly works, which God commands us to do for six days; we must celebrate the Nedelya and feast days spiritually rather than physically: not with overeating and drunkenness, but with prayer and pure thought, reading the Holy Scripture, the study of God’s commandments, and doing good works to help our neighbours: charity and so on.
Celebrations originating from secular superstitions (e.g. ‘kupala’, ‘rusalnitsy’, etc.) forbidden by the Holy Fathers, are not fitting for us Christians to celebrate, so that we are not damned and excommunicated from the Church. (Big Catechism, p. 240 rev.).
With the Fifth Commandment God wills us to honour our parents: father and mother, because the “parents’ blessing establisheth the houses of children”, and as a reward for this the Lord promises respectful children a happy and long life. Besides our biological parents, this commandment commands us to also honour our spiritual fathers, that is, pastors of the Church. The Apostle Paul says: Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account (Hebrews 13:17). We express reverence for our spiritual mentors when we listen and carefully observe and accept all of their teachings, i.e. unwavering faith, passed down from Christ, the Holy Apostles and the Holy and God-bearing Fathers, the ecumenical councils and all rites and rules of the church. (Big Catechism, p. 241 rev.). We should also render homage to the authorities, and to all our elders in general, from the words of the Holy Scripture: You shall rise before the gray-headed and honour the presence of an old man (Lev. 19:32). Sins against the fifth commandment are:
1) disrespect to parents,
2) contempt for them in old age or poverty,
3) mocking or contradicting them,
4) not caring for the health of biological parents,
5) reproachment and condemnation, of biological parents and spiritual fathers,
6) slander of them and others,
7) non-fulfilment of the penance of our spiritual fathers,
8) wilful squandering of parental estates,
9) due to miserliness, not giving charity or offerings in Church for the health or repose of our parents and spiritual fathers,
10) mockery of the old and the poor,
11) disobedience of good parental advice,
12) contrary to the convictions of our spiritual fathers, to unlawfully cohabit (marry),
13) marriage without the consent of parents and
14) anger at parents when they irritate children and lead them into despondency. It is fitting for us to not despair, but to obey their instructions (i.e. teachings).
With the Sixth Commandment God forbids us to kill, mutilate ourselves or other people, become embittered at our neighbours, but commands us to not bear rage, anger, envy, rancour, etc. It is possible to kill a person not only with deeds, but also with words. Authorities and judges should be merciful and just, so as not to destroy a person in vain or punish an innocent, for this is a kind of murder –
2) to wound or hit, causing illness;
3) to use curious arts, i.e. any form of poison, to impair somebody’s health;
4) to force someone to commit murder;
5) give someone medicine without having any medical knowledge;
6) through carelessness or negligence cause the death of a neighbour;
7) quarrel and fight, resulting from greed, the consequence of which was the death of a person;
8) the use by anyone of herbs impeding fertility, resulting in a death;
9) force anyone to commit sin;
10) evil and unfair trial; without case investigation sentence someone to their death;
11) to kill children either willingly, or carelessly, or using drugs;
12) with bitterness, to wish for one’s own death, or anyone else’s;
13) to deprive yourself of health because of overeating, or drunkenness;
14) with fault or without fault, in rage or temper to beat someone excessively resulting in death;
15) revenge, or vindictive anger, resulting in the killing of a person;
16) without a declaration to the authorities and judges, seek vengeance on a neighbour and kill him;
17) irritate an ill neighbour, causing their death;
18) with stubbornness and without thinking, give yourself up for apparent suffering of the soul and body;
19) to rile people up to bloodshed;
20) take enjoyment in the death or sorrow of another, and thus inflict suffering upon your neighbours;
21) to be the cause of death of another in any way;
22) through slander or cursing bring about anyone’s death;
23) with various reproaches, derisions or similar methods, to expunge the love among neighbours, and cause grief even unto death.
With the Seventh Commandment God forbids a husband and wife to violate mutual fidelity and the vow made before God, in the sacrament of marriage. It commands those not married to maintain the purity of their thoughts and desires, and to preserve their chastity and modesty. Additionally, this commandment forbids immodest and shameless conversations, words and gestures, profanities, drunkenness and any seductive shows and games. The sins against the seventh commandment are:
1) unclean thoughts of a filthy deed;
2) kissing with lust;
3) songs and dancing;
4) incest, when close relatives marry, or unlawfully cohabit;
5) excluding lawful marriage, to lawlessly cohabit;
6) cohabitation with a man or woman not separated by ecclesiastic trial and divorce;
7) to keep a whore in your home;
8) through drunkenness or gluttony, in a dream or in reality, to have carnal temptation;
9) adornation and making conversation for the sake of fornication;
10) to look upon someone with lust (Big Catechism, p. 244).
