Saturday, September 02, 2017

Here We Stand: Another Gospel: The Faith of Roman Catholicism

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” (Matthew 7:24-29)

The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Nature and Grace

The Nature of Nature
-In Roman Catholic theology, nature is the material world that was both created by God and the recipient of God’s grace. Leonardo De Chirico defined Roman Catholicism’s understanding of nature as, “In Christian vocabulary, nature has been considered the equivalent of the created world as a whole which is both the result of God’s creating activity and the recipient of His saving purposes.”
-In Roman Catholic Theology: An Evangelical Assessment, Dr. Gregg Allison states that, “Nature and grace are interdependent of each other because they exist in a continuum or continuity. The two were divinely designed to operate in reliance upon each other such that nature is to be a channel of grace, and grace is to elevate or perfect nature.”
-Within Roman Catholic theology, it is the created, material world that channels God’s grace to us—in fact, it is impossible for God’s grace to be given to us without nature being the conduit. For example, in the Roman Catholic sacrament of baptism, the water (being part of nature) channels God’s grace to the recipient by removing their original sin.
-Within Roman Catholicism, the material, created world (nature) and God’s grace are interdependent on each other. Scripture however declares that the entire created world is fallen by sin (Romans 8:20-23).

The Nature of Grace
-Grace in Roman Catholic theology is the work of God in nature, whether generally (providentially) or specifically for mankind (redemptively). Once again, Roman Catholicism believes that grace must operate in the theater of nature—indeed, it cannot operate independently of nature but instead perfects the material world, whether creation or persons.
-Grace is broadly defined within Roman Catholicism into two categories: sanctifying grace and actual grace. “Sanctifying grace stays in the soul. It’s what makes the soul holy; it gives the soul supernatural life. More properly, it is supernatural life. Actual grace, by contrast, is a supernatural push or encouragement. It’s transient. It doesn’t live in the soul, but acts on the soul from the outside, so to speak. It’s a supernatural kick in the pants. It gets the will and intellect moving so we can seek out and keep sanctifying grace.”—Catholic Answers
-Since supernatural grace moves men and women to seek out sanctifying grace, and since God’s grace must be communicated through nature (material things), Roman Catholicism’s theology is built upon men and women becoming more and more holy through grace-infused nature.
-By contrast, Scripture declares that we receive grace directly from our triune God (John 1:16; Ephesians 1:7). We do not receive God’s grace through the channels of fallen nature—indeed, we cannot. Furthermore, grace is God’s unmerited divine favor.

The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Revelation

The Nature of Scripture

-Roman Catholicism together with evangelical Christians affirm the inspiration and inerrancy of the sacred Scriptures. The Roman Catholic Catechism states…

105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. "The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.’

"For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself."
“106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. "To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.”

-Unlike Protestants, Roman Catholicism’s canon of Scripture contains additional. Along with the Old and New Testament books, they accept Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, a longer version of Esther, the Book of Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and a longer version of Daniel. These additional books were never thought to be canonical by the apostolic church, even though some of them (such as 1 and 2 Maccabees) were generally reliable historical books.
-Roman Catholicism, however, parts ways with Protestantism when it comes to Scripture’s sufficiency. Not only do Roman Catholics read Scripture with an additional “spiritual” hermeneutic rather than the grammatical-historical hermeneutic, they believe they must read it in keeping with Roman Catholic tradition. The Catechism states…

113 2. Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church". According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church").”
-By contrast, God Himself states in His Word that men are not authorities over His Word—He is the solitary and supreme authority of His Word (Psalm 138:2) that has unrivaled power (Jeremiah 23:29; Hebrews 4:12).

The Nature of Tradition
-Roman Catholicism believes that God’s “word” is found in two sources: sacred Scripture and sacred tradition. Sacred tradition is defined by the Catechism as follows…

78 This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, "the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes." "The sayings of the holy Fathers are a witness to the life-giving presence of this Tradition, showing how its riches are poured out in the practice and life of the Church, in her belief and her prayer."
-Furthermore, Roman Catholicism believes that Scripture and Tradition are equally authoritative for the life and doctrine of the Church:

81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."
"And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."
82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."
-Roman Catholicism further believes that the Magisterium (the teaching body of the Church) has the sole right to interpret Scripture…

85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ." This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.”
-By contrast, it is not an official teaching body but rather the illumination of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 119:105) often through the faithful preaching and teaching of Scripture (Nehemiah 8:8) that correctly interprets Scripture.
-Furthermore, while everyone has theological traditions, those traditions must be entirely governed by the authority of the written Scriptures and never elevated to an equal status with Scripture or standing in contradiction with written Scripture (Matthew 15:3; Mark 7:13) Scripture (not Scripture and tradition) alone stands as the supreme and final authority.

The Roman Catholic Doctrine of the Church

The Structure of the Roman Catholic Church
-Paragraphs 880-886 of the Roman Catholic catechism describe the hierarchal ecclesiastical structure within this system…

880 When Christ instituted the Twelve, "he constituted [them] in the form of a college or permanent assembly, at the head of which he placed Peter, chosen from among them." Just as "by the Lord's institution, St. Peter and the rest of the apostles constitute a single apostolic college, so in like fashion the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, and the bishops, the successors of the apostles, are related with and united to one another."
881 The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the "rock" of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. "The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head." This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope.
882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, "is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful." "For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."
883 "The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter's successor, as its head." As such, this college has "supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff."
884 "The college of bishops exercises power over the universal Church in a solemn manner in an ecumenical council." But "there never is an ecumenical council which is not confirmed or at least recognized as such by Peter's successor."
885 "This college, in so far as it is composed of many members, is the expression of the variety and universality of the People of God; and of the unity of the flock of Christ, in so far as it is assembled under one head."
886 "The individual bishops are the visible source and foundation of unity in their own particular Churches." As such, they "exercise their pastoral office over the portion of the People of God assigned to them," assisted by priests and deacons. But, as a member of the episcopal college, each bishop shares in the concern for all the Churches. The bishops exercise this care first "by ruling well their own Churches as portions of the universal Church," and so contributing "to the welfare of the whole Mystical Body, which, from another point of view, is a corporate body of Churches." They extend it especially to the poor, to those persecuted for the faith, as well as to missionaries who are working throughout the world.
-The hierarchy can clearly be laid out as follows: the pope (the supreme head of the church), the cardinals (those appointed by the pope responsible for electing a new pope), archbishops (a bishop or cardinal that oversees a large diocese or archdiocese), bishops (an ordained leader who governs a diocese), priests (ordained Roman Catholic ministers who oversee local congregations), and deacons, both transitional (seminary students) and permanent (assistants to priests).
-By contrast, Scripture teaches that the only biblical church structure instituted by Christ is that of elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13). Elders possess teaching authority and can exercise spiritual discipline in the life of a congregation, whereas deacons do not possess teaching authority and serve the needs of the church. Furthermore, there is no hierarchy of elders in Scripture—elders are equal with one another as together they bow before the head of the church, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:1-4). It was none other than Peter who taught the latter point, as he did not consider himself as the head of Christ’s church but rather a “fellow elder”.

