According to Origen, a prolific Early Church Father, virtue was summed up into one thing; the essence of God. The Early Church was emphatic about reaching to full perfection of virtue. It was the triumph of attaining God’s character in every aspect of their lives; in spirit, soul, and body. This feat was known as perfection.
However, the church today is just trying to get by with just enough to get to heaven, even just enough to operate in the spiritual gifts. This was not so with the first church; their whole life was a discipline in pursuit to become like Yahweh (God). In today’s church it is more often taught that no one can be like Him, which discourages everyone to even try. This is a complete contradiction of what Yahushua commanded “You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect”(Matthew 5:48 AMP). This is why the saying “Jesus did it all at the cross” is such an irrational statement, because if that was true, we would already be perfect. What is even more astonishing is that those same people say that we can’t be perfect. Let that sink in for a moment. The same people who say, “Jesus did it all” say also “no one can be perfect” but I digress.
Let us now pursue the understanding of His virtuous image. Origen describes the image that we are created in, however, it is important to note that no one is born (through natural childbirth) into God’s image. The Apostle Paul said, “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you,” (Gal 4:19). This truly emphasizes the need to have an apostolic father for us to come into the image of God. It is not something that we receive just because we believe in Jesus Christ. The nature of God is something that is formed into us.
The authority of Scripture, which says that man was made in the image of God; and in him are manifestly to be discovered traces of the divine image, not by any appearance of the bodily frame, which is corruptible, but by mental wisdom, by justice, moderation, virtue, wisdom, discipline; in fine, by the whole band of virtues, which are innate in the essence of God, and which may enter into man by diligence and imitation of God; as the Lord also intimates in the Gospel, when He says, “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful; “ (Luk_6:36) and, “Be ye perfect, even as your Father also is perfect” (Mat_5:48). From which it is clearly shown that all these virtues are perpetually in God, and that they can never approach to or depart from Him, whereas by men they are acquired only slowly, and one by one. And hence also by these means they seem to have a kind of relationship with God; and since God knows all things, and none of things intellectual in themselves can elude His notice (for God the Father alone, and His only-begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit, not only possess a knowledge of those things which they have created, but also of themselves), a rational understanding also, advancing from small things to great, and from things visible to things invisible, may attain to a more perfect knowledge. (1)
We are to be imitators to God, through our whole conduct of life. All the virtues; wisdom, mercy, justice, patience, and the like are not just suggestions to be a good person, these are the attributes of God’s divine nature that He always intended for us to become. Each one of these virtues are like pieces to a puzzle, and once all the pieces are put perfectly together, we become the complete full image of who Yah’s image is. This is why it is written in the Gospels “A pupil is not superior to his teacher, but everyone [when he is] completely trained (readjusted, restored, set to rights, and perfected) will be like his teacher.”
To fully attain all virtues, we need to have completely mastered the vices of our flesh. Hermas was taught how to master the vices that would bring a servant of God into everlasting death, if they were not combated. The virtues of God are what we clothe ourselves to protect ourselves against vices.
“Foremost of all is the desire after another’s wife or husband, and after extravagance, and many useless dainties and drinks, and many other foolish luxuries; for all luxury is foolish and empty in the servants of God. These, then, are the evil desires which slay the servants of God. For this evil desire is the daughter of the devil. You must refrain from evil desires, that by refraining ye may live to God. But as many as are mastered by them, and do not resist them, will perish at last, for these desires are fatal. Put you on, then, the desire of righteousness; and arming yourself with the fear of the Lord, resist them. For the fear of the Lord dwells in good desire. But if evil desire see you armed with the fear of God, and resisting it, it will flee far from you, and it will no longer appear to you, for it fears your armor. Go, then, garlanded with the crown which you hattave gained for victory over it, to the desire of righteousness, and, delivering up to it the prize which you have received, serve it even as it wishes. If you serve good desire, and be subject to it, you will gain the mastery over evil desire, and make it subject to you even as you wish.”
“I should like to how,” say I, “in what way I ought to serve good desire.” “Hear,” says he: “You will practice righteousness and virtue, truth and the fear of the Lord, faith and meekness, and whatsoever excellences are like to these. Practicing these, you will be a well-pleasing servant of God, and you will live to Him; and everyone who shall serve good desire, shall live to God.” (2)
By pursuing the goodness of God’s divine essence and arming ourselves with the Fear of God we become an impenetrable fortified city that no sin, no vice, no demon would dare to invade. The demons know the futility of attacking a saint who has clothed themselves with the fear of the Lord. The issue most of us face is that we focus entirely too much on the vices that we struggle with, instead of focusing on walking in the light. The divine light of His virtue, His essence, will disperse all the darkness within our souls. To God be the glory, Amen!
1. Origen-De Principiis Book 4 Vol. 4
2. Hermas-The Shepard Book 2 Pt. 2 Ch. II-III, Vol. 2