Introduction to the Coptic Orthodox Church

The Creed of Faith

St. Athanasius the Apostolic

We believe in one God, God the Father the Pantocrator who created heaven and earth, and all things seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-Begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not created, of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy spirit and the Virgin Mary and became Man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried. And on the third day He rose from the dead, according to the scriptures, ascended to the heavens; He sits at the right hand of his Father, and He is coming again in His glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.

Yes, we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Life-Giver, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets.

And in one holy, catholic and apostolic church. We confess one baptism for the remission of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the coming age. Amen.

The Holy Trinity

The dogma of the Holy Trinity is the second fundamental dogma of Christianity. It is not incidental, therefore, that the most serious doctrinal struggle the Church of Christ has ever known in all her history was over the question of the Trinity.

In the fourth century, a priest in Alexandria by the name of Arius, attacked the historical faith of the Church with the belief that, “There was a time when the Son of God was not.” He insisted that the Son of God was not truly God; He was merely the highest of created beings, and in that sense we could call him a god. This belief is virtually identical to the present day heresy of the Jehovah’s Witness.

The Church, so it seemed, appeared to be almost split into two; for up to that time, there were no significant divisions in all of Christendom. A great council of the whole Church finally had to be called in A.D. 325 in the city of Nicea (near what is present day Istanbul, Turkey). More than three hundred bishops gathered, plus hundreds of priests and deacons from all over the Roman Empire.

We will defer further discussions surrounding this great event in the history of the Church to when we talk about, The Divinity of Christ and The Council of Nicea. However, we will only conclude by stating that the dogma of the Holy Trinity is of vital importance to our understanding of Redemption and Salvation. That is, it is not just a matter of difference in opinion and interpretation, but that the whole of our understanding of Redemption and Salvation is built upon the correct doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This is why such a heresy in the early Church as to the Divinity of Christ brought so much attention and uproar.

Because the dogma of the Holy Trinity is the most important of all Christian dogmas, it is at the same time the most difficult for the limited human mind to grasp.

Understanding The Holy Trinity

God is one in Essence but triple in Person.

A working definition of two terms is invaluable to our comprehension–both in mind and in heart–of the Trinity. These two words are: essence (or nature) and person.

Essence/Nature (Gr. ousia)

The concept of nature can simply be defined by looking at a child and an animal such as a frog. How is it that you can distinguish the child apart from the frog? By identifying the nature each possesses. The child has human nature and the frog has frog nature.

Essential Characteristics

There are certain essential characteristics common to humans. Humans have a particular type of hands, feet, eyes, arms, and legs, all arranged in a consistently predictable fashion. Each one also has a soul, that is, a mind, a will, emotions, etc..

The term nature refers to that set of common essential characteristics possessed by a whole group, or type, and which sets that particular group off from all other groups. This is how we distinguish the boy from the frog. Question number two is: How can we distinguish one boy from the other?

Non-Essential Characteristics

Nature, with its essential characteristics, refers to that which is common to a group, but it does not deal with that which distinguishes subjects within a group. For that we need to look at the non-essential characteristics.

Humans come with a certain set of essential characteristics. But there is the potential for an almost infinite variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and capacities–that is, non-essential characteristics. Now at this point we can be satisfied with our distinction between one frog and another. But in no way have we finished distinguishing between one human and another. We would have a limited reality if we confined all that is different between human beings to a different set of non-essential characteristics of human nature. So, question number three is: Does the fact that two boys have two different sets of non-essential characteristics completely establish all that is different about them? To answer this question we need to define person.

Person (Gr. hypostasis)

The answer to the above question is no. Not only do all of us have our own packages of non-essential characteristics of human nature, but each of us also has his own unique God-made, God-given person. That person literally underlies all else there is about us. It is the bottom line of who we are. It is person that ultimately accounts for the difference between humans. Several things can be said about this matter of person that can help bring the concept into focus.

First, both person and nature, although definitely distinct, are never separate except as abstract concepts. The two are necessary to form one complete, whole human being.

Second, person is God-made and God-given for each of us directly. Nature we inherit from God through our parents. Your person is the unique creation of God for you only. There are never two the same in person.

Third, it is your person that allows you to be a free, responsible, moral being. Nature by itself would be subject to determinism. Person is not.

Fourth, we cannot define the full content of person. There is an element of mystery about each person.

Now that we understand the difference between nature, or essence, and person, let us apply them to our understanding of the Holy Trinity.

