An Exposition on the Preaching of the Apostle (Part IV)

Martyr Tryphon of Campsada near Apamea in Syria

Martyr Tryphon of Campsada near Apamea in Syria

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

by Saint Irenaios of Lyons

[Note: "This second-century bishop (Irenaios) and defender of the Christian faith provides at least two important links: between the 1st and 2nd centuries, and between East and West. Probably a native of Smyrna, he was taught by Saint Polycarpos, bishop of that city, disciple of Saint John and friend of St. Ignatios. Saint Irenaios also knew and met Bishop Eleutherios of Rome. In A.D. 190 he wrote Bishop Victor of Rome on behalf of the churches of Asia Minor who observed Pascha (Easter) on 14th Nisan, whether or not the day was a Sunday. His major work, Against All Heresies, is a detailed attack upon several heresies--especially variations of Gnosticism. We should all join in praise and veneration of this giant among the early Christian Fathers" (Very Rev. Fr. Jack N. Sparks).]

General History


When a famine came upon the whole earth, it happened that there was food only in Egypt. Jacob therefore moved to Egypt with all his children and their families (cf. Acts 7:11-15; Genesis 41:54; 45.5f). The total number of people who migrated was seventy-five (cf. Acts 7:14; Genesis 46:46:27; Exodus 1:1-5), and in four hundred years, as prophesied earlier, they grew to six hundred thousand. As a result of cruel slavery, they were oppressed and suffered greatly, and turned, sighing and groaning, to the God of the Patriarch Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

He led them out of Egypt by the hands of Moses and Aaron. In the process He struck the Egyptians with ten plagues, in the tenth of which He sent a destroying angel to kill all their first-born, both human and animal (Exodus 7-12). Revealing, in a mystery, the coming suffering of Christ, He saved the children of Israel from this destruction by the sacrifice of a spotless lamb, ordering its blood to be smeared on the houses of the Hebrews as a guarantee of their exemption. This mystery is the Passover (Exodus 12), the source of deliverance.

Dividing the Red Sea, He brought the children of Israel safely into the desert. The pursuing Egyptians, who followed them into the sea, all perished. This was the judgment of God upon those who had wrongly oppressed Abraham's descendants (cf. Exodus 14).

The Desert

While in the desert Moses received the Law from God, the ten statements "on the tablets of stone, written with the finger of God" (Exodus 31:18; 34:28). The "finger of God" is He Who proceeds from the Father, the Holy Spirit (cf. St. Luke 11:20; St. Matthew 12:28). He also received the other Commandments and Laws which he delivered to the children of Israel.

In the wilderness Moses constructed the Tabernacle of Witness at God's command. This Tabernacle is a visible representation on earth of that which is spiritual and invisible in heaven, a picture of the Church and a prophecy of things to come. In it were the vessels and altars of sacrifice, as well as an ark in which Moses put the tablets of the Law (Exodus 25f).

He appointed Aaron and his sons (descendants of Levi) as priests, assigning the priesthood to their family (cf. Exodus 28:11; Numbers 3:10). The whole of the tribe of Levi were summoned, according to the word of God, to serve in the temple of God. Moses also gave them the Levitical law so that they would know the proper character and behavior of men whose job it is to constantly serve in the temple of God (cf. 1:48-53; 3:5-12).

The Result of Unbelief

When the Levites approached the land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants, Moses chose one man out of each tribe and sent them to spy out the land, as well as the cities and their inhabitants (cf. Numbers 13:2-3). God also revealed to him at that time the Name which alone has the power to save those who believe in it. It was then that Moses changed the name of Oshea, son of Nun, one of the spies who was sent, to Jesus (Joshua) (cf. Numbers 13:17; Exodus 23:21). Thus, he sent them forth with the power of the Name, believing they would return safe and sound--and they did. Having traveled through the land, spying and making inquiries, they returned, bringing with them a bunch of grapes.

Some of the twelve who had been sent caused all the people to be afraid and alarmed, for they said it was not possible for them to take the land. It was impossible, they reported, because the cities were very large and surrounded by high walls. Further, the people who lived there were giants. At that, everyone began weeping, failing to believe that God would actually give them the strength to conquer the land (cf. Numbers 13:22-14:4). They also said the land was not really very good, certainly not worth taking such risks for (cf. Numbers 13:33).

Two of the twelve, however, Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, were so upset at such an evil wrong report that they rent their clothes. They begged the people not to be discouraged or downhearted, for the land was very good indeed and God had given it to them (cf. Numbers 14:6-9).

