III. — A Refutation of the Heretics, from the Fact That, in the Various Churches, a Perpetual Succession of Bishops Was Kept Up.

The Bishops (apostles) were entrusted with an apostolic tradition (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 2:15) which were the hidden mysteries that were given to those chosen men who were perfect and set apart from the rest of the church. These men were more mature and were entrusted with the secret teachings of Christ, as Christ set apart His own 12 disciples from the rest of the crowds to teach them the secrets of the Kingdom (Matthew 13:11). Having these traditions (teachings) set them apart from heretics who claimed to be apostolic.

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It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to “the perfect” apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity.

~Irenaeus- Against Heresies Book III Vol. 1

XX. - Christ First Delivered the Faith. The Apostles Spread It; They Founded Churches as the Depositories Thereof. That Faith, Therefore, Is Apostolic, Which Descended from the Apostles, Through Apostolic Churches.

The importance of apostolic tradition was so consequential to the faith, it was what separated the true church from the heretical churches. To be considered an apostolic church you must have these traditions (teachings of the revelation of Christ) that were directly passed down by the apostles. The reason the Early Church had incessant unity was because of this apostolic tradition.

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Christ Jesus our Lord (may He bear with me a moment in thus expressing myself!), whosoever He is, of what God soever He is the Son, of what substance soever He is man and God, of what faith soever He is the, teacher, of what reward soever He is the Promiser, did, whilst He lived on earth, Himself declare what He was, what He had been, what the Father’s will was which He was administering, what the duty of man was which He was prescribing; (and this declaration He made,) either openly to the people, or privately to His disciples, of whom He had chosen the twelve chief ones to be at His side, (Mar_4:34) and whom He destined to be the teachers of the nations. Accordingly, after one of these had been struck off, He commanded the eleven others, on His departure to the Father, to “go and teach all nations, who were to be baptized into the Father, and into the Son, and into the Holy Ghost.” (Mat_28:19) Immediately, therefore, so did the apostles, whom this designation indicates as “the sent.” Having, on the authority of a prophecy, which occurs in a psalm of David, (Psa_109:8; compare Act_1:15-20) chosen Matthias by lot as the twelfth, into the place of Judas, they obtained the promised power of the Holy Ghost for the gift of miracles and of utterance; and after first bearing witness to the faith in Jesus Christ throughout Judaea, and rounding churches (there), they next went forth into the world and preached the same doctrine of the same faith to the nations. They then in like manner rounded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one after another, derived the tradition of the faith, and the seeds of doctrine, and are every day deriving them, that they may become churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic churches. Every sort of thing must necessarily revert to its original for its classification. Therefore the churches, although they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive church, (rounded) by the apostles, from which they all (spring). In this way all are primitive, and all are apostolic, whilst they are all proved to be one, in (unbroken) unity, by their peaceful communion, and title of brotherhood, and bond of hospitality, – privileges which no other rule directs than the one tradition of the selfsame mystery.

 


 

XXI. – All Doctrine True Which Comes Through the Church from the Apostles, who Were Taught by God Through Christ. All Opinion Which Has No Such Divine Origin and Apostolic Tradition to Show, Is Ipso Facto False.

 

From this, therefore, do we draw up our rule. Since the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed; for “no man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” (Mat_11:27) Nor does the Son seem to have revealed Him to any other than the apostles, whom He sent forth to preach – that, of course, which He revealed to them. Now, what that was which they preached – in other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them – can, as I must here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by those very churches which the apostles rounded in person, by declaring the gospel to them directly themselves, both rivet race, as the phrase is, and subsequently by their epistles. If, then, these things are so, it is in the same degree manifest that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic churches – those molds and original sources of the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that which the (said) churches received from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be prejudged as false which savors of contrariety to the truth of the churches and apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given the rule, has its origin in the tradition of the apostles, and whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto proceed from falsehood. We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness of truth.

~Tertullian- Against Heresies Vol. 3

VII. Characteristics of a Prophet

Before becoming a prophet, they were wise men being illuminated in their minds by the wisdom of God. These were not men who were just “activated” into that office, wisdom was a qualification and important attribute. They also were fearless, bold, loyal to the truth. The life of the prophet endured many sufferings, afflictions, torments, being destitute, the office of the prophet is not glamorous. They received the blessings of God that were not of the material realm, but are spiritual, invisible gifts. These are different from those so called prophets who divine by means of demons.

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In regard to the prophets among the Jews, some of them were wise men before they became divinely inspired prophets, while others became wise by the illumination which their minds received when divinely inspired. They were selected by Divine Providence to receive the Divine Spirit, and to be the depositaries of His holy oracles, on the ground of their leading a life of almost unapproachable excellence, intrepid, noble, unmoved by danger or death. For reason teaches that such ought to be the character of the prophets of the Most High, in comparison with which the firmness of Antisthenes, Crates, and Diogenes will seem but as child’s play. It was therefore for their firm adherence to truth, and their faithfulness in the reproof of the wicked, that “they were stoned; they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; they wandered in deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth, of whom the world was not worthy:” (Heb_11:37, Heb_11:38) for they looked always to God and to His blessings, which, being invisible, and not to be perceived by the senses, are eternal. We have the history of the life of each of the prophets; but it will be enough at present to direct attention to the life of Moses, whose prophecies are contained in the law; to that of Jeremiah, as it is given in the book which bears his name; to that of Isaiah, who with unexampled austerity walked naked and barefooted for the space of three years. (Isa_20:3) Read and consider the severe life of those children, Daniel and his companions, how they abstained from flesh, and lived on water and pulse. (Dan_1:16) Or if you will go back to more remote times, think of the life of Noah, who prophesied; (Gen_9:25-27) and of Isaac, who gave his son a prophetic blessing; or of Jacob, who addressed each of his twelve sons, beginning with “Come, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days.” (Gen_49:1) These, and a multitude of others, prophesying on behalf of God, foretold events relating to Jesus Christ. We therefore for this reason set at naught the oracles of the Pythian priestess, or those delivered at Dodona, at Clarus, at Branchidae, at the temple of Jupiter Ammon, or by a multitude of other so-called prophets; whilst we regard with reverent awe the Jewish prophets: for we see that the noble, earnest, and devout lives of these men were worthy of the inspiration of the Divine Spirit, whose wonderful effects were widely different from the divination of demons.

~Origen- Against Celsus Book VII Vol. 2

IX. — The Prophets Inspired by the Holy Ghost.

The prophets are not just men who hear from God. They were taught the wisdom of God and from that wisdom they were able to prophecy the coming of wars, pestilences and famines. These prophets were taught by God to be holy and righteous. It is the character of the prophet to have the wisdom of God, and to have holiness and righteousness in their life.

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But men of God carrying in them a holy spirit and becoming prophets, being inspired and made wise by God, became God-taught, and holy, and righteous. Wherefore they were also deemed worthy of receiving this reward, that they should become instruments of God, and contain the wisdom that is from Him, through which wisdom they uttered both what regarded the creation of the world and all other things. For they predicted also pestilences, and famines, and wars. And there was not one or two, but many, at various times and seasons among the Hebrews; and also among the Greeks there was the Sibyl; and they all have spoken things consistent and harmonious with each other, both what happened before them and what happened in their own time, and what things are now being fulfilled in our own day: wherefore we are persuaded also concerning the future things that they will fall out, as also the first have been accomplished.

~Theophilus- To Autolycus Book II Vol. 2