HE IS REGARDED AS A SAINT AND A CHURCH FATHER IN THE EASTERN ORTHODOX, ORIENTAL ORTHODOX, CATHOLIC, ANGLICAN, AND LUTHERAN CHURCHES.
St. Polycarp, Greek bishop of Smyrna. His name 'Polycarp' means 'much fruit' in Greek. He was baptized by St. John the Apostle and was the teacher of St. Irenaeus of Lyons. He possessed an elevated status among Christians of his time because he knew the apostles and his teachings were considered orthodox and authentic. His widespread influence was not lost on pagan Rome.
Saint Polycarp, (flourished 2nd century; feast day February 23), was the leading 2nd-century Christian figure in Roman Asia by virtue of his work during the initial appearance of the fundamental theological literature of Christianity. Historically, he formed a link between the apostolic and patristic ages.
By his major writing, The Letter to the Philippians, and by his widespread moral authority, Polycarp combated various heretical sects, including certain Gnostic groups that claimed religious salvation exclusively through their arcane spiritual knowledge. Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians contains a classic formulation in which he refutes the Gnostics' argument that God's incarnation, and the death and resurrection of Christ were all imaginary phenomena of purely moral or mythological significance.
More important, however, is the way in which Polycarp referred to the apostle Paul in The Letter to the Philippians. Not only does he repeatedly quote from Paul's writings but he also stresses the personal importance of Paul as a primary authority of the Christian church. It must be remembered that at that time Paul had been adopted as a primary authority by the Gnostic heretics. Polycarp, in response, reclaimed Paul as a treasured figure of the orthodox church. It is apparently thus partly due to Polycarp that Paul, the disputed apostle, became a theologically respectable part of the Christian church's tradition. Furthermore, Polycarp's orthodox use of the Pauline texts marked a crucial advance in the Christian theology of biblical interpretation. According to certain scholars, Polycarp may even have composed or directly influenced some of the letters traditionally ascribed to St. Paul, the so-called Pastoral Letters (I and II Timothy, Titus). These letters possess a 2nd-century vocabulary and style that are characteristic of Polycarp.
Toward the end of his life Polycarp visited Bishop Anicetus of Rome to discuss with him the date at which the Easter festival was to be celebrated, a controversy that threatened to provoke a schism between Rome and Asia Minor. The two men could not reach agreement on a common date on which to celebrate Easter, so they agreed that Rome and Asia Minor would follow different practices in this regard.
Around the year 155, Polycarp became aware that government authorities were on the lookout for him, seeking to stamp out the Catholic Church's claim of obeying a higher authority than the Emperor. He retreated to a country house and occupied himself with constant prayer, before receiving a vision of his death that prompted him to inform his friends: "I must be burned alive." He changed locations, but was betrayed by a young man who knew his whereabouts and confessed under torture.
He was captured on a Saturday evening by two public officials, who urged him to submit to the state demands. "What harm is there," one asked, "in saying, 'Caesar is Lord,' and in sacrificing to him, with the other ceremonies observed on such occasions, so as to make sure of safety?"
"I shall not do as you advise me," he answered. Outraged by his response, the officials had him violently thrown from their chariot and taken to an arena for execution. Entering the stadium, the bishop-along with some of his companions, who survived to tell of it-heard a heavenly voice, saying: "Be strong, and show yourself a man, O Polycarp!"
Before the crowd, the Roman proconsul demanded again that he worship the emperor. "Hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian," the bishop said. "And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and you shall hear them." "You threaten me with fire," he continued "which burns for an hour, and after a little is extinguished. But you are ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly." "But," he challenged the proconsul, "what are you waiting for? Bring forth what you will."
Although the crowds clamored for Polycarp to be devoured by beasts, it was decided he should be burned alive, just as he had prophesied. He prayed aloud to God: "May I be accepted this day before you as an acceptable sacrifice just as you, the ever-truthful God, have foreordained, revealed beforehand to me, and now have fulfilled."
What happened next struck Polycarp's companions with amazement; they recorded the sight in the letter that they circulated after Polycarp's death. "As the flame blazed forth in great fury," they wrote, "we to whom it was given to witness it, beheld a great miracle."
The fire did not seem to touch the bishop's body. Rather, as they described, "shaping itself into the form of an arch, it encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr. And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace." "Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odour coming from the flames-as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been burning there."
The executioners perceived that Polycarp's death was not going as planned. Losing patience, they ordered him to be stabbed to death. From the resulting wound, "there came forth a dove, and a great quantity of blood, so that the fire was extinguished." The crowd, as the Christian witnesses recalled, were understandably amazed. "All the people marveled," they wrote, "that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect."
