Archive for the ‘Early Church’ Category

Mar 28

The Didache

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In:Early Church, Obedience, Sin, The Church

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Teaching of the Lord through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations.

 

There are Two Ways, one of Life and one of Death, and the difference between the Two Ways is great.

 

The Way of Life, then, is this: First, Thou shalt love the God who made thee: Second, Thy neighbor as thyself; and all things whatsoever thou wouldst not have befall thee, do thou, too, not to another.

 

And of these words the Teaching is this: The first commandment: Bless them that curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for them that persecute you; for what thank have ye if ye love them that love you? do not the nations also the same?  but love ye them that hate you, and ye shall not have an enemy.

 

Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts.

 

If one give thee a blow on the right cheek, turn to him the other also, and thou shalt be perfect; if any one press thee into service for one mile, go with him two; if one take away thy cloak, give him thy coat also; if one take from thee thine own, ask it not back; for not even canst thou.

 

Give to every one that asketh thee, and ask not back; for to all the Father wills that there be given of his own free gifts.

 

Blessed is he that giveth according to the commandment; for he is guiltless. Woe to him that receiveth; for if, indeed, one that hath need receiveth, he shall be guiltless; but he that hath not need, shall submit to trial with reference to why he received and for what purpose, and, having come into custody, shall be examined with reference to what he did, and shall not go forth thence until he have paid the last farthing.

 

But concerning this, also, it hath been said: Let thine alms sweat in thy hands until thou know to whom to give.

 

And the second commandment of the Teaching is:

 

Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not corrupt boys, thou shalt not commit fornication, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not use magic arts, thou shalt not practice sorcery, thou shalt not kill a child by abortion nor put it to death when born. Thou shalt not covet the things of thy neighbor, thou shalt not forswear thyself, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not speak evil, thou shalt not bear a grudge.  Thou shalt not be double-minded nor double-tongued; for doubleness of tongue is a snare of death.  Thy word shall not be false, nor empty, but fulfilled by deed.  Thou shalt not be covetous, nor rapacious, nor a hypocrite, nor malicious, nor haughty.  Thou shalt not take evil counsel against thy neighbor.  Thou shalt not hate any man, but some thou shalt reprove, and for some thou shalt pray, and some thou shalt love above thy life.

 

My child, flee from every evil thing, and from everything like it. Be not prone to anger, for anger leadeth to murder; nor jealous, nor contentious, nor passionate; for out of all these, murders are begotten.

 

My child, be not one that lusteth, for lust leadeth to fornication; nor of foul speech, nor of leering eyes; for out of all these, adulteries are begotten.

 

My child, be not an augur,[1] since augury leadeth to idolatry; nor an enchanter; nor an astrologer; nor a purifier; nor be willing to behold these things; for out of all these, idolatry is begotten.

 

My child, be not a liar, since lying leadeth to theft, nor a lover of money, nor vain-glorious; for out of all these, thefts are begotten.

 

My child, be not a murmurer, since murmuring leadeth to blasphemy; nor self-willed, nor evil-minded, for out of all these, blasphemies are begotten.

 

But be meek, since the meek shall inherit the earth. Be longsuffering and pitiful and guileless and quiet and good, and continually trembling at the words which thou hast heard.

 

Thou shalt not exalt thyself, nor give assurance to thy soul. Thy soul shall not be joined with lofty ones, but with righteous and lowly ones shalt thou hold converse.  The events that befall thee, thou shalt accept as good, knowing that nothing cometh to pass without God.

 

My child, him that speaketh to thee the Word of God, thou shalt remember night and day, and shalt honor him as the Lord; for where the sovereignty of the Lord is proclaimed, there is the Lord. And thou shalt seek out daily the faces of the saints, that thou mayest rest upon their words.

 

Thou shalt not be desirous of division, but shalt bring contending ones to peace; thou shalt judge righteously; thou shalt not respect persons in reproving for transgressions. Thou shalt not hesitate whether this shall be or not.

 

Be not one that with reference to receiving stretcheth out the hands, but with reference to giving contracteth them: thou shalt give by thy hands a ransom, if thou have, for thy sins. Thou shalt not hesitate to give, nor, when giving shalt thou murmur; for thou shalt know who is the good Recompenser of the offering.  Thou shalt not turn away from him that is in want, but shalt share all things with thy brother, and shalt not say that they are thine own; for if ye are partakers in that which is immortal, how much more in the things which are mortal.

 

Thou shalt not remove thy hand from thy son or from thy daughter, but from youth shalt teach them the fear of God.

 

Thou shalt not lay commands in thy bitterness on thy bondman or maidservant, who hope in the same God, lest perchance they shall not fear the God who is over both; for He cometh not to call according to appearance, but unto those whom the Spirit hath prepared. And ye, the slaves, shall, in modesty and fear, be subject to your masters as to a type of God.

 

Thou shalt hate all hypocrisy and everything that is not pleasing to the Lord.

 

Do not in any wise forsake the commandments of the Lord; but thou shalt guard what thou hast received, neither adding thereto nor taking therefrom.

 

In the church thou shalt confess thy transgressions, and thou shalt not come to thy prayer with an evil conscience.

 

This is the Way of Life.

 

And the Way of Death is this:

 

First of all, it is evil and full of curse; murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, magic practices, sorceries, rapines; false testimonies, hypocrisies, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness; malice, self-will, covetousness, filthy talking, jealousy, self-assurance, loftiness, boastfulness; persecutors of good men, hating truth, loving falsehood, not knowing the reward of righteousness, not joined to anything good nor to righteous judgment, watching not with a view to good but with a view to evil; far from whom are meekness and patience, loving vain things, pursuing a requital, not pitying a poor man, not toiling for one borne down with toil, not knowing Him that made them; murderers of children, destroyers of God’s handiwork; turning away from him that is in want, oppressing him that is afflicted, rich men’s advocates, poor men’s lawless judges; utter sinners.

 

May ye be delivered, children, from all these.

 

See that no one cause thee to wander from this Way of the Teaching, since thus aloof from God doth he teach thee. For, if thou art able to bear the whole yoke of the Lord thou shalt be perfect; but if thou art not able, what thou art able that do.

 

And concerning food, brook what thou art able; but of that which is sacrificed to idols beware exceedingly, for it is a worship of dead gods.

 

And concerning baptism, thus baptize ye: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. But if thou have not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, in warm.  But if thou have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head, into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit.  But before the baptism, let the baptizer and the baptized fast, and any others, if they can; and thou shalt command the baptized  to fast one or two days before.

 

But let not your fastings be with the hypocrites; for they fast on the Second Day of the week and on the Fifth; but do ye fast the Fourth and Preparation. Neither pray ye as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his gospel, thus pray:

 

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done, as in heaven, so also on earth.  Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our debt as we, too, forgive our debtors.  And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the power and the glory for ever.

 

Pray thus three times in the day.

 

And concerning the Eucharist, thus give thanks. First, concerning the cup:

 

We thank Thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David, thy servant, which thou hast made known to us through Jesus thy servant; to Thee be the glory forever.

 

And concerning the broken bread:

 

We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus thy servant; to Thee be the glory forever. Just as this, a broken piece, was scattered upon the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let thy church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into thy kingdom; for thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.

 

But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist, but those that have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this the Lord hath said: Give not that which is holy to the dogs.

 

And after being filled, thus give thanks:

 

We thank Thee, holy Father, for thy holy name, which Thou hast caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus thy servant; to Thee be the glory forever. Thou, Almighty Sovereign, didst create the universe for thy name’s sake; both food and drink Thou gavest men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to Thee; but to us Thou hast graciously given spiritual food and drink and life eternal through thy servant.  Before all things, we thank Thee that Thou art mighty: to Thee be the glory forever.  Remember, Lord, thy church, to deliver it from every evil and to make it perfect in thy love; and do Thou gather it from the four winds, the sanctified church, into thy kingdom, which Thou hast prepared for it; for thine is the power and the glory forever.  Let grace come, and let this world pass away.  Hosanna to the Son of David.  If any one is holy, let him come: if any one is not, let him repent: Maranatha.  Amen.

 

But permit the prophets to express what thanks they wish.

 

Whoever, then, shall come and teach all these things, the things aforesaid, receive him; but if the teacher himself turn and teach another doctrine to the destruction of this, do not hear him; but if he teacheth to the promotion of righteousness and knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord.

