St. Athanasius is the fourth century bishop known as "the father of orthodoxy" for his absolute dedication to the doctrine of Christ's divinity.
He was born to Christian parents living in the Egyptian city of Alexandria in 296. His parents took great care to have their son educated, and his talents came to the attention of a local priest who was later canonized as St. Alexander of Alexandria. The priest and future saint tutored Athanasius in theology, and eventually appointed him as an assistant.
Around the age of 19, Athanasius spent a formative period in the Egyptian desert as a disciple of St. Anthony in his monastic community. Returning to Alexandria, he was ordained a deacon in 319, and resumed his assistance to Alexander who had become a bishop. The Catholic Church, newly recognized by the Roman Empire, was already encountering a new series of dangers from within. The most serious threat to the fourth-century Church came from a priest named Arius, who taught that Jesus could not have existed eternally as God prior to his historical incarnation as a man. According to Arius, Jesus was the highest of created beings, and could be considered "divine" only by analogy. Arians professed a belief in Jesus' "divinity," but meant only that he was God's greatest creature.
Opponents of Arianism brought forth numerous scriptures which taught Christ's eternal pre-existence and his identity as God. Nonetheless, many Greek-speaking Christians found it intellectually easier to believe in Jesus as a created demi-god, than to accept the mystery of a Father-Son relationship within the Godhead. By 325, the controversy was dividing the Church and unsettling the Roman Empire.
In that year, Athanasius attended the First Ecumenical Council, held at Nicaea to examine and judge Arius' doctrine in light of apostolic tradition. It reaffirmed the Church's perennial teaching on Christ's full deity, and established the Nicene Creed as an authoritative statement of faith. The remainder of Athanasius' life was a constant struggle to uphold the council's teaching about Christ.
Near the end of St. Alexander's life, he insisted that Athanasius succeed him as the Bishop of Alexandria. Athanasius took on the position just as the Emperor Constantine, despite having convoked the Council of Nicaea, decided to relax its condemnation of Arius and his supporters. Athanasius continually refused to admit Arius to communion, however, despite the urgings of the emperor.
A number of Arians spent the next several decades attempting to manipulate bishops, emperors and Popes to move against Athanasius, particularly through the use of false accusations. Athanasius was accused of theft, murder, assault, and even of causing a famine by interfering with food shipments.
Arius became ill and died gruesomely in 336, but his heresy continued to live. Under the rule of the three emperors that followed Constantine, and particularly under the rule of the strongly Arian Constantius, Athanasius was driven into exile at least five times for insisting on the Nicene Creed as the Church's authoritative rule of faith.
Athanasius received the support of several Popes, and spent a portion of his exile in Rome. However, the Emperor Constantius did succeed in coercing one Pope, Liberius, into condemning Athanasius by having him kidnapped, threatened with death, and sent away from Rome for two years. The Pope eventually managed to return to Rome, where he again proclaimed Athanasius' orthodoxy.
Constantius went so far as to send troops to attack his clergy and congregations. Neither these measures, nor direct attempts to assassinate the bishop, succeeding in silencing him. However, they frequently made it difficult for him to remain in his diocese. He enjoyed some respite after Constantius' death in 361, but was later persecuted by Emperor Julian the Apostate, who sought to revive paganism. In 369, Athanasius managed to convene an assembly of 90 bishops in Alexandria, for the sake of warning the Church in Africa against the continuing threat of Arianism.
He died in 373, and was vindicated by a more comprehensive rejection of Arianism at the Second Ecumenical Council, held in 381 at Constantinople. St. Gregory Nazianzen, who presided over part of that council, described St. Athanasius as "the true pillar of the church," whose "life and conduct were the rule of bishops, and his doctrine the rule of the orthodox faith."
