Monday Mornings with The Early Church Fathers

Do you ever  grow weary of all the new fads and techniques the modern church creates?  I  do!  What is important to us, may not have been important to those who were personally discipled by Jesus Christ and those whom they disicpled.

I am continually challenged when I read the history and the writings of the early church.   I am drawn to them over and over again because of how close they were in time to the Apostles.  There writings are not scripture, but neither are the writings of Luther, Calvin or John Stott.  These writings shed tremendous light on how the Apostles and the early church viewed the Christ event and the implications of it.   Anyone who wants to follow Jesus Christ faithfully owes it to themselves to read the writings of these Godly men.

Today, I am posting chapters 1-4  of the “Didache”, also known as  “The Teaching of The Twelve Apostles.”  It is one of the most fascinating documents to emerge from the early church.  It was probably in circulation somewhere close to the end of the first century
Some of the things described in it reflect a time closer to James and Paul (who died in the 60′s) than Ignatius (who died sometime after 110).   Some believe the teachings recorded in this document may have been used by the Apostles themselves.  That is uncertain.  What is certain is that the this represents the teachings of the very early church.

It reads like the New Testament.  Chapters one through four discuss the first of two ways:

Chapter One: The Way of Life

There are two ways: one of life and one of death; and the difference between the two ways is great. The way of life is this: first, you should love God, who made you; secondly, love your neighbor as yourself; and whatever things you do not desire to be done to you, do not do them to someone else. Now the words of this teaching are this: Bless those who curse you and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who are persecuting you. For what credit is it if you love those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same thing? But love those hating you, and you will not have an enemy. Keep yourself from fleshly and bodily cravings. If anyone hits you on the right cheek, turn the other one to him also. And you will be acting maturely. If someone should force you to go one mile, go with him two. If someone takes your coat, give him your shirt also. If anyone should take from you what is yours, do not demand that he give it back, for you cannot. Give to everyone asking you and do not refuse, for the Father desires to give to everyone from His own gifts. Blessed is the one who gives according to the commandment, for he is innocent. But the one who receives without need shall account for his receiving. Furthermore, being held, he shall be examined concerning what he has done, and he shall not be released until he has given back the last cent. It has been said concerning this, “Let your money sweat in your hands until you know whom you should give it to.”

Chapter Two

      And this is the second commandment of the teaching: you shall not kill; you shall not commit
adultery; you shall not corrupt children, nor practice sexual deviation; you
shall not steal; nor practice calling on spiritual guides; nor use sorcery; you
shall not procure an abortion, nor practice infanticide; you shall not covet
your neighbors goods.

      You shall not commit perjury, nor accuse someone falsely; you shall not speak evil nor hold a
grudge. You shall not be double minded nor double tongued, for the double tongue
is the snare of death. Your word shall not be false or empty, but do what you
say.

      You shall not be covetous or extortionate, or hypocritical, or malicious or proud. You shall
not plan evil against your neighbor. You should not hate anyone; but you should
reprove some, and you should pray for some, and you should love some more then
your own life.

Chapter Three

      My child, flee from evil and from every appearance of evil. Do not be ruled by your passions,
for this leads to murder. Neither be jealous, quarrelsome, or quick- tempered.
For murders are born out of such things. Do not let yourself develop lust, for
this leads to sexual immorality. Do not be foul-mouthed, nor raise your eyes,
for this leads to adultery.

      My child, do not regard omens, for this leads to idolatry. Do not be a sorcerer, nor be
involved in astrology or magic purifications. Do not desire to see these things,
for that is how idolatry comes. My child, do not be a liar, for lying leads to
thievery. Do not be fond of money and do not try to build your own image, for
that also leads to thievery. My child, do not be a grumbler, for it leads to
blasphemy. Do not be self-willed nor entertain evil thoughts, for that is how
blasphemy starts.

      Be meek, for the meek shall inherit the earth. Be patient and long-suffering, devoid of evil,
gentle and good, and trembling continually at the words that you have heard. Do
not exalt yourself nor act presumptuously. Do not join yourself with the proud,
but walk with the righteous and humble men.

      Accept everything that happens to you as good, knowing that nothing happens apart from God.

Chapter Four

      My child, you should remember night and day the one who speaks to you the Word of God, and
honor him as you would the Lord; for where the delegated authority speaks, there is the Lord.

      And you should seek every day the presence of the saints, in order that you may be supported by
their words. You should not desire division, but make peace between those
quarreling. Judge righteously; do not favor anyone in reproving transgressions.
Do not be double-minded as to whether anything should or should not be.

      Do not be one who stretches out his hand to receive but withdraws it in giving.

Give a ransom for your sins if you have it to give. Do not hesitate to give, nor give in a grumbling manner, for
you know who is the good Paymaster who rewards?

      You should not turn away the needy, but share all things with your brother, not saying that
anything is your own. For if we are sharers in the eternal things, much more
should we be in the physical things. Do not withhold your hand from your son or
your daughter, but from their youth teach them the fear of God.

      Do not give orders to your slave or your handmaiden those who hope in the same God when
you are bitter, lest they stop fearing God who is over you both. For He does not
come to call men according to their social status, but He calls those whom the
Spirit has prepared. And you slaves submit in fear and reverence to your masters
as God’s delegated authority over you.

      You should hate all hypocrisy and all that is not pleasing to the Lord. Do not forsake the
commandments of the Lord, and keep (the teachings) you have received, not adding
and not taking away. In church, you should confess your faults; and do not go to
prayer with an evil conscience. This is the Way of Life.

Read The Next Post in this Series

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About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on September 26, 2011, in Christianity, Early Church History, The Christian Life, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. A while back I read “The Didache: Text, Translation, Analysis, and Commentary” by Aaron Milavec. One thing he did in his book which I really liked was to change the layout of the source text (if you look at the book in Amazon.com you’ll see what I mean). I thought it made the document much easier to read and its structure more evident.

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  1. Pingback: Monday Mornings with The Early Church Fathers: The Didache « Not For Itching Ears

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