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All Articles For Contending for the Faith

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Discussing the doctrine of the resurrection as taught and set forth by the church during the years, 80 A.D. to 250 A.D., we called attention in our preceding article to the writings on this subject of Athenagorus. We now continue with these fathers during these early years of the church in the New Dispensation, calling attention first to Minucius Felix. 

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We noted in our preceding article that, as far as the doctrine of the atonement is concerned as taught in the period, 80-254 A.D., all without exception taught that Christ died for our sins and that His death is a sacrifice for sin, and that redemption and salvation were accomplished not only through His incarnation and by His doctrine and example but also through His death. And we also noted that the doctrine of vicarious satisfaction or atonement was not completely developed or defined in this period. 

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Before calling attention to the development of the doctrine of the atonement in the second period of the church (this period is not characterized by too much development of this doctrine), it might be well to summarize what we covered until now. First, we have a clear presentation of this in the History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff, Vol. II, 583 ff.; and we quote:

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How detailed and thorough the fathers are in their rejection and repudiation of the Arminian error! In this Second Head of the Canons they not only set forth the truth of the atonement positively, but not less than seven lengthy articles are devoted by them in their rejection if this heresy in the section of the Canons called: The Rejection of Errors. This heresy of Arminianism must be completely throttled and stamped out in the hearts and minds of the people and church of the Lord. Is this a lesson for us?

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In our preceding article we quoted Article IV of the Rejection of Errors of Head II of the Canons of Dordt which treats the atoning suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. And we noted the fact that, in this article, the Remonstrants present what they consider the condition upon which God will bestow life and salvation. In the preceding articles of this Rejection of Errors the Arminians declare that Christ by His death upon the cross merited for the Father the authority and will to deal again with the sinner, to prescribe new conditions for that sinner unto...

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Irenaeus, too, wrote on the subject of the resurrection. Polycarp had sent Pothinus into Celtic Gaul at an early date as its evangelist. Pothinus was joined there by Irenaeus as a presbyter, having been his fellow-pupil under Polycarp. When Pothinus had closed his life by a martyr’s death, Irenaeus naturally became his successor. The work of Irenaeus Against Heresies is one of the most precious remains of early Christian antiquity.

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Concluding our discussion of the history of the doctrine of the atonement in the second period, 254-730 A.D., we wish to quote a certain letter which was written to an unknown heathen, Diognetus. The late Dr. Bavinck, in our quotation which we quoted from him in a previous article, also refers to this letter. This passage which we promised to quote appears, according to Philip Schaff, in an epistle by an anonymous author to this Diognetus. This epistle has sometimes been ascribed to Justin, but is probably of much earlier date.

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Returning to one of the Apostolic Fathers, in connection with the doctrine of the atonement, we would quote (briefly from Polycarp. Polycarp was instructed by the apostles, and was brought into contact with many who had seen Christ. We have this information from Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp. In his epistle to the Philippians, its authenticity being unquestioned, Polycarp writes as follows:

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