THE HOLY SPIRIT: According to Irenaeus

(a) The Holy Spirit in the Church

We receive our faith from the church and keep it safe; and it is as it were a precious deposit stored in a fine vessel, ever renewing its vitality through the Spirit of God, and causing the renewal of the vessel in which it is stored.  For this gift of God has been entrusted to the church, as the breath of life to created man, to the end that all members by receiving it should be made alive.  And herein has been bestowed on us our means of communion with Christ, namely the Holy Spirit, the pledge of immortality, the strengthening of our faith, the ladder by which we ascend to God.  For the Apostle says, “God has set up in the church apostles, prophets, teachers,” (1 Corinthians 7:28) and all the other means of the Spirit’s working.  But they have no share in this Spirit who do not join in the activity of the church. For where the church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the church and every kind of grace.  The Spirit is truth.  Therefore those who have no share in the Spirit are not nourished and given life at their mother’s breast; nor do they enjoy the sparkling fountain that issues from the body of Christ.

(b) The Giver of Life and Light, “Who Spake by the Prophets”

God was seen prophetically through the Spirit in those days (i.e., in the Old Testament), but by adoption through the Son, while in the kingdom of Heaven he will be seen in his own being as Father.  The Spirit prepares man for the Son of God, the Son leads man to the Father, the Father gives immortality for eternal life, which comes to each man as a result of the vision of God.  As those who see the light are in the light and share in its brightness, so those who see God are in God and share his brightness.  The brightness gives them life; and thus those who see God receive life.  And for this reason he who cannot be grasped or comprehended or seen makes himself seen, comprehended and grasped by those who believe, that he may give life to those who grasp and see him by faith.  True life comes from partaking in God; and to partake in God is to know him and to enjoy his goodness.  This was symbolically revealed through the prophets, that God will be seen by men who bear his Spirit and always look for his coming.  For some of them saw the Spirit of prophesy and his activities poured out in all kinds of spiritual gifts: others saw the coming of the Lord and the ministry which is his from the beginning, through which he fulfilled the Father’s will in Heaven and on Earth.  Others saw the glory of the Father revealed in ways suited to the times and to themselves who saw and to those who then heard and those who were to hear of them thereafter.  So God was revealed; for by all these ways God the Father is displayed.  The Spirit works, the Son fulfills his ministry, and the Father approves; and man is thus brought to full salvation.

(c) The Renewal of the Image of God

Already we receive some portion of his Spirit, for our perfecting and for our preparation for immortality, as we gradually become accustomed to receive and bear God.  This is what the Apostle calls a “first installment,” (Ephesians 1:14) which dwells in us and makes us even now spiritual, and thus our “mortality is swallowed up in immortality.” (2 Corinthians 5:4)  And this comes about not by getting rid of the material body but by sharing in the Spirit.  If because we have the “first installment” we cry, “Abba, Father,” (Romans 8:5) what will happen when on rising we see him face to face?  What will be the effect of the whole grace of the Spirit which will be given to men by God?  It will make us like him and will perfect in us the Father’s will; for it will make man in the image and likeness of God.

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