Three Persons in One Essence

God is one in essence, yet three, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in persons. There is eternally in God true unity, combined with genuinely personal differentiation: the term ‘essence’, ‘substance’, ‘being’, or ‘nature’ indicates the unity, and the term person indicates the differentiation.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one in essence, not merely in the sense that all three are examples of the same group or general class (as with human beings), but in the sense that they form a single, unique, specific reality. There are no variety packages of non-essential characteristics. There is in this respect then an important difference between the sense in which the three divine persons are one, and the sense that three human persons may be termed one. Humans, however closely they co-operate, each retain their own will and their own energy. In short, they are three men and not one man. But in the case of the three persons of the Trinity, there is distinction but never separation. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, have only ONE will and not three, only ONE energy and not three. None of the three ever acts separately, apart from the other two. They are not three Gods, but one God.

Yet, although the three persons never act apart from each other, there is in God genuine diversity as well as specific unity. We believe that this threefold differentiation in God’s outward action reflects a threefold differentiation in His inner life. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not just “modes” or “moods” of the Divinity, not just masks God assumes for a time in His dealings with creation and then lays aside. They are on the contrary coequal and coeternal persons.

A human father is older than his child, but when speaking of God as ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ we are not to interpret the terms in this literal sense. We affirm of the Son, “There was never a time when he was not.” And the same is said of the Holy Spirit.

Personal Attributes of the Divine Persons

The Father

The Father is the Fountainhead of the Holy Trinity. He is not an unapproachable, vague, religious substance far removed from earth in some distant, dark, recess of heaven. He is a person who is ever-present, who knows and loves, and who is to be known and loved. Christ said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23).

The other two persons are each defined in terms of their relationship to the Father: the Son is ‘begotten’ by the Father, the Spirit ‘proceeds’ from the Father. Both ‘begetting’ and ‘procession’ are from all eternity, outside of time. The dogma of the begetting of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father shows the mystical inner relations of the Persons in God and the life of God within Himself.

We must never forget that one of our Lord Jesus Christ’s objectives was to bring people to His Father as well as Himself.. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

The Son

The second Person of the Holy Trinity is the Son of God, His ‘Word’, or ‘Logos’. The concept or name “Word” has its foundation in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John.

St. Dionysius of Alexandria explains,

“Our thought utters from itself the word according to what the Prophet has said: ‘My heart hath poured forth a good word’ (Ps. 45:1). Thought and word are separate one from the other, and each occupies its special and separate place: while thought remains and moves the heart, the word is on the tongue and the lips. However, they are inseparable, and not for one moment are they deprived of each other. Thought does not exist without word, nor word without thought, having received its existence in thought. Thought is, as it were, a word hidden within, and word is thought which has come without. Thought is transformed into word, and word transmits thought to the hearers. In this way, thought, with the help of the word, is instilled in the souls of the listeners, entering them together with the word. Thought, coming from itself, is as it were the father of the word: and the word is, as it were, the son of the thought. Before the thought the word was impossible, and the word does not come from anywhere outside, but rather from the thought itself. Thus also, the Father, the greatest and all-embracing Thought, has a Son, the Word, His first Interpreter and Herald.”

The Holy Spirit

The third Person is the Holy Spirit, the ‘wind’, or ‘breath’ of God. While understanding the inadequacy of neat classifications, we can say that the Spirit is God within us, the Son is God with us, and the Father God above or beyond us. Just as the Son shows us the Father, so it is the Spirit who shows us the Son, making Him present to us.

Christ said, “But when the Helper (i.e. the Holy Spirit) comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds form the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26).

He also made it clear that the Holy Spirit can be known personally when He said concerning Him, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever–the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16, 17).

There is a well known and loved prayer that the Orthodox Church offers to the Holy Spirit. It expresses our constant dependence upon this divine person for His work in our Lives, and it is a prayer all sincere Christians should know and use:

“O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of truth who is present in all places and fills all, the treasury of good things and the Life-Giver, graciously come, and dwell in us and purify us from all defilement, O Good One, and save our souls” (The Agpeya – Third Hour).

The Two Hands of God

Let us try to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity by looking at the Triadic patterns in salvation history and in our own life of prayer.

The three persons, as we saw, work always together, and possess but a single will and energy. St. Irenaeus speaks of the Son and the Spirit as the ‘two hands’ of God the Father; and in every creative and sanctifying act the Father is using both these hands at once:

1. Creation. By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth (Ps. 33:6). God the Father creates through His Word or Logos (the second person) and through His Breath or Spirit (the third person). The ‘two hands’ of the Father work together in the shaping of the universe. Of the Logos it is said, all things were made through Him (John 1:3); of the Spirit it is said at the creation He brooded or moved upon the face of the deep (Gen. 1:2). All created things are marked by the seal of the Trinity.

