I am baffled by the phenomenon of denominations in Christianity lately once again. I never felt comfortable with this idea, coz God said nothing about this in the Scripture. God does say there will be lots of false teachers speaking in this world. And seems like denominations is one of the means to accommodate those false teachers, let them be camouflaged in nice way.
So I read about the doctrine and practices of common Evangelical church and the mystical Orthodox church so to compare the two. Catholics is a cult in my opinion so I can put that aside in this comparison. But as Orthodox church is actually the pre-denominational church directly inherited from the Apostolic era, I am intrigued by it a lot.
My ruler to say if a denomination is of God's will, is to see if the people of that church shows love towards one another. That's the ultimate ruler that God has written in the Scripture. Some denominations are disasters…people are aloof and even shows a pinch of proud on their face. They never welcomes someone foreign to them – like some middle-class episcopal churches, sadly. I found both the Evangelical and the Orthodox churches are the two most balanced churches and I wonder why.
When I look deeper, I found both emphasize a great deal about good works with good faith. Evangelicals spread the gospel to please God; while the Orthodox is not as missionary, but they are faithful to their liturgies and community. I was always amused when I read James 2, talking about the importance of works. Strangely not a single pastor has rounded that up sensibly in sermons. Most of them would just tell you yes works are important but we need to be remember that only Grace saves.
A new believer will certainly get confused. But as a seasoned Christian (Thank God:)), you can draw something out of life experience. I realize yes indeed Grace saves. We are saved SOLELY by Christ's blood. In other words, we are only reconciled to God through Jesus our Lord as a mediator. By faith, we believe this. But only by obedience, we will truly live. The works here entirely equals to OBEDIENCE. So, only by faith we can have works. Only when we trust God, we can walk in obedience. Works never mean following the laws perfectly, and we can't be saved through works only.
Lots of people in the protestant/episcopal churches misunderstand this important fact. They think faith enough is sufficient. So they allow themselves to sin following the desires of their flesh. They basically act like non-believers, except that they have 'faith'. They never serve, and they never even love their brothers and sisters. Or they even lie without feeling guilty and worship money or other idols in life. True faith must be accompanied by obedience. That is the evidence God freed us from Sins – we are not slaves of Sins anymore.
I admire Orthodox faith a lot, because they treat faith seriously. You can see it in their liturgies. The tradition passed on from the Apostolic era is a treasure to this fallen world. I admire how they nurture their community, which is exactly what the early churches do. A lot of Evangelicals forget about this and only focus entirely on outreach duties, going out of balance. In an Evangelical church, everyone is a missionary. But I guess they forgot not everyone has the spiritual gift to do so. While gospel can still be spread out in community nicely if the congregation is nurtured well with pastoral care, I see nothing wrong in the Orthodox practice.
It is a fascinating observation:) I will take a deeper look into both and see what God's trying to tell me.