Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol IX:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Epistle to Gregory and Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John.: Chapter XXXVIII
38. The World, of Which the Sin is Taken Away, is Said to Be the Church. Reasons for Not Agreeing with This Opinion.
The reader will do well to consider what was said above and illustrated from various quarters on the question what is meant in Scripture by the word “world”; and I think it proper to repeat this. I am aware that a certain scholar understands by the world the Church alone, since the Church is the adornment of the world, 4983 and is said to be the light of the world. “You,” he says, 4984 “are the light of the world.” Now, the adornment of the world is the Church, Christ being her adornment, who is the first light of the world. We must consider if Christ is said to be the light of the same world as His disciples. When Christ is the light of the world, perhaps it is meant that He is the light of the Church, but when His disciples are the light of the world, perhaps they are the light of others who call on the Lord, others in addition to the Church, as Paul says on this point in the beginning of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, where he writes, “To the Church of God, with all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Should any one consider that the Church is called the light of the world, meaning thereby of the rest of the race of men, including unbelievers, this may be true if the assertion is taken prophetically and theologically; but if it is to be taken of the present, we remind him that the light of a thing illuminates that thing, and would ask him to show how the remainder of the race is illuminated by the Churchs presence in the world. If those who hold the view in question cannot show this, then let them consider if our interpretation is not a sound one, that the light is the Church, and the world those others who call on the Name. The words which follow the above in Matthew will point out to the careful enquirer the proper interpretation. “You,” it is said, “are the salt of the earth,” the rest of mankind being conceived as the earth, and believers are their salt; it is because they believe that the earth is preserved. For the end will come if the salt loses its savour, and ceases to salt and preserve the earth, since it is clear that if iniquity is multiplied and love waxes cold upon the earth, 4985 as the Saviour Himself uttered an expression of doubt as to those who would witness His coming, saying, 4986 “When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith upon the earth?” then the end of the age will come. Supposing, then, the Church to be called the world, since the Saviours light shines on it—we have to ask in connection with the text, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” whether the world here is to be taken intellectually of the Church, and the taking away of sin is limited to the Church. In that case what are we to make of the saying of the same disciple with regard to the Saviour, as the propitiation for sin? “If any man sin,” we read, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world?” Pauls dictum appears to me to be to the same effect, when he says, 4987 “Who is the Saviour of all men, especially of the faithful.” Again, Heracleon, dealing with our passage, declares, without any proof or any citation of witnesses to that effect, that the words, “Lamb of God,” are spoken by John as a prophet, but the words, “who taketh away the sin of the world,” by John as more than a prophet. The former expression he considers to be used of His body, but the latter of Him who was in that body, because the lamb is an imperfect member of the genus sheep; the same being true of the body as compared with the dweller in it. Had he meant to attribute perfection to the body he would have spoken of a ram as about to be sacrificed. After the careful discussions given above, I do not think it necessary to enter into repetitions on this passage, or to controvert Heracleons careless utterances. One point only may be noted, that as the world was scarcely able to contain Him who had emptied Himself, it required a lamb and not a ram, that its sin might be taken away.
κοσμος means both “ornament” and “world.”380:4984
Matt. v. 14.380:4985
Matt. xxiv. 12.380:4986
Luke xviii. 8.380:4987
1 Tim. iv. 10.
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