With the Eighth Commandment, God forbids any unjust profit from foreign estates by deed and word, and to wilily short measure or weight in any way, and in any other way to appropriate someone else’s (property) through various tricks. Sins against this commandment are:
1) robbery, or the explicit taking of another’s property;
2) theft, or the furtive taking of another’s property;
3) fraud, i.e. to cunningly appropriate someone else’s belongings or things;
4) sacrilege, or theft of anything that is dedicated to God, or belongs to the Church;
5) bribery, when authorities accept bribes and, due to their avarice, release the guilty or elevate unworthy subordinates;
6) extortion, when additional interest is taken; when an owner/employer exhausts his employees with unnecessary and hard work; when, during a famine or other disaster, someone sells bread at a higher price for profit, and so on.
With the Ninth Commandment, God forbids false witness in court upon anyone, slandering another, or condemning; but He commands us to beware of all lies, to keep our promises, stipulations and agreements as sacred and inviolable, and in general to curb our tongue. The sins against the ninth commandment are:
2) unfair trial;
3) revelation of confided secrets;
4) revealing to all the secret deeds of a neighbour;
5) cursing yourself and others with falsehood;
6) to listen to the slandering of a neighbour and to praise the slanderer;
7) hasty condemnation;
8) reproach and mockery, resulting from envy of the good deeds of a neighbour or of their diligence for service to God;
9) immense self-glorification;
10) to promise without the ability to fulfil;
11) the condemnation of a priest and clergy of the Holy Apostolic, Old-Orthodox Church;
12) praising your own and others’ sins;
13) in print, due to envy or other dishonest intentions, disparage someone’s dignity and merit.
With the Tenth Commandment the Lord forbids the envy of another’s good and wish evil to our neighbour, and commands everyone to be satisfied with his domain. From the desire of another’s possessions arise grave malice and wickedness and all sorts of discord in our lives. Sins against this commandment are:
1) the desire to do harm to one’s neighbor;
2) to entice employees and workers to yourself, or to others, away from your neighbours;
3) to envy the beauty of others;
4) deliberately harm one’s neighbour in anything;
5) to wish for a national disaster (war, disease, famine, etc.), for the sake of one’s own gain;
6) desire to commit any sin in general.
These commandments were given by God through Moses to the people of Israel; with the coming into the world of our Saviour Jesus Christ, they were expanded and refined by His Holy doctrine, set out in the Holy Gospel, which was preached by the Holy Apostles throughout the whole world, as was prophesied by St. David: Their proclamation went forth into all the earth (Ps. 18:5). The main Christian commandment is love. The Lord Himself said: This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends (John 15:12-13).
Christ Himself supplemented and corrected the Old Testament commandments in six cases. That is, the Lord said the first:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire (Matt. 5:21-23).
With this the Lord taught us that even verbal abuse of our neighbour will be subject to severe punishment, as being contrary to the fundamental commandment of the Gospel of love for our neighbour.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt. 5:27-28). God forbids Christians to have even sinful thoughts.
Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery (Matt. 5:31-32).
For the sake of cruelty of the jewish people Moses permitted divorce, but the Lord commanded: What God has joined together, let not man separate (Matt. 19:6).
Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’, ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one (Matt. 5:33-37). John Chrysostom in 9 homilies of Apostolic acts teaches us not to swear righteousness or unrighteousness, nor to make someone else do such. According to this every Christian is obliged, if someone says “Swear,” to answer: “Christ told me not to swear in any way, and as such I will not swear.”
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away (Matt. 5:38-42). The Lord taught us not to resist evil, but to turn every offender to the right path with our love, humility and willingness to help him in his need.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect (Matt. 5:43-48).
By His word and example the Lord commanded us to love our neighbours and even their enemies. So on the cross He prayed for His crucifiers:
Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do (Luke 23:34).
The fulfilment of the commandments of the Gospel give us wondrous and great benefit, for we learn through them the truth, and turn away from false, heretical teachings; We obtain forgiveness of sins and deliverance from torment; we will find ascension to God and adoption/acceptance; We will appear as communers of eternal blessings and abide with Him in ineffable bliss and eternal life.