Didache- Reformed Doctrine 1,400 Years Before Luther or Calvin

Didache 3-4

In chapter 2, the author(s), either the apostles or the apostolic fathers, gives a practical list of first things. These first things were actions or restrictions that summarize the Law. We saw that they were a proper representation of the Law as we compared them to the Biblical account. They are meant to be the first steps of sanctification for the new believer and the young local church.

Like Jesus did in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), The author(s) now takes the Law and looks past the physical instruction to the heart of the matter. After all, the purpose of the Law was to reveal the heart of the person. It was given as a mirror and not a checklist. In this way, the author(s) reveals the true intention of the Law’s commands and restrictions. We see, reading through chapters 3 and 4, that it is the condition of a person’s heart, a person’s belief, and a person’s thoughts, that lead to outward action. These are second things to understand for those who travel the way of life. We begin by desiring to honor God with our actions, then we grow in our understanding of God and of ourselves and in the conviction of the Holy Spirit, enabling and empowering us to come into greater understanding of and obedience to God perfect Law. This is what it means to flee from every evil thing. We understand and desire what is good according to God’s Law and sound doctrine. Root produces fruit.

The restrictions in the first section of these chapters reflect what we read in chapter 2. There are not only restrictions, here, though. There are also positive instructions. We will observe these positive instructions more closely. 

  1. Be meek (cf. Psalm37:11, Matthew 5:5).
    1. Meekness is not a lacking of strength or a neglect to stand for what is right. Meekness is a gentleness of spirit.
  2. Be patient, and merciful, and sincere, and quiet, and kind, and always fearing the words which you have heard (cf. Isaiah 66:2, Matthew 5).
    1. These characteristics are being produced in the people of God by the Holy Spirit. The people of God take the words of God to heart, desiring to apply God’s words in their belief and practice.
  3. Walk only with the righteous and the humble (cf. Romans 12:16, James 2:2-3).
    1. While we are around all people and care for all people, the idea, here, is that we walk with or meaningfully live with and go through life with those who are righteous, with the righteousness of God (comp. # 1 below), and who are humble.
  4. Whatever happens to you, accept is as good, knowing that nothing is done without God (cf. Lamentations 3:37-38).
    1. This document, being written either by the apostles or the apostolic fathers in either the 60s or 100s AD, stands as extra-biblical proof that the earliest New Testament church formally believed in the explicit sovereignty of God. They saw the Scriptures as unanimously declaring the sovereignty of God over every single event. If this document was written by one, some, or all of the apostles, then this statement is made by those who penned the New Testament for us. Here is proof that this doctrine preceded the reformation and the Roman church. Whether this document is from the apostles or the apostolic fathers, it is also proof that the intention of the authors of the New Testament was to communicate a doctrine of absolute sovereignty over every single event in human history (not only predestining the believer but foreordaining every event). Nothing is done without God. This is why we accept whatever happens to us as good, because we trust that God is working whatever that is together for our good.
  5. Remember him who proclaims to you the word of God. Remember him night and day, and honor him as the Lord; for wherever he speaks, the Lord himself is there (cf. Hebrews 13:7, 1 Timothy 5:17).
    1. Believers and churches are, here, instructed according to Scripture to maintain a high view of the pastorate. Those who work hard at preaching and teaching are to be remembered because when they speak, if they are teaching God’s word, the Lord Himself is there. What is said carries the authority of God because God’s explicit word is being taught. This is why we treasure expository preaching and teaching and why we seek and honor preachers and teachers who devote themselves to sincerely and accurately teaching the whole counsel of Scripture.
  6. Every day, seek out the company of the saints, that you may find rest in their words (cf. Acts 2:46, Hebrew 10:25).
    1. Notice, here, the active participation believers are instructed to have with the saints. This is the first piece of ecclesiology (church practice) we receive in this document written for new believers and young churches. Believers are to seek out the company of the saints. This means we make it a point to be with the body of believers for our own good. Lone wolf Christianity is no Christianity at all. Passivity in our gathering is also not Christianly. It does not benefit us to have a pastor call us regularly or visit us regularly. What benefits us is our active and committed participation with the body of Christ. This happens primarily as the local church gathers. We know that the author(s) is referring explicitly to the gathering of the local church because of the language used in #13 below.
  7. Bring peace to those who are in dispute (cf. Galatians 5:22-26).
    1. Believers are instructed to be peacemakers and not controversy stirrers.
  8. Judge righteously (cf. Deuteronomy 1:16-17, Proverbs 31:9).
    1. Believers learn to practice discernment by the working of the Holy Spirit.
  1. Teach children to fear God from their youth (cf. Deuteronomy 6).
    1. As Christians, we believe, according to the Law, that parents bear the primary responsibility to raise their children to fear God from their youth and to do so in the context of the local church gathering (refer to #6 above).
  2. Servants, be obedient to masters as to God, in respect and fear (Philemon, Ephesians 6:1-9, Colossians 3:18-4:1).
    1. The truth of Christian humility means that the Christian is here to serve rather than be served. If all circumstances are worked out by God (#4 above), then we accept our circumstances and serve God within the circumstances He has set for our lives.
  3. Hate all hypocrisy, and everything that is not pleasing to the Lord (cf. Matthew 6).
    1. If our hearts and minds are being conformed to the image of Christ, we come to love the things He loves and hate the things He hates.
  4. Guard the things which you have received, neither adding to them nor taking away from them (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, 1 Corinthians 4:6).
    1. The “things you have received,” here, refers to the Scriptures. As we read through the Didache, we notice that almost every line is an allusion to the Old or New Testament. The apostles or apostolic fathers who wrote this summary of Christian living for new believers and young local churches believed strongly in the sufficiency of Scripture and that nothing should be added or taken away. Here is proof that this doctrine, known today as Sola Scriptura, was prescribed long before the reformation and before the formation of the Roman church. Furthermore, it is confirmed that the intent of the New Testament writers was that the Scriptures should not be exceeded and are entirely sufficient for all of life and ministry.
  5. Confess your sins in church (James 5:16).
    1. Instead of trying to appear to be pious, we are to be honest and confess our sins to one another. So, the first 2 chapters were not written in order to insinuate that those who are Christians no longer sin. As we live, we do sin less because we are being sanctified. We confess our sins to one another so that we may find rest in the words of the saints (refer to #6 above).

