God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him.
- (Genesis 1:28).
BELIEVE IN ONE GOD...
Who sows good seed on a field that has not been cleared? A logical man does not do it. A logical man will act in accordance with the Word of God. He will first clear the field of weeds, and then will sow good seed.
The field is the human soul, the weeds-polytheism, the good seed - belief in one God.
Today it seems altogether natural and obvious to you to believe in one, single God, and absurd and foolish to believe in more gods. But it was not always so. There was a time when only a few people in the entire world believed in one God, and then came another time, when an entire nation believed in one God. And all the others, who were polytheists, looked upon these monotheists with the scorn of a rich man because those who had only one God supposedly had far too few. But the monotheists in turn looked upon the polytheists with wonder and sorrow because they, having many gods, really had none at all.
Belief in one God had to be received first from a reliable witness, and then it could be sown over the souls of men like fields. The most reliable witness to bear witness to the one God and against a multitude of gods was the Living and True God himself. He himself bore witness to Himself when He said through His worthy servants: "I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods besides Me" (Ex. 20:2-3).
The One, Living, and True God revealed Himself gradually. In the midst of the weeds of polytheism He found a few tiny fields, cleared and cleansed, and sowed the good seed of faith over them. These were the souls of a few righteous men. These souls were moreover like prepared candles which He lit, and they shone in the darkness of polytheism. "And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5). Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, Joseph, Moses, Isaiah, and Daniel were candles of God-lit individually!
In this way the One, Living, and True God revealed Himself to the whole nation of Jacob or Israel. In His mercy, He revealed Himself to them-first in the land of Egypt, a foreign land, and then in the wilderness, no man's land, and then in Canaan, their land. And for a period of time the whole nation said: "I believe in one God."
But the people of God began to waver in their faith; and this wavering continued over the centuries. And a danger was threatening to extinguish the light in the darkness and reduce the kindled fire to ashes.
Seeing this danger, the One, Living, True, Compassionate, and most Merciful God sent among men His own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ:
to dispel the darkness of polytheism;
to strengthen human hearts on their upward journey;
to sow the good seed of faith in one God, the Only, Living, and True God.
The diligent bees of Christ, the holy apostles, disseminated this faith, this pollen of God, all over the world.
Truly, like honey-bearing bees of God, the apostles dispersed from Jerusalem in all four directions, throughout nations and tribes, in order to sweeten the souls of men with the glad tidings about the One, Living, and True God, as with honey.
The holy apostles were clearing lands of the weeds of idols and clearing the souls of men of belief in a multitude of gods. On the fields they cleared they would sow the holy faith in the One, Living, and True God.
Oh what a painstaking and dangerous task that was! It was the greatest clash ever known which, believe me, cost those missionaries of monotheism sweat and tears and wounds and blood.
It was extremely difficult for men to part with their imaginary divinities, and difficult for them to accept the belief in one God. Confused by the multitude of creatures and contrary forces in the universe, they considered it more believable that a multitude of gods existed rather than just one God. Captivated by the illusion of inexperienced children, that strength lay in numbers, they maintained that it was more believable, that a multitude of gods had greater power than one God. They maintained that more gods could help more than a single God.
Against the apostles there rose up two sorts of men-and there were two sorts of all of them in the world-those who nourished their souls with the poison of idolatry, and others who nourished their bodies by making statues for idols. And these latter were no less of a hindrance than the former. Take the apostle Paul and the silversmith Demetrius, for example. "A man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen of like occupation, and said, 'Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only at Ephesus but almost throughout all Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger . . . that this trade of ours may come into disrepute"' (Acts 19:24-27).
Therefore, some regarded the new faith as a threat to their soul, while others considered it to be a threat to their belly.
Thus all the people and peoples on earth, with very few exceptions, considered themselves threatened. And these exceptions were condemned to cruel deaths, like Socrates in Athens.
Culture did not help in the least. The more cultured peoples just made idols from more precious materials and in a more refined shape than primitive peoples, but idols remained idols, and the enslavement of the human soul existed as much here as there. When St. Paul the Apostle was in cultured Athens, "his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols" (Acts 17:16). And the same thing happened with Andrew in Sarmatia, Matthew in Egypt, and Bartholomew in India. Idols in the marketplace, idols in front of courthouses and military barracks, idols before threshholds, idols in homes, idols in every room, idols everywhere. No list could have listed all the gods which people and peoples used to worship.
All these idolatrous thorns scratched the holy apostles and drew blood. But they boldly pruned them, cleared and cleansed them, and in their place they sowed the good seed of faith in one God - the Only, Living, and True God. The apostles accomplished this titanic task with words, miracles, love and sacrifice. Where they failed by one means, they succeeded by another. Where they could not succeed by any other means, they succeeded by their own blood and-death. The blood of their martyrdom burned the idols like living fire.
The One, Living, and True God blessed the message of His apostles and their labors, tears, sighs, and their sacrifices. Thus their seed brought forth good fruit. And that fruit consists of this-that today it seems altogether natural and obvious to people to believe in one God, and absurd and foolish to believe in many gods.
"I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods besides Me." This was the first testimony of God concerning Himself, the first revelation to men on earth concerning God from God, and the first commandment of God. "You shall have no other gods besides Me," commands God; for if you will have other gods, you will bring two disasters upon yourself. First: you will be believing in false, non-existent, imaginary, illusory gods. Second: you will be sharing reverent fear and love, which entirely belongs to Me, the One, Living, and True God, with these false gods.
In this way you will darken your faith in Me, and weaken your reverent fear and love for Me. And I shall withdraw far from you, offended and insulted. And you will be an atheist, no matter how much you imagine you are rich in piety on account of your belief in many gods. For in the final analysis a polytheist and an atheist are the same thing. Both the one and the other are without one God, without the One, Living, and True God.
Belief in one God, the One, Living, and True God, is the faith of the humble and the wise. This is not the faith of the proud, whom pride makes unwise. For they either deify themselves or some creature of the Creator, but not the Creator.
The more humble a man is, the wiser he is; the more arrogant he is, the more foolish he is. God gives understanding to the humble, so that they may know and understand, but He opposes the proud. The more the humble are at peace with the Lord, the more the Lord endows them with understanding. And understanding is light that leads to the One, Living, and True God. Blessed are they who have understanding, to see the transitoriness of this world and the nothingness of man. Blessed are they who feel small and insignificant, for God will elevate them to the highest knowledge, to the knowledge of the existence and majesty of the Most High God.
This is your faith, Christ-bearers, and the faith of your most humble and most wise forefathers. Let this also be the faith of your children, from generation to generation, until the end of time. This is the salvation-bearing Orthodox Faith, which has never been put to shame. By this faith your fathers were saved. Truly, this is the faith of the chosen people, of those who bear the image of God in themselves. At the Fearful Judgment they shall not be put to shame before the faces of the angels and the righteous. Instead they shall receive glory, and shall be called blessed.
The One, Living and True God.