 

And with reference to the apostles and prophets in accordance with the ordinance of the gospel, act thus. And let every apostle that cometh to you be received as the Lord; but he shall remain, not one day, but, if there be need, the next also; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet.  And let the apostle, when he goeth forth, take nothing except bread to suffice until he lodge; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.

 

And no prophet that speaketh in the Spirit, shall ye try or judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. Not every one, however, that speaketh in the Spirit, is a prophet, but only if he have the ways of the Lord.

 

From their ways, then, shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And no prophet that in the Spirit commandeth a meal, will eat of it, else he is a false prophet ; and every prophet that teacheth the truth, if he doeth not what he teacheth, is a false prophet.  And no prophet, approved, true, acting with a view to the world-mystery of the church, but not teaching others to do what he himself doeth, shall be judged in your presence; for with God he hath his judgment; for in like manner did the ancient prophets also.  But whoever in the Spirit shall say: Give me money, or something else, ye shall not hear him; but if he bid you give for others that are in want, let no one judge him.

 

And let every one that cometh in the name of the Lord be received, and afterward ye shall prove and know him; for ye shall possess understanding right and left. If he that cometh is a traveller, help him as much as you can; however, he shall not remain with you, except for two or three days, if need be.  But if he wisheth to reside with you, being an artisan, let him work and eat; but if he hath not a trade, provide, according to your understanding, that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle.  But if he doth not wish so to do, he is one that maketh a gain of Christ: beware of such.

 

But every true prophet that wisheth to reside with you, is worthy of his food. In like manner a true teacher, himself also is worthy of his food, just as the workman.  Every firstfruit, then, of the products of winepress and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, thou shalt take and give to the prophets; for they are your high priests.  But if ye have not a prophet, give to the poor.

 

If thou make a baking of bread, take and give the first-fruit according to the commandment. In like manner, on opening a jar of wine or oil, take and give the first-fruit to the prophets; and of money and clothing and every possession, take the firstfruit, as it may seem good to thee, and give according to the commandment.

 

And every Lord’s Day gather yourselves together, and break bread and give thanks, after having also confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow assemble with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned; For this is the one that was commanded by the Lord: In every place and time, offer Me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, saith the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.

 

Choose, therefore, for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek and free from the love of money, and true and proved; for they, too, render you the service of the prophets and teachers. Do not, then, despise them; for together with the prophets and teachers, they are your honored ones.

 

And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as ye have it in the gospel; and to every one that acteth amiss against another, let no one speak, and let him not hear from you until he repent. But your prayers and alms and all deeds so do, as ye have it in the gospel of our Lord.

 

Watch for your life; let your lamps not be quenched, and your loins not be loosed, but be ye ready; for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh. And ye shall often be gathered together seeking the things which become your souls; for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if ye be not made perfect in the last time.

 

For in the last days the false prophets and the corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate; for as lawlessness increaseth, they shall hate one another, and persecute and betray, and then shall appear the world-deceiver as the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never been done since the world began.

 

Then shall the human creation come into the fire of trial, and many shall be caused to stumble and shall perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself.

 

And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first, the sign of an opening in heaven, then the sign of the sound of a trumpet, and third, the resurrection of the dead; not of all, however, but as was said: The Lord shall come and all the saints with Him. Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

 

[1] An observer of omens.—Ed.

 

Translation from S. Stanhope Orris, “Teaching of the Twelve Apostles,” in Teaching of the Twelve Apostles: Text and Translation, 1884, pp. 3-19.

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In:Early Church, Salvation and the New Birth

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By Theophilus of Antioch

 

Theophilus was the sixth bishop of Antioch, the Apostle Paul’s home church. In the mid- to late-second century, he wrote a defense of Christianity based on a discussion he had had with a friend named Autolycus. The following section is the opening three chapters of the work.

 

From To Autolycus 1.1-3; translation from Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 2, pp. 89-90. Slightly modernized.—Ed.

 

 

A fluent tongue and an elegant style afford pleasure and such praise as vainglory delights in, to wretched men who have been corrupted in mind; the lover of truth does not give heed to ornamented speeches, but examines the real matter of the speech, what it is, and what kind it is. Since, then, my friend, you have assailed me with empty words, boasting of your gods of wood and stone, hammered and cast, carved and graven, which neither see nor hear, for they are idols, and the works of men’s hands; and since, besides, you call me a Christian, as if this were a damning name to bear, I, for my part, avow that I am a Christian, and bear this name beloved of God, hoping to be serviceable to God.[1] For it is not the case, as you suppose, that the name of God is hard to bear; but possibly you entertain this opinion of God, because you are yourself yet unserviceable to Him.

 

But if you say, “Show me thy God,” I would reply, “Show me yourself, and I will show you my God.” Show, then, that the eyes of your soul are capable of seeing, and the ears of your heart able to hear; for as those who look with the eyes of the body perceive earthly objects and what concerns this life, and discriminate at the same time between things that differ, whether light or darkness, white or black, deformed or beautiful, well-proportioned and symmetrical or disproportioned and awkward, or monstrous or mutilated; and as in like manner also, by the sense of hearing, we discriminate either sharp, or deep, or sweet sounds; so the same holds good regarding the eyes of the soul and the ears of the heart, that it is by them we are able to behold God. For God is seen by those who are enabled to see Him when they have the eyes of their soul opened: for all have eyes; some have cataracts,[2] and do not see the light of the sun. Yet it does not follow, because the blind do not see, that the light of the sun does not shine; but let the blind blame themselves and their own eyes. So also thou, O man – the eyes of your soul are covered by the cataracts of your sins and evil deeds. As a burnished mirror, so man ought to have his soul pure. When there is rust on the mirror, it is not possible to see a man’s face in the mirror; so also when there is sin in a man, such a man cannot behold God. Therefore, do show me yourself, whether you are not an adulterer, or a fornicator, or a thief, or a robber, or a plagiarizer; whether you do not corrupt boys; whether you are not insolent, or a slanderer, or passionate, or envious, or proud, or haughty; whether you are not a brawler, or covetous, or disobedient to parents; and whether you do not sell your children; for to those who do these things God is not manifest, unless they have first cleansed themselves from all impurity. All these things, then, involve you in darkness, as when a cataract on the eyes prevents one from beholding the light of the sun: thus also do iniquities, O man, involve you in darkness, so that you cannot see God.

 

You will say, then, to me, “Do you, who see God, explain to me the appearance of God.” Hear, O man. The appearance of God is ineffable and indescribable, and cannot be seen by eyes of flesh. For in glory He is incomprehensible, in greatness unfathomable, in height inconceivable, in power incomparable, in wisdom unrivalled, in goodness inimitable, in kindness unutterable. For if I say He is Light, I name but His own work; if I call Him Word, I name but His sovereignty; if I call Him Mind, I speak but of His wisdom; if I say He is Spirit, I speak of His breath; if I call Him Wisdom, I speak of His offspring; if I call Him Strength, I speak of His sway; if I call Him Power, I am mentioning His activity; if Providence, I but mention His goodness; if I call Him Kingdom, I but mention His glory; if I call Him Lord, I mention His being judge; if I call Him Judge, I speak of Him as being just; if I call Him Father, I speak of all things as being from Him; if I call Him Fire, I but mention His anger. You will say, then, to me, “Is God angry?” Yes; He is angry with those who act wickedly, but He is good, and kind, and merciful, to those who love and fear Him; for He is a chastener of the godly, and father of the righteous; but He is a judge and punisher of the impious.

 

[1] A play on words – in Greek, Christian sounds very similar to serviceable or good.

[2] Modified following the footnote of the Ante-Nicene Fathers translation.