"Do not say, "This happened by chance, while this came to be of itself." In all that exists there is nothing disorderly, nothing indefinite, nothing without purpose, nothing by chance … How many hairs are on your head? God will not forget one of them. Do you see how nothing, even the smallest thing, escapes the gaze of God? There is nothing unpremeditated, nothing neglected by God. His unsleeping eye beholds all things. We glorify the Holy Ghost together with the Father and the Son, from the conviction that He is not separated from the Divine Nature."
"Human life is but of brief duration. All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God shall stand forever' (Isa. 40:6). Let us hold fast to the commandment that abides, and despise the unreality that passes away."
This question indicates that there is misunderstanding of the true meaning of the word "grace" in christianity and the concept of "salvation". According to the teaching of the New Testament and the Early Fathers of the Church, the grace and the gift given by Father God to all mankind is His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Only in Jesus Christ we are saved. In Him we have the power to overcome sin, all evil temptations, and to change our sinful nature. Being in Jesus and Jesus in us restore in us God's image which we have been created on. So Salvation is the unity with Christ. Therefore when we unite with Jesus Christ, the forgiver of sins, we receive Jesus as well as the forgiveness of sins. We attain our salvation not only by believing in Jesus Christ
"Even the demons believe—and tremble!"
(James2:19), but mainly by accepting Him to be the author of our lives, loving and obeying His words and commands. Salvation is Jesus' reign over our entire life in combination with our absolute belief that Jesus came, died, and that God has raised him from the dead.
There are too many Christians who say they believe in Jesus as their Lord, but there is little significant evidence from their lives, decisions, attitudes, behaviors, conversations, morals, values, goals, and habits that would reflect their belief, "But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" If you really believe Jesus died for you and set you free from bondage to sin and spiritual death, your life should be thoroughly, significantly, and continually changing in everyday life. The New Testament teaches us the necessity of our outward lives being a reflection of our inward belief. Faith has to have evidence in actions and behaviors. "it is impossible to please God without faith" (Hebrews 11:6), "For as the body without spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2:26).
After accepting and receiving the grace and gift of Jesus Christ in us we must abide in Him, i.e. to have a a personal, daily, intimate, and eternal relationship with Him, "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:6). This verse is a warning for us that it is essential to stay abiding to Jesus; this is done through loving obedience to Him and trusting in His words. If anyone lost this connection with Christ, who is the source of life, he will fall out like a withered branch which lost its source of life; and then the evil sinful spirits which tempted him to lose his life, will throw him in their eternal fire. Because our enemy, the wicked one, is from the beginning a murderer who came to kill and to destroy us. Being a christian means you are having an entirely new life not just a changed one. Now you want by your free will to walk the way God wants you to and you no longer want to fall into sin; but in fact you hate the very thought of sin because what is in you now is holy.
But here comes the question, can a believer get tempted and returns to his old ways and rejects the dwelling of Jesus in him? In the letter to the Hebrews chapter ten we read "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:26-29). According to this scripture, it is possible for a christian after having received the knowledge of the truth, that he rejects the dwelling and the work of Jesus in him willfully, by his thoughts, words, and deeds, i.e. by insulting the Spirit of Grace that he first accepted. Also Jesus said in the parable of the sower in the Gospel of Luke that there are ones who believe for a while and in the time of temptation fall away, "But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away." (Luke 8:13). In the first letter to the Corinthians St. Paul gave the church the key to how to keep their salvation that they had received by grace, and that is by continuing to abide in the grace, "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if YOU HOLD FAST THAT WORD WHICH I PREACHED TO YOU, unless you believed in vain." ( 1 Corinthians15:1-3). These verses show us that if we keep in memory i.e. ABIDING IN THE TRUTH, then we are saved. But it also says that if we do not continue then we believed in vain. So it seems to be clear that our salvation is dependent on us continuing in abiding in Him and walking in the Spirit. We can not and should not believe that we will be granted salvation if we turn our backs on Jesus! The requirements of salvation is that we believe in Him, follow Him, and continuing abiding in Him. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitful of sin" ( Hebrews 3:12-13).
