Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | May 4, 2008

Lord’s Day Quote: Harold O.J. Brown

Early Christian preaching proclaimed Jesus Christ: crucified, risen, ascended, and coming again.  It proclaimed his resurrection as the guarantee and model for our own.  His disciples were told that they must be prepared to suffer for him, but they could be confident of rising and reigning with him.  Paul said it very simply: “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1Cor 15:14).  For the first Christians, salvation was not something they had to earn; in fact, they could not earn it.  It had already been purchased for them by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Their entry into eternal life was assured by their identification with Christ through faith, baptism, and participation in the communion. 

It is important to note the difference between the early Christian conception of eternal life and the widespread Hellenistic assumption of the immortality of the soul.  Although the Bible speaks, like classical paganism, of man as having a soul as well as a body, it does not see him as consisting essentially of a soul imprisoned in a fleshly body, as Platonism and much Hellenistic spirituality did.  It sees him as a unity of soul and body.  The great creeds speak of the resurrection “of the body” (Apostles’ Creed) or “of the dead” (Nicene Creed), not of the immortality of the soul.  Because Christianity saw the human being as a soul-body unity, when it tried to understand the meaning of God becoming man in Christ, it ultimately had to acknowledge that Christ possesses a human soul as well as mere human flesh.  Those from the Hellenistic world who did not recognize man as essentially a soul-body unity, but rather as a spirit temporarily embodied in flesh, found this interpretation of Jesus unattractive, and frequently diminished his full humanity, sometimes denying it altogether.

Harold O.J. Brown, Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the history of the Church p. 31    

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