The Lord Christ is the Head of the Church, and “He is also the Savior o the Body” of the Church (Eph. 5:23). As the Head of the Church, the Lord Christ unceasingly gives the Body of the Church all it requires for its life in Him and the salvation of its members from sin, death, and the devil. The Church is always the Church through Christ; He is always the Head, and it His body. Everything depends on Him. St. Justin Popovich.
The source of True Christianity is the Divine Person of the Logos, incarnate as man through the Virgin Mary. The Church, the Body, is a divine organism because Her source is the Divine Person, the God-Man, Who is Her Cornerstone and Head (cf. Eph. 1:22, 2:20).
There is a heresy, which seems to consistently raise its head, that seeks to usurp the place of Christ in the Church. It seeks to make “mere men” the head. This heresy was dynamically energized in the Latin Papacy, which took to itself such blasphemous titles as “the Vicar of Christ.” In basic, such heresies seek to make a man the head of the Church on earth. Protestantism also subscribes to this spirit, yet it individualizes it. Every person is his own “head.”
It is undeniable that Christianity is Hierarchic. There are Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and so forth for the good order of the Church. The Bishop is the icon of Christ, ideally. Yet, he is not Christ Himself. The Bishop (and other Clergy) are completely dependent upon the Source of everything – Christ the Lord. The Bishop occupies an office that may be lost to him through apostasy and false teaching. Again, take the Papacy for example.
There is a great danger when any one man demands undue alliance and sets himself up as the “mediator” between God and man and the unequaled arbitrator of the Church. When a man demands that recognition of his person be somehow a litmus test of association with truth, then something is terribly wrong.
There is great audacity and arrogance when in Christianity a man sets himself up in the place of Christ as the fountain and standard of truth.
As Christians, our allegiance is ultimately only to the Divine Person of the Incarnate Son.
St, Paul chastises the Galatians, “I marvel that you are so quickly transferring yourselves from the One Who called you in the grace of Christ to a different Gospel, which is not another Gospel, only there are some who trouble you and want to distort the Gospel of Christ” (1:6-7).
From the very beginning, there have been those who seek to use the Gospel of Christ for personal gain and aggrandizement. St. Paul calls this a “different gospel” but also says it is in fact not. That is, there is in all reality only One Gospel and a person is either being transformed according to It or transferring himself away from It.
St. John Chrysostom notes, “St. Paul does not say ‘you are transferring yourselves from the Gospel’ but ‘from God Who called you,’ a more horrifying expression, and more fitting to cause consternation.” When a person accepts “a different gospel” the reality is that he is moving himself away from God. This is indeed terrible.
St. Paul continues, “Even if we, or an angel from out of heaven, should preach a gospel besides the one we preached to you, let him be anathema” (1:8). Ss. John Chrysostom and Theophlact both concur, “He says not if they preach a contrary gospel, or subvert the whole of the true one, let them be anathema, but, if they even slightly vary or disturb.”
St. Vincent of Lerins exhorts, “The Apostle Paul inveighs against certain who, with marvelous levity, had been soon removed from him who had called them to the grace of Christ to another gospel, which was not anther, ‘but according to their own desires; they who have turned away their ears and who have heaped up to themselves teachers – and indeed they have turned away their ears from the truth and were turned aside over to fables’ (cf. 2 Tim. 4:3) – and who ‘have condemnation because they set aside their first faith’ (cf. 1 Tim. 5:12).”
St. Paul is speaking specifically against the Judaizers of his day. Yet these spiritual principles are inviolable. They are inviolable because they are founded not on man but upon the revelation of God.
“I made known to you, brethren, the Gospel which was preached as good tidings by me, that is is not according to man; for I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but by a revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:11-12)
St. Paul is speaking of ultimate principles. The Gospel is not of men nor from men. Mere man has nothing to do with the source of Christianity. It is only of the Revelation of Christ. Thus, no man, not even St. Paul himself, dared to claim to be the source. St. Paul’s authority is, in fact, founded upon the reality that he is not speaking of himself but from the Revelation of the God-Man. This is his authority.
Only Jesus Christ is the Church’s foundation and source; the right confession and faith in Him (cf. Matt:16:15ff) keeps us united to this Divine Personal source. We are called to guard and preserve only this. Every Bishop, Priest, Deacon, and Layman is called only to guard and stand steadfast in the right confession of Christ.
It may be said, even if a Bishop or a Patriarch preach another Gospel, let him be anathema! The office is contingent upon right-faith. If the man in the office alters the gospel for his own purposes he has begun to transfer himself from God, and no one is obligated to follow him.
“Preach the word … For there will come a time when they will not uphold sound teaching, but according to their own desires, they who have itching ears will heap up to themselves teachers; and indeed they shall turn away their ears from the truth …” (2 Tim 4:2-4), St. Paul instructs St. Timothy.
St. Paul is addressing Christians and the Church. Even in the Orthodox Church, this can happen (the Church in Her essence always upholds Truth, this verse refers to persons how claim to be associated with Her). The source of heresy, most of the time, is man’s “own desires.” They would use the Gospel as a means of enrichment and power. Bl. Theophylact says, “They shall ordain for themselves those whose desires and pleasures coincide with their own.”
Ordain as in priestly ordination (including bishops). They will stack the deck with those who will kiss their slippers and agree wholeheartedly with their agenda. They will find those who will come up with teaching to support their new claims. They will be well supplied.
“In covetousness, they shall make merchandise of you with feigned words” (2 Pet. 2:3).
They will seek not the Glory of Christ, but rather to glorify their desires. They will seek not to suffer reproach and disdain for the Gospel, but rather use it so that they can construct a throne on earth which is higher than Christ the Lords (as if possible!) They will seek to be recognized as the fountain, the source, the mother of all Christians (Orthodox). They will set themselves up as the standard of Orthodoxy. At this point, who needs Christ? Now man has once again usurped that which belongs to God alone.
Let us flee from the heresy of man, that which seeks to set itself up in the place of Christ the Lord, all the while claiming to do so in the Name of the Lord.
Of old the venerable Patriarch of Rome fell, as the hymns of the Church say, to the arrogance of Satan. He exulted himself above his brethren, contrary to the clear Gospel teaching. He exalted himself to be with Satan, and thus removed himself from God. He attempted to take to himself that which belongs to God Himself – to be head of the Church.
Once again it seems this fearful claim is being made within the Church. Once again certain ones who should be venerable Patriarchs are claiming to be exalted above the brethren. They are gathering to themselves those whose desires and pleasure coincide with their own. They are taking to themselves prerogatives which belong to God alone.
Let us never forget that the only source of the Church, and everything and everyone in Her, is Christ the Lord.