Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the church of the Lord that He acquired with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. 30 And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them. (Acts20:28-30)
This is a section from Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian church. I have highlighted the two main points I wish to comment on. The first concerning Christ’s blood (v28) is slightly problematical in translation. In referring to the “Church of the Lord” I am utilizing an ancient textual variant referred to in some bibles (e.g. the RSV). The majority of versions translate the verse as the “Church of God that He acquired with His own blood”. Given that Paul NEVER refers to Christ as God, that is unlikely, for which reason some amplified versions amend it as “His Son’s blood”.
Many translations refer to the Church as being “purchased” by Christ’s blood whereas the Greek verb περιεποιήσατο has more the sense of reserving something for oneself, i.e. the Lord making the people He has called out from the world His own treasured possession. For that is what the elect of God are – they are not the totality of the people upon whom God shall show mercy and bring into His eternal Kingdom but those who shall reign in partnership with His Son as princes of that Kingdom: “For with Your blood you bought people for God of every race, language, people and nation and made them a line of kings and priests for God, to rule the World (Rev5:9-10)
Paul warns the Ephesians that “savage wolves shall come among you”. These would be false teachers who the apostle said would “draw disciples after them”. However, in the context of the previous post, that of itself could not result in the Church as a whole (universally) falling into apostacy. Rather, it would (and did) result in rival congregations and heretical sects developing outside the Church. As we have shown, the second century Catholic Church (as they always referred to themselves) remained united in its essential doctrine. Developments and potential distortions to the pure gospel that had been handed down from the apostles affecting the understanding and practice of the whole Church could only really come about as a product of deliberations of “Ecumenical Councils”. At these, the leaders of churches throughout the world would meet together to settle doctrinal matters so as to secure the approbation of the whole Church . None had been held at this point, apart from the “Jerusalem Council” (Acts15) in which the apostles themselves had been overseers. This re-emphasizes the importance of examining the writings of the Apostolic Fathers** of the first and second century, which although (rightly) excluded from the Biblical Canon are, in view of the course of Church history, an invaluable resource to every open-minded seeker after Truth.
**Agreed on by all church historians as genuine writings of the Apostolic Fathers are: Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, the Didache (Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas. Bear in mind also that Irenaeus was a pupil of the aforementioned Polycarp and provided more substantial works which cover and concur with many of the issues raised in my book, The Little Book of Providence, a free PDF of which is available HERE