The Early Christian Church - Vol. 1

By Philip Carrington | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 25
APOSTOLIC TRADITION

The gospel in the church, p.464. The local unit, p.465. The Jewish inheritance, p.465. Lord's Day and Pascha,p.466. The Hebrew Bible, p.467. The apostolic literature, p.467. The written Gospel, p.469. The unified episcopate, p.470. The two types of episcopacy, p.472. The Roman bishops, p.474. From Clement to Xystus, p.475. The bishop's house, p.476. The Jewish antecedents, p.477. The life-line of the gospel, p.478.


THE GOSPEL IN THE CHURCH

Perhaps an external observer would have seen little likelihood now of the emergence of a uniform Christian tradition out of the great variety of forms which were coming into existence; but the variety was of the very essence of the gospel tradition. The types of apostolic Christianity which were created in the second generation were derived from differences which had existed from the beginning of the first generation. They were continued into the third generation, but each area of Christian tradition, as it emerges into clearer light, is found to exhibit the same pattern, which is given the convenient name of catholicism. It appears as a whole for the first time in the pages of Ignatius.

There were two forces which constituted and maintained the unity of the church; and these two were one. They were the gospel and the apostolate; the message and the mission. The gospel was never a message or theory existing in a vacuum; it was always embodied in men and propagated through men; and it boasted of a divine power called the Holy Spirit which flowed through it into the church and worked wonders. It was 'in flesh' as Ignatius says.

Paul insists that whatever differences there may have been between Peter and James and himself, as heads of traditions, they had but one gospel. The core of this gospel was the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It follows that when the Docetic teachers denied the actual death and resurrection, the church could recognize that these teachers were not in line with the gospel; it made Ignatius look to his written Gospel and his theology and his creed-forms; it made Polycarp look to his apostolic records. The formation of schismatic groups made them look to the problem of church order and church unity.

-464-

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