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In:Early Church, Separation & Nonconformity, Sin

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By Tertullian (c. 197)

  This is a selection from Tertullian’s work On the Shows. It was written in response to Christians who claimed that since there was no Scriptural command forbidding attendance at various pagan Roman entertainments, it was therefore allowed to Christians. Tertullian argued the opposite – since it was not explicitly allowed, it was therefore forbidden, and furthermore, the nature of the shows was such that no Christian should want to attend. His arguments apply just as well to today’s sporting events, television, and other contemporary forms of entertainment. This selection presents chapters 25, 28, and 29, taken from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 3, pages 89-91. Language slightly modernized.—Ed.   Seated where there is nothing of God, will one be thinking of his Maker? Will there be peace in his soul when there is eager strife there for a charioteer? Wrought up into a frenzied excitement, will he learn to be modest? Nay, in the whole thing he will meet with no greater temptation than that showy attiring of the men and women. The very intermingling of emotions, the very agreements and disagreements with each other in the bestowment of their favors, where you have such close communion, blow up the sparks of passion. Furthermore, there is hardly any other reason to go to the show, than to see and to be seen. When a tragic actor is loudly speaking, will one be giving thought to prophetic appeals? Amid the measures of the effeminate player, will he call up to himself a psalm? And when the athletes are hard at struggle, will he be ready to proclaim that there must be no striking again? And with his eye fixed on the bites of bears, and the sponge-nets of the net-fighters, can he be moved by compassion? May God avert from His people any such passionate eagerness after a cruel enjoyment! For how monstrous it is to go from God’s church to the devil’s—from the sky to the sty, as they say; to raise your hands to God, and then to weary them in the applause of an actor; out of the mouth, from which you uttered Amen over the Holy Thing, to give witness in a gladiator’s favor; to cry “forever” to anyone else but God and Christ!…   With such dainties as these let the devil’s guests be feasted. The places and the times, the inviter too, are theirs. Our banquets, our nuptial joys, are yet to come. We cannot sit down in fellowship with them, as neither can they with us. Things in this matter go by their turns. Now they have gladness and we are troubled. “The world,” says Jesus, “shall rejoice; ye shall be sorrowful.” Let us mourn, then, while the heathen are merry, that in the day of their sorrow we may rejoice; lest, sharing now in their gladness, we share then also in their grief. You are too dainty, Christian, if you want to have pleasure in this life as well as in the next; no, you are a fool, if you think this life’s pleasures to be really pleasures. The philosophers, for instance, give the name of pleasure to quietness and repose; in that they have their bliss; in that they find entertainment: they even glory in it. You long for the goal, and the stage, and the dust, and the place of combat! I would have you answer me this question: Can we not live without pleasure, who cannot die without pleasure? For what is our wish but the apostle’s, to leave the world, and be taken up into the fellowship of our Lord? You have your joys where you have your longings.   Even as things are, if you intend to spend this period of existence in enjoyments, how are you so ungrateful as to count insufficient, as not thankfully to recognize the many and exquisite pleasures God has bestowed upon you? For what more delightful than to have peace with God the Father and our Lord, than to have the revelation of the truth, than confession of our errors, than pardon of the innumerable sins of our past life? What greater pleasure than distaste of pleasure itself, contempt of all that the world can give, true liberty, a pure conscience, a contented life, and freedom from all fear of death? What nobler than to tread underfoot the gods of the nations—to exorcise evil spirits—to perform cures—to seek divine revelations—to live to God? These are the pleasures, these are the spectacles that befit Christian men—holy, everlasting, free. Count these to be your circus games, fix your eyes on the courses of the world, the gliding seasons, reckon up the periods of time, long for the goal of the final consummation, defend the societies of the churches, be startled at God’s signal, be roused up at the angel’s trump, glory in the palms of martyrdom. If the literature of the stage delights you, we have literature in abundance of our own—plenty of verses, sentences, songs, proverbs; and these not fables, but true! They are not tricks of art, but plain realities. Would you have also fightings and wrestlings? Well, of these there is no lacking, and they are not of slight account. Behold unchastity overcome by chastity, treachery slain by faithfulness, cruelty stricken by compassion, impudence thrown into the shade by modesty. These are the contests we have among us, and in these we win our crowns. Would you have something of blood too? You have Christ’s.

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In:Early Church, Exodus

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By Irenaeus of Lyons

Critics of the Bible claim that it was unjust for the Israelites to “spoil the Egyptians” by taking their gold and jewelry on their way out of Egypt.  As this passage from Irenaeus’ Against Heresies shows, this is not a new accusation.  Irenaeus’s brilliant defense of GOD’s justice in instructing the Israelites to do this is still worth reading today.  From Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1, pp. 502-503.  Somewhat modernized.—Ed.

 

Those, again, who frivolously object and find fault because the people did, by God’s command, upon the eve of their departure, take vessels of all kinds and raiment from the Egyptians, and so went away, from which [spoils], too, the tabernacle was constructed in the wilderness, prove themselves ignorant of the righteous dealings of God, and of His dispensations; as also the presbyter[1] remarked: For if God had not accorded this in the typical exodus, no one could now be saved in our true exodus; that is, in the faith in which we have been established, and by which we have been brought forth from among the number of the Gentiles.  For in some cases there follows us a small, and in others a large amount of property, which we have acquired from the mammon of unrighteousness.  For from what source do we derive the houses in which we dwell, the garments in which we are clothed, the vessels which we use, and everything else ministering to our everyday life, unless it be from those things which, when we were Gentiles, we acquired by avarice, or received them from our heathen parents, relations, or friends who unrighteously obtained them?—not to mention that even now we acquire such things when we are in the faith.  For who is there that sells, and does not wish to make a profit from him who buys?  Or who purchases anything, and does not wish to obtain good value from the seller?  Or who is there that carries on a trade, and does not do so that he may obtain a livelihood thereby?  And as to those believing ones who are in the royal palace, do they not derive the utensils they employ from the property which belongs to Caesar; and to those who have not, does not each one of these [Christians] give according to his ability?

 

The Egyptians were debtors to the [Jewish] people, not alone as to property, but as to their very lives, because of the kindness of the patriarch Joseph in former times; but in what way are the heathen debtors to us, from whom we receive both gain and profit?  Whatsoever they amass with labor, these things do we make use of without labor, although we are in the faith.

 

Up to that time the people served the Egyptians in the most abject slavery, as saith the Scripture: “And the Egyptians exercised their power rigorously upon the children of Israel; and they made life bitter to them by severe labors, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field which they did, by all the works in which they oppressed them with rigor.”  And with immense labor they built for them fenced cities, increasing the substance of these men throughout a long course of years, and by means of every species of slavery; while these [masters] were not only ungrateful towards them, but had in contemplation their utter annihilation.  In what way, then, did [the Israelites] act unjustly, if out of many things they took a few, they who might have possessed much property had they not served them, and might have gone forth wealthy, while, in fact, by receiving only a very insignificant recompense for their heavy servitude, they went away poor?  It is just as if any free man, being forcibly carried away by another, and serving him for many years, and increasing his substance, should be thought, when he ultimately obtains some support, to possess some small portion of his [master’s] property, but should in reality depart, having obtained only a little as the result of his own great labors, and out of vast possessions which have been acquired, and this should be made by any one a subject of accusation against him, as if he had not acted properly.  He (the accuser) will rather appear as an unjust judge against him who had been forcibly carried away into slavery.  Of this kind, then, are these men also, who charge the people with blame, because they appropriated a few things out of many, but who bring no charge against those who did not render them the recompense due to their fathers’ services; nay, but even reducing them to the most irksome slavery, obtained the highest profit from them.  And [these objectors] allege that [the Israelites] acted dishonestly, because, in truth, they took away from the recompense of their labors, as I have observed, unstamped gold and silver in a few vessels; while they say that they themselves (for let truth be spoken, although to some it may seem ridiculous) do act honestly, when they carry away in their girdles from the labors of others, coined gold, and silver, and brass, with Caesar’s inscription and image upon it.

 

[1] The identity of this “presbyter,” who is often quoted by Irenaeus, is not certain.  It may have been Pothinus, the original missionary to the people of Gaul, who was Irenaeus’s predecessor as bishop of Lyons.  Pothinus died a martyrs’ death, whereupon Irenaeus became bishop.—Ed.

By Justin Martyr

 

From Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, A Jew.  Justin was martyred c. 165 A.D.  From Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1, pp. 253-254.

 

But that the Gentiles would repent of the evil in which they led erring lives, when they heard the doctrine preached by His apostles from Jerusalem, and which they learned through them, suffer me to show you by quoting a short statement from the prophecy of Micah, one of the twelve [minor prophets].  This is as follows:

 

And in the last days the mountain of the Lord shall be manifest, established on the top of the mountains; it shall be exalted above the hills, and people shall flow unto it.  And many nations shall go, and say, Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and they shall enlighten us in His way, and we shall walk in His paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  And He shall judge among many peoples, and shall rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.  And each man shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree; and there shall be none to terrify: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.  For all people will walk in the name of their gods; but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever.  And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will assemble her that is afflicted, and gather her that is driven out, and whom I had plagued; and I shall make her that is afflicted a remnant, and her that is oppressed a strong nation.  And the Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, and even for ever.

