Church Fathers

Archived Posts from this Category

“The Manger and the Cross are Not Far Removed”

Posted by on 20 Dec 2014 | Tagged as: Christmas, Church Fathers

Cross and Manger

 

And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

Matt 1:20-21 NLT

The manger and the cross are not far removed. We tend to picture the Nativity as a pastorally-pleasing, sweet scene with admiring parents and grateful shepherds. We tend to view Golgotha as a horrid, ugly hill surrounded by hate-filled rejectors of the glorious majesty of God. Of course, truth exists in both these images, but often we fail to recognize that the Cross was planted in Bethlehem.

A Savior was born that day to die for our sins–the shadow of the Cross falls over the baby Jesus as he rests in the manger. Our kinsman redeemer, our sin-bearer, our ransom, our sacrificial Lamb was born that day in Bethlehem. The Cross and the manger meet in Bethlehem-Jesus is born to die for your sins and mine.

God’s compassion for us is all the more wonderful because Christ died not for the righteous or the holy but for the wicked and the sinful, and, though the divine nature could not be touched by the sting of death, he took to himself, through his birth as one of us, something he could offer on our behalf.

Leo the Great cited in Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, Ancient Christian Devotional: A Year of Weekly Readings, Lectionary Cycle C (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 31.

In this Child, in fact, God-Love is manifested: God comes without weapons, without strength, because he does not aim to conquer, we could say, from without, but rather wants to be welcomed by man in liberty. God becomes a defenseless Child to conquer man’s pride, violence, and desire to possess. In Jesus, God took up this poor and defenseless condition to conquer with love and lead us to our true identity.

Pope Benedict XVI, “St. Francis’ Role in Christmas,” Dec. 23, 2009.

The whole life of Christ was a continuall Passion; others die Martyrs, but Christ was born a Martyr . . . His birth and his death were but one continuall act, and his Christmas-day and his Good Friday, are but the evening and morning of one and the same day.

John Donne, “Christmas Sermon,” Dec 25, 1626

 

Don’t Give Up So Easily

Posted by on 12 Feb 2011 | Tagged as: Christian Ministry, Church Fathers, Dallas Willard, Hearing God, J. Sidlow Baxter

open_doors_0001

Opportunities and Opposition

For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

1 Cor 16:9 KJV

God’s call may be an inward drawing, an internal prodding, or a wooing sense in one’s spirit. On occasion, God’s direction may come as an outward audible voice, which sounds much like our own human voice (1 Sam. 3: 1-21). Mostly, God speaks in our hearts as a thought that is much like our own reasoning. God’s thought appears to come out of nowhere and is not an idea we normally would have conceived. Dallas Willard calls this type of inward direction, “a God characteristic type of thought” (1 Kings 19: 12). God is not playing a cat and mouse game disappearing when we most need him. He is no trickster playing with our lives while we stumble around in the dark. The Lord will make his will known even if he has to repeat it continually.

God’s call may lead us to a season of difficulty and opposition from the enemy (Matt. 4:1). Trials do not indicate that we missed God or somehow lost our way. The very thing that God most desires to accomplish in us and through us, intimacy with him, is the very thing that the kingdom of darkness wants to oppose. We should not allow difficulties and discouragements to prevent us from obeying the call of God. If we obey and trust God’s call, the Lord will be glorified by our obedience and our faith will grow exponentially.

There are open doors in every life, doors to high achievement and wide usefulness and spiritual discovery. Many of us, in moods which we allow too often, look upon our circumstances in life as barriers to attainment; but in our moments of truer perception we discern that the imagined prison bars are in reality open doors of opportunity. Our circumstances only look like barriers because the inward eye by which we recognize spiritual values is diseased.

But there are never open doors without opposition. . . . There is an opportunity in every difficulty and difficulty in every opportunity. That is why so many blessings are missed, so many heights left unscaled, so many chapters of service left unwritten. Some of the finest foreign missionaries are those who never went! They heard the call, they felt the urge, they were keen to go, they saw the open door and would had gone through; but there were adversaries, obstacles, discouragements; there was hesitation; the vision faded; and the grand vocation was never fulfilled.

J. Sidlow Baxter, Awake my Heart: Daily Devotional Meditations for the Year (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1960), 10.

It was precisely because the opportunities were so great that Paul had so many adversaries. The devil is always active when he risks losing his booty.

John Chrysostom cited in 1 & 2 Corinthians: Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 186.

We Love the Bible Because We Love Christ

Posted by on 26 Jan 2011 | Tagged as: Bible, Church Fathers, John Stott

Love for the Scriptures

You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!

John 5:39 NLT

To be in love with Christ is to be in love with the Word of God, the Bible. Through God’s Word, we come to know and experience all of Christ’s perfections, beauty, and glory. To read and examine what Christ has done for us is to be encouraged to trust God’s promises, empowered to love in a world full of chaos, and strengthened against the assaults of the evil one. To love Christ is to love his Word. The quality of our reading, studying, and meditation of God’s Word is an indication of the quality of our love, zeal, and passion for our Savior.

A man who loves his wife will love her letters and her photographs because they speak to him of her. So if we love the Lord Jesus we shall love the Bible because it speaks to us of him. The husband is not so stupid as to prefer his wife’s letters to her voice, or her photographs to herself. He simply loves them because of her. So, too, we love the Bible because of Christ. It is his portrait. It is his love-letter.

