Editor's note:

As a disciple of John the Apostle, Polycarp understood the fundamentals of Christian charity through and through. In this short excerpt from his only surviving work, A Letter to the Philippians, Polycarp urges his readers toward virtue—not merely as a pious veneer, but as a deeply implanted way of life.

Wise and ever-timely, Polycarp reminds us of ways we can serve the Lord in fear and truth. When we walk in God’s commandments and love what he loves, we will keep ourselves in right relationship with God and others. We will become, like Polycarp, bearers of “many fruits.”

—Renovaré Team

“Wherefore, girding up your loins,” “serve the Lord in fear” and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and “believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory,” and a throne at His right hand. To Him all things in heaven and on earth are subject. Him every spirit serves. He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead. His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him. 

But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; “not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing,” or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching: “Judge not, that ye be not judged; forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you; be merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again;” and once more, “Blessed are the poor, and those that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”

These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself, but because you have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbor, “is the mother of us all.” For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, he has fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that hath love is far from all sin.

Starting Soon: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? Choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

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Excerpted from The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. I (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), via Christian Classics Ethereal Library.