The people did not believe it, however, and remained distrustful. God therefore altered the path of their travels, punishing them by causing them to wander desolate in the desert. He kept them in the wilderness for forty (40) years, one year for each of the forty days the spies had been out investigating the land. That was because He did not judge any of those who were adults at that time and had full use of their reason worthy of entering into the land, because of their unbelief. The only exceptions were Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh who had spoken in favor of accepting their inheritance of the land--and, of course, those who were very young and not morally responsible (cf. Numbers 14:26-38). Eventually, the children who grew up during the forty years made up the same number as those who died.

At the End of Forty Years

When the forty years had passed, the people approached the Jordan River and assembled near to Jericho. Moses called a meeting, summed everything up once more, and retold the mighty works of God up to that very day. As he did so, he was shaping and preparing those who had grown up in the desert to fear God and keep His Commandments. He also gave them a new set of laws, to be added to that which was set forth before. This new set was called Deuteronomy, in which there were also prophecies concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, the calling of the Gentiles, and the Kingdom of God.

The Promised Land--A Declaration of Christ's Coming

When Moses came to the end of his life, God told him: "Get thee up into the mountain, and die for you are not to lead my people into the land (Deuteronomy 32:49 f). So, "he died, according to the word of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 34:5), and Joshua the son of Nun succeeded him (Deuteronomy 34:5-9). Joshua crossed the Jordan and brought the people through into the land (Joshua 3:14-17). Overthrowing and destroying the seven nations who lived there, he divided it among the people (cf. Joshua 2:11). In this land is temporal Jerusalem, the city in which David reigned as king and in which his son, Solomon, built the Temple in the form of the Tabernacle which Moses had originally made according to the pattern of heavenly and spiritual things (cf. Hebrews 8:5).

After the people were in the Promised Land, God sent them the Prophets. Each, in his turn, taught the people and brought the nation back to the Almighty, the God of the fathers. They also became heralds of the revelation of our Lord, declaring that He would be a descendant of David--a son of David, who, through a long line of succession, was a son of Abraham. On the other hand, according to the Spirit, He would be the Son of God, pre-existing with the Father, begotten before the creation of the world. In the fullness of time, He would appear to the world as man, the Logos/Word of God, "gathering up," in Himself, "all things that are in heaven and that are on earth" (Ephesians 1:10).

Actions of Christ--Their Necessity and Significance

The Son's Necessity to take on Flesh

Thus it was that the Son united man with God, and established communion between God and man. His coming in this manner is the only possible way for us to have any part in incorruptibility. As long as incorruptibility was invisible and unrevealed, it did not help us, but He became visible so that we might fully participate in incorruption (cf. 1 Timothy 1:10).

Since we were all related to Adam, as his descendants, we were bound over to death because of his disobedience. Those bonds had to be united through the obedience of Him Who was made man for us. And, because dearth reigned over the body, it had to be done away with through the body, so we could be freed from its oppression.

Thus, "the Logos/Word was made flesh" (St. John 1:14) so that sin could be destroyed through that very flesh it had ruled and dominated and would therefore no longer be in us. Our Lord became Incarnate by taking on the same humanity God had created in the first place, so that He could fight on behalf of the race of Adam--and through Adam overcome that which had struck us down through Adam (cf. Romans 6:6).

The Significance of the Virgin Birth

What is the source of the substance of the first man? It is the will and Wisdom of God and the virgin earth. "For God had not sent rain upon the earth" says the Scripture, before man was made "and there was no man to till the earth" (Genesis 2:5). While the earth was still virgin (pure), God took dust and formed the man who was the beginning of humanity. Therefore, our Lord recapitulating this man, used in a sense, the same means of taking on flesh when He was born of a Virgin by the will and wisdom of God. This He did so as to copy the way Adam became flesh, in order that man might be, as was written in the beginning, "according to the image and likeness of God " (Genesis 1:26).

Eve Recapitulated in Mary

Further, just as man fell and died through a virgin who disobeyed, he was revived to new life through the Virgin who was obedient to the Logos/Word of God. The Lord came to find the sheep that was lost, and that sheep was man (cf. St. Matthew 15:24; St. Luke 19:10; 1 Peter 2:25). He did not therefore take on some other shape, but from her who was descended from Adam, He took Adam's form and likeness. Adam had to be recapitulated in Christ so that mortality might be swallowed up in immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53; 2 Corinthians 5:4). Eve had to be recapitulated in Mary so that a virgin would be the intercessor for a virgin, and by the obedience of a virgin, undo and overcome the disobedience of a virgin.  (Source: The Preaching of the Apostles by Very Rev. Fr. Jack N. Sparks)

(To be continued)



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.


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


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

+Father George