An Exposition of the Preaching of the Apostle (Part I)

Saint Isaac the Syrian

Saint Isaac the Syrian

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

AN EXPOSITION OF THE PREACHING OF THE APOSTLE
by Saint Irenaios of Lyons

In his Church History, written in the 4th century, Eusebios mentions, without quoting, An Exposition of the Apostolic Preaching by Saint Irenaios. It is also mentioned in the Lives of Illustrious Men by Saint Jerome. We know of no other reference by ancient authors.

It seems that Saint Irenaios aimed to provide a short exposition of the faith to help the reader understand the biblical teaching on the refutation of heretics and to help in preparing catechetical lectures. Separated as he is by only one generation from the Apostles, such a work by Saint Irenaios is a valuable witness to the way in which they actually preached the Gospel.

Dear Fellow Christian,

I know you wish to devote your life to the service of the worship of God, which is the only thing that leads to eternal life. That makes me very happy for you, and I pray that you will maintain the faith in purity, so as to please God Who made you.

I wish we could be together daily, to help each other and to reduce our preoccupation with earthly cares by daily discussions on the things that matter. Since we are presently so far apart, however, I'm going to do my best to set forth in written form, a brief summary of the preaching of the truth, of the Faith which should confirm your faith.

This is basically an outline of the main points of the Faith, so that you will find a great deal set forth in a small space, a short manual, so to speak, of the things of God. In that form it will not only assist in your own salvation, but will be a helpful tool for you to use in refuting those who teach falsehood. You will be able to correctly and confidently teach what we have to say to anyone who wants to hear.

For those who have spiritual eyes there is just one path leading upward. But for those who do not see, there is a maze of many dark paths. The one path leads to the Kingdom of Heaven by uniting its followers to God. The other paths bring death to those who follow by separating them from God. That is why you, and everybody else who looks after souls, must proceed with firm and unswerving faith.

You must be courageous and determined so that material desires do not hold you back or lead you away from the right path.

Maintaining Purity

The Need and Command to be Pure

Since man is a creature consisting of soul and body, both are involved in staying on the path. And since either may be a source of stumbling, we must attend to (1) bodily purity, the protective abstinence from all shameful things and all acts of wickedness, and (2) purity of the soul, keeping of a true faith in God, neither adding to nor subtracting from it. Godliness is dimmed and dulled when the body is soiled or stained, and is broken and polluted, losing its integrity, when falsehood enters the soul.

On the other hand, it maintains its beauty and its totality when the spirit sticks to the truth in words while polluting the body keeps pure. What good is it to know the truth in words while polluting the body and committing evil deeds? What real good can bodily purity produce if truth is not in the soul? These two rejoice with each other and united as comrades-in-arms in the fight to bring man into the presence of God.

The Holy Spirit says through David: "Blessed is the man who has not walked on the counsel of the ungodly" (Psalm 1:1). That is, the counsel of those who do not know God, for the ungodly are those who do not worship God. Him who is. The Logos/Word says to Moses, "I Am He Who is" (Exodus 3:14), so those who do not worship the God Who is are the ungodly.

David continues, "and has not stood in the way of sinners," and sinners are those who know about God but do not keep His Commandments--that is, arrogant self-centered people. "Nor," he says, "sat in the seat of the pestilential" (Psalm 1:1). The pestilential are those who use wicked and perverse doctrines to corrupt themselves but others as well, for "the seat" is a symbol of the place of a teacher. That is the practice of all heretics, and all those who take in the poison of their doctrine sit in the "seats of the pestilential" and are corrupted.

Truth Aids in Purity

So, to avoid falling into this sort of thing, we must cling to the rule of faith without changing at all. And, we must also, of course, obey the Commandments of God, believing in Him, fearing Him as Lord, and loving Him as Father. Correct behavior is produced by faith, because, as Isaiah the Prophet says, "If you do not believe, you will not understand" (Isaiah 7:9).

Further, faith itself is in turn produced by the truth, for faith must rest upon reality. When our faith does indeed rest upon what is real, and we believe in eternal realities, we then hold to it with confidence. Since therefore, faith preserves our salvation, we must take care to sustain it by having a clear hold on reality.

Here, as the elders (Holy Fathers) who were the disciples of the Apostles have handed down to us, is what Christian faith does for us. First, it teaches us to remember that we have received baptism for the remission of sins in the Name of God the Father, in the Name of Jesus Christ the Son of God, Who became incarnate and died and rose again, and in the Name of the Holy Spirit of God. Second, it teaches that this baptism is the seal of eternal life and is the new birth unto God, so that we are no longer sons of men but of the eternal and everlasting God. By it we also know that the eternal and everlasting One is God Who is above all created things. All things are subject to Him, and He made them all.

