For all we Irish, inhabitants of the world’s edge, are disciples of Saints Peter and Paul and of all the disciples who wrote the sacred canon by the Holy Ghost, and we accept nothing outside the evangelical and apostolical teaching; none has been a heretic, none a Judaizer, none a schismatic; but the Catholic Faith, as it was delivered by you first, who are the successors of the holy apostles, is maintained unbroken.
- Columbanus, Letter to Pope Boniface, Irish, 7th century
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
- Jude 1.3
A continuous line of faithful belief and teaching stretches from the apostles through the fathers of the early Church, to faithful teachers, preachers, and theologians in every era, right up to the present. That line begins in Scripture, is anchored to Scripture, unfolds according to Scripture, and is kept in Scripture by the diligent work of the Spirit in faithful believers of every age. The practice of our forebears in the faith was to know the true heritage of Christian teaching, and to maintain it unbroken in their own ministries.
This is the faith of the Church, which has once for all time been delivered to the saints, and has been maintained unbroken in orthodox communions throughout the Body of Christ for nearly two millennia. We ignore, deny, or depart from this faith at peril to ourselves and those we teach. It was precisely because this was happening in Jude’s day, that he had to change the focus of his epistle, to equip his readers to stand firm against those who were drifting from the true faith.
This glorious tradition of faith is embodied in the lives and works of those who have preceded us in Christ. Their stories, writings, hymns, liturgies, art, poetry, and architecture hold the deposit of belief, based on Scripture alone, that tells a consistent story, the story of God’s redeeming love in Jesus Christ.
Certainly, there are differences among the various communions of the Body of Christ. Still, a common core of conviction, captured in the early creeds of the Church, continues to define all who believe in Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, as a distinct fellowship.
There is no virtue in ignoring, denying, repudiating, or otherwise cutting ourselves off from this glorious heritage. And yet this is precisely the situation with many pastors and church members today, if only by neglect. The false views of truth, common in our secular generation, will require us to rethink how we communicate the Good News; but they must not lead us to compromise or accommodate the truth of God to the relativistic and individualistic temper of the times. The Gospel is unchanging, and will not be made agreeable to anyone and everyone on their own terms.
The fashion in our day, even among evangelical Christians, is to accommodate to false teaching, rather than to resist it with the unbroken faith of the ages. Long-standing views on such matters as the reliability of Scripture, eternal damnation, the nature and particulars of sin, the importance of the Law, and the nature and role of marriage have been called into question and in many cases, changed. Preferring the winds of contemporary doctrine to the solid Biblical and historical foundations of Christian truth, church leaders today are practicing a hermeneutic of convenience and leading their congregations away from, rather than into, Christ and His Kingdom. Jesus condemned the religious leaders of His day for doing so (Matt. 23.13).
Faithful preachers, teachers, and students of the Word of God will always want to make sure their faith is in accord, first, with the whole counsel of God in Scripture, and second, with the heritage of orthodox faith. This is why it is so important that we engage the resources of our Christian past, and allow ourselves to be taught by those who have gone before, so that we might communicate the true faith of Christ in our day.
For when we cut ourselves off from those who have preceded us, we risk drifting from our moorings, carried away by the subtle currents of whatever contemporary stream of thought may be wending our way.
Are you a teacher of the Word of God? Are you certain that the line of orthodoxy is continuing unbroken through you? Without some discipline that connects us with the great teachers of the past, all we can do is hope for the best.
As a student of Scripture, keep in touch with the great creeds and enduring hymns of the Christian past that will help to ensure you are not led astray by your own ideas, or by the temper of the times.
Some connection with our Christian past is thus essential. Columbanus understood this in his day. Today, let Columbanus’ claim begin to be your own.
Psalm 78.1-4 (Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
Give ear, O my people, attend to my word,
Dark sayings and parables sent from the Lord,
Things we have before by our fathers been told,
Which we would not dare from our children withhold.
Thank You, Lord, for all the faithful Christian leaders of the past. Help me so to learn Your Word, that I will keep that heritage unbroken as I…
A Sure Foundation
Make sure the foundation of your faith is firm and true by being a faithful and diligent student of God’s Word. Our book, The Joy and Rejoicing of My Heart, shows you why the Scriptures are so important, and guides you into disciplines of reading and study that can bear consistent fruit for the Lord. Order your copy by clicking here.
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T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Walker, p. 39.