2. Incarnation. At the annunciation the Father sends the Holy Spirit upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, and she conceives of the eternal Son of God (Luke 1:35). So God’s taking of our humanity is a Trinitarian work.

3. The Baptism of Christ. In the Orthodox tradition this is seen as a revelation of the Trinity. The Father’s voice from heaven bears witness to the Son, saying, This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; and at the same moment the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends from the Father and rests upon the Son (Matt. 3:16-17).

4. The Transfiguration of Christ. This also is a Trinitarian happening. The same relationship prevails between the three persons as at the Baptism. The Father testifies from heaven, This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear Him (Matt. 17:5), while as before the Spirit descends upon the Son, this time in the form of a cloud of light (Luke 9:34).

5. The Eucharistic Epiclesis. The same Triadic pattern as is evident at the Annunciation, the Baptism and the Transfiguration, is apparent likewise at the culminating moment of the Eucharist, the epiclesis or invocation of the Holy Spirit. In words addressed to the Father, the priest says in the Liturgy of St. Basil:

“And we ask You, O Lord, our God, we, Your sinful and unworthy servants. We worship You by the pleasure of Your goodness, that Your Holy Spirit descend upon us and upon these gifts set forth, and purify them, change them, and manifest them as a sanctification of Your saints. Our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, given for the remission of sins and eternal life to those who shall partake of Him.”

The Father sends down the Holy Spirit, to effect the Son’s presence in the consecrated gifts. Here, as always, the three persons of the Trinity are working together.

Holy Trinity in the Scripture

Old Testament

Genesis 1:26: “And God said, Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.” The plural number here indicates that God is not one Person.

Genesis 3:22: “And the Lord God said, Behold, Adam is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” (These are the words of God before the banishment of our ancestors from Paradise.)

Genesis 11:6-7: Prior to the confusion of tongues at the building of the tower of Babylon, the Lord said, “Let us go down, and there confound their language.”

Genesis 18:1-3, concerning Abraham: “And the Lord appeared unto him at the oak of Mamre . . . And he (Abraham) lifted up his eyes and looked, and lo, three men stood by him . . .and he bowed himself toward the ground and said, My Lord, if now I have found favor in Thy sight, pass not away, I pray Thee, from Thy servant.” (Note: some Orthodox theologians see this event as trinitarian while others see it as a manifestation of the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, the Pre-Incarnate Son, with two Angels – the latter is more accepted within the Coptic tradition)

The New Testament

We have already discussed the manifestation of God in Trinity in the Incarnation, at the Baptism, and at the Transfiguration.

Matt. 28:19: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” St. Ambrose of Milan notes: “The Lord said, ‘In the name’ and not ‘in the names,’ because God is One.”

2 Cor. 13:14: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

1 John 5:7: “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.”

Living The Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity should not be pushed into the corner and treated as a piece of theology only of interest to specialists. It should have a tremendous impact on our daily lives.

Made after the image of God the Trinity, human beings are called to reproduce on earth the mystery of mutual love that the Trinity lives in heaven. Each social unit–the family, the school, the workplace, the parish, the universal Church–is to be made an icon (image) of the Triunity. Because we know that God is three in one, each of us is committed to living sacrificially in and for the other; each is committed to a life of practical service, of active compassion.

St. John Chrysostom says, “The most perfect rule of Christianity, its exact definition, its highest summit, is this: to seek what is for the benefit of all. I cannot believe that it is possible for man to be saved if he does not labor for the salvation of his neighbor.” Such are the practical implications of the dogma of the Trinity. That is what it means to live the Trinity.

This article was written by Fr. Kyrillos Ibrahim for

Many times, non-Christians ask: how can Three be One?

The Belief in One God!

The Holy Bible, in both Testaments, assures us in many occasions of the Oneness of God. When our Lord Jesus Christ was asked: “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered, “‘The first of all the commandments is ‘Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One,’” (Mk12:29).

While we affirm the Oneness of God, we reject polytheism (i.e. multiplicity of divine beings) and the worship of idols. We refuse the teachings of Atheism or even the assumption of Agnosticism.

The Unique Oneness of God

God is unique in everything. Even though the Holy Bible calls Him the “One God.” however, this does not mean that He is subject to mathematical laws, because He is Infinite. God is One but surely He is greater than the number one. He is greater than all things in heaven or on earth.

In other words, we have to redefine and comprehend the use of the term “One” not to mean a number among many. It defines a unique, single, unutterable identity of God. God cannot be made subject to our numbering system; instead He is above all human systems.

St. Clement of Alexandria said, “God is the One surpassing all oneness, and above unity itself.”

