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1 Corinthians 15:1-11


 

Now I would remind you, brothers,of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you - unless you believed in vain.

 

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (ESV)

 

Some Things Are Received

Thursday of Epiphany 7

27 February 2014

Some things must be received. Despite the human capacity for original and daring thought, there are just some things that must be accepted. Some things become accepted by long usage. This we call tradition. Other things are accepted because they are imposed on us from outside. This is reception by authority. Sometimes, things accepted by authority or tradition are wrong or misleading. Perhaps the tradition has been corrupted over time or a human authority has become corrupted by willful or unintentional blindness. But, despite this potential for corruption, we cannot reconsider anew every received tradition, for this way madness lies. If everything is up for grabs we will be in an impossible position; trying to treat everything we know, see, and experience as entirely new. It would be like being placed in totally unfamiliar surroundings every day. Sometimes it is just good to presume that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west.  

 

This is the way the received tradition of the church has functioned in her history. It comes to us from an authority and has been handed down through the centuries by the church's teachers. The Apostles' Creed has provided the shape of that tradition since the mid-second century. The Creed is received by the church because it faithfully transmits the divinely-given doctrine of Holy Scripture. The Creed is a creature of divine authority and is a faithful transmission of the tradition. The church and her teachers refer to it as a defense against heresy. Since it is received it can be used also as a defense against the accusation of heresy. The Creed was used this way by Rufinus of Aquileia in the fourth century, who was accused of heresy, and who defended himself by referring to the received tradition of the church.

 

Rufinus was accused, probably wrongly, of over-spiritualizing Christian theology, so that the resurrection of the body was merely some kind of spiritual resurrection, not a legitimate resurrection of the flesh. He found it necessary to defend himself against the accusation of heresy; writing his Apology to provide a response to his detractors, who included his old friend, Jerome of Jerusalem. Rufinus retreated to the received tradition of the Creed to make clear that he truly believed in the bodily resurrection of the flesh. Christ rose with His body according to the Creed, therefore we will also be raised in the flesh of the body. No phantom resurrection for Christ. No phantom resurrection for us. This we have received from God.

 

Rufinus of Aquileia

 

"We received, further, that the only begotten Son of God, through whom in the beginning all existing things were made, whether visible or invisible, in these last days took upon him a human body and soul, and was made man, and suffered for our salvation; and the third day he rose again from the dead in that very flesh which had been laid in the sepulcher; and in that very same flesh made glorious He ascended into the heavens, from which we look for his coming to judge the quick and the dead. But further, we confess that he gave us hope that we too should rise in a similar manner, so that we believe that our resurrection will be in the same manner and process, and in the same form, as the resurrection of our Lord himself from the dead; that the bodies which we shall receive will not be phantoms or thin vapors, as some slanderously affirm that we say, but these very bodies of ours in which we live and in which we die. For how can we truly believe in the resurrection of the flesh, unless the very nature of flesh remains in it truly and substantially? It is then without any equivocation, that we confess the resurrection of this real and substantial flesh of ours in which we live."

 

Rufinus, Apology, 1.4
 

Prayer

O Lord, Your heritage has been handed down to us in the prophetic and apostolic Word. Grant that we might receive it in full faith. Help us to treasure and honor the received tradition by learning, sharing, and defending it, so that Your life, death, and bodily resurrection might be at the center of our faith and teaching. Amen.

 

For Christian clergy, that the Lord Jesus would strengthen them for the Lenten disciplines and bear in their bodies the sign of Him who died for us

 

For Simon Leavitt, that the Lord Jesus would carry his little lamb in his arms

 

For the faith to receive what has been given and handed down to us by the Lord through the prophets and apostles

Art: MEMLING, Hans  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1470)

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