Posts Tagged ‘Church Fathers’

Christ’s letter to the church in Philadelphia can be found in Rev 3.7-13. My study of that letter indicates that as in much of the early Christian world, the Christians at Philadephia were worshipping in a Jewish synagogue. The context of Rev 3.7-13 clearly indicates that the Christians are suffering severe hardship under the leaders of the synagogue and have most likely been put out of the synagogue. By the time Ignatius writes his letter to Philadelphia, they seem to still be struggling with the same issues (see ch. VI). The letter is historically of great interest (not least because Ignatius clearly defines the heresy of the mysterious Nicolatains) but more importantly it is spiritually edifying. I have excerpted a quote below that did my soul well. In it, Ignatius talks about how the Gospel transcends all the other revelations of God, whether they be in the O.T. or New. God’s supreme and transcendent grace, is for Ignatius, contained in the appearing of Jesus, his death and resurrection. I hope you enjoy it.

The priests indeed and the ministers of the word are good; but the High Priest is better, to whom the holy of holies has been committed, and who alone has been entrusted with the secrets of God. The ministering powers of God are good. The Comforter is holy, and the Word is holy, the Son of the Father, by whom He made all things, and exercises a providence over them all, This is the Way which leads to the Father, the Rock, the Defence, the Key, the Shepherd, the Sacrifice, the Door o fknowledge, through which have entered Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses and all the company of the prophets, and these pillars of the world, the apostles, and the spouse of Christ, on whose account He poured out his own blood, as her marriage portion, that He might redeem her. All these things tend towards the unity of the one and true God. But the Gospel possesses soemthign transcendent [above the former dispensation], viz., the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, His passion, and the ressurction itself. For those things which the prophets announced, saying, “Until He come for whom it is reserved, and He shall be the expectation of the Gentiles,” have been fulfilled in teh Gospel, [our Lord saying], “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

-Ignatius, “Letter to the Philadelphians” ch. IX excerpted from The Apostolic Fathers: with Justin Martyr American Edition, vol I pg 84-85

It’s worth taking the time to real the whole chapter carefully.  Below is one of the most influential minds of Western civilization recounting his conversion to Christianity.  All of Augustine’s powerful intellect is mustered alongside some equally powerful emotions rendered by the Grace of God.  As Augustine recounted his conversion I repeatedly felt tears well up at the glorious mercies of our Lord Jesus. 

A quick breakdown of the characters involved: Augustine (narrarator and Bishop of Hippo), Simplicianus (Father of renowned Bishop Ambrose), Ambrose (Bishop of Milan), Victorinus (Famous rhetorician who shocked the Roman world by his conversion to Christianity), Nebridius and Alypius (friends and roommates of Augustine), Pontitianus (a Christian well placed in Roman government), Antony (famous Christian ascetic whose lifestyle appealed to Augustine), Mani (spawned the Manichaean heresy that posited a dark force just as powerful as God), Monica (a faithful Christian and Augustine’s mother). I hope you enjoy this excerpt as much as much as I did…

He finally describes the thirty-second year of his age, the most memorable of his whole life, in which, being instructed by Simplicianus concerning the conversion of others, and the manner of acting, he is, after a severe struggle, renewed in his whole mind, and is converted unto God.

Chapter 1. He, Now Given to Divine Things, and Yet Entangled by the Lusts of Love, Consults Simplicianus in Reference to the Renewing of His Mind.
1. O My God, let me with gratitude remember and confess unto You Your mercies bestowed upon me. Let my bones be steeped in Your love, and let them say, Who is like You, O Lord? You have loosed my bonds, I will offer unto You the sacrifice of thanksgiving. And how You have loosed them I will declare; and all who worship You when they hear these things shall say: Blessed be the Lord in heaven and earth, great and wonderful is His name. Your words had stuck fast into my breast, and I was hedged round about by You on every side. Job 1:10 Of Your eternal life I was now certain, although I had seen it through a glass darkly. 1 Corinthians 13:12 Yet I no longer doubted that there was an incorruptible substance, from which was derived all other substance; nor did I now desire to be more certain of You, but more steadfast in You. As for my temporal life, all things were uncertain, and my heart had to be purged from the old leaven. 1 Corinthians 5:7 The Way, John 14:6 the Saviour Himself, was pleasant unto me, but as yet I disliked to pass through its straightness. And Thou put into my mind, and it seemed good in my eyes, to go unto Simplicianus, who appeared to me a faithful servant of Yours, and Your grace shone in him. I had also heard that from his very youth he had lived most devoted to You. Now he had grown into years, and by reason of so great age, passed in such zealous following of Your ways, he appeared to me likely to have gained much experience; and so in truth he had. Out of which experience I desired him to tell me (setting before him my griefs) which would be the most fitting way for one afflicted as I was to walk in Your way.

2. For the Church I saw to be full, and one went this way, and another that. But it was displeasing to me that I led a secular life; yea, now that my passions had ceased to excite me as of old with hopes of honour and wealth, a very grievous burden it was to undergo so great a servitude. For, compared with Your sweetness, and the beauty of Your house, which I loved, those things delighted me no longer. But still very tenaciously was I held by the love of women; nor did the apostle forbid me to marry, although he exhorted me to something better, especially wishing that all men were as he himself was. 1 Corinthians 7:7 But I, being weak, made choice of the more agreeable place, and because of this alone was tossed up and down in all beside, faint and languishing with withering cares, because in other matters I was compelled, though unwilling, to agree to a married life, to which I was given up and enthralled. I had heard from the mouth of truth that there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake; but, says He, he that is able to receive it, let him receive it. Matthew 19:12 Vain, assuredly, are all men in whom the knowledge of God is not, and who could not, out of the good things which are seen, find out Him who is good. Wisdom 13:1 But I was no longer in that vanity; I had surmounted it, and by the united testimony of Your whole creation had found You, our Creator, and Your Word, God with You, and together with You and the Holy Ghost one God, by whom You created all things. There is yet another kind of impious men, who when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful. Romans 1:21 Into this also had I fallen; but Your right hand held me up, and bore me away, and You placed me where I might recover. For You have said unto man, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; Job 28:28 and desire not to seem wise, Proverbs 3:7 because, Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. Romans 1:22 But I had now found the goodly pearl, which, selling all that I had, Matthew 13:46 I ought to have bought; and I hesitated. (more…)

I dont get it....
I don’t get it….

In between readings of “Your Best Life Now,” I occasionally like to look back, dust off the cover of some old, stuffy theologian and see what he might have to say that was important enough to endure 1800 years of Christian thought.  To this end we turn to the early church father, Irenaeus. For those of you caught unawares, Irenaeus lived from 120-202 A.D., studied as pupil under Polycarp and later became the Bishop of Lyon (178).  He devoted much of his life to combating heresy, specifically the many heresies that fall under the big tent of Gnosticism.  His most famous work, adversus haereses, is a celebrated Christian classic.  While he is principally known for his defense of orthodox Christianity, Irenaeus is also known for his thoughts on recapitulation, which actually speak in some quite important ways to major life changes (such as our title infers) that introduce no small degree of difficulty in our lives and leads us into no small measure of sin.

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