Losing The Faith (9/22)

Christian Discipleship
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).

The Believer and the State

In the second century, as in apostolic times, the relationship of the believer to the state was clear. He was a pilgrim, waiting for the coming of the King, and his kingdom was not of this world. Furthermore, the state was generally antagonistic to Christians; it viewed them with suspicion and at times subjected them to persecution. Indeed, Christians used the word ecclesia in the sense of being called out to separation from the world.

The teaching of the Master was plain enough. His disciples were to be a separate people. Like their spiritual father, Abraham, they would be strangers and pilgrims in the earth, looking for “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” An incident occurred toward the end of the first century, which serves to illustrate that the generations immediately following the apostles held to this premise.

“There still survived of the kindred of our Lord the grandsons of Jude, who according to the flesh was called his brother. These were informed against, as belonging to the family of David, and Evocatus brought them before Domitian Caesar: for that emperor dreaded the advent of Christ, as Herod had done.

“So he asked them whether they were of the family of David; and they confessed they were … Being then asked concerning Christ and His Kingdom, what was its nature, and when and where it was to appear, they returned answer that it was not of this world … and would make its appearance at the end of time, when He shall come in glory, and judge the living and dead, and render to everyone, according to the course of his life” – Hegesippus, AD 170, (Eusebius: Ecclesiastical History, III. xx).

J Banta.

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