The Worship of the Roman Catholic Church
-The worship services in a Roman Catholic parish (church) are one and the same around the world, as the Mass is the worship of Roman Catholicism. The Mass centers upon the sacrament of the Eucharist (communion). Whereas the worship within Protestantism does (or should) center on the preaching of the written Word, the worship within Roman Catholicism centers on the sacrament of Eucharist. The standard order of worship is as follows: 1) Penitential prayers, 2) Kyrie Eleison, 3) Gloria, 4) Scripture readings and accompanying prayers, 5) the recitation of the Nicene creed, 6) the Offertory prayers, 7) Eucharistic prayers, 8) songs accompanying the Eucharistic celebration, 9) the Lord’s prayer, 10) Agnus Dei, 11) the Eucharistic celebration, 12) prayers after Mass.
-In Scripture, worship is to be regular (Hebrews 10:25) and involves preaching the written Scriptures (2 Timothy 4:2), prayer (1 Corinthians 5:16-18), singing (Colossians 3:16), and the sacraments (1 Corinthians 11:23-24).

The Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church
-As nature channels grace through Roman Catholicism, God’s grace is channeled through sacraments that involve material elements.
-Baptism is given either to penitent adults or the infants of Roman Catholic parents. In both cases, the individual’s original sin is removed and they are regenerated (born again). Hence, this is known as baptismal regeneration. It marks the individual as a born-again member of the church.
-Confirmation is where the Holy Spirit is conferred upon someone who has been baptized. Here, an individual receives the indwelling Holy Spirit. In this sacrament, an individual is anointed and undergoes the laying on of hands. Typically, this occurs in the teen years whereas baptism usually is administered during the infant years.
-The Eucharist is the celebration of the Lord’s Supper through bread and wine, in which congregants actually consume the body and blood of Jesus Christ. The elements are transformed through transubstantiation into Christ’s body and blood, and grace is channeled into the congregant through this consumption. Roman Catholics can participate in the Eucharist prior to confirmation, with many participating in communion around age 7.
-Penance is the regular confession of sins before a priest whereby someone receives regular absolution of iniquities. Penance is necessary in order for sins to be forgiven.
-Anointing of the sick is done when a Roman Catholic falls ill and is dying. This is done so that Christ might heal the sick member of the Church or that someone might die in a state of grace. Formerly, this was known as extreme unction.
-Matrimony is marriage. Whereas Protestantism believes in covenantal union in marriage, they reject that marriage is an actual sacrament of the church.
-Holy orders is the sacrament whereby bishops, priests, and deacons are ordained in the service of the Roman Catholic Church. This is also simply called ordination.
-In biblical Christianity, Scripture speaks only of two sacraments: the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-28) and baptism (Matthew 28:19). Sacraments do not save us. Rather, they are visible signs of our spiritual union with Christ Jesus and are means whereby the Lord spiritually meets His people.

The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Salvation

Sovereignty and Free Will

-Roman Catholicism believes in man’s free will, in which man can freely choose God and salvation. The Catechism states…
1730 “God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. "God willed that man should be 'left in the hand of his own counsel,' so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him." Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.”
-God’s grace cooperates with our freedom because our free will can choose God with the measure of inherent goodness we still possess even though we are sinners…

1742 “The grace of Christ is not in the slightest way a rival of our freedom when this freedom accords with the sense of the true and the good that God has put in the human heart. On the contrary, as Christian experience attests especially in prayer, the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials, such as those we face in the pressures and constraints of the outer world. By the working of grace the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world: Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness take away from us all that is harmful, so that, made ready both in mind and body, we may freely accomplish your will.”
-God is not entirely sovereign within Roman Catholicism, as the Catholic Encyclopedia states that, “Predestination (Latin præ, destinare), taken in its widest meaning, is every Divine decree by which God, owing to His infallible prescience of the future, has appointed and ordained from eternity all events occurring in time, especially those which directly proceed from, or at least are influenced by, man's free will.”
-By contrast, Scripture states that we were dead in sins (Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13) and could never freely choose God (1 Corinthians 2:14) and that God’s sovereignty is not governed by man’s choices (Isaiah 46:10; Romans 11:33-34).

The Infusion of Grace
-Grace is first received in salvation through baptism, and throughout the life of the Roman Catholic is constantly infused to them. After someone is converted, the process of justification starts. The 6th Session of the Council of Trent states that justification is defined as follows: “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man”. Therefore, justification is not a legal declaration but a lifelong process in Roman Catholicism.
-In Roman Catholic theology, justification is grounded in Christ’s atoning work and received through faith and baptism. It will accomplish eternal life in us if we cooperate and do not annihilate the process.
-Grace is not credited (imputed to us) in Roman Catholic theology but rather infused (progressively transferred) to us throughout our life. We are rewarded merits by God throughout our lives for keeping His Law, and accumulate merits equate to greater personal righteousness. We can accumulate merits and we can receive the merits of the saints as well.
-However, sin can either hinder or end this ongoing process of justification. The Catechism states…

1854 Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture, became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.
1855 Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.”
-If someone dies in a state of unrepentant mortal sin that they did not confess, they will be eternally condemned. Therefore, regular adherence to the sacraments (particularly the Eucharist, penance, and “last rites”) are necessary to die in a state of grace.
-By contrast, Scripture teaches that we are credited Christ’s righteousness purely by His grace (Romans 3:21-26) and that we cannot merit any righteousness through adherence to the Law (Galatians 3:1-9).

The Eternal Destinies of Mankind
-Roman Catholicism, like evangelical Christianity, believes that unbelievers are condemned to Hell forever. However, a Roman Catholic can lose their salvation and be sent to Hell if they do not die in a state of grace.

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.”
-Regarding Roman Catholics who die in a state of grace, their theology states that they will not immediately enter Heaven.
Rather, their remaining sins and impurities must be eliminated before they are holy enough to enter Heaven. The Catechism states…

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore [Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.610 The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.”
-By contrast, Scripture states that we enter Heaven purely on the merits of Christ’s righteousness (Colossians 3:1-4) and that when we die, we will be instantly be united with our Savior (Philippians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:8).


