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The Earnest of the Spirit

Saint Irenaeus was born 130 ad and became bishop of Lyons (France) 177 ad. He was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who himself was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist. St. Polycarp is the "angel of the church in Smyrna" mentioned in  Revelation 2:8-11. Saint Irenaeus died as a martyr 202 ad. He wrote his book "Against Heresies" circa 180 ad.


But we do now receive a certain portion of His Spirit, tending towards perfection, and preparing us for incorruption, being little by little accustomed to receive and bear God; which also the apostle terms "an earnest," that is, a part of the honour which has been promised us by God, where he says in the Epistle to the Ephesians, "In which ye also, having heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, believing in which we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance." This earnest, therefore, thus dwelling in us, renders us spiritual even now, and the mortal is swallowed up by immortality. "For ye," he declares, "are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." This, however does not take place by a casting away of the flesh, but by the impartation of the Spirit. For those to whom he was writing were not without flesh, but they were those who had received the Spirit of God, "by which we cry, Abba, Father." If therefore, at the present time, having the earnest, we do cry, "Abba, Father," what shall it be when, on rising again, we behold Him face to face; when all the members shall burst out into a continuous hymn of triumph, glorifying Him who raised them from the dead, and gave the gift of eternal life? For if the earnest, gathering man into itself, does even now cause him to cry, "Abba, Father," what shall the complete grace of the Spirit effect, which shall be given to men by God? It will render us like unto Him, and accomplish the will of the Father; for it shall make man after the image and likeness of God.
    Those persons, then, who possess the earnest of the Spirit, and who are not enslaved by the lusts of the flesh, but are subject to the Spirit, and who in all things walk according to the light of reason, does the apostle properly term "spiritual," because the Spirit of God dwells in them. Now, spiritual men shall not be incorporeal spirits; but our substance, that is, the union of flesh and spirit, receiving the Spirit of God, makes up the spiritual man. But those who do indeed reject the Spirit's counsel, and are the slaves of fleshly lusts, and lead lives contrary to reason, and who, without restraint, plunge headlong into their own desires, having no longing after the Divine Spirit, do live after the manner of swine and of dogs; these men, I say, does the apostle very properly term "carnal," because they have no thought of anything else except carnal things.

IRENAEUS AGAINST HERESIES -- BOOK V, chapter VIII : Read it online at: Ante Nicene Fathers