 

…Now I am aware that your [the Jews’] teachers, sirs, admit the whole of the words of this passage to refer to Christ; and I am likewise aware that they maintain He has not yet come; or if they say that He has come, they assert that it is not known who He is; but when He shall become manifest and glorious, then it shall be known who He is.  And then, they say, the events mentioned in this passage shall happen, just as if there was no fruit as yet from the words of the prophecy.  O unreasoning men!  understanding not what has been proved by all these passages, that two advents of Christ have been announced: the one, in which He is set forth as suffering, inglorious, dishonoured, and crucified; but the other, in which He shall come from heaven with glory, when the man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians, who, having learned the true worship of God from the law, and the word which went forth from Jerusalem by means of the apostles of Jesus, have fled for safety to the God of Jacob and God of Israel; and we who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness, have each through the whole earth changed our warlike weapons,—our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage,—and we cultivate piety, righteousness, philanthropy, faith, and hope, which we have from the Father Himself through Him who was crucified; and sitting each under his vine, i.e., each man possessing his own married wife.  For you are aware that the prophetic word says, ‘And his wife shall be like a fruitful vine.’  Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world.  For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshippers of God through the name of Jesus.  For just as if one should cut away the fruit-bearing parts of a vine, it grows up again, and yields other branches flourishing and fruitful; even so the same thing happens with us.  For the vine planted by God and Christ the Saviour is His people.

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In:Early Church, Endurance, Nonresistance & Nonparticipation, Sin, Spiritual Warfare

Comments Off on Patience in Temptation

We who carry about our very soul, our very body, exposed in this world to injury from all, and exhibit patience under that injury; shall we be hurt at the loss of less important things?  Far from a servant of Christ be such a defilement as that the patience which has been prepared for greater temptations should forsake him in frivolous ones.  If one attempt to provoke you by manual violence, the monition of the Lord is at hand: “To him,” He saith, “Who smiteth thee on the face, turn the other cheek likewise.”  Let outrageousness be wearied out by your patience.  Whatever that blow may be, conjoined with pain and contumely,[1] it shall receive a heavier one from the Lord.  You wound that outrageous one more by enduring: for he will be beaten by Him for whose sake you endure.  If the tongue’s bitterness break out in malediction or reproach, look back at the saying, “When they curse you, rejoice.”  The Lord Himself was “cursed” in the eye of the law; and yet is He the only Blessed One.  Let us servants, therefore, follow our Lord closely; and be cursed patiently, that we may be able to be blessed.

 

(From Tertullian’s work On Patience, written circa 202 A.D.  Translation from Ante-Nicene Fathers volume 3, p. 712.)

 

[1] Contumely, n.  Rudeness or reproach compounded of haughtiness and contempt; contemptuousness; insolence; contemptuous language.  (Webster’s 1828 Dictionary).

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In:Early Church, Endurance, Martyrs, The Church

Comments Off on Ignatius’s Epistle to Polycarp

Editor’s Note: Ignatius was a student of the apostle John and a bishop in Antioch. Polycarp was a fellow-student of the apostle John and a bishop in Smyrna. Ignatius wrote this letter to his friend Polycarp while he (Ignatius) was on the way to his martyrdom in Rome. Polycarp was himself to meet with martyrdom some years later in Smyrna.

 

This letter by Ignatius is very inspiring and is full of material for deep reflection. It is my personal favorite of the letters of Ignatius.

 

This translation is taken from the Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1, pp. 93-96. The “shorter version” is used. I have modernized the language somewhat to make it easier for the modern reader.—Ed.

 

Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to Polycarp, Bishop of the Church of the Smyrnaeans, or rather, who has, as his own bishop, God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ: [wishes] abundance of happiness.

 

Having obtained good proof that your mind is fixed in God as upon an immoveable rock, I loudly glorify [His name] that I have been thought worthy [to behold] your blameless face, which may I ever enjoy in God! I entreat you, by the grace with which you are clothed, to press forward in your course, and to exhort all that they may be saved. Maintain your position with all care, both in the flesh and spirit. Have a regard to preserve unity – nothing is better than that. Bear with all, even as the Lord does with you. Support all in love, as you do. Give yourself to prayer without ceasing. Beg for more understanding than you already have. Be watchful, possessing a sleepless spirit. Speak to every man separately, as God enables you. Bear the infirmities of all, as being a perfect athlete [in the Christian life]: where the labor is great, the gain is all the more.

 

If you love the good disciples, you merit no thanks for that; but rather seek by meekness to subdue the more troublesome. Every kind of wound is not healed with the same plaster. Mitigate violent attacks [of disease] by gentle applications. Be in all things “wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove.” For this purpose you are composed of both flesh and spirit, that you may deal tenderly with those [evils] that present themselves visibly before you. And as respects those that are not seen, pray that [God] would reveal them to you, in order that you may be wanting in nothing, but may abound in every gift. The times call for you, as pilots do for the winds, and as one tossed with tempest seeks for the haven, so that both you [and those under your care] may attain to God. Be sober as an athlete of God: the prize set before you is immortality and eternal life, of which you are also persuaded. In all things may my soul be for yours, and my bonds also, which you have loved.

 

Let not those who seem worthy of credit, but teach strange doctrines, fill you with apprehension. Stand firm, as does an anvil which is beaten. It is the part of a noble athlete to be wounded, and yet to conquer. And especially, we ought to bear all things for the sake of God, that He also may bear with us. Be ever becoming more zealous than what you are. Weigh carefully the times. Look for Him who is above all time, eternal and invisible, yet who became visible for our sakes; who cannot be felt with the touch and who cannot suffer pain, yet who became capable of feeling pain on our account; and who in every kind of way suffered for our sakes.

 

Let not widows be neglected. You should be their protector and friend, second only to the Lord. Let nothing be done without your consent; neither should you do anything without the approval of God, which indeed you do not do, inasmuch as you are steadfast. Let your assembling together be of frequent occurrence: seek after all by name. Do not despise either male or female slaves, yet neither let them be puffed up with conceit, but rather let them submit themselves the more, for the glory of God, that they may obtain from God a better liberty. Let them not long to be set free [from slavery] at the public expense, that they be not found slaves to their own desires.

 

Flee evil arts; but all the more discourse in public regarding them. Speak to my sisters, that they love the Lord, and be satisfied with their husbands both in the flesh and spirit. In like manner also, exhort my brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, that they love their wives, even as the Lord the Church. If anyone can continue in a state of purity [celibacy], to the honor of Him who is Lord of the flesh, let him so remain without boasting. If he begins to boast, he is undone; and if he reckons himself greater than the bishop, he is ruined. But it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, so that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust. Let all things be done to the honor of God.

 

[Addressed to the congregation:] Give ye heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God! Labor together with one another; strive in company together; run together; suffer together; sleep together; and awake together, as the stewards, and associates, and servants of God. Please Him under whom you fight, and from whom you receive your wages. Let none of you be found a deserter. Let your baptism endure as your arms; your faith as your helmet; your love as your spear; your patience as a complete armor. Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that ye may receive a worthy recompense. Be long-suffering, therefore, with one another, in meekness, as God is towards you. May I have joy of you forever!

 

Seeing that the church which is at Antioch in Syria is, as report has informed me, at peace, through your prayers, I also am the more encouraged, resting without anxiety in God, if indeed by means of suffering I may attain to God, so that, through your prayers, I may be found a disciple [of Christ]. It is fitting, O Polycarp, most blessed in God, to assemble a very solemn council, and to elect one whom you greatly love, and know to be a man of activity, who may be designated the messenger of God; and to bestow on him this honor that he may go into Syria, and glorify your ever active love to the praise of Christ. A Christian has not power over himself, but must always be ready for the service of God. Now, this work is both God’s and yours, when ye shall have completed it to His glory. For I trust that, through grace, ye are prepared for every good work pertaining to God. Knowing, therefore, your energetic love of the truth, I have exhorted you by this brief Epistle.