For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)


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Friday, August 18, 2017

Here We Stand: The Faith of the Early Church, Part 2

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

The Post-Nicene Fathers

Gregory of Nazianzus

-He was born in 329 A.D. and died in 390 A.D. He was one of three men who would become known as the “Cappadocian Fathers”. He was led to Christ through the influence of his wife Nonna, and would become the elder (bishop) of Nazianzus in 328. He was a very accomplished rhetorician and also studied philosophy. He became good friends with his academic colleague Basil of Caesarea while he studied in the city of Athens. In 361 A.D., his father ordained him to be a presbyter, but Gregory was not interested in serving the church in this way. In 362 A.D., Gregory of Nazianzus publicly responded to Emperor Julian’s public opposition to Christianity in his Invectives against Julian. Later in life, Gregory would champion Nicene orthodoxy over against the heresy of Arianism and became a great preacher in the city of Constantinople. In 381 A.D. he was asked to preside over the Council of Constantinople, the second ecumenical council in church history. Quotations from his works include…

“He began His ministry by being hungry, yet He is the Bread of Life. Jesus ended His earthly ministry by being thirsty, yet He is the Living Water. Jesus was weary, yet He is our rest. Jesus paid tribute, yet He is the King. Jesus was accused of having a demon, yet He cast out demons. Jesus wept, yet He wipes away our tears. Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver, yet He redeemed the world. Jesus was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd. Jesus died, yet by His death He destroyed the power of death.”

“This I give you to share, and to defend all your life, the one Godhead and power, found in the three in unit, and comprising the three separately; not unequal, in substances or natures, neither increased nor diminished by superiorities nor inferiorities; in every respect equal, in every respect the same; just as the beauty and the greatness of the heavens is one; the infinite conjunction of three infinite ones, each God when considered in himself; as the Father, so the Son; as the Son, so the Holy Spirit; the three one God when contemplated together; each God because consubstantial; one God because of the monarchia. No sooner do I conceive of the one than I am illumined by the splendor of the three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the one. When I think of anyone of the three I think of him as the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that one so as to attribute a greater greatness to the rest. When I contemplate the three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light.”

Gregory of Nyssa
-Gregory of Nyssa was the younger brother of Basil of Caesarea and a friend of Gregory of Nazianzus. He was not the great leader that his brother Basil was nor the orator that his friend Gregory of Nazianzus was, yet he was a thoughtful and profound theologian who defended Trinitarian orthodoxy over against heresy. He was born in 335 and died in 395, and was one of nine children born to Christian parents. He was not as outspoken or as bullheaded as his brother Basil, as he would often try to reconcile disagreeing groups over the course of his life. He was also present during the First Council of Constantinople and later tried to reconcile detractors of Cyril of Jerusalem with those who supported Cyril. One quote from a sermon is as follows…

“Now when the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are with orthodox devotion being glorified and adored by those who believe that in a distinct and unconfused Trinity there is One Substance, Glory, Kingship, Power, and Universal Rule, in such a case as this what good excuse for fighting can there be? At the time, certainly, when the heretical views prevailed, to try issues with the authorities, by whom the adversaries' cause was seen to be strengthened, was well; there was fear then lest our saving Doctrine should be over-ruled by human rulers. But now, when over the whole world from one end of heaven to the other the orthodox Faith is being preached, the man who fights with them who preach it, fights not with them, but with Him Who is thus preached. What other aim, indeed, ought that man's to be, who has the zeal for God, than in every possible way to announce the glory of God?”

-Basil of Caesarea, also known as “Basil the Great”, was born in 330 A.D. He also, like others of his time, was a staunch defender of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity as articulated by the Council of Nicaea. He was raised along with four siblings by his grandmother Macrina. He befriended Gregory of Nazianzus while studying, and they would form a friendship along with his brother Gregory of Nyssa that would later earn the three of them the title of the “Cappadocian Fathers”. Together, Basil and his friend Gregory of Nazianzus would combat the Arian heresy, which still worked its poison among the Turkish world. He would later partner with Athanasius in order to defend biblical Trinitarianism over against Arianism. He died from liver disease in 379 A.D. His most important work On the Holy Spirit stated,

“Did it not at one time appear that the Arian schism, after its separation into a sect opposed to the Church of God, stood itself alone in hostile array? But when the attitude of our foes against us was changed from one of long standing and bitter strife to one of open warfare, then, as is well known, the war was split up in more ways than I can tell into many subdivisions, so that all men were stirred to a state of inveterate hatred alike by common party spirit and individual suspicion. But what storm at sea was ever so fierce and wild as this tempest of the Churches? In it every landmark of the Fathers has been moved; every foundation, every bulwark of opinion has been shaken: everything buoyed up on the unsound is dashed about and shaken down. We attack one another. We are overthrown by one another. If our enemy is not the first to strike us, we are wounded by the comrade at our side. If a foeman is stricken and falls, his fellow soldier tramples him down. There is at least this bond of union between us that we hate our common foes, but no sooner have the enemy gone by than we find enemies in one another. And who could make a complete list of all the wrecks? Some have gone to the bottom on the attack of the enemy, some through the unsuspected treachery of their allies, some from the blundering of their own officers. We see, as it were, whole churches, crews and all, dashed and shattered upon the sunken reefs of disingenuous heresy, while others of the enemies of the Spirit of Salvation have seized the helm and made shipwreck of the faith.”

-Ambrose was born approximately 340 A.D. and died in 397 A.D. He was raised in the region of modern-day Germany as a child and was educated in Rome. For a time, he served as a Roman governor, but left that career in order to be an elder (bishop) of the city of Milan, a very influential city in Italy next to Rome. Ambrose became embroiled with the Arian controversy when taking the position of bishop in the city of Milan. Ambrose faced increasing opposition from the Arians over time, particularly as the Roman emperor adopted this heresy in 385 A.D. He would continue to face strong political and theological opposition, but he would not back down from defending biblical Trinitarianism. One of the “Latin doctors” of the church, he was a theologian who left his mark on church history and theology. He once stated,

The Church of the Lord is built upon the rock of the apostles among so many dangers in the world; it therefore remains unmoved. The Church's foundation is unshakable and firm against assaults of the raging sea. Waves lash at the Church but do not shatter it. Although the elements of this world constantly beat upon the Church with crashing sounds, the Church possesses the safest harbor of salvation for all in distress. There is a stream which flows down on God's saints like a torrent. There is also a rushing river giving joy to the heart that is at peace and makes for peace.”

