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St. Augustine on John 3

by steeh ~ June 4th, 2009

Volume V of The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers contains Augustine’s “A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins and on the Baptism of Infants”

In Book I, (quoting from the intro to this book) Augustine “…refutes those who maintain, that Adam must have died even if he had never sinned; and that nothing of his sin has been transmitted to his posterity by natural descent. He also shows, that death has not accrued to man by any necessity of his nature, but as the penality of sin; he then proceeds to prove that in Adam’s sin his entire offspring is implicated,showing that infants are baptized for the express purpose of receiving the remission of original sin.”
In chapters 58 through 62 of Book I, Augustine provides a wonderful and thorough exegesis of John 3:1-21.  Here is a snippet from chapter 60:

“He…gives an answer…to the question that he was asked, How these things can be?  “No man,” says He, “hath ascended up to heaven,  but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.”  Thus, He says, shall come the spiritual birth, — men, from being earthly, shall become heavenly; and this they can only obtain by being made members of Me; so that he may ascend who descended, since no one ascends who did not descend.  All, therefore, who have to be changed and raised must meet together in a union with Christ, so that the Christ who descended may ascend, reckoning His body (that is to say, His Church) as nothing else than Himself, because it is of Christ and the Church that this is most truly understood: “And they twain shall be one flesh”. … He dignified His flesh with the name of Son of God: that they might not be regarded as if they were two Christs, — the one God, the other man, — but one and the same God and man, — God, because “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;” and man, inasmuch as “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” … If His divine nature, though a far more distant object, and more sublime in its incomparable diversity, had ability so to take upon itself the nature of man on our account as to become one Person, and whilst appearing as Son of man on earth in the weakness of the flesh, was able to remain all the while in heaven in the divinity which partook of the flesh, how much easier for our faith is it to suppose that other men, who are His faithful saints, become one Christ with the Man Christ, so that, when all ascend by His grace and fellowship, the one Christ Himself ascends to heaven who came down from heaven?”

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