Polycarp, they proclaimed, had been among that elect "having in our own times been an apostolic and prophetic teacher, and bishop of the Catholic Church which is in Smyrna." St. Polycarp has been venerated as a Saint since his death in 155.
"We should not express our prayer merely in syllables, but the power of prayer should be expressed in the moral attitude of our soul and in the virtuous actions that extend throughout our life… This is how you pray continually — not by offering prayer in words, but by joining yourself to God through your whole way of life, so that your life becomes one continuous and uninterrupted prayer." "
"just as by melting two candles together you get one piece of wax, so, I think, one who receives the flesh and blood of Jesus is fused together with Him. And the soul finds that he is in Christ and Christ is in him."
I have been asked this question frequently these days. Why God in the Old Testament appears powerful, angry, punishing, while He appears in the New Testament kind, loving, meek, and forgiving. Is He the same God in the Two Testaments?. The answer is YES; the God of the New Testament is the same God of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament God was concealed, no one could see Him
"you are a God who has been hiding yourself. You are the God of Israel. You save us"
(Isaiah 45:15). So God was concealed nobody even the prophets saw him or heard his voice. In Exodus chapter thirty five Moses asked the Lord
" Now show me your glory"
( Exodus 35:18);
he Lord answered, " No one can see me and stay alive"
( Exodus 35:20). And in the Gospel of John (5:37), Jesus Himself said
"The Father who sent me is himself a witness about me. You have never heard his voice. You have never seen what he really looks like."
So the prophets of the Old Testament were having inspirations by the Holy Spirit but not an actual revelation of God
"The Holy Spirit guided the prophets as they spoke"
( 2Peter1:21). Those who defined God who was obscured in the Old Testament were the prophets who did not see God and who had not yet accepted the dwelling of the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus was not yet glorified
" Jesus stood up and spoke in a loud voice. He said, "let anyone thirsty come to me and drink. Does anyone believe in me? Then, just as scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from inside them. When he said this, he meant the Holy Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus would receive the spirit later. Up to that time, the spirit had not been given. This was because Jesus had not yet received glory"
(John 7:37-39). Thus, the image reflected by the Old Testament's prophets about God came in line with the limited possibilities of revelation in the Old Testament and their limited human ability to receive revelation, to express it, and to formulate it for the people. Thus we can understand why God's image was absurd in the Old Testament. It is the shortcomings of man, ie, the prophet, that he couldn't conceive the true image of God and he had given us this image which was affected by the weakness of humanity and the fall of man under darkness and the shadow of death.
People ask why God destroyed Sodom & Gomorrah?. We Christians after having the revelation of the New Testament, and the true image of God revealed in His incarnated Son, now we know who is God. God is a lover, He is the source of life and being; He is the creator, giving birth to everything on earth. The creator cannot be in the same time the destructor. "Do not court death by your erring way of life, nor draw to yourselves destruction by the works of your hands. Because God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living. For He fashioned all things that they might have being, and the creatures of the world are wholesome;" ( wisdom 1:5). The devil is the enemy of man not God, he came to destroy and kill "From the beginning, the devil was a murderer. He has never obeyed the truth. When he lies, he speaks his natural language. He does this because he is a liar. He is the father of lies" (John 8:44). People of Sodom and Gomorrah were tempted by the devil and they did not obey the word of God. They rejected their creator and his commands, the true God who is the provider of protection. So when the murderer and the destructor came to destroy them there was no protection. The destroyer is the one who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah not God. The Prophet of the Old Testament wrote that this was the punishment of God. He dropped the works of the fallen state of man in the old on God. He knew that those people were sinners and according to the law they should be punished and so he perceived that what happened to them was God's punishment.
What we must know is that the revelation in the Old Testament was not dictating words to write, but it was an inspiration given by the Holy Spirit to the prophet and he translated this revelation in his words, expression, and language. And we can see this clearly in the difference in the standard of language and expression between Isaiah the prophet and Amos. If the revelation was to be dictated, we would find the mode of expression one for all the prophets.