Even though this document is less doctrinal and more practical, there are also a couple doctrinal truths described, which help us gain insight into the specific theology of the apostles and apostolic fathers. Part of what makes the Didache so valuable is that it is a summarization of what the First and Second Century Church formally believed under the authority of the apostles or apostolic fathers. While many different denominations and religions try to interpret the Biblical text differently, the Didache clarifies the correct systematic interpretation of Doctrine when doctrine is described, because it likely came from either those who penned the New Testament or their disciples. It provides a strong extra-biblical basis and justification for the way that we define Biblical doctrine today.

  1. God does not call men according to worldly status, but he comes to those whom the Spirit has prepared (cf. John 3).
    1. Not only did the early church believe in the absolute sovereignty of God in every event (refer to #4 above) but also in the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit such that the Holy Spirit must prepare the person to receive God and that God only comes to those whom the Spirit has prepared. In this, both the doctrines of predestination and reprobation are presented. If the Holy Spirit has not prepared a person, if he or she is not born again of the Spirit, God does not call him or her, and no working out of the person can get God to call him or her unto salvation. If a person is prepared by the Holy Spirit, God comes to that person. Here is extra-biblical proof that the early church, under the authority of the apostles and the apostolic fathers, formally believed this long before the reformation or the Roman church.
  2. This is the way of life.
    1. Again, we see that this is not the way to life but the way of life. There are no works listed in the Didache that can achieve righteousness or salvation for any person. Instead, we are first prepared by the Holy Spirit, receive God, and then are brought to be obedient children in honor to God and for His glory alone.

Any person who believes or teaches that these reformed and calvinistic doctrines started at the reformation or were invented by Calvin must first wrestle history, the early church, and the apostles or apostolic fathers into submission; a task which seems impossible. Furthermore, those who claim that Scripture does not make these claims must wrestle with the fact that the Scriptures were interpreted in this specific way by the apostles and the apostolic fathers. The Didache may even reveal that these doctrines were intended to be explicitly received from the apostles because, assuming apostolic authorship, this document summarizes the apostles’ own writings in the New Testament.

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