-Jerome was born in 347 A.D. and died in 420 A.D. Jerome, otherwise known as Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, was a prolific writer and translated the Bible into the common language of Latin, which would become known as the “Vulgate” translation. For about 1,000 years, the Vulgate translation would be the standard translation of the Scriptures for the Christian church. He was educated in Rome, but during his time there would be badly influenced by the poor behavior of his fellow students. However, during an illness in 373-374, Jerome became fully committed to the Lord and devoted his life to serving Christ. As a translator, he was the first of his kind in knowing both Hebrew and Greek. Interestingly, while he did translate the Apocrypha and include it in his Scripture translation, he did not actually consider it Scripture. He also would frequently write epistles, many of which are extant today. He had a quick wit and a rather dry sense of humor, and once stated,

“It is worse still to be ignorant of your ignorance.”
“When the stomach is full, it is easy to talk of fasting.”

-No one outside the New Testament apostles influenced Christian theology more than Augustine of Hippo. He would influence men who themselves became bastions of history such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. He was born on November 13, 354. He received a Christian education and upbringing, but was enslaved to promiscuity until his conversion in 386 A.D. He later said that through a child singing “Tolle lege” (“take up and read”) he picked up a Bible and read Paul’s letter to the Romans, particularly taking note of Romans 13:13-14. Later, he would then write an autobiographical account of his conversion experience in his Confessions. He was baptized by Ambrose and later became the bishop of Hippo in 395 A.D. During his days the Roman Empire was crumbling, and the shocking sacking of Rome in 430 A.D. prompted him to write The City of God. His theology stood against men such as Pelagius and became a foundational element in later Reformed theology a millennium later. He also greatly influenced the world through his philosophy as well. Some of his more famous quotes include…

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.

“If you believe what you like in the gospels and reject what you do not like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”

“God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.”

“Grant what thou commandest and command what thou wilt.”

John Chrysostom
-John Chyrsostom, the “golden-mouthed preacher”, stands as one of the greatest expositors in Christian history. Born in 349 and dying in 407, his life contributed greatly to Christian preaching. He was born in Antioch and studied at the seminary there. In 397 A.D., he was nominated the archbishop of Constantinople. His best-known sermon was thee “Paschal Homily”, and his hundreds of sermons still serve today as outstanding commentaries on texts of Scripture. In a sermon on Romans 4, John Chrysostom stated on verses 1-2 that…

“For a person who had no works, to be justified by faith, was nothing unlikely. But for a person richly adorned with good deeds, not to be made just from hence, but from faith, this is the thing to cause wonder, and to set the power of faith in a strong light. And this is why he passes by all the others, and leads his discourse back to this man. And he calls him father, as pertaining to the flesh, to throw them out of the genuine relationship (συγγενείας γνησίας) to him, and to pave the Gentiles' way to kinsmanship with him. And then he says, For if Abraham were justified by works, he has whereof to glory: but not before God. After saying that God justified the circumcision by faith and the uncircumcision through faith,and making the same sufficiently sure in what he said before, he now proves it by Abraham more clearly than he promised, and pitches the battle for faith against works, and makes this righteous man the subject of the whole struggle; and that not without special meaning.”

The Ecumenical Councils

The Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.)

-Although the Council of Nicaea had already convened to settle the Arian controversy, Arianism still existed strongly in the Roman world. Therefore, in 381 A.D., the Roman Emperor Theodosius I summoned various elders of Christian churches to Constantinople in order to address this recurring heresy. Once again, Arianism was condemned as heresy and biblical Trinitarianism upheld. Most historians agree that the Council of Constantinople added the clause regarding the Holy Spirit as “the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, and who spoke through the prophets” and also expanded various portions of the Nicene creed. The expansions from Constantinople have today become absorbed into the Nicene creed such that it is the 381 A.D. revision of the Nicene creed and not the original version produced in 325 A.D. by the original council. No changes in theology occurred in the revision; rather, it was expanded to be more specific regarding Trinitarianism.

The Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.)
-Trinitarian and Christological controversies still raged even in the 5th century A.D., and so the Roman Emperor Theodosius II summoned the elders (bishops) to the city of Ephesus in order to address many issues of theological controversy. Particularly at stake was the debate regarding the divine and human natures of Christ, with the Nestorian heretics separating the two natures. The atmosphere of this council was very heated and contentious because the doctrine of Christ was on the line. Seven sessions later, the Council of Ephesus condemned Nestorianism as heretical and at the same time condemned Pelagianism as heretical. Once more, the Nicene creed was upheld as the creedal standard of Christian orthodoxy for the churches. Such was the legacy of the third ecumenical church council.

The Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.)

-20 years later, debates regarding the nature of Christ’s deity and humanity prompted the Roman Emperor Marcian to summon a council to the city of Chalcedon in modern-day Turkey. It was the largest church council with approximately 520 elders. Whereas Nestorianism, previously dealt with by the Council of Ephesus, separated the divine and human natures of Christ, the Monophysite heresy blended the divine and human natures of Christ into one nature. The Council of Chalcedon upheld the Nicene creed of 325 and also approved the revisions by the Council of Constantinople of 381. In what would become known as the “Chalcedon Definition”, the Council declared very clearly that Christ is truly God and truly Man, and yet one Person equal with God the Father. They stated,

“Following, then, the holy Fathers, we all unanimously teach that our Lord Jesus Christ is to us One and the same Son, the Self-same Perfect in Godhead, the Self-same Perfect in Manhood; truly God and truly Man; the Self-same of a rational soul and body; co-essential with the Father according to the Godhead, the Self-same co-essential with us according to the Manhood; like us in all things, sin apart; before the ages begotten of the Father as to the Godhead, but in the last days, the Self-same, for us and for our salvation (born) of Mary the Virgin Theotokos as to the Manhood; One and the Same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten; acknowledged in Two Natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference of the Natures being in no way removed because of the Union, but rather the properties of each Nature being preserved, and (both) concurring into One Person and One Hypostasis; not as though He were parted or divided into Two Persons, but One and the Self-same Son and Only-begotten God, Word, Lord, Jesus Christ; even as from the beginning the prophets have taught concerning Him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself hath taught us, and as the Symbol of the Fathers hath handed down to us.”

The Second Council of Constantinople (553 A.D.)
-The fifth ecumenical council in church history occurred when Christological heresy by a man known as Theodore of Mopsuestia as well as the Nestorians. Attempts had been made earlier to unit those who believed that Christ had one nature (the Monophysites) and those who followed biblical doctrine as defended previously by the Council of Chalcedon over 100 years earlier. Little documentation exists as to the proceedings of this council other than that the issues addressed at Chalcedon were once again present at the second council of Constantinople.