In the second letter of Peter chapter one we read "for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1: 21). Some people generalize this verse to all the Old Testament book, but this generalization will cause us deviate from the truth; because the Old Testament is not limited to prophecies alone, but it also includes history, heritage and customs of the Jewish people, wrong actions, statements, and attitudes of human beings who were under the power of sin, darkness, and the shadows of death and were waiting for the savior to come, "Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death..." ( luke1:78-79). So on the whole, the idea of revelation does not apply to all the book of the Old Testament, but it applies to God's commandments and prophecies only. We also learn many useful and disciplinary lessons from the history and the events narrated in the Old Testament which were undoubtedly a true picture of God's care for His people "God has breathed life into all scripture. It is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..." ( 2Timothy 3:16). St. John writes "No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he( i.e., the Word) has made him known" ( John1:18). John's point is clear; that the God of the Old Testament had been revealed in the New Testament, and had taken on flesh who is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, the Word and the Wisdom of God, was incarnated to reveal for us the true image of God " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God. All things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made" ( John 1:1-3). So the Revelation in the New Testament is not inspiration given to God's prophets to tell people about God, but it is Jesus Himself the incarnated Word, and Son of God. Jesus said "But I know Him, I am from Him, and He sent me" (John 7:29). He is God revealed in flesh. In the letter to the Hebrews chapter one explains to us clearly the relation between the Old and the New Testament " Long ago God spoke many times in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God's own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command" (Hebrews1:1-3). And St. Peter in his second letter compared the Prophetic Word in the Old Testament and the New Testament's revelation with the light shinning in a dark place compared to the full light of the day produced by the sun which is Jesus "We also have the message of the prophets. This message can be trusted completely. You must pay attention to it. The message is like a light shinning in a dark place. It will shine until the day jesus comes" ( 2peter 1:19). Jesus said in Mathew chapter five "Do not think I have come to get rid of what is written in the law or in the prophets. Instead I have come to fulfill what is written" (Mathew5:17). What was written in the Old is that God loves His people and He will save them. God did fulfill the promise of salvation in His Son Jesus Christ. God had sent His only begotten Son to save mankind from the sting and the power of death (i.e. sin) which entered to the life of man "Sin entered the world because one man sinned. And death came because of sin. Everyone sinned, so death came to all people" ( Romans 5:12). Jesus came to change the sinful nature of man by giving him His holy and eternal life through the Holy Spirit. On the cross He confronted sin and death and defeated them in His body which is our body. He was resurrected and gave His resurrection (i.e. His overcoming power over death) to all who believe in Him, accept Him as Lord and Savior, and receive His power over the grip of sin in the Holy Spirit. The Law of the Old Testament "the law of Moses", was weak and unable to complete the salvation of man from his fallen state and his bending under the temptation of sin "For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God…. by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant" (Hebrews7:18,19,22). The role of the law was limited to that it was put in charge of us until Christ came "So the law was put in charge of us until Jesus came" (Galatians3:24). The New Testament's revelation is Christ Himself. He is God's invisible image. We Christians establish our faith in the person of Christ and the unity with Him. We read the Old Testament with the new eyes and new perspectives of the new revelation and not the reverse as some do. They establish the understanding of the New Testament based on the Old, considering that the Old came first. This is a mistake because the Old was a message and prophecy for the New hope coming to reveal God's love to mankind and His salvation plan which will restore man to his original image and likeness in which he was created "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory." ( 1Timothy3:16).
Grace is "the gift of Father God" to mankind. The Gift of God is His incarnated Word, His only begotten Son Jesus Christ whom He had sent to save us from the grip of sin and to change our sinful nature . Through Christ, Father God has shown His love, favor and mercy toward humanity. In Christ He brought us out of the depths of sin and despair and has raised us up to be alive with Him
"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. …16 For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace"
Through Christ we have the hope of salvation. We see this from the words of our Lord to the woman at the well in Samaria. "Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water" (John 4:10).
Grace is all that God freely does for man on the basis of Christ's person and His work on the cross. Without Christ Jesus, we would not have the Grace of God. We are sinners and our nature became sinful and fallen. Repentance cannot remedy fallen nature: we are corrupted and need to be restored to the grace of God's image, and no one can renew but He who created. He alone could recreate all, suffer for all, represent all before the Father. Once transgression had got a head-start, human nature ended up completely corrupted and deprived of the grace which we once had from being in the image of God. Our repentance was no longer enough to restore this grace and give us the new beginning that we needed. What was needed then? The Word of God, who at the beginning made all out of nothing; only He could restore the corruptible to incorruption. He alone, being the Word of the Father and above all, was able to recreate everything.
So Grace of God comes only through Jesus Christ's work on the cross which reconciles us, delivers us, justifies us, and glorifies us. He has come to our sphere, and made His home in one body like ours. As a result, the whole plan of the enemy against mankind has failed, and the corruption of sin and death which previously overcame them is destroyed. The human race would have gone to destruction, if the Lord and Savior of all, the Son of God, had not come among us to meet the end of death. No work done by man alone can ever remove the power of sin, or gain eternal salvation. This was the point that Paul was making in that most famous verse in Ephesians "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air…. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions…For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:" (Ephesians 2:1-8).
