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Home > Fathers of the Church > Against Heresies (St. Irenaeus) > Book IV, Chapter 5

Against Heresies (Book IV, Chapter 5)

The author returns to his former argument, and shows that there was but one God announced by the law and prophets, whom Christ confesses as His Father, and who, through His word, one living God with Him, made Himself known to men in both covenants.

1. God, therefore, is one and the same, who rolls up the heaven as a book, and renews the face of the earth; who made the things of time for man, so that coming to maturity in them, he may produce the fruit of immortality; and who, through His kindness, also bestows [upon him] eternal things, that in the ages to come He may show the exceeding riches of His grace; Ephesians 2:7 who was announced by the law and the prophets, whom Christ confessed as His Father. Now He is the Creator, and He it is who is God over all, as Esaias says, I am witness, says the Lord God, and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know, and believe, and understand that I am. Before me there was no other God, neither shall be after me. I am God, and besides me there is no Saviour. I have proclaimed, and I have saved. Isaiah 43:10, etc. And again: I myself am the first God, and I am above things to come. Isaiah 12:4 For neither in an ambiguous, nor arrogant, nor boastful manner, does He say these things; but since it was impossible, without God, to come to a knowledge of God, He teaches men, through His Word, to know God. To those, therefore, who are ignorant of these matters, and on this account imagine that they have discovered another Father, justly does one say, You do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. Matthew 22:29

2. For our Lord and Master, in the answer which He gave to the Sadducees, who say that there is no resurrection, and who do therefore dishonour God, and lower the credit of the law, did both indicate a resurrection, and reveal God, saying to them, You do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God. For, touching the resurrection of the dead, He says, have you not read that which was spoken by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? And He added, He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to Him. By these arguments He unquestionably made it clear, that He who spoke to Moses out of the bush, and declared Himself to be the God of the fathers, He is the God of the living. For who is the God of the living unless He who is God, and above whom there is no other God? Whom also Daniel the prophet, when Cyrus king of the Persians said to him, Why do you not worship Bel? did proclaim, saying, Because I do not worship idols made with hands, but the living God, who established the heaven and the earth and has dominion over all flesh. Again did he say, I will adore the Lord my God, because He is the living God. He, then, who was adored by the prophets as the living God, He is the God of the living; and His Word is He who also spoke to Moses, who also put the Sadducees to silence, who also bestowed the gift of resurrection, thus revealing [both] truths to those who are blind, that is, the resurrection and God [in His true character]. For if He be not the God of the dead, but of the living, yet was called the God of the fathers who were sleeping, they do indubitably live to God, and have not passed out of existence, since they are children of the resurrection. But our Lord is Himself the resurrection, as He does Himself declare, I am the resurrection and the life. John 11:25 But the fathers are His children; for it is said by the prophet: Instead of your fathers, your children have been made to you. Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spoke to Moses, and who was also manifested to the fathers.

3. And teaching this very thing, He said to the Jews: Your father Abraham rejoiced that he should see my day; and he saw it, and was glad. John 8:56 What is intended? Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness. Romans 4:3 In the first place, [he believed] that He was the maker of heaven and earth, the only God; and in the next place, that He would make his seed as the stars of heaven. This is what is meant by Paul, [when he says,] as lights in the world. Philippians 2:15 Righteously, therefore, having left his earthly kindred, he followed the Word of God, walking as a pilgrim with the Word, that he might [afterwards] have his abode with the Word.

4. Righteously also the apostles, being of the race of Abraham, left the ship and their father, and followed the Word. Righteously also do we, possessing the same faith as Abraham, and taking up the cross as Isaac did the wood, Genesis 22:6 follow Him. For in Abraham man had learned beforehand, and had been accustomed to follow the Word of God. For Abraham, according to his faith, followed the command of the Word of God, and with a ready mind delivered up, as a sacrifice to God, his only-begotten and beloved son, in order that God also might be pleased to offer up for all his seed His own beloved and only-begotten Son, as a sacrifice for our redemption.

5. Since, therefore, Abraham was a prophet and saw in the Spirit the day of the Lord's coming, and the dispensation of His suffering, through whom both he himself and all who, following the example of his faith, trust in God, should be saved, he rejoiced exceedingly. The Lord, therefore, was not unknown to Abraham, whose day he desired to see; John 8:56 nor, again, was the Lord's Father, for he had learned from the Word of the Lord, and believed Him; wherefore it was accounted to him by the Lord for righteousness. For faith towards God justifies a man; and therefore he said, I will stretch forth my hand to the most high God, who made the heaven and the earth. Genesis 14:22 All these truths, however, do those holding perverse opinions endeavour to overthrow, because of one passage, which they certainly do not understand correctly.

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Source. Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103405.htm>.

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