The Third Council of Constantinople (680-681 A.D.)
-Debates about the doctrine of Christ continued to intensify, and on November 7, 680 A.D., the sixth ecumenical church council convened to address two raging theological issues. Monoenergism was the belief that Christ had one “energy” rather than a divine nature and human nature that were distinct yet not separate. Monotheletism was the idea that Christ only possessed one will rather than a divine and human will. Both of these ideas echoed Monophysitism, and so this council convened to address these matters. When it ended, both of these beliefs were condemned as heretical.

The Second Council of Nicaea (787 A.D.)
-The last ecumenical council in history convened not to address Trinitarian or Christological debates, but to resolve the Iconoclastic Controversy. In the 7th and 8th centuries, “icons” (pictures) were often used in worship, particularly with those who were illiterate and could not read Scripture. The Iconoclasts rejected images (icons) outright, declaring that they violated the Second Commandment and that images of Christ, apostles, etc. should no longer be used in worship. The defenders of icons stated that no one really worshipped the images themselves but were rather visual aids in worshipping God and Christ. The Second Council of Nicaea ruled that icons could not be adored (i.e., worshipped) but could be revered and venerated. Much later in history, Protestants, particularly those standing in the tradition of John Calvin, would reject the ruling of the Second Council of Nicaea and make it a matter of confessional Christianity that images of Christ could never rightly be used in worship, for they constituted idolatry.


But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” (Jude 1:17-21)

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Here We Stand: The Faith of the Early Church, Part 1

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)

The Apostolic Fathers


-He was born approximately in 35 A.D. and was a disciple of the apostle John. An ancient legend states that Jesus held Ignatius in his arms during his earthly ministry and blessed him, but that is not documented. The early church during the first century often grew out of the city of Antioch (Acts 11:19-26), and as Ignatius grew older, he became the elder of the church of Antioch. In 107 A.D., he was arrested under the Roman Emperor Trajan. During his travel to Rome to stand trial, Ignatius wrote seven epistles (letters) to the Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Romans, Philadelphians, Smyrnaeans, and his friend Polycarp.
-Ignatius understood that trial in Rome would inevitably mean his death, and so stated…

“Permit me to imitate my suffering God... I am God's wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.”

“It is not that I want merely to be called a Christian, but to actually be one. Yes, if I prove to be one, then I can have the name...Come fire, cross, battling with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the Devil--Only let me get to Jesus Christ!”

“Study, therefore, to be established in the doctrines of the Lord and the apostles, that so all things, whatsoever ye do, may prosper both in the flesh and spirit; in faith and love; in the Son, and in the Father, and in the Spirit; in the beginning and in the end; with your most admirable elder, and the well-compacted spiritual crown of your presbytery, and the deacons who are according to God. Be ye subject to the elder, and to one another, as Jesus Christ to the Father, according to the flesh, and the apostles to Christ, and to the Father, and to the Spirit; that so there may be a union both fleshly and spiritual.”
-According to Jerome and John Chrysostom, Ignatius died by being fed to the lions in the Roman Colosseum approximately A.D. 108.

-He was born approximately 69 A.D. His name
Πολύκαρπος means “much fruit” in the Greek language. Along with Ignatius of Antioch, he too was a disciple of the apostle John. He served as an elder of the church at Smyrna. He only wrote one extant letter in his lifetime to the Philippian church. During this letter, he frequently quotes from the apostle Paul, considering Paul’s writings to be sacred Scripture…

“I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because you have followed the example of true love [as displayed by God], and have accompanied, as became you, those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord; and because the strong root of your faith, spoken of in days (Philippians 1:5) long gone by, endures even until now, and brings forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death, [but] whom God raised from the dead, having loosed the bands of the grave. In whom, though now you see Him not, you believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; (1 Peter 1:8) into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that by grace you are saved, not of works, (Ephesians 2:8-9) but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.”

“These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself, but because you have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom (2 Peter 3:15) of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbor, is the mother of us all. (Galatians 4:26) For if anyone be inwardly possessed of these graces, he has fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that has love is far from all sin.”

-Polycarp died for the testimony of Jesus Christ and the Word of God by being burned to death because he would not confess Caesar to be lord but rather declared that Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone is Lord.

Clement of Rome

-Clement of Rome (not the same as the Clement of Alexandria) was born around A.D. 35 and died according by historical tradition under Emperor Trajan in 100 A.D. He wrote one extant letter that has been proven genuine, in which he wrote to the church at Corinth. At that time, certain elders had been deposed from office for sinful behavior, and Clement needed to provide direction to the church in the aftermath of scandal.

“Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us; and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy, that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be universally loved, has suffered grievous injury. For whoever dwelt even for a short time among you, and did not find your faith to be as fruitful of virtue as it was firmly established? Who did not admire the sobriety and moderation of your godliness in Christ? Who did not proclaim the magnificence of your habitual hospitality? And who did not rejoice over your perfect and well-grounded knowledge? For you did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the commandments of God, being obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honor to the presbyters among you. Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us; and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy, that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be universally loved, has suffered grievous injury. For whoever dwelt even for a short time among you, and did not find your faith to be as fruitful of virtue as it was firmly established? Who did not admire the sobriety and moderation of your godliness in Christ? Who did not proclaim the magnificence of your habitual hospitality? And who did not rejoice over your perfect and well-grounded knowledge? For you did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the commandments of God, being obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honor to the presbyters among you.”
-According to historical tradition, he died when Emperor Trajan lashed him to an anchor and drowned him in the sea.

The Apologists

Justin Martyr
-He was born in 100 A.D. and became known for defending the truthfulness and legitimacy of Christianity in the face of intensifying persecution. In his first extant work directed to Emperor Antoninus, he argued that Christianity was a moral and upright religion and in fact the true religion. He wrote…

“Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love only what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions, if these be worthless. For not only does sound reason direct us to refuse the guidance of those who did or taught anything wrong, but it is incumbent on the lover of truth, by all means, and if death be threatened, even before his own life, to choose to do and say what is right. Do you, then, since you are called pious and philosophers, guardians of justice and lovers of learning, give good heed, and hearken to my address; and if you are indeed such, it will be manifested. For we have come, not to flatter you by this writing, nor please you by our address, but to beg that you pass judgment, after an accurate and searching investigation, not flattered by prejudice or by a desire of pleasing superstitious men, nor induced by irrational impulse or evil rumors which have long been prevalent, to give a decision which will prove to be against yourselves. For as for us, we reckon that no evil can be done us, unless we be convicted as evil-doers or be proved to be wicked men; and you, you can kill, but not hurt us.”

-Justin also wrote defending Christianity against Judaism in his Dialogue with Trypho, and in his work On the Resurrection defends the resurrection of Christ as historically true. He has been ascribed the title “Martyr” because he died a martyr for the faith in Rome in 165 A.D.