Thus, by faith we know that God is not ruler and Lord over things belonging to some other, but over His own. All things are God's, and faith therefore tells us that God is the Almighty and all things are of God.

Understand the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity

The Creation is Subject to its Creator

Created things necessarily have their source in some great source, and since this source was not made by anyone, but itself made everything, it must be God. First of all, then, we must believe that there is one God, the Father, Who made all things, bringing them into being out of nothing, and who holds all things without being Himself containable (cf., Hermas, Mandate 1). Further, "all things" includes this world of ours and humanity too, for it was created by God.

The Word and the Spirit

In this manner, then, it is demonstrated that there is one God, the Father, uncreated, invisible, Creator of all things, above Whom there is no other God (cf., Isaiah 43:10). God is rational, and therefore made His creation by His Logos/Word. He is also spirit, so He fashioned all things by His Spirit. As the Prophet puts it: "By the Logos/Word of the Lord the heavens were established, and all the power of them by His Spirit" (Psalm 33:6). The Logos/Word establishes and gives body and substance, while the Spirit gives order and form to the various powers.

The Logos/Word is correctly and properly called the Son and the Spirit the Wisdom of God. His Apostle Paul rightly says: "One God, the Father, Who is over all and through all and in us all" (Ephesians 4:6). Indeed, the Father is "over all;" and the Logos/Word is "through all," since the Father all things through Him; and "in us all" is the Spirit, Who cries, "Abba, Father," and shapes us to the likeness of God (cf., Galatians 4:6).

Also, the Spirit makes the Logos/Word known, so that by Him the Prophets were able to announce the Son of God. The Logos/Word, on the other hand, links up with the Spirit, and it is He Who gives the Prophets their message and leads us and brings us to the Father.

Three Articles: The Holy Trinity

Here, then, is the plan of our faith, the foundation of the building and the glue of our way of life. The first article is: God the Father, uncreated, indescribable, invisible, one God, the Creator of all things.

The second article is: The Logos/Word of God, the Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, Who was set forth by the Prophets each contributing his share of prophecy, according to the plan of the Father; and through Him all things were made. Now, in the fullness of time, in order to sum up all things in Himself, he has become a man among humans, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death, show forth life (cf., 2 Timothy 1:10), and establish communion between God and man.

The third article is: The Holy Spirit, through Whom the Prophets prophesied, the fathers were taught the things of God, and the righteous were led in the way of righteousness. In the fullness of time He has been poured out in a new at upon humanity everywhere, renewing us to God.

Baptism

Consequently, the baptism of our regeneration proceeds through these articles, granting us new birth unto God the Father, through His Son, by the Holy Spirit.

Those who have the Spirit of God in them are led to the Logos/Word, that is, to the Son. The Son, in turn, brings them to the Father, Who bestows incorruptibility upon them.

Without the Spirit we cannot see the Logos/Word of God, and without the Son, we cannot come to the Father. The Son is the knowledge of the Father, and the Son of God is known through the Holy Spirit. By the good pleasure of the Father, the Son ministers the Spirit by grace to whomever the Father wills, and as He wills.

The Personhood of the Father

The Holy Spirit (in the Scriptures) calls the Father "Most High," "Almighty," and "Lord of Hosts," so that we may learn that God truly is the Creator of heaven and earth. These names tell us not only that He made the whole world, but Angels and humans as well, and that He is the Lord of all, Who sustains all things. Merciful, compassionate and very tender, He is good and just, the God of all, both of Jews and of Gentiles, and especially of those who believe.

To the faithful He is a Father, for in the fullness of time He established the covenant of adoption. To the Jews He was forgotten God, fell away and rebelled, it was the Jews whom He brought into subjection by means of the Law. By it they were to learn that they had a Lord Who was Maker and Creator, granting the breath of life, and that we should worship Him day and night. To the Gentiles (pagans) he revealed Himself as Maker and Creator and Almighty.

To all alike, He is Sustainer and Nourisher, King and Judge. No one is immune from His punishment and no one will escape, whether Jew of Gentile, Angel or sinner among the believers. Those who presently reject His goodness will know His power in judgment, as the blessed Apostle says: "Not knowing that the goodness of God leads to repentance, but according to your hardness and your impenitent heart you treasure up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, Who shall render to every man according to his work" (Romans 2:4-6).

This is He Who is called in the Law "the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob" (Exodus 3:6; St. Matthew 22:32). This, however, does not lessen the Majesty and the Greatness of this same God, for these are beyond the power of human expression. (Source: The Preaching of the Apostles by Very Rev. Fr. Jack N. Sparks)

(To be continued)

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George