Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, 2 and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe. 5 So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily (Acts16:1-5)
Another excerpt from Luke’s account of Paul’s missionary journeys. He is shortly to enter Europe but whilst in Lystra (in present-day Turkey) he encounters a Christian disciple named Timothy who Paul immediately took under his wing. No doubt to the surprise of many believers today, Paul had him circumcised. This was primarily so as not to cause offence to the local Jewish community – a case of Paul “becoming a Jew to the Jews in order to gain those who are still under the Law” (1Cor9:20).
At this point one might do well to reflect upon the missionary journeys of Paul in the middle of the first century: their geographical extent and proliferation: “Thus were the churches being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily” (v5). Then consider such biblical personages as Timothy here mentioned. He went on to live till around the late 90s AD and during that time had oversight of the churches of Ephesus. And later we shall encounter Titus (c. 13-107AD) and Philemon (timeline uncertain) to whom Paul also wrote epistles. Then imagine if you will the numerous and worthy men these biblical personages will have appointed to continue the ministry in accordance with Paul’s instructions. Finally, reflect on the second century Church and its writers and perceive that it is quite impossible that all known witnesses from that era could have been in error concerning the essentials of the Gospel. Irenaeus’ testimony considered in an earlier post affirmed the churches at that time had a remarkably uniform understanding of the essentials of the Faith.
And one does not have to rely on the testimony of Irenaeus, There are the annals of Church historian Eusebius (263-339AD) and the writings of Justyn Martyr (100-165AD), Clement of Alexandria (150-215AD) and Polycarp (69-156AD), all of which are easily accessible on internet (e.g. www.newadvent.org/fathers
I emphasize this point being aware that many of the assertions within these posts and the fuller picture set it out in The Little Book of Providence will appear obscure if not heretical to many believers today. An examination of the aforementioned writings will no doubt appear equally alien in terms of both ecclesiology and theology, especially from an Evangelical perspective – it is much more in tune with what I have been disclosing. Again, I urge the reader to think carefully through the implications of Paul’s missionary journeys, the churches that were established in the mid-late first century and the men appointed to oversee them. Then ask yourself this simple question, how can the second century Church as a whole have been in error concerning the nature of saving faith, natural law, the sacerdotal nature of the Church, the real presence and the millennial age? Their perspectives must have derived from the teaching of the Apostles, and men such as Timothy/Titus/Philemon and their immediate appointees (some of whom will have lived and ministered well into the second century). They cannot have been entirely reliant upon biblical exegesis, the New Testament canon having yet to be finalized. Whilst that can and should provide deeper insights it cannot directly contradict what the Apostles and their immediate successors had handed down to the faithful. Should it appear to do so it is simply being wrongly interpreted.
In terms of the second century writings, one needs to study these for oneself – not rely on other people’s interpretations including my own. And it is equally important to notice what such writing NEVER say as much as what they do, aspects of which are perceived by modern Christians to be the essence of Christian salvation.
Of course, there is such a thing as progressive revelation, but that cannot apply to the essential (i.e. soul-saving) aspects of faith and sacrament. However, progressive revelation can (and does) apply to many of the matters under consideration in these posts: most especially the scope of God’s saving work, being the mystery of His providential intentions towards His whole creation and why its munificence has been obscured for so long (cf. Rev10:7-10).
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