By Bishop Michael Callahan, Apostolic Western Orthodox Church
In a religious landscape overflowing with diverse Christian denominations, each proclaiming varied interpretations of faith, why should one turn to an Ancient Faith Church? It is imperative to rediscover the unaltered teachings of the early Church, unaffected by the Great Schism, Roman Catholic “Development of Doctrine,” or the divergences brought about by the Protestant Reformation. This comprehensive article serves to explore the unique aspects of the Ancient Faith Church, rooted in Apostolic teachings, Church Fathers’ wisdom, and the imperatives of Scripture.
The Primacy of Apostolic Teaching
The earliest Christian communities thrived on oral traditions, absorbing the teachings of the Apostles, who were the direct disciples of Christ. These teachings were viewed as divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit, therefore, distinctly not “Teachings of men.”
“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (emphasis added)
The Narrow Path to Salvation
Jesus emphasized that the path to eternal life is not universally inclusive:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14
The Imperative of Heeding Christ’s Warning
Jesus provided a severe caution, stating that merely calling upon His name does not guarantee salvation.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 7:21
This stark message was reiterated by early Church Fathers like St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine, making it an imperative for every Christian to not just claim the name but live an authentic Christian life.
The Wisdom of the Church Fathers
St. Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of Apostle John, and St. Irenaeus of Lyons both stressed the critical importance of adhering to the teachings passed down from the Apostles.
“See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God.” – St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans
The Sacraments of Initiation: Channels of Saving Grace
Central to the Ancient Faith Church is the absolute necessity of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Chrismation, and the Eucharist. These aren’t mere rituals but channels of divine grace, as attested by both Scripture and the Church Fathers.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” – John 3:5
“If you are not illuminated by Baptism, you will not receive the light of Christ. If you do not receive the Chrism, you will not partake of the Holy Spirit.” – St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures
The Risk in Abandoning Ancient Traditions
By minimizing or abandoning these Sacraments, most Reformed churches sever themselves from the lifeline of divine grace that Ancient Faith Churches maintain. This makes the observance of these rites not merely a tradition but a spiritual imperative.
In a world awash with varied and often conflicting spiritual teachings, the Ancient Faith Church remains a sanctuary of doctrinal purity, where the traditions handed down from the Apostles and the Church Fathers are upheld in their unblemished form. To return to these teachings is not just an academic exercise but a matter of eternal significance, affecting the salvation of our souls and ensuring that we walk the narrow path Christ set before us.
By holding firm to the tenets of the Ancient Faith Church, we embrace a form of Christianity that remains as vibrant and transformative today as it was in the days of the Apostles. It’s not merely about returning to the past; it’s about entering a future in communion with the eternal God, as guided by the timeless wisdom of sacred teachings.