Thursday, January 22, 2015

ANF 5: Cyprian Epistles VII-IX

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume 5

Cyprian: Epistles VII-IX

Writing to the elders and deacons of his church, Cyprian encourages them to remain faithful and holy and humble, keeping in mind that suffering is nothing technically less than what we deserve for our sins. And while we of course may pray for the easing of our suffering, the divisions among us show that there is no guarantee we will receive it. Specifically, we ought to pray for suffering believers, for the safety and holiness of the church, and for a heart dedicated to God alone. This we ought to do both as individuals and as a congregation.

In Epistle VIII, Cyprian notes that martyrdom and greater suffering only increases our glory in Christ. We should look to those who have gone through suffering and strive to follow their example--above all keeping our eyes on Christ, who suffered first and in our place. We ought to support each other and mourn the damage done to "our Mother, the Church" even while standing firm against the  assaults of the world.
If the battle shall call you out, if the day your contest shall come, engage bravely, fight with constancy, as knowing that you are fighting under the eyes of a present Lord, that you are attaining by the confession of His name to His own glory; who is not such a one as that He only looks on His servants, but He Himself also wrestles in us, Himself is engaged,--Himself also in the struggles of our conflict not only crowns, but is crowned. 
Nor should we mourn those who have gone to be with the Lord, for they are the ones who are truly blessed.

In Epistle IX,  Cyprian tackles the tough question of what to do with those who fell away during persecution, but now that it's over want to come back to the body of believers (as exemplified by taking the Lord's Supper). Of course we should restore the truly repentant, but some have been quick to restore those who are perhaps not truly believers, and only want back in because it is now safe. The elders need to investigate closely and carefully before making a proclamation about whether or not these individuals have truly saving faith--obviously something which is not easily answered given their recent lapse.

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