Below is a long article that I recently read and thought it to be an excellent history of our Orthodox Church, well worth your time to read it.
Finding the New Testament Church by Fr Jon E. Braun
Coming off a couple of decades of heightened awareness of our need for a personal knowledge of Christ–notably evidenced through such phenomena as the Jesus Movement and the charismatic renewal–most thinking Christians are realizing something else is needed: the rediscovery of the historic Church. Often, in heated reaction to dated and dead Protestant liberalism, we would hear evangelical preachers in the late sixties and early seventies say, “All you need is Jesus!”
“I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18)?
“they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
“guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
“dwelling place of God in the Spirit”.
“stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
“in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6).
“the church . . . the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15)
2. Worship: Doctrinal purity was tenaciously maintained. But true Christianity is far more than adherence to a set of correct beliefs alone. The life of the Church is centrally expressed in her worship or adoration of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It was Jesus Himself who told the woman at the well,
“the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23).
“This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me”, and, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19, 20).
(1) the Liturgy of the Word, including hymns, Scripture reading, and preaching; and
(2) the Liturgy of the Faithful, composed of intercessory prayers, the kiss of peace, and the Eucharist.
the commission to preach the gospel (Matthew 28:19, 20) and
the authority to forgive or retain sins (John 20:23).
a. The office of bishop. The Apostles themselves appointed the first bishops in the Church. Even before Pentecost, after Judas had turned traitor, Peter declared in applying Psalm 109:8, “his bishopric let another take” (Acts 1:20, KJV). The word “bishopric” refers to the function of a bishop and its use obviously indicates the “job description” of bishops as being that of the Apostles in their own area (later, diocese). Some have mistakenly argued that the office of bishop was a later “human” invention. Quite to the contrary, the Apostles appointed bishops to succeed them to oversee the Church in each locality. Occasionally, the objection is still heard that the offices of bishop and presbyter were originally identical. It is true the terms are sometimes used interchangeably in the New Testament while the Apostles were present, but it was the understanding of the entire early Church that, with the death of the Apostles, the offices of bishop and presbyter were distinct. Ignatius of Antioch, consecrated bishop by A.D. 70 in the church from which Paul and Barnabas had been sent out, writes just after the turn of the century that bishops appointed by the Apostles, surrounded by their presbyters, were everywhere in the Church.
b. The office of presbyter. Elders or presbyters are mentioned very early in the life of the Church in the Book of Acts and the Epistles. It is evident that in each place a Christian community developed, elders were appointed by the Apostles to pastor the people. As time passed, presbyters were referred to in the short form of the word as “prests”, then as “priests”, in full view of the fact that the Old Covenant priesthood had been fulfilled in Christ and that the Church is corporately a priesthood of believers. The priest was not understood as an intermediary between God and the people, nor as a dispenser of grace. It was the role of the priest to be the presence of Christ in the Christian community, laying down his life for his flock, as did Christ. And in the very capacity of being the presence of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, the priest was to shepherd the flock of God.
c. The office of deacon. The third order or office in the government of the New Testament Church was that of deacon. At first the Apostles fulfilled this office themselves. But with the rapid growth of the Church, seven initial deacons were selected, as reported in Acts 6, to help carry the responsibility of service to those in need. It was one of these deacons, Saint Stephen, who became the first martyr of the Church, and his courageous witness has inspired a multitude to follow his example in faith, witness and service. Through the centuries, the deacons have not only served the material needs of the Church, but have held a key role in the liturgical life of the Church as well, serving the most visible and vocal portions of Christian worship with honor and holiness. Often called “the eyes and ears of the bishop”, many deacons have become priests and ultimately entered the episcopal office.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (italics mine).
“proceeds from the Father”.
“And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Life-Giver, who proceeds from the Father, who is worshiped and glorified together with the Father and the Son . . . “
“the Holy Spirit also should be confessed by us and taught to proceed from the Father and the Son”.
1. Visit: Look up “Orthodox” or “Eastern Orthodox” in the “Church” on your favorite search engine. Ask for the whereabouts of the nearest Orthodox parish. Pay a visit-several visits. Meet the priest, and ask him to help you study and learn. And be prepared to be patient. Sometimes a portion of the Liturgy is not in English! But the service books will help out here.
2. Read: There are a number of books and periodicals immensely helpful to people seeking to learn about the Orthodox Church. Let me mention a few: The Orthodox Church, by Timothy (Bishop Kallistos) Ware (Penguin); The Orthodox Faith, by Father Thomas Hopko (4-volume set, Orthodox Christian Publications Center); the writings of the Apostolic Fathers (several editions available); Feed My Sheep, by Metropolitan PHILIP Saliba (Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press); AGAIN Magazine (Conciliar Press), and many more.
3. Write: Journey To Orthodoxy can help put you in touch with an Orthodox church and supply you with a book list including other recommended reading.
“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).