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Christian Spiritual Classic from the 100's

Polycarp: Letter to the Philippians

The New Testament contains twenty-one letters from Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude and are addressed to all Christians, individual house churches, or individuals. This form of encouragement continued after the Apostles had died. One such letter was written by Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, in the mid-150s. It is an interesting letter because it is addressed to the Philippian Christians, thus being written around 100 years after Paul wrote Philippians [which is in the New Testament]. Polycarp himself was put to death for his faith by being burned at the stake.


I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because you have followed the example of true love, and have accompanied, as become you, those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord; and because the strong root of your faith, spoken of in days long gone by, endure even until now, and bring forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death, “whom God raised from the dead, having loosed the bands of the grave.” [Acts 2:24] “In whom, though now you see Him not, you believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” [I Peter 1:8]; into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that “by grace you are saved, not of works” [Ephesians 2:8,9], but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

“Wherefore, girding up your loins,” serve the Lord in truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and “believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory” [I Peter 1:21], and a throne at his right hand. To Him all things in heaven and on earth are subject. Him every spirit serves. He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead. His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him. But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; not rendering evil for evil or railing for railing, or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching: “Judge not that you be not judged; forgive and it shall be forgiven unto you; be merciful, that you may obtain mercy; with what measure you measure, it shall be measure to you again;” and once more, “Blessed are the poor, and those that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” [All from the Sermon on the Mount.]

These things, brothers, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself, but because you have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter [The book of Philippians in the New Testament], which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbor, is the mother of us all. [Speaking of faith] For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, he has fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that has love is far from all sin. . . .

These things I have written to you by Crescens [his secretary], whom up to the present time I have recommended unto you, and do now recommend. For he has acted blamelessly among us, and I believe also among you. Moreover, you will hold his sister in esteem when she comes to you. Be safe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with you all. Amen

©2008 Mark Nickens All Rights Reserved