 

Inasmuch as I have not been able to write to all the churches, because I must suddenly sail from Troas to Neapolis, as the will [of the emperor] enjoins, [I beg that] you, as being acquainted with the purpose of God, will write to the adjacent churches, that they also may act in like manner, such as are able to do so sending messengers, and the others transmitting letters through those persons who are sent by you, that you may be glorified by a work which shall be remembered forever, as indeed you are worthy to be. I salute all by name, and in particular the wife of Epitropus, with all her house and children. I salute Attalus, my beloved. I salute him who shall be deemed worthy to go [from you] into Syria. Grace shall be with him forever, and with Polycarp that sends him. I pray for you to have happiness forever in our God, Jesus Christ, by whom continue in the unity and under the protection of God. I salute Alce, my dearly beloved. Fare well in the Lord.

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In:Early Church, Salvation and the New Birth, Separation & Nonconformity, Sin

Comments Off on “We Follow God”: by Justin Martyr

From Justin Martyr’s First Apology, addressed to the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius. Justin was martyred c. 165 A.D. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1, pp. 166-167.

 

What sober-minded man, then, will not acknowledge that we are not atheists, worshipping as we do the Maker of this universe, and declaring, as we have been taught, that He has no need of streams of blood and libations and incense; whom we praise to the utmost of our power by the exercise of prayer and thanksgiving for all things wherewith we are supplied, as we have been taught that the only honor that is worthy of Him is not to consume by fire what He has brought into being for our sustenance, but to use it for ourselves and those who need, and with gratitude to Him to offer thanks by invocations and hymns for our creation, and for all the means of health, and for the various qualities of the different kinds of things, and for the changes of the seasons; and to present before Him petitions for our existing again in incorruption through faith in Him…

And thus do we also, since our persuasion by the Word, stand aloof from them [the demons], and follow the only unbegotten God through His Son—we who formerly delighted in fornication, but now embrace chastity alone; we who formerly used magical arts, dedicate ourselves to the good and unbegotten God; we who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions, now bring what we have into a common stock, and communicate to every one in need; we who hated and destroyed one another, and on account of their different manners would not live with men of a different tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live familiarly with them, and pray for our enemies, and endeavor to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live conformably to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all.

 

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In:Early Church, Miscellaneous, Salvation and the New Birth, Sin

Comments Off on Are We Born Dead?

By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

It is often said that “We are born spiritually dead” or “We are born dead in trespasses and sins.”  In other words, as soon as a little, pure, sweet, innocent baby is born, he is spiritually languishing in corruption, sin, and death.  Some would go so far as to say that any infant or child dying unbaptized (or unsaved) will go to hell for eternity.  Others say that although the infant is spiritually dead, if the baby dies, he will go to heaven despite being unsaved (?) due to the grace of God.  Are these claims true?

When Does Spiritual Death Occur?

The Apostle Paul teaches very clearly in Romans 7 regarding spiritual death and when it occurs.

What shall we say then?  Is the law sin?  God forbid.  Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.  But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.  For without the law sin was dead.  For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.  And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.  For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.  Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.  Was then that which is good made death unto me?  God forbid.  But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful (Romans 7:7-13).

Paul had been teaching earlier in the chapter that by the death of Christ, all those in the New Covenant are dead to the Law of Moses, and we may now “serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”  Immediately, then, Paul anticipates the question which may be asked: Is the Law inherently wrong or sinful, since the “motions of sins” were actually “by the law” and “did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death” (verse 5)?

To this question, Paul gives an emphatic no.  The Law points out what sin is (for example, covetousness), but it is human nature that what is forbidden is doubly attractive, simply for the reason that it is forbidden.  The Law, then, makes opportunities for sin, and Paul says that the commandment against covetousness actually helped to foster covetousness in his own life.  The sin (such as covetousness) was “dead” in Paul’s life before he knew God’s standard.

Now we come to the sentence which is important to our question: “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”  Notice that Paul was “alive without the law once.”  Does this mean physical life?  The context tells us that it does not, for “I died” later in the verse obviously refers to spiritual death.  (Paul was physically alive when he was writing the letter to the Romans.)  So from this we learn that children, such as the Apostle Paul as a little boy, are born and grow up spiritually alive.  Is the spiritual life of children the same as that of mature adults who make a conscious decision to follow Christ?  No.  However, although children have not experienced the new birth, they do not need to until they have died spiritually.  The Apostle Paul did not need to experience the new birth when he was “alive without the law once,” nor could he have.[1]

So when did Paul die spiritually?  Notice that he says “when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.”  The spiritual death was the result, not of some guilt imputed to him from Adam, but of his own personal, conscious sin against the will of God.  Paul was able to sin on this level once he came face-to-face with God’s righteous standard revealed in the Law of Moses.  Was Paul a naughty little boy on occasion before then?  Probably he was, just like all little boys (and girls) are.  But he was not in conscious sin against the Law of God on the same level as when he was older.  When did the commandment come to Paul?  Did his parents teach him from the Law?  They probably did, at least the Ten Commandments and probably more; Paul’s father was a member of the Pharisees, “the most straitest sect of our religion” (Acts 23:6; 26:5).  We cannot say exactly when Paul had the experiences recounted in the following verses.  Perhaps it was due to his father’s or rabbi’s teaching from the Law; perhaps it was due to his own reading from the Law; or perhaps it did not occur until he began to sit at the feet of Gamaliel and learn the Law.  In any event, it did not occur until he had the knowledge and mental understanding of what God required and he was able to interact with the Law (so to speak) at a mature level.[2]  The exact timing of these events in Paul’s life is a side question; what we can see clearly in this passage is that it was only once sin had been stirred up in his life by the Law of Moses that he died spiritually.  We can say the same for every infant – born and raised spiritually alive, but dead spiritually when, like Adam, they knowingly and willingly sin against God stirred up by the prohibitions of God’s will.

Savior of All Men

For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe (I Timothy 4:10).

In what way is God the “Saviour of all men,” and why is it said that he is “specially” the Savior of those that believe?  This must mean that He is also, in a sense, the Savior of those who do not believe.  Comparison with other Scriptures (such as Romans 7) leads us to the conclusion that God is unconditionally the savior of all men in infancy, but is the savior of those mature people who meet the Gospel conditions – such as faith (belief).[3]

Many Go in Thereat

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew 7:13-14).

Related to the idea that people are “born spiritually dead” is the statement sometimes made that people are “born on the broad road.”  In Matthew 7, however, Jesus teaches us that the broad gate which leads to destruction is a gate which “many…go in.”  People must enter into the broad way; they are not born there without any personal choice in the matter.  When a man comes to the age of understanding, he must make a personal choice whether he will go into the broad way or the narrow way.  Praise God, a man on the broad way can repent and enter the narrow way; but they are not born onto the broad way.

Of Such is the Kingdom of God

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.  But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.  Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.  And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them (Mark 10:13-16).

Jesus welcomed the children to Himself and blessed them, and specifically said that “of such is the kingdom of God.”  Had these children been baptized?  We have no hint of it in this passage.  Had they experienced some kind of crisis conversion?  Not likely.  They were simply, as Paul was, “alive without the law,” and Jesus gave them what they needed and could have at their age – a blessing from God.

The Mouths of Babes and Sucklings

And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say?  And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?  (Matthew 21:15-16).

Jesus taught that God has “perfected praise” out of the mouths of innocent little children.  Their praises are highly pleasing to God.  How can this be reconciled with the idea that they are lost sinners?  “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight” (Proverbs 15:8).

Dead in Trespasses and Sins

You might be thinking, “But doesn’t the Bible say, ‘born dead in trespasses and sins’?”  It actually does not.  This is a misquotation of Ephesians 2:1: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (compare with Colossians 2:13).  Notice: They were dead, not “born dead.”  The following two verses show that the people being referred to could not have been infants; they are said to have “walked according to the course of this world” and to have lived “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.”

The Early Christians

The early Christians believed that infants and young children were innocent and pure, and that, if they died, they would be saved.