-Tertullian was born in 160 A.D. and became a prolific author during his lifetime in Carthage. He became the first writer to use the term trinitas to describe the “Trinity”—the one being of God in the three persons of His being: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He was an excellent scholar, and it was he who said that “it is the blood of the martyrs that is the seed of the church”. In 207-208 A.D., Tertullian wrote five volumes refuting the heresy of Gnosticism, in which he said…

“Well, but our god, say the Marcionites, although he did not manifest himself from the beginning and by means of the creation, has yet revealed himself in Christ Jesus. A book will be devoted to Christ, treating of His entire state; for it is desirable that these subject-matters should be distinguished one from another, in order that they may receive a fuller and more methodical treatment. Meanwhile it will be sufficient if, at this stage of the question, I show--and that but briefly--that Christ Jesus is the revealer of none other god but the Creator.”

The Pre-Nicene Fathers

-Irenaeus was born in 130 A.D. in the city of Smyrna and became an elder in a church in modern-day France. He also was an apologist for the Christian faith, writing a voluminous tome titled Against Heresies in 180 A.D. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, having heard his preaching. Quotes from his work Against Heresies include…

“Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in an attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced (ridiculous as the expression may seem) more true than the truth itself.”

“He [Jesus] fought and conquered. On the one hand, he was man who struggled for his fathers and through his obedience cancelled their disobedience. On the other hand, he bound the strong one and freed the weak and bestowed salvation on his handiwork by abolishing sin. For he is our compassionate and merciful Lord who loves mankind ... Had not man conquered man's adversary, the enemy would not have been conquered justly. Again, had it not been God who bestowed salvation we would not possess it securely.”

Clement of Alexandria
-He was born in 150 A.D. and taught at the seminary in Alexandria, Egypt during his lifetime. He was someone well acquainted with Greek philosophy and mythology, and some of his theology was influenced by Greek philosophy. His best-known writings are Protrepticus (Exhortation), Paedagogus (Tutor), and Stromata (Miscellaneous). In the first, he encourages Greeks to accept Christianity, and in the second he refutes belief in Greek gods, and in the third, he writes on various topics related to Christian living. Quotes of his include…

“Prayer is happy company with God.”

“The purified righteous man has become a coin of the Lord, and has the impress of his King stamped upon him.”

“Explain the Scriptures by the Scriptures.”
-Origen is a fascinating and controversial figure in church history. He was born c. 185 A.D. in Alexandria, Egypt. He revitalized the school at Alexandria where Clement of Alexandria had previously taught. He was an ascetic, and he lived as a miser and castrated himself due to a warped understanding of Matthew 19:12. He was an author, writing commentaries on books of Scripture along with numerous other volumes. Quotations from his works include…

“Although Christ was God, he took flesh, and having been made man, he remained what he was, God.”

“What good does it to me if Christ was born in Bethlehem once if he is not born again in my heart through faith?”

“Now the true soldiers of Christ must always be prepared to do battle for the truth, and must never, so far as lies with them, allow false convictions to creep in.”

The Nicene Fathers


-Eusebius of Caesarea was a foremost church historian born in 263 A.D. He wrote Ecclesiastical History, and in his introduction of his work, he wrote "I feel inadequate to do [church history] justice as the first to venture on such an undertaking, a traveler on a lonely and untrodden path." He faced persecution under Emperor Diocletian, but after Constantine’s Edict of Milan in 314 A.D., he was able to finish the undertaking of writing the first comprehensive history of the early church. He not only wrote as an historian, however, but also as a convictional Christian committed to defending and upholding the Gospel of Christ in the world at that time. He was also a peaceful man, stating…

“May I gain no victory that harms me or my opponent. May I reconcile friends who are mad at each other. May I, insofar as I can, give all necessary help to my friends and to all who are in need. May I never fail a friend in trouble.”

-Athanasius is one of the great champions of Trinitarian orthodoxy. He was exiled five times in his life for defending the true deity of Christ, in contrast to the heresy of Arius and his followers the Arians who believed the Son was of lesser divine status than the Father. He was born in 296 and died in 373 A.D. He served as an elder in the church of Alexandria, Egypt for 45 years. He was the chief deacon assistant to Alexander, the elder of Alexandria, but later rose to prominence as a man who was willing to stand contra mundum (against the world) if necessary to defend true Christology. One of his most important works, which influenced the Council of Nicaea, was On the Incarnation, in which he wrote….

“The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not vitiating the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.”

“Even the very creation broke silence at His behest and, marvelous to relate, confessed with one voice before the cross, that monument of victory, that He Who suffered thereon in the body was not man only, but Son of God and Savior of all. The sun veiled his face, the earth quaked, the mountains were rent asunder, all men were stricken with awe. These things showed that Christ on the cross was God, and that all creation was His slave and was bearing witness by its fear to the presence of its Master.”

-The Athanasian Creed was not actually written by Athanasius, but nevertheless contains the doctrines articulated and defended by Athanasius against the Arian heresy and sets forth the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

Whoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith.
Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally.
Now this is the catholic faith:

    That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity, neither blending their persons nor dividing their essence. For the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal. What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is immeasurable, the Son is immeasurable, the Holy Spirit is immeasurable. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal. And yet there are not three eternal beings; there is but one eternal being. So too there are not three uncreated or immeasurable beings; there is but one uncreated and immeasurable being. Similarly, the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, the Holy Spirit is almighty. Yet there are not three almighty beings; there is but one almighty being. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. Yet there are not three gods; there is but one God. Thus the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, the Holy Spirit is Lord. Yet there are not three lords; there is but one Lord.

Just as Christian truth compels us to confess each person individually as both God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords. The Father was neither  made nor created nor begotten from anyone. The Son was neither made nor created; he was begotten from the Father alone. The Holy Spirit was neither made nor created nor begotten; he proceeds from the Father and the Son. Accordingly there is one Father, not three fathers; there is one Son, not three sons; there is one Holy Spirit, not three holy spirits. Nothing in this trinity is before or after, nothing is greater or smaller; in their entirety the three persons are coeternal and coequal with each other. So in everything, as was said earlier, we must worship their trinity in their unity and their unity in their trinity. Anyone then who desires to be saved should think thus about the trinity. But it is necessary for eternal salvation that one also believe in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully.

