In the second half of the second century there was a shift in what type of literature Christians were writing. No longer were their letters and treatises simply pastoral or formational in nature, they began to be apologetic. That is, they began to make presentations for why one ought to hold to faith in Christ. They attempted to answer the objections and ridicule of the pagans around them, the began to take head on the deficiencies of pagan worldviews. Among these letters is The Letter to Diognetus, whose author is unknown. This particular letter has been described as “the pearl of early Christian apologetics.” Michael Haykin describes it as stemming from “the joyous faith of a man who stands amazed at the revelation of God’s love in his Son.” Haykin is spot on in how he describes this letter. As I have spent some time studying this letter, the last few days I have been blown away at his understanding of the gospel, and how much joy and affection for Christ is evident when this unknown author describes the gospel. The author gets the gospel! And it makes him rejoice in Christ! I wish that I had the sort of excitement and affection that this author expresses when he thinks about what Christ has done for him. Of course I experience that sometimes, but I really wish I could experience this sort of “gospel-wakefulness” that Jared Wilson describes, and the author of the letter experiences, all the time. Of course there are steps we can take to grown in our appreciation for the gospel – one of those steps is to surround ourselves with others whose minds are blown by the gospel, that might be somebody you known at church or it might be a dead author from 1,800 years ago.
Okay, enough talking about how excited the letter writer gets, he is what he says…
Instead of hating us and rejecting us and remembering our wickedness against us, he showed us how long-suffering he is. He bore with us, and in pity he took our sins upon himself and gave his own Son as a ransom for us – the Holy for the wicked, the Sinless for the sinners, the just for the unjust, the Incorruptible for the corruptible, the Immortal for the moral. For was there indeed, anything except his righteousness that could have availed to cover our sins? In whom could we in our lawlessness and ungodliness, have been made holy, but in the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable working! O benefits unhoped for! – that the wickedness of multitudes should thus be hidden in the righteousness of One should justify countless wicked!
-Letter to Diognetus 9.2-5