From Darkness To Light
The Story of The Former Orthodox Priest Teodor Popescu
Author: Horia Azimioara
and husband Gary Velis
Dr. Alan W. Gomes Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Theology
Talbot School of Theology
Professor of Systematic Theology
Talbot School of Theology
Talbot School of Theology
Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
The EOC teaches
1) a gospel of works
comes through icons and human mediators
3) superstitious piety
This biography shows the dynamic power of
the Word of God and the Spirit of God to enlighten.
Orthodoxy throughout Eastern Europe has become so enmeshed with “man-made” traditions that the gospel by grace alone through faith alone is lost and viewed with hostility!
We see this in how Coptic Orthodoxy differs from Orthodoxy in Europe and in terms of preserving the truths of the gospel is more “pure.”
In his day, Teodor Popescu was likened to a Romanian Luther.
On January 26, 1924 in the magazine The Free Word (Cuvântul liber) D. Theodorescu wrote, “We have in recent days a Romanian Luther. His name is Teodor Popescu.”
As was the case for Luther, it was through careful reading of Scripture that Teodor came to understand his need for salvation through faith in Christ.
After his conversion, Teodor faithfully proclaimed the gospel to his congregation.
Many hearing the gospel for the first time placed their faith in Christ.
The primary objection of the Orthodox authorities was that Teodor’s teachings were not consistent with the traditions of the Orthodox Church.
Christianity is represented by three primary traditions:
Christians in the West are generally familiar with the Catholic and Protestant traditions.
However, Eastern Orthodoxy is a major body throughout much of the Near East, Central Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe.
Eastern Orthodoxy, though already a vibrant movement was formally delineated by the Great Schism of 1054, when it was separated from the Western Church.
The Eastern Church leaders in Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey) refused to recognize the alleged Roman Bishop, or Pope, and so they were excommunicated.
The Protestant tradition dates from the Reformation 1517-1559.
The reformers held that Scripture was the final authority and that salvation was by faith alone in the merit of Christ alone.
However the seed of the reformation penetrated in the western part of Romania among the minority German population.
In their desire and love to spread the truth, those believers achieved the first printed book in the Romanian language:
a Lutheran catechism!
The next printed books in Romanian, the four Gospels (1560) Acts (1563) and Psalms (1570) done by Coresi, were a beautiful gift of the reformation to the Romanian people.
In Romania as in most Orthodox nations, religious and national identity are closely intertwined. In fact, to be a devoted Eastern Orthodox is tantamount to being a true and good Romanian citizen.
Sadly, the religious devotion of the average Orthodox is characterized by a lack of knowledge of Scripture combined with strict adherence to traditions.
People kiss richly decorated Scriptures embossed with silver and gold but have no idea of the contents of the holy book.
(the middle ages have not passed)
They seek favor for deceased loved ones by superstitiously lighting candles.
These pious and sincere people are unaware of the assurance of eternal life through faith in Christ.
In short, Orthodoxy is lifeless, bound by man-made traditions and devoid of the clear teaching of the gospel.
In Teodor’s day, even the leaders of the Orthodox Church bemoaned the fact that the Church was in such a deplorable condition.
In the Romanian Nation (Neamul Românesc) 1923, Bucharest, the Orthodox theologian Iuliu Scriban states, “Wherever you look there is no life…This is the Byzantine Church, a decorative construction that is dead.”
In the twentieth century there were some returns to the truth of the gospel in Romania, credited to the missionary efforts of Baptists and Plymouth Brethren.
Even more significantly, there was a rediscovery of the gospel within the Orthodox Church.
A handful of Orthodox priests such as Dumitru Cornilescu, Teodor Popescu and Iosif Trifa came to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior simply by reading the Bible.
These priests started sharing the gospel with the members of their congregations, many of whom received the message with joy.
The gospel however was flatly opposed by the authorities of the Orthodox Church and these faithful ministers of the gospel were branded as heretics and expelled from the church.
Thus the question naturally arises, “Can one be born again, believe that salvation is by faith alone, and still remain within the Orthodox Church?”
Or put another way, “Can one be a consistent practicing member of the Eastern Orthodox Church while holding to biblically orthodox beliefs?”
Of course one could secretly hold belief in the gospel, but what if one openly professes that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ’s work on the cross alone.
The life of Teodor Popescu provides penetrating answers to these important questions.
“The idea that the saints are capable of saving us through their prayers can be sustained only by one who is foreign to the gospel. Very clearly the gospel shows that salvation can be obtained only through belief in Christ.”
– Teodor Popescu in response to Patriarch Miron Cristea,
“To be saved means to be sure that your sins are forgiven, to be delivered from the power of sin and to be sure you are going to Heaven, where nothing defiled can enter.”
– Teodor Popescu’s usual statement in his sermons
Chapter 2 next time