Now this is the true faith: That we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, God's Son, is both God and human, equally. He is God from the essence of the Father, begotten before time; and he is human from the essence of his mother, born in time; completely God, completely human, with a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as regards divinity, less than the Father as regards humanity. Although he is God and human, yet Christ is not two, but one.    He is one, however, not by his divinity being turned into flesh, but by God's taking humanity to himself. He is one, certainly not by the blending of his essence, but by the unity of his person.     For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh, so too the one Christ is both God and human. He suffered for our salvation; he descended to hell; he arose from the dead; he ascended to heaven; he is seated at the Father's right hand; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. At his coming all people will arise bodily and give an accounting of their own deeds. Those who have done good will enter eternal life, and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire. This is the catholic faith: one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.

First Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.)
-Mounting division in the church in the fourth century was becoming a problem in the
Empire. Arius taught that Christ was in effect a demi-god—not a mere human, but not fully equal with the Father. He promoted his heresy through the use of popular music, and so his ideas spread like wildfire throughout the world. In order to address the growing ecclesiastical and political divisions resulting from this, Constantine summoned a council of the church in order to address this theological controversy. Therefore, 220 elders (bishops) met for two months in order to solve this issue.
-Whereas many were ready to adhere to Arianism, Alexander and his young assistant Athanasius were unwilling to stand down when the doctrine of Christ was at stake. The orthodox bishops declared that Christ had the same essence and divine nature as the Father, and therefore was truly God just as the Father is truly God. While the Council of Nicaea did not then authoritatively settle the debate (as it would rage for another hundred years in the churches) it nevertheless upheld the full deity of Christ as Christian orthodoxy. The resultant creed has stood since that time as a mark of creedal Christianity.

“We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified. He spoke through the prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. We affirm one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and to life in the world to come. Amen.”

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)


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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Here We Stand: The Apostolic Faith

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:13-18)

The Apostolic Faith

A New Covenant People
-In Jeremiah 31:31-34, Yahweh declares that He will make a New Covenant with the people of Israel, which also would welcome in Gentiles to the covenant community of faith (Isaiah 49:6; Acts 26:23).
-In the Upper Room, the Lord Jesus declared to His disciples that He was establishing the New Covenant of salvation (Luke 22:20) through His death and resurrection (Mark 8:31).
-The Lord Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to His disciples (John 14:26; John 15:26) so that they could be His messengers throughout the world (Matthew 28:16-20).
-50 days after Passover (and 50 days after the Lord died on the cross), the Holy Spirit descended like flames of fire upon the apostles, appointing and anointing them for apostolic ministry to spread the Gospel and build up the church of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:1-4). On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 followers of Christ were added to the church (Acts 2:41)
-Persecution soon broke out against the Lord’s New Covenant people (Acts 8:1), but the Word of the Lord continued to increase and spread (Acts 2:47; Acts 6:7; Acts 12:24; Acts 19:20).

James: The Brother of the Lord
-Mark 6:3 lists four brothers of Jesus: James, Joses, Judas (or Jude), and Simon.  In Hebrew, their names would be Jacob, Joseph, Judah, and Simeon. Jesus’ younger brother James did not believe his older brother to be his Lord—he thought him to be a lunatic (Mark 3:21) and did not believe Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 7:5).
-James continued in his unbelief until His risen older brother appeared to him (1 Corinthians 15:3-7). At this point, James converted and became a bastion of the church of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:9).
-James the brother of the Lord and apostle of Christ (Galatians 1:19) wrote the first book in the New Testament canon in the A.D. 40s. His book is addressed to Jewish Christians living throughout the Roman Empire (James 1:1). He opens his letter by reminding his Christian brethren to stand firm under trial (James 1:2) for they would receive their eternal reward if they did so (James 1:12).
-James’ letter to the church is very much concerned with authentic Christianity (James 1:22-25). James 2 declares that if Christians did not have fruits accompanying salvation, they did not possess salvation at all. James 3 applies this teaching to the tongue, and James 4 warns the church against worldliness. James then ends his letter as he began it: with words regarding suffering (James 5:7-8) and the importance of prayer as they stood firm in the world (James 5:16).
-As New Covenant salvation continued to spread throughout the Roman world, controversy developed regarding the inclusion of Gentiles into the covenant. Approximately 49 A.D., the first church council met in Jerusalem to settle the issue (Acts 15:1-6). After much deliberation and debate, James stood up and gave the collective ruling for the elders of the church (James 15:13-21).

Peter: The Apostle to the Jews
-Peter was born to Jonah (or John) (John 21:15-17). His older brother Andrew was a follower of John the Baptist, and they together followed Christ (John 1:40-41). Jesus renamed Simon to “Peter”, meaning “rock” (John 1:42).
-By trade Peter was a fisherman who lived in Capernaum with his wife (Matthew 8:14; Luke 4:38). Jesus miraculously healed Peter’s mother-in-law while He stayed at Peter’s house, and it is likely that Jesus lived at Peter’s home during His ministry from Capernaum.
-Peter was often impetuous but nevertheless a leader among the disciples (Matthew 10:2). Yet despite this, Peter often became arrogant in his ignorance (Matthew 16:22-23) and overconfident of his own strength (Matthew 26:33-35).
-Peter also demonstrated remarkable loyalty (John 6:60-69) and faith in Christ (Matthew 16:13-18).
-Peter denied Christ out of fear for his life during the trial of Jesus (John 18:13-27), but the Lord lovingly and graciously reinstated him (John 21). From thenceforth, Peter was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.
-Peter preached the very first apostolic sermon (Acts 2:14), fearlessly and clearly declaring Jesus to be the Christ as promised by the Scriptures (Acts 2:36). It was Peter who called the first Christians to repentance and faith (Acts 2:38-40). It was Peter who performed the first apostolic miracles (Acts 3; Acts 9:40-42) and fearlessly defended the faith before the Jewish leaders (Acts 4:8-13).
-At some point in his early apostolic ministry, Peter began to retreat from Gentiles because of fear of the Jews. However, because of the public rebuke by Paul (Galatians 2:11-14), Peter once more wholeheartedly proclaimed the Gospel to be for Jews and Gentiles alike (Acts 12:44-48).
-Because of his fearless faith and testimony, Peter was thrown into prison in order to be executed—yet the Lord miraculously delivered him (Acts 12:6-11).
-The apostle Peter continued to minister to the church throughout his life, yet many of his years are not recorded in Scripture. In A.D. 64-65, Peter dictated his first letter to the church to Silvanus (1 Peter 5:12). His first letter opens by comforting believers that their salvation was certain (1 Peter 1:3-5) and their inheritance in heaven secure (1 Peter 1:13-2:10). He exhorted believers to live honorable, upright lives among the pagans (1 Peter 2:11-3:7) even while being persecuted (1 Peter 3:13-4:6). He closed his first letter by reminding them that Christ would in fact return and would save His people (1 Peter 5:10).
-A few years later in A.D. 67-68, Peter wrote his second letter to the church. At this moment in church history, false teachers were infiltrating the church, and Peter wrote to warn the church about them (2 Peter 2). He reminded them that the Word of the Lord is absolutely certain (2 Peter 1:12-21) and the day of the Lord will certainly come (1 Peter 3:11-18).