The Oneness of God is not a single selfish isolated entity. It is the Oneness of substantial unity that is remote from isolation.

How Can Three be One?

Belief in the Son and the Holy Spirit is not indicative of polytheism, nor is it an attempt at extending the Father’s substance. The Son said, “I am in the Father and the Father in Me,” (Jn 14:10). “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” (Jn 14:9). Each Person (Hypostasis) in the Holy Trinity fills the other two and is contained in them, but is still somehow distinguishable from the Others. Just as we can differentiate the human mind from the human soul although it is not an addition to it nor can it be separated from it.

Unity here does not imply adding. Our faith in the Holy Trinity does not contradict the Oneness of God. We do not believe in three divine essences (ousia) but in a single Divine essence. To understand this Divine mystery, we can say that the Divine essence has been in existence since eternity. This eternal existence is a rational existence as well; in other words, it has Mind, Wisdom or Logos (Word) born of His own existence. So the Mind of the Divine nature does not have an essence other than that of the Father but it is born out of the same essence of God. So when we call the Divine Being “Father” and the Logos “Son.” we are affirming that the Son is the Word of God. This does not mean that the Father and the Son are two essences or we then would believe in two gods.

Athenagoras said that the Eternal God has the Logikos (Mind) eternally existed in Him.

The Divine Being (the Father) is eternally alive. His life proceeds from Him and is not external to His being. Existence is distinguishable from life but neither is separate from the other and neither has a separate Divine essence because life belongs to this Divine Existence Himself.

It is essential to believe in the Living Rational Being, of a simple, single, eternal essence. The three Persons are eternally inseparable and none of them ever existed without the others. They are like fire that has a flame and emits light and heat at the same time. Thus we understand that the Oneness of God is not partitionable into a trinity, instead all three Persons of the Trinity unite without a loss in Each’s identity. — St. Dionysus of Alexandria

The Holy Trinity and their Types

Belief in the Holy Trinity is an essential doctrine of the Christian faith. It is a hidden, incomprehensible mystery that touches our lives here on earth as well as in the heavens. The Church Fathers put forth much effort in trying to explain this mystery. Human language falls short of expressing the Divine, and the entirety of nature lacks a true example of the existence of a single essence in three distinguishable persons.

To perceive this mystery we may say that God is the only Being whose Self-existence is a necessity. This Self-existence is what we call the Divine essence, which has two groups of attributes and precepts. Certain attributes are personal and concern God’s own Being. Other attributes concern His relationship to the creation. The three personal attributes are: Being, Reason (Logos) and Life. These attributes are not an addition to God’s essence as if they were originated from outside of Him; instead they are from eternity inseparable from His divine essence Itself. There was no time in which the Divine Substance existed without Reason or without Life. The Father is the Cause, the Son is the same essence (being the Logos or the Word) attribute and the Holy Spirit is Life.

It is worthy to note that the three Persons (hypostasis) are not separated, but have the same essence and their work is inseparable.

Examples from Creation

First of all, any of the following examples can at best partially explain the mystery and help shed some light unto it. It has to be understood that any of these examples explain only one aspect or another of the mystery.

Secondly, to understand this mystery we need Divine grace that gives us communion with God i.e. communion with the Father in His Son through the Holy Spirit.

The creation of man is in the image of God (Gn 1:27; 5:2) whose soul exists, rational and alive. While being a single human, its existence is different from its reason and its life. The three are inseparable from each other.

God promised to protect His church saying: “For I, says the Lord, will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst” (Zec 2:5). Fire has three self attributes similar to the Persons of the Trinity: flame, light born out of the flame and heat proceeding from the flame. But we have to notice that these are not persons in themselves since none of them fills the other two. Through light, we can understand light and through heat, we can understand heat.

The sun is a planet that emanates rays of light and heat while being a single sun. We call the planet itself “the sun” and we call its rays of light “the sun” and similarly we call its heat “the sun.”

God is likened to an apple. It was said: “Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my Beloved among the sons” (Songs 2:3). The apple has the substance that we eat, its taste and the aroma we smell. The apple can be recognized through its taste or its smell.

Prepared by:
Fr. Tadros Y. Malaty

The Holy Scripture

We also believe that the Holy Scripture is the divinely inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16). It is the story in which God reveals His love for man throughout the history of mankind.

A 14th-century manuscript, from the Monastery of St. Macarius in Wadi al-Natrun, Egypt, featuring the opening to the Gospel of John in Coptic and Arabic script.

The Old Testament tells of the history of that revelation from Creation through the Age of the Prophets. It contains 39 books which are divided into five sections: the books of History, book of the Law, the books of poetry and Wisdom, and the books of prophesy).

