No Power

From Against the Heresies 3.20.2-3 (ca. 174-189)

God is the glory of humanity. Mankind is the vessel which receives God’s action and all his wisdom and power.

Just as a doctor is judged in his care for the sick, so God is revealed in his conduct with us. That is Paul’s reason for saying: “God has made the whole world prisoner of unbelief so that he may have mercy on all.” He was speaking of human beings, who were disobedient to God, and cast off from immortality, and then found mercy, receiving through the Son of God the adoption he brings.

If we, without being puffed up or boastful, have a right belief concerning created things and their divine Creator, who, having given them being, holds them all in his power, and if we persevere in God’s love, and in obedience and gratitude to him, we will receive greater glory from him. It will be a glory which will grow ever brighter until we take on the likeness of the one who died for us.

He it was who took on the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin and rid the flesh of sin, as now condemned. He wanted to invite us to take on his likeness, appointing us imitators of God, establishing us in a way of life in obedience to the Father that would lead to the vision of God, and endowing us with power to receive the Father. He is the Word of God who dwelt with us and became the Son of Man to open the way for us to receive God, for God to dwell with us, according to the will of the Father.

For this reason the Lord himself gave as the sign of our salvation the one who was born of the Virgin, Emmanuel. It was “the Lord himself who saved them,” for of themselves they had no power to be saved. For this reason, Paul speaks of the weakness of human nature, and says, I know that no good dwells in my flesh. He means that the blessing of our salvation comes not from us but from God. Again, he says, “I am a wretched man; who will free me from this body doomed to die?” Then he speaks of a liberator, “thanks to Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Isaiah says the same, “Hands that are feeble, grow strong! Knees that are weak, take courage! Hearts that are faint, grow strong! Fear not — see, our God is judgment and he will repay. He himself will come and save us.” He means that we could not be saved of ourselves but only with God’s help.

St. Irenaeus (ca.130 – ca. 202) was a Greek theologian and missionary, who served as Bishop of Lyons. His Against All Heresies, which is primarily concerned with refuting the Gnostic heresy, was the first major surviving work of theology written after the New Testament. His feast is on June 28.


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