Paul: The Messenger to the Gentiles
-The apostle Paul stands as one of the most remarkable men in all of history, and has been called by some as the greatest Christian who has ever lived. Yet this was not of Paul, but purely by the grace of the Lord. Paul was born a Roman citizen in Tarsus (Acts 21:39), but grew up and was educated in Jerusalem. He was extremely zealous for what he believed (Philippians 3:5), but he believed in error and was a persecutor of the church (Acts 8:1). Not content with persecuting in Judea, he travelled north to Damascus to persecute Christians there (Acts 9:1-2).
-The Lord amazingly and astoundingly stopped Saul from persecuting the Church and instead by His grace saved him to be an instrument in His hands (Acts 9:3-6).
-Paul traveled to Arabia for some time and then returned to Damascus (Galatians 1:17) where he fearlessly declared Jesus to be the Son of God (Acts 9:20-21). He went to Jerusalem afterwards, but the believers feared him (Acts 9:26-29). He then traveled back to his birthplace and lived there for eight years (Acts 9:30).
-A man named Joseph, also known as Barnabas, traveled to Tarsus to bring Paul back to Jerusalem (Acts 11:25) and together they became partners in ministry and embarked on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:2-3).
-Because of a division over John Mark, Paul and Barnabas separated and Paul embarked on his second missionary journey (Acts 15:40-41). It was during this time that Paul wrote his first letter: Galatians, wherein he was rigorously upholding the pure gospel of grace (Galatians 1:6-9).
-On his second missionary journey, Paul met Timothy (Acts 16:1-5) and founded the first church in Europe through an example of suffering (Acts 16:16-34). He then traveled through several cities (including Thessalonica, Corinth, Athens, and Ephesus) before returning to Antioch (Acts 18:18-22).
-While Paul was at Corinth during his second missionary journey, he authored two letters to the Thessalonian church: 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians encourages the church for their ministry partnership with Paul and gives practical instructions for the church. 2 Thessalonians was written to answer a false notion that Christ had already appeared and the resurrection had already occurred (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8).
-Paul embarked on his third missionary journey and settled for some time in Ephesus (Acts 19). During his stay in Ephesus, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. The Corinthian church was struggling with pride and spiritual immaturity, and so Paul needed to address disunity, immorality, and doctrinal ignorance in the church. Shortly after he departed Ephesus, he wrote 2 Corinthians wherein he had to defend his apostolic ministry against attacks.
-Shortly after he authored 2 Corinthians, Paul authored one of the most magnificent books in all of Scripture: the epistle to the Romans. Herein is contained the clearest summary of the apostolic faith: we are justified by faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 3:21-26). For the first half of his book, Paul deals with soteriology (Romans 1-11) and then practically applies it to Christian life (Romans 12-16).
-Paul ended his third missionary journey by returning to Jerusalem, where he was arrested under false charges (Acts 21:26-36). He was then sent to trial before Caesar in Rome (Acts 23:11). After standing trial before numerous men, Paul departed for Rome and finally arrived.
-For two years, Paul remained under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30-31) and authored four prison epistles: Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians. Philemon dealt with a personal matter: an escaped slave had encountered Paul and become converted, and Paul was returning him to his master. In writing to Colossi, Paul upheld the deity of Christ and how Christian doctrine should impact Christian living. In writing to Ephesus, Paul extensively wrote on the nature of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9) and then applied it practically to Christian life (Ephesians 4-6). In writing to Philippi, Paul encouraged the suffering church about the joy they had in Christ.
-Paul was released from prison, and continued his missionary work. During this time, Paul authored three pastoral epistles: 1 Timothy and Titus. In his first letter to his spiritual son in the faith, Paul instructed Timothy regarding a proper response to false doctrine, instructions for appointing elders and deacons, and instructions for Timothy’s pastoral ministry. When he wrote to Titus, he addressed the need for sound doctrine and sound living in Gospel ministry and Gospel life in the churches.
-Paul was arrested a second time, and before he died, he authored 2 Timothy. In his second letter, Paul exhorted timid Timothy to stand firm under persecution (2 Timothy 2:8-14) and exhorted him to continue as a man of God who faithfully discharged Gospel ministry.

John: The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved
-John was born to Zebedee (Matthew 10:2-4) and his older brother was James (Acts 12:2). They were fiery young men, branded by Jesus as the “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).
-John was a proud young man, desiring the highest place in Jesus’ kingdom (Matthew 20:20-21), yet was transformed through the death and resurrection of Christ to become one of the most loving and humble men in Scripture (John 20:8).
-During the early apostolic era, John likely remained in Jerusalem in order to care for Jesus’ mother Mary (John 19:25-27). He was known as one of the pillars in early church by Paul (Galatians 2:9).
-John also ministered with the apostle Peter (Acts 3:1; Acts 4:1) in Jerusalem during the early days of the church.
-About 20 years after the other apostles had been martyred for the faith, John survived. He wrote his first book (his gospel) in A.D. 85 from the city of Ephesus. He clearly stated his purpose in writing this book so that people might be brought to faith in Jesus Christ (John 20:30-31). The Gospel of John clearly presents Jesus to be the Son of God through many dialogues and statements by Jesus, such as John 8:54. John wrote this Gospel in order to write a “spiritual gospel” long after the other New Testament writers had died.
-Shortly after he wrote his gospel, John wrote his first epistle. 1 John concerns itself with how those who have believed in Jesus Christ may know with certainty that they are saved by Christ (1 John 5:13). This book contains many tests of salvation, particularly with how Christian love should transform one’s life (1 John 4:7-12).
-John then wrote 2 John, in which he urges a Christian lady and her children to stand for the truth in love, as false teaching (“deceivers”) was infiltrating the church. His last epistle, 3 John, is written to Gaius in order to encourage him and instruct him in a matter of church discipline.
-10 years later, John was exiled to Patmos (Revelation 1:9) and there wrote the book of Revelation. In this last book of Scripture, the Lord Jesus reveals to John God’s prophetic plan for Christ’s victory over the world in the last days and how Jesus and His saints will overcome (Revelation 12:11; Revelation 17:14). Finally, the consummation of all things is revealed when God dwells with His people throughout all eternity in the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21-22).


“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:6-10)


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