Hermas (c. 150) wrote:

…they are as infant children, in whose hearts no evil originates…for all infants are honorable before God, and are the first persons with Him.[4]

Irenaeus (c. 180), a disciple of Polycarp (who was a disciple of the Apostle John), wrote:

And again, who are they that have been saved, and received the inheritance?  Those, doubtless, who do believe God, and who have continued in His love; as did Caleb [the son] of Jephuneh and Joshua [the son] of Nun, and innocent children, who have had no sense of evil.[5]

Tertullian (c. 198), regarding the idea of infant baptism, wrote:

And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children…The Lord does indeed say, “Forbid them not to come unto me.”  Let them “come,” then, while they are growing up; let them “come” while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ.  Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the “remission of sins?”[6]

He also wrote (c. 207):

But, behold, Christ takes infants, and teaches how all ought to be like them, if they ever wish to be greater.  The Creator, on the contrary, let loose bears against children, in order to avenge His prophet Elisha, who had been mocked by them.[7]  This antithesis is impudent enough, since it throws together things so different as infants and children,—an age still innocent, and one already capable of discretion—able to mock, if not to blaspheme.  As therefore God is a just God, He spared not impious children, exacting as He does honor for every time of life, and especially, of course, from youth.  And as God is good, He so loves infants as to have blessed the midwives in Egypt, when they protected the infants of the Hebrews which were in peril from Pharaoh’s command.  Christ therefore shares this kindness with the Creator.[8]

Cyprian (c. 250) wrote that “Infancy is still yet innocent and unconscious of worldly evil.”[9]

Origen (185-254) was one of the most famous Christian teachers of his time and wrote the first surviving set of Bible commentaries.  While teaching that even infants are subject to sin’s defilement (he quoted the Septuagint rendering of Job 14:4-5 several times: “No one is pure from uncleanness, even if his life should be one day long”),[10] he nevertheless taught the following in his Commentary on Romans (written c. 246):

But this law [referring to natural law, or the law of the conscience] is found in man neither at all times nor from the beginning, when a man is born, but rather he lives without this law for a certain time, while his age does not allow it, just as Paul himself acknowledges when he says, “I was once alive without the law.”  Therefore, at that time, when we lived without the law, we did not know covetousness.  He did not say: I was not having it; but: “I was not knowing it,” as if covetousness existed, but it was not known what it was.  But when reason arrives and the natural law finds a place within us in the advancement of age, it begins to teach us what is good and to turn us away from evils.  Thus, when it says, “You shall not covet,” we learn from it what we did not know before: Covetousness is evil.

“But sin, receiving an opportunity, worked in me through the commandment all kinds of covetousness.”  That law of which he says, “For I would not have known covetous desire had the law not said: You shall not covet,” is also called the commandment.  Thus he says that by an opportunity afforded by this commandment, in which we are forbidden to covet, sin was kindled all the more intensely within us and worked all kinds of covetousness within us.  For because the flesh lusts against the Spirit, i.e., against the law that says, “You shall not covet,” it is likewise opposed to it and engages it in battle in a certain manner, so that not only would it satisfy the covetousness but also it would conquer an enemy.

This then is the opportunity that he says comes from the commandment.  For these things that are forbidden are somehow longed for more passionately.  On this account, though the commandment is holy and just and good—for what prohibits evil must of necessity be good—yet by prohibiting covetousness it instead provokes and kindles it; and through the good it worked death in me.  The Apostle is showing by these things, however, that the origin of sin has arisen from covetousness.  As long as the law is issuing prohibitions, whether it is Moses’ law, which says, “You shall not covet,” or even natural law, as I have explained above, whatever is forbidden is desired all the more tenaciously…

“For apart from the law sin is dead.  But I was once alive without the law.  But when the commandment came, sin revived.  I, however, died; and the very commandment that was unto life was found to be unto death to me.”  Up above has already been conducted a full investigation of practically all these matters.  Therefore, in order that we not be constantly repeating the same things, we shall briefly call to remembrance what was previously said.  We showed how sin is dead in us without law, i.e., before the mind within us grows vigorous when it reaches the age of reason, when we introduced the example of the little child who strikes or curses his father or mother.  In such a case it would appear that at least according to the law, which forbids striking and cursing the father and mother, a sin was committed.  Yet that sin is said to be dead since the law is not yet present within the child to teach him that what he is doing ought not be done.  It is certain that Paul and all men have lived at one time without this law, namely, the age of childhood.  After all, during that time everyone is equally not yet capable of this natural law.  For Paul’s confession concerning this would not seem to be true.  Indeed how will it be proved that Paul once lived without the law of Moses, seeing that he declares himself to be a Hebrew of Hebrews and circumcised on the eighth day according to the precepts of the law?  On the contrary, in the way in which we have said, in childhood he also once lived without natural law.  He did not say that sin did not exist in man at this time, but that sin was dead and afterward revived when natural law came and began to forbid covetousness.  This law raised sin from the dead, so to speak.  In fact this is the nature of sin, if what the law forbids to be done happens.  Therefore, when sin revived, he says, “I died.”  “I.”  Who does he mean?  Doubtless, the soul that had committed what the law was forbidding to be done; for “the soul that sins,” as the prophet says, “shall itself die.”  The commandment, therefore, that had been given unto life, i.e., unto [the life] of the soul, that it might teach the soul the works that lead to life, was found to have surrendered it over to death when it does not flee the things forbidden but desires them all the more passionately.[11]

Summary

The idea that “we are all born spiritually dead” cannot be found in Scripture; rather, there are several Scriptures which clearly teach against such an idea.  The early Christians believed that infants and young children are pure, innocent, and saved, and sinful actions which they do are not counted as sin against them until “the commandment [comes]” and sin revives.

Knowing the truth on this subject can help safeguard us against such errors as infant baptism and child evangelism and can provide comfort in knowing that our departed little ones are safe with Christ.

 

[1] This is one of the problems with child evangelism – little innocent children, who should be taught to love Jesus at a simple, age-appropriate level, are instead pressed to “ask Jesus into their hearts” so that they can escape the damnation of hell.  At the stage before the Law has stirred up the lust to sin in them, they are still “alive without the law” and must not be pressed into an adult experience with Christ.  Trying to do so may result in so-called “conversions” in the short run, but in the end can cause confusion at best; at worst, it may cause sin, doubt, and apostasy.

[2] This probably happens for most people well before 20 years old.  Paul explains that for heathens who have no knowledge of the true God or of the Scriptures, they still are accountable for the revelation of God through their own consciences (Romans 2:12-29), so the “law” comes to them in the form of “natural law,” the law in their consciences.

[3] I am indebted to George R. Brunk I and his son, George II, for this commentary.  They explained this Scripture in this fashion.

[4] Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF), volume 2, p. 53.

[5] ANF, volume 1, p. 502.

[6] ANF, volume 3, p. 678.

[7] This was written against the Gnostics, who claimed that the Creator God (the “Demiurge”), the God of the Old Testament, was not the Father of Jesus.  These two sentences give a Gnostic argument urged against the orthodox Christians, to which Tertullian replies as follows.

[8] ANF, volume 3, p. 386.

[9] David W. Bercot, ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, 1998, Hendrickson Publishers, p. 93.

[10] For this reason Origen supported infant baptism – the first Christian teacher known to have done so.

[11] Thomas P. Scheck, translator, Origen: Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, Books 6-10, 2002, Catholic University of America Press, pp. 31-33.

 

Originally published in The Witness, February 2014.

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In:Anabaptists, Early Church, Heresy & False Teachings, Preachers, Sin, The Church

Comments Off on The Ordination of Women and Integrity with History

By Mike Atnip

 

One of the signs of modern, fallen Christianity is the practice of women teaching men and ordaining women to leadership roles. Historically, very few churches practiced this until the last century and a half. The Bible is quite plain in these points, so I usually do not spend a lot of time reading materials that try their best to make the Scriptures say the opposite of their plain meaning. So when someone recently showed me an issue of a magazine that was dedicated to proving that it was scriptural for women to be ordained as ministers (in the official sense of the word) and to teach men, I didn’t pay a lot of attention. I grew up around churches that took that stance and know the arguments.[1]

 

But one section caught my eye. It was the claim that the early Anabaptists had ordained women preachers. Although the article is careful to not actually call them “ordained ministers,” the inference is clearly there.

 

During the last several years I have spent a good bit of time reading Anabaptist thought and history … and knew that even some of the foremost “liberal” Mennonite historians (who seem to have gone looking for some proof of it to support their own current practice) had concluded after long research that there were simply no ordained women ministers in early Anabaptism.

