Today Christians in the Western world are typically living in a post-Christian society. Christian beliefs are met with skepticism, and people see little reason to believe. Christians are confronted with daily challenges to their faith, and often struggle to understand the relevance of Christianity to modern life.
The legacy of the apostles assured that discipleship – daily living of the Truth – would characterize the believer in every age. Faith would continue to be followed by works. A changed way of life, devotion to righteousness, obedience to the commandments of Christ – these were as important as right doctrine.
It is plain from the earliest post-apostolic writings that these principles were understood and practiced. As we would expect, believers were distinguished in the Roman world by the lives they lived.
In the Second Century
“What visitor among you is there who has not proved your most excellent and firm faith, who has not marveled at your prudent and gentle piety in Christ, who has not proclaimed your magnificent practice of hospitality, and who has not blessed your perfect and sure knowledge? For you did all things without respect of persons and walked in the commandments of God. You were obedient to your rulers and showed appropriate honor to those who were older. You instructed the younger to think moderate and reverent thoughts. You gave instruction to the women to perform everything in a blameless and pure conscience and to give proper affection to their own husbands” (Clement: Epistle to the Corinthians).
Apologists and Theologians
The writers whose works are the source of our research are known as the Ante-Nicene Fathers. They include the “Apostolic Fathers” and their successors up to the Council of Nicaea (which contributed to the eventual development of “the Trinity” by elevating Christ to the position of a divine being). So we are dealing with the development of the teachings of the apostate Christian church in the second and third centuries, AD 100 to AD 325).
As we progress through these two hundred years we discover that the earlier simplicity of the faith is disappearing; influences of the philosophers and mystery cults are being felt.