Therefore brothers and sisters salvation is not simply dependent on belief in Jesus. But after we believe, we accept and receive Jesus the grace of God in us, abide in Him, walk in the Spirit, relinquish the authority of our lives to Him as our Lord and savior and obeying His commandments.
When we read the Old Testament we see that the meaning of purity was simply the washing of the body externally, refraining from eating some kinds of food, and avoiding touching certain things, etc. All these rules in the old were for the purpose of personal hygiene as well as they were Jewish traditions. In the Gospel of Mathew we read that the scribes and the pharisees clashed with Jesus over this concept and said to Him,
"Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread"
( Mathew 15:2). Jesus answered them with the deep meaning of purity in the New Testament. He gathered the people and told them
" Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man"
( Mathew 15:10-20). In these verses Jesus had laid down new definition of what is uncleanness and what is purity, which is different from what the Old Testament established for primitive people that would help them to avoid disease and pollution through cleanliness and external washing. Jesus went into the depth of man's entity and explained that impurity comes from the heart, the mind, and the thoughts that exude on the body and defile it. It is not the consumption of certain foods and drinks with unwashed hands that defile man. Impurity comes from inside not from outside; a sinful heart, evil thoughts, and lusts of the body are what makes man impure.
The main goal of every Christian who has believed in Jesus Christ and has received Him in the Holy Spirit is to become in unity with Him and be more and more like Him each day. To be in unity with Jesus Christ means practically that you must be putting off the old way of life of which sin was in control, and conforming one's thoughts and actions to the standard put forth in Scripture "The power of sin should no longer control the way we live. The Holy Spirit should control the way we live. So don't live under the control of sin. If you do, you will think about what the spirit wants. ….The mind ruled by the power of sin is at war with God. It doesn't obey God's law. It can't. Those who are under the power of sin can't please God." ( Romans 8: 6,7,8.)
Some people would say that nobody will ever be perfect or attain sinlessness while still on this earth. That is not true cause Jesus commanded us to be holy as He is holy. So it is a command and not a choice for a believer in Christ. To be holy is the goal for which every christian strive. The Bible makes a very strong statement regarding this in 1 Thessalonians 4:7,8 "God has called us to be holy, not to live impure lives. Anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human rules but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you." And in the first letter of Peter we read "As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." (1peter14-16).
What we should know that we will never be able to be sinless and perfect by our works or by our strength but by our will to be united with the perfect sinless One, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Grace of God given to all mankind.
What is the meaning of my will to be united with Christ?. It means that I choose by my free will to put off all the old ways of my life, reject all the worldly tempting thoughts that may sadden and quench the presence of the Holy Spirit in me; pray asking for the strength in the Holy Spirit to be able to resist all the evil powers and to abide to Jesus and obey His words. So I have a role in this procedure of my purification
"Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul" ( 1peter 2:11). My role is to accept and choose to live a new life and renew my mind and thoughts " Brothers and sisters, we have a duty. Our duty is not to live under the power of sin. If you live under the power of sin, you will die. But by the Spirit's power you can put to death the sins you commit. Then you will live." (Romans 8: 12-13). I must be away from anything that would weaken my decision and be always in the places and around people that would help me to be united with my Lord in the Holy Spirit and abide in Him all the time "Because of what Christ Jesus has done, you are free. You are now controlled by the law of the Holy Spirit who gives you life. The law of the spirit frees you from the law of sin that brings death." (Roman8:2). When the work of the Holy Spirit succeeds in me, I become the great conqueror over all the evil powers, "No! In all these things we are more than winners! We owed it all to Christ, who has loved us. I am absolutely sure that not even death or life can separate us from God's love." ( Romans 8: 37). We must come to this point that nothing can tempt us to sin and we lose our purity which separates us from Jesus' life and love.