 

Were there zealous women, women who boldly stood their ground when asked in court trials (sometimes accompanied by torture) about their faith? Absolutely! About 1/3 of all Anabaptist martyrs were women. But the bottom line was simple: no recorded case has been found of an early Anabaptist woman being ordained to the ministry in the official sense of the word. The word “minister” means serve (verb), or servant (noun). In that sense, every Anabaptist was considered a “minister.”

 

So what do we do with the following, taken from page 1120 of the Herald Press edition of the Martyrs Mirror?

 

 

The Gospel Trumpet had the following to say about the above section:

 

Here is an image from Martyrs Mirror (Page 1122, Herald Press, 1950 edition), in which two women are clearly listed with men in the ministry. Ruth Kunstel was “a minister in the word of the Lord” at Muchem, in the Berne jurisdiction, while Ruth Hagen was listed as “an elder” from the Zurich area.

 

These women followed their New Testament forebears Phebe, the four daughters of Philip, Junia, etc., in ministering the Word of God along with men. This cannot be gainsaid, as it is in plain black-and-white recorded for posterity. Let all who claim the Anabaptist heritage know their history.

 

At first glance, it does seem to indicate that there were indeed women ordained as a minister and an elder in early Anabaptism. But right away I suspected something: Ruth was probably also a man’s name in that time period. A quick check to the German version would clear up the question, since the German language has a different article (meaning a different form of “the” and “a”) depending on whether the noun is a male noun or a female noun.

 

The German text of the two Ruths

 

 

For those who do not read German (probably the majority of our readers), you will notice the article “einem.” Now take a look at whether that is a male or female article:

 

 

So, “einem diener” translates to English as “a male servant or minister.” In the same way, “einem aeltesten” translates to “a male elder.”[2]

 

Now let’s take another closer look at the English again. Does the English say “Ruth Hagen, an elder,” or does it say “Ruth Hagen, an eldress”?

 

Obviously, the situation here is that Ruth was a man. Ruth is certainly not a common male name; in fact it is the first time I have run across it myself. Another possibility in this case is a misspelling, since during that time period spelling consistency was basically an every-man-for-himself sort of thing.

 

To be sure, at first glance it can easily look like the early Anabaptists may have had “women in the ministry.” A closer look proves that the “proof” was bad proof.

 

For the other “proof” of “women in the ministry,” a little clip of page 481 of Martyrs Mirror was presented:

 

 

Let me ask you: Just how much proof does the above clipping give to prove that the early Anabaptists had women ordained as teachers to men?

 

To be honest, it provides exactly 0% proof. Elizabeth was accused of being a teacher. But she was also (falsely) accused of being Menno Simons’ wife. Or perhaps the authorities were mocking her. But there is no admission on Elizabeth’s part of being a “teacher.” Or, if she did teach, whom did she teach? Children? Other women? Men?

 

No proof of being a “teacher” is found. Much less whom she taught if she was indeed an ordained “teacher.”

 

This thing called integrity

 

All this moved my mind to think of integrity. Integrity has to do with “wholeness.” When speaking of a person’s or a group’s integrity, it carries the idea of being totally honest. For myself, when dealing with Anabaptist history it means admitting—for as much that I admire the Anabaptist movement—that there were some things I cannot agree with. Some of them held wrong ideas about divorce/remarriage. Some of them had really—I mean really—funny ideas about eschatology.

 

Back to history

 

But before we talk more about integrity, let’s look at the same magazine and one of the “proofs” (shown below) that it gives of the early church having “women in the ministry.”[3]

 

  Proof of the early church ordaining women as preachers?

 

The question here is not so much the interpretation that Chrysostom gave of the passage of Scripture, but the question is about the integrity of using one quote of his to support the idea of women preaching in the church. There are several points that could be argued on his interpretation of Romans 16:7. 1. Whether listing both of them together is meant as a husband/wife team, and only Andronicus was officially the apostle. 2. Whether being called an apostle was an indication that Junia taught men. Many women have been sent as apostles (we call them missionaries in our day … “one sent out”) and yet never taught men. If we read the rest of the writings of John Chrysostom, it is quite clear that he felt women should not teach men, nor speak in the church. There are a number of things we could quote from him, but this one suffices:

 

To such a degree should women be silent, that they are not allowed to speak not only about worldly matters, but not even about spiritual things, in the church. This is order, this is modesty, this will adorn her more than any garments. Thus clothed, she will be able to offer her prayers in the manner most becoming. … [Paul] says, let them not teach, but occupy the station of learners. For thus they will show submission by their silence. (Early Church Fathers, Vol. XXII)

 

Back to integrity

 

But let’s look at the integrity of pulling one ambiguous quote out of early church history to prove a point, when there are plenty of other quotes that clearly refute the idea that is trying to be proven. For example:

 

Their [the married Apostles’] spouses went with them [on their mission trips], not as wives, but as sisters, in order to minister to housewives. It was through them that the Lord’s teaching penetrated also the women’s quarters without any scandal being aroused. Clement of Alexandria (ANF 2.391-Translated from the Latin)

 

If the daughters of Philip prophesied, at least they did not speak in the assemblies; for we do not find this fact in evidence in the Acts of the Apostles. Much less in the Old Testament. It is said that Deborah was a prophetess … There is no evidence that Deborah delivered speeches to the people, as did Jeremiah and Isaiah. Huldah, who was a prophetess, did not speak to the people, but only to a man, who consulted her at home. The gospel itself mentions a prophetess Anna … but she did not speak publicly. Even if it is granted to a woman to show the sign of prophecy, she is nevertheless not permitted to speak in an assembly. When Miriam the prophetess spoke, she was leading a choir of women … For [as Paul declares] “I do not permit a woman to teach,” and even less “to tell a man what to do.” Origen[4]

 

And these verses (Romans 16:1-2) teach with apostolic authority that females were appointed to aid the church. Phoebe of Cenchrea was placed in this service, and Paul with great praise and recommendation follows by enumerating her beautiful deeds, saying, “She helped everyone so much, by being close at hand when needed, that she even helped me in my needs and apostolic labors, with a total dedication of her mind.” I would compare her work to that of Lot, who while he always took in strangers, one time even merited practicing hospitality on angels. In the same way Abraham also, who was always practicing hospitality, once merited having the Lord with his angels to be entertained in his tent. So this devout Phoebe, continually assisting and obeying everyone, was once merited with assisting and obeying the Apostle as well. This verse teaches us two things at the same time: There are, as was said, female aides in the church, and such should be considered as part of the service of the church. Those who have assisted many, and by good service have attained to apostolic praise, should be counted as part of that ministry. He also exhorts that those who seek to do good works in the churches, whether in spiritual or fleshly aid, should receive in return the reward and honor from the brethren.

 

This verse (Romans 16:6) teaches that women should labor for the churches of God. For they labor when they teach the young ladies to be modest, to love their husbands, to raise children, to be pure and chaste, to guide their homes, to be hospitable, to wash the saints’ feet, and everything else that is written concerning the service of women. ~Origen  

This verse (Romans 16:6) teaches that women should labor for the churches of God. For they labor when they teach the young ladies to be modest, to love their husbands, to raise children, to be pure and chaste, to guide their homes, to be hospitable, to wash the saints’ feet, and everything else that is written concerning the service of women, all of which should be done with chaste conduct. Origen, Commentary on the Book of Romans (translated from the Latin)

 

For how credible would it seem, that he [the Apostle Paul] who has not permitted a woman even to learn with overboldness, should give a female the power of teaching and of baptizing! “Let them be silent,” he says, “and at home consult their own husbands.” Tertullian (ANF 3.677)

 

It is not permitted to a woman to speak in the church; but neither (is it permitted her) to teach, nor to baptize, nor to offer, nor to claim to herself a lot in any manly function, nor to stay (in any) sacerdotal office. Tertullian (ANF 4.33)

 

That a woman ought to be silent in the church: In the first Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: “Let women be silent in the church. But if any wish to learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home.” Also to Timothy: “Let a woman learn with silence, in all subjection. But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to be set over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not seduced, but the woman was seduced.” Cyprian (ANF 5:546)

 

We do not permit our women to teach in the Church, but only to pray and hear those that teach; for our Master and Lord, Jesus Himself, when He sent us the twelve to make disciples of the people and of the nations, did nowhere send out women to preach, although He did not lack [women candidates to do this]. For there were with us the mother of our Lord and His sisters; also Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Martha and Mary the sisters of Lazarus; Salome, and certain others. For, had it been necessary for women to teach, He Himself [would have] first commanded these also to instruct the people with us. For “if the head of the wife be the man,” it is not reasonable that the rest of the body should govern the head. Apostolic Constitutions (ANF 7.427, 428)

 

But if in the foregoing constitutions we have not permitted [women] to teach, how will any one allow them, contrary to nature, to perform the office of a priest? For this is one of the ignorant practices of the Gentile atheism, to ordain women priests to the female deities, not one of the constitutions of Christ. Apostolic Constitutions (ANF 7.429)

 

Ok, you probably get the point. The mass of early church quotes are clearly against the idea of women teaching men and against ordaining women to leadership roles in the church (unless, like the early Moravian Brethren, the Eldresses only taught or counseled other women or children).

