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What is the Faith Once for All Delivered to the Saints
March 24, 2022
In the last newsletter I said I would cover John Calvin, then Ulrich Zwingli and the Anabaptists. I would like to cover the faith once for all delivered to the saints first (Jude 1:3).
One of the more interesting writings of the second century was Irenaeus' _Against Heresies_, a 5-volume tome against the gnostics and their bizarre beliefs. Early on, though, he gives a summary of "the faith" as it was taught in the late second century. Summaries of the faith, or "the rule of faith," as it was called at the time are very consistent through the first three centuries of the church.
Irenaeus, writing around AD 185, summarized the faith as follows. I have put his summary in paragraph form, though the original (at https://ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01/anf01.ix.ii.xi.html#fnf_ix.ii.xi-p2.1) is practically one long sentence:
********* The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets: - the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, - and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,” and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, - in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to Him, - and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send “spiritual wickednesses,” and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; - but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory. **********
There was a strong emphasis in the early churches on the final judgment. They saw salvation by faith as both forgiveness of and deliverance from sins, but not as a free ticket to heaven. The atonement left the final judgment intact. There was no fault in God's judgment. Contrary to Calvinist teaching, sinless perfection is not God's standard, but purposeful obedience is God's standard as described in Ezekiel 18:20-30.
Thus, Jesus died to change us, not the already merciful and just judgment. This is why Irenaeus would write, "but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments" (cf. Romans 2:5-8).
You can read more on this subject at https://www.christian-history.org/judgment-quotes.html
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