The New Testament records the birth and life of Jesus Christ, sets forth the writings and works of His Apostles, and documents the history of the early Church. The New Testament books contain 27 main books, which were written from about 50 to 95 A.D.

The Coptic Orthodox Church prefers the Septuagint (LXX) for the Old Testament and a literal translation of the Greek Textus Receptus, such as the New King James Version, for the New Testament.

The earliest writings of all the New Testament books as we know them today is found in the 33rd Canon of a local council held at the city of Carthage in 318 AD. and in the Paschal Letter of St. Athanasius of Alexandria in 367 AD. A local council, probably held in Rome at 382, set forth a complete list of the canonical books of both the Old and New Testaments.

The Scriptures are at the very heart of Orthodox worship and devotion. Its verses are declared in each of its sacraments, memorized and inscribed on the hearts of its people.

The Holy Tradition

In today’s evangelism, there has developed a general trend and practice against the word and use of any “tradition.” This opinion has its historical roots in the Protestant Reformation, in which Luther and Calvin disdained that which came under the heading of “tradition” from the Roman Catholic Church. The arguments of the Reformation centers clearly on the polarity of the “Bible verses tradition.”

There are two separate meanings and interpretations for tradition mentioned in the Bible: one refers to the tradition of men—which is condemned by Our Lord Himself repeatedly. In one passage, Christ boldly denounces the Pharisees over their appeal to tradition. (See Matthew 15:3-9). This tradition taught hypocrisy and vain worship.

However, there is a second tradition—the Tradition of God (capital T)—which the Church embraces, accepts and depends upon. This is the Tradition which St. Paul refers to in the when declaring, “Therefore brethren, stand fast to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or by epistle.” (2 Thess. 2:15); and “But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us.” (2 Thess. 3:15)

Thus, this Tradition, is the apostles doctrine, mentioned in Acts 2:42, which Paul and the other apostles taught and preached. It is the Tradition revealed by our Lord to the disciples during the fifty days after His Resurrection, which St. John refers to “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they should be written every one, is suppose even the world could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:20)

Without such tradition, one would be compelled to ask, how did the Bible come to be? How can we accurately and consistently interpret the Bible for coming generations? A church without Tradition, is a church without roots, a church doomed to face relentless confusion and inevitable division.

The Scriptures are true—holy, just and good. But there were not meant to stand alone. Their enforcer, their interpreter—and indeed their writer—is the Church through the Apostolic tradition.

The Holy Theotokos

No woman in history is more misunderstood than the Holy Virgin Mary. The Reverend Billy Graham once said, “We evangelical Christians do not give Mary her proper due.” However, Saint Mary receives her “proper due” within the Orthodox faith.

St. Mary is the greatest woman that ever lived. She was chosen by the Father to bear His Only-Begotten Son, gave birth to the Savior of the world, and was the first person in history to receive Christ as her Savior. Consequently, she is our model of obedience and submission; of purity and holiness; of humility and royalty.

In the fourth century, when a heretic named Nestorious claimed that Jesus was a man but not God, the Church defended the divinity of Christ and insisted that Mary be referred to as the “The
otokos” (Greek for God-bearer) to safeguard the full deity of Christ.

We also believe that the Virgin Mary is the Ever-Virgin. The Church Fathers repeatedly refer to the prophesy of this: “The gate will be shut and it will not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.” (Ezekiel 44:1-2). The interpretation of the Church fathers generally that Mary is the Temple, Christ is the Prince of Peace, and the gate is Mary’s womb through which Christ entered into the world. This interpretation is shared by the great majority of the Church fathers, as well as the Reformation Leaders such as Martin Luther.

“The gate will be shut and it will not be opened, and no man shall enter by it, because the Lord God of Israel has entered by it; therefore it shall be shut.” (Ezekiel 44:1-2).

The Coptic Church venerates the Virgin Mary, though worship belongs to God alone. God, the angels, and mankind all venerated Saint Mary. God, through Archangel Gabriel; and St. Elizabeth, declared to her “Blessed are you among women.” (Luke 1:28, 42). St. Mary herself declared, “henceforth all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48). Thus, our church fulfills this commandment and example by offering the voice of sweet praises and hymns to our Lady, the Virgin Mary.

When Christians depart this life, they remain a vital part of the Church, the body of Christ. They are alive in the Lord, are “registered in heaven.” (Revelation 4:10), and inhabit His heavenly dwelling places (John 14:2). They are the “great cloud of witnesses” which surrounds us; we seek to imitate them in running the “race set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1).