Let Us Acknowledge God Not Only In Words, But Also In Our Lives
This anonymous second-century homily is among a handful of Christian sermons that have been preserved from the very earliest days of the Christian church. It is bold in its proclamation of salvation through the passion and death of Jesus Christ, and its strong encouragement for Christians to stand firm in the faith and to live holy lives as a testimony to the power of God's saving grace and eternal forgiveness.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
In this especially God has shown compassion to us, that we are alive and have not sacrificed to dead gods or worshipped them but through Christ have come to know the Father of truth. What is this knowledge? It means not denying Christ through whom we know the Father. The Lord himself says: Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father. This is our reward, to acknowledge him who saves us. But how to we acknowledge him? By doing what he tells us to do and not turning a deaf ear to his commands; by honouring him not only with our lips but with our whole heart and soul. As it is written in the book of Isaiah: This people honours me with their lips but their heart is far from me.
It is not enough then merely to address him as Lord. Words alone will not save us. For he says: Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will be saved but he who does what is right. We must acknowledge him, brethren, not only in words but in the conduct of our lives, by loving one another, by not committing adultery, by avoiding calumny and jealousy, by living lives of self-control, pity and genuine goodness. We must be compassionate to one another and avoid avarice. This is the kind of life by which we acknowledge him.
Finally we must not be afraid of men but of God. God scrutinizes our lives then and says: "If you are gathered to me with my own and do not obey my commands, I will cast you from me and say to you: Depart from me, I do not know where you come from, you workers of iniquity."
Let us move forward then unflinchingly, brethren, to face the contest before us. We know that many compete in the secular games but that few win the victor's crown, only those good competitors who have exerted themselves to the full. Let us compete so that all of us may win the crown. Let us run along the straight course in the contest for immortality; let us enter in great numbers, all of us looking for the crown. And if we do not all attain it, let us at least come near to it.
We must remember that those who take part in the secular games are flogged and thrown out of the stadium if they cheat. What if there is any cheating in the contest for immortality? What will the penalty be? Well God says of those who have not guarded their seal, their worm will not die and the fire will not be extinguished and all flesh shall see them.
Anonymous second-century homily
God our Father, your Son came in love
to deliver us and equip us for eternal life:
Free us from all that hinders us
from running the race you have set before us,
and grant that when he comes again as judge,
we may be ready to meet him with joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.