God's grace, which comes through Jesus Christ is extended to all, not just to a select people; Paul said that "the Grace of God brings salvation," (Titus 2:11). This Grace is not limited; it has appeared so that all men might have an opportunity to be partakers of the divine life in Jesus Christ. How did God's Grace "appear" to all men? It has appeared in the incarnated Son Jesus Christ, His birth, life, death, and resurrection.
Although the Grace of God has appeared to all men, this does not mean that all men are saved. It means that all possess an opportunity to take advantage of the gift of God, which is Jesus Christ. Our salvation comes through our faith in Him, accepting and receiving Him, and when we do what Grace demands. Paul teaches that we all have sinned and come short of God's glory "Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God's glory," (Romans 3:23). As such, we are in our sins and in need of salvation. Our salvation can come only through Jesus Christ "God didn't choose us to receive his anger. He chooses us to receive salvation because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done," (1 Thessalonians 5:9). To receive the benefits of the Grace that God offers, we must go to Christ.
The Grace of God has come by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus Christ died is meaningful; If that is all He did, then we are lacking God's Grace. It was through the resurrection of Jesus Christ that God's Grace became effective. Peter says "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," (1 Peter 1:3). We were dead in our sins, but through Christ we can be made alive. The key is "through Christ." This helps us to understand Paul's statement: "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)" (Ephisians2:5). Peter makes a simple statement about the Grace of God: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," (Acts 4:12).
Grace is a gift which Christ has provided for all humanity. It is free for the taking "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,… 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved," ( Ephesians1:3,6). But, in reality, no one can receive the benefits of that gift until they take possession of that gift. Possession occurs when we accept and obey Jesus Christ "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal." 28 They said therefore to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent," (John 6:27-29).
Only then can we take possession of that gift; When we receive the gift of Grace, by our obedience, and Jesus becomes the author of our salvation. Until that moment, Jesus is not our savior. "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him," (Hebrew 5:9). "But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord," (Rom. 6:23b).
We cannot be vindicated by our own works or those of the Law. Our justification comes through the Grace of God. The only way for our salvation is Jesus Christ. Every one of us must stand liable for his own soul. We can do things that can separate us from the Grace of God. We can fall from Grace when we depart from the truths revealed by that Grace. No one can separate us from God's Grace except ourselves. Peter gives a very firm cautioning about going back to our former sinful condition. Once we have been saved, or freed from the stain of sin, and we go back to those former things, we are, in reality, in a worse condition "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them," (2 Peter 2:20-21).
So thank God for giving us His son who in Him we have God's life which is His life eternal. What a grace had been given to all who believe, receive, and obey Father God's Son and gift Jesus Christ.
After Paul talked to the Corinthians in chapter one and two about the division in their church and its causes and also about the misunderstanding of the spirit's ministry of revealing. He continued in chapter three and four to explain the consequences of the division asking them to take him as an example to follow. In chapter five and six he talked about the moral disorders in the Church.
C-What are the Consequences of Division?
1- First consequence is that The Spiritual Growth Is Stunted
2- Second consequence is that The Reward Will Be Lost
" I fed you with milk and not with solid food for until now you are not able to receive for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, and strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving as mere men."
" for when one says," I am of Paul," and another, " I am of Apollo's," are you not carnal?
"Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building."
" According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation and another build on it."
" Do you know that you are the temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you?" If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are"
"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the councils of the hearts and then each one's praise will come from God."
D- Paul is asking them to take him as an example
The Example Of Paul (Chapter 4:6-21)
"Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollo's for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other."
" For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Therefore I urge you, imitate me."
" For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power."
MORAL DISORDERS IN THE CHURCH. (Chapters 5:1- 6:20)
A- THE CASE OF INCEST
1- The Problem Stated &
2- The Punishment Prescribed, (Chapter 5:1-2)
1- The Problem Stated
" it is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you ....... that a man has his father's wife". And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you."
2- The punishment prescribed ( Chapter 5: 3-1-3)
"For I indeed as absent in body but present in spirit have already judged, concerning him who has so done this deed...... deliver Such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. " " But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is a fornicator, or a covetous, or an idolaters, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortionate, not even to eat with such a person."
B- Paul continues to talk about
1- The Problem of Litigation in Heathen Courts (Chapter 6:1-8)
" Dare any of you having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?"
Paul warned against MORAL LAXITY
C- The Warning Against Moral Laxity (Chapter 6:9-20)
" Do you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revivers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God," " All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." " Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." " And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power." "Do you know that your bodies are members of Christ ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not"
Flee sexual immorality.
"Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body."