 

These quotes from the early church neither prove nor disprove if the Bible itself teaches for or against women teaching men or speaking in public assemblies. They do, however, give us a clear indication of how the Ante-Nicene church interpreted Paul’s teachings. The bottom line is, as far as I know, there is no straightforward evidence in early church writings that women (excepting heretical groups like the Montanists) ever taught in a public assembly. I say that with integrity. I say it after having read thousands of pages of church history.

 

I could be wrong, of course; I don’t know everything there is to know about church history. But my integrity will not let me say otherwise. Do I say that because I happen to believe that Paul’s writings clearly forbid women to be ordained as elders? And that women are not to teach men, or speak in the public assembly?

 

No, I am being honest with history. I cannot say the same about the Quakers. As much as I like what the Quakers stood for in some areas, my integrity will not permit me to make the Quakers appear as if they forbade women speaking publically in the assemblies. It simply was not so. But the early church and the Anabaptists forbade women to speak in the public assemblies and to teach men. Integrity demands that I say that.

 

And if we lack integrity in history …

 

So what do you do with a person or a group who does not seem to have integrity with history? Personally, I find it hard to swallow the same person’s (or group’s) handling of the Holy Scriptures. If they pull an ambiguous quote from Martyrs Mirror and make it appear that the early Anabaptists had ordained women eldresses, or if they use one ambiguous early church quote, but ignore a dozen plain ones … how will they handle the Bible?

 

Perhaps some of you readers are wondering why I do not take up here an exposition of the Scriptures that touch women preachers. Well, my main point in this short article is not about women preachers, but about integrity. But let us look at one biblical point, again mainly considering integrity.

 

In the same issue of The Gospel Trumpet, there is a small box concerning Phoebe, the διάκονον [transliterated, “deaconess”] of the church at Cenchrea mentioned in Romans 16:1. The article states:

 

Many have thought the word servant (diakonos) here means deacon or deaconess, but when the same word is used elsewhere by Paul, it denotes ministers of the gospel:

“Jesus Christ was a minister” (diakonos). Rom. 15:8.

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers” (diakonos). 1 Cor. 3:5.

“Epaphras our dear fellowservant…a faithful minister” (diakonos). Col. 1:7.

“Thou [Timothy] shalt be a good minister (diakonos) of Jesus Christ.” 1 Tim. 4:6.

“Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister” (diakonos). Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7.

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers (diakonos) by whom ye believed.” 1 Cor. 3:5; Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23, 25.

 

From the Scriptures selected by The Gospel Trumpet, it could easily be deduced that the Greek word διάκονον always refers to what we think of when we think of an ordained preacher. However … the word “minister” simply means “to aid” (verb) or “one who aids” (noun). Are the quoted texts saying that all those mentioned were ordained preachers? Or is it simply calling them aides, or more specifically “one who executes the commands of another” (Thayer’s Lexicon)? But let’s get down to the integrity of the matter … why was not Romans 13:4 added in the list selected by The Gospel Trumpet?

For he is the minister of God to thee for good …

Who is this “minister”? None other than the civil authority that is over the believer. Yes, the civil authorities are “deacons” of God! In John 2:5, “His mother saith unto the διακόνοις, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” Were those wedding helpers “ordained ministers”?

 

Obviously my point is that the Greek word διάκονον can refer specifically to an ordained servant of the church (1 Ti. 3:8), or it can simply be the men responsible for filling the waterpots at a marriage, or your town mayor, or the girl who wipes the tables after a meal.

 

In what sense was Phebe a διάκονον: an aide of the church, or a “minister of the gospel”?[5] From the isolated text of Romans 16:1, nothing can be concluded. We have to take into account the whole NT use of the word, as well as the teachings concerning women and public ministry.

 

My conclusion—based on the whole of the NT teaching—is that she was simply a woman of the church at Cenchrea who aided the church by carrying Paul’s letter and perhaps taking care of some other unspecified “business” while there. It appears that she had been busy succouring many people in the past, so maybe she was simply on a mission to Rome to bless some needy person or family there. Maybe some expectant mother needed an extra hand for a few months. Maybe a sick sister needed some help. Maybe she taught the younger sisters how to love their husbands. There are myriads of opportunities to aid the church without being an “ordained minister of the gospel.”

 

But the bottom line is that we really don’t know, from the text of that one verse, in what sense Paul intended the word. But to quote only the verses that tend to use diakonon in a sense of a “minister of the gospel,” and act as if that is the only way to interpret the word diakonon … is that integrity?

 

I quote the article again:

… but when the same word is used elsewhere by Paul, it denotes ministers of the gospel.

Does integrity ignore obvious evidence to the contrary? That said, simple, honest ignorance can also be involved. Innocent ignorance does not mean a lack of integrity. The difference is when truth is revealed, innocent ignorance will acknowledge its former error. A lack of integrity will just make excuses or ignore the truth.

 

Agendas and integrity

 

One of integrity’s mightiest foes is having an agenda. For example, concerning church history, it is common (and I have found myself doing it as well) to go looking in history to find support for a position, instead of to go looking for what position the historical evidence provides. And the same, of course, applies to looking in the Bible to find evidence to support an agenda. We see it all the time in today’s apostate churches with the “gay” agenda. It “blows me away” that people read the Bible and come away saying that sodomite “marriages” are not sin. My integrity simply will not let me say such a thing (and I am not claiming my integrity is perfect). If I felt sodomy was righteous, then I would have to abandon the Bible. Gay “marriage” is the epitome of self-righteousness. I simply do not have any desire to twist Scripture and history that hard. I have very little respect for the integrity of anyone who claims the Bible supports homosexual “marriages.” Scripture is too plain on that subject.

 

Yet, I realize that sometimes when I read—be it the Bible or history—I sense that an agenda lurks in the shadows, trying to get me to ignore evidence that may contradict my current understanding of an issue. May God help us all to flee from all agendas except the “agenda” to be honest seekers of truth. If the truth of the matter is that the early church and the Anabaptists did ordain women to be preachers to men, then may we have enough integrity to say so. If not, then may we just have enough integrity to not twist and hide evidence so as to support an agenda.

 

Pray for me!

[1] I am referring to The Gospel Trumpet, published by the Church of God, Restoration. I grew up in churches very similar to this group and have had close contact in the past with it. I wrote a historical overview of the movement, which can be found at www.primitivechristianity.org or by writing to the address in the front of this magazine.

[2] Also to be noted is that the German word for minister itself has both a male and a female form. For a lady, it would have to be “einer aeltesterin” and for an eldress, “einer dienerin” (the -in suffix making it feminine).

[3] While the phrase “women in the ministry” is perfectly valid in the sense of women who served and blessed others, the underlying thought is of ordained women as elders, pastors, or teachers of men.

[4] Origen, Fragmenta ex commentariis in epistulam i ad Corinthios (in catenis), Greek text published in Claude Jenkins, “Documents: Origen on I Corinthians. IV,” Journal of Theological Studies 10 (1909), p. 41. English translation from Roger Gryson, The Ministry of Women in the Early Church (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1976), p. 28.

[5] Technically the phrase “minister of the gospel” does not specifically refer to preaching. An “aide of the gospel” is simply someone who helps in the cause of the kingdom of God, be it in preaching/teaching, or in helping in physical needs. For that reason I use quotes, since the phrase has come to mean a “preacher of the gospel.”

 

Originally published in The Heartbeat of the Remnant (May/June 2013), 400 W. Main Street Ste. 1, Ephrata, PA 17522.

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