When we talk about purity we must talk about the power of lust that ruins our purity. First we must define what is lust?. Lust is the power of desiring things that are not from God. You Lust when you have pleasure in something that does not line up with the will of God; partaking in the pleasures of unrighteousness. The New Testament defines lust as the love of unrighteous things, " ..who did not believe the truth but had pleasures in unrighteousness." ( 2Thessalonians2:12). It is the root of all evil, "the love (lust) of money is the root of all evil" ( 1Timothy 6:10). So it is the act of idolizing the love of anything than the love of God, "Don't love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you cannot love the Father. Our foolish pride comes from this world, and so do our selfish desires and our desire to have everything we see. None of this comes from the Father. The world and the desires it causes are disappearing. But if we obey God, we will live forever" (1John 2:15-17). Lust of worldly things and the love of God cannot co-exit. When you lust you want to please yourself only and this will lead you to fulfill your own desires no matter if this would harm your body which is the temple of God, or harm the people around you and make them stumble. To be a true Christian united with Jesus Christ is marked by holy living, holy love and focus on how one gives oneself to the other, and not to please oneself. So purity is the attribute of a true believer. It is the purity of the heart and mind from inside and not the cleanliness of the outside.
Paul continues his discussion concerning marriage. As part of his instructions about sexual impurity, Paul addressed both single and married believers in a long set of directives, set for the specific context they lived in. It is very clear that Paul favored celibacy though he approved marriage. That is because it freed him up to focus entirely on his ministry ( vv. 1,7,8,9,27,28). In chapter seven Paul was not writing a treatise on marriage but he was answering questions that had been sent to him.
A- MARRAIGE & CELIBACY ( CHAPTER 7:1-9)
" Now concerning the things you wrote to me: it is good for a man not to touch a woman" ( 7:1).
In (Chapter 7:2-5) Paul was talking about the mutuality of marriage, each partner has rights of his or her own and debts to the other.
Chapter 7:2 " Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband."
Chapter 7:3 "let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband."
Chapter 7:4 " The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body but the wife does."
Chapter 7:5 " Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourself to fasting and prayer, and come together again so that satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."
Chapter 7:6-9 Paul said that all these instructions he gave were as a concession, not as a commandment, wishing that all men were even as himself. But each one has his own gift from God, one is celibate and another is married. But it is better to marry than to let lust destroy your relationship with God.
B- MARRIAGE & DIVORCE (CHAPTER 7:10-24)
According to both Paul's and Christ's teachings married believers should not divorce. And if an unapproved separation does occur the believer must either remain unmarried permanently or be reconciled permanently.
Chapter 7:10-11 " Now to the married I command yet not I but the lord: Wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she did, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce a wife."
Chapter 7:12-13 These verses deal with marriages in which one partner becomes a believer after the marriage. Paul said that he not the Lord I.e., that Christ did not give teaching concerning spiritually mixed marriages, but Paul did.
" If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her."
Chapter 7:14 talked about the presence of a believer in the home sets the home apart and gives it a Christian influence it would not otherwise have. A believing partner, therefore, should stay with the unbeliever. The children will be holy in the sense of being set apart by the presence of one believing parent.
" For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children will be unclean, but now they are holy."
Chapter 7:17-24 The principal of remaining in one's marital relationship is part of a more general principal: in everything the Christian is to remain in his calling unless it is immoral.
" Brethren, let each one remain with God in that calling in which he was called."
C- MARRIAGE AND CHRISTIAN SERVICES
Chapter 7:25-38 Celibacy is presented as desirable though not necessary. Paul is talking about present distress which is probably a particular difficult circumstance which the Corinthian Christians were passing. 7:26 " I suppose therefore that this is good because of the present distress- that is good for a man to remain as he is."
" Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed. Are you loosed from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But even if you do marry, you haven't sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Nevertheless such will have trouble in the flesh, but I would spare you."
Chapter 7:32-38 Paul thinks that he who is unmarried will be without care and be able to care for the things that belong to the Lord and pleases Him. But he who is married cares about things of the world and he may please his wife.
" And this I say for your own benefit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction."
Continuation of the study in the next edition