John Stott, Fundamentalism and Evangelism (London: Crusade Booklets, 1956), 22.

I interpret as I should, following the command of Christ: Search the Scriptures, and Seek and you shall find. Christ will not say to me what he said to the Jews: You erred, not knowing the Scriptures and not knowing the power of God. For if, as Paul says, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, and if the man who does not know Scripture does not know the power and wisdom of God, then ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.

Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah (?)

Great Receivers Stare Down Temptation

Posted by on 20 Feb 2010 | Tagged as: Church Fathers, God's Grace, Sin, Temptation

God Will Provide a Way of Escape

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Cor. 10:13

Temptation is an allurement or enticement to sin (1 Tim. 6:9). Temptation is a drawing and wooing from Satan to follow the ways of the world and give-in to the cravings of our flesh. Being tempted is not sin itself, but capitulating to the desires of the flesh is sin (Rom. 8:5). The flesh, or sinful nature, takes our basic needs and turns them into obsessions. Our flesh (i.e., fallenness) yearns to the govern us and divert us from intimacy with God. Our flesh cries out for attention and desires to rule our lives. Our sinful nature is an “idolatrous over-desire” that arises from our being: a heart that is afraid of disappointment, fears that God will be unfaithful, worries about unmet needs, yearns for control, etc. Giving into the demands of the flesh is strictly forbidden by God’s law (Rom. 8:5-8).

Temptation did not spoil Christ’s sinlessness (Heb. 4:15). Christ’s temptations were completely like the temptations that are common to us all (Heb. 2:17). Because of sanctifying grace, succumbing to temptation is avoidable. Great receivers know that they cannot overcome temptation in their own strength. They look to Christ with hands wide open for “grace and help in their time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16). The triumph of Christ over the world, the flesh, sin, death and the devil (Matt. 12:28-29 ; Col. 1:13 ) means that a way of escape is always available for those who look to Christ in faith. However, when we allow temptation to overcome us, forgiveness is available through Jesus Christ, our Lord (Heb. 2:18 ; 4:14-16 ; 1 John 2:1).

As we approach then, dearly-beloved, the beginning of Lent, which is a time for the more careful serving of the Lord, because we are, as it were, entering on a kind of contest in good works, let us prepare our souls for fighting with temptations, and understand that the more zealous we are for our salvation, the more determined must be the assaults of our opponents. But “stronger is He that is in us than He that is against us,” and through Him are we powerful in whose strength we rely: because it was for this that the Lord allowed Himself to be tempted by the tempter, that we might be taught by His example as well as fortified by His aid.

For He conquered the adversary, as ye have heard, by quotations from the law, not by actual strength, that by this very thing He might do greater honour to man, and inflict a greater punishment on the adversary by conquering the enemy of the human race not now as God but as Man. He fought then, therefore, that we too might fight thereafter: He conquered that we too might likewise conquer. For there are no works of power, dearly-beloved, without the trials of temptations, there is no faith without proof, no contest without a foe, no victory without conflict. This life of ours is in the midst of snares, in the midst of battles; if we do not wish to be deceived, we must watch: if we want to overcome, we must fight.

Leo the Great (c.400-461): Sermon 39,3.

HT: Enlarging the Heart


For-give-ness

Posted by on 30 Oct 2009 | Tagged as: Church Fathers, Forgiveness, John Piper, Keswick Convention

Giving Away the Right to Get Even

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

Col 3:12-14 (ESV)

For-give-ness is not getting even: it is giving away the right to get even. [John Piper, The Passion of Jesus Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 36.] We have committed grave injustices in the world. In fact, we have acted in such a way that we place ourselves above all others. By our behavior, attitudes, and actions we have turned the world upside down by making ourselves the center of attention instead of God and his glory. When God forgives us, he chooses to forget all the wrongs that we have done to him and all damage that we have done to others. Because of Christ’s awesome and bloody sacrifice, God himself gives away the right to get even with us.

Nothing could be worse than refusing to forgive our neighbor of even the smallest wrongs when Christ died for us.

Gregory Nazianzen, Orations, 33:14.

I can never gain greater victory over the enemy than when, in the full tide of love, I forgive. There is nothing the devil hates more than a man who can forgive, because that man is acting in the very power of the life of God, which is triumph over evil.

G. Campbell Morgan, Petition in Prayer (iii), Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed., Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 297.

All Blessing Flows from the Cross

Posted by on 02 Apr 2009 | Tagged as: Church Fathers, The Cross

Leo-the-Great

“How Marvelous the Power of the Cross”

And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this to indicate how he was going to die.

John 12:32-33 (NLT)

How marvelous the power of the cross; how great beyond all telling the glory of the passion: here is the judgment-seat of the Lord, the condemnation of the world, the supremacy of Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).

Lord, you drew all things to yourself so that the devotion of all peoples everywhere might celebrate, in a sacrament made perfect and visible, what was carried out in the one temple of Judea under obscure foreshadowings.

Now there is a more distinguished order of Levites, a greater dignity for the rank of elders, a more sacred anointing for the priesthood, because your cross is the source of all blessings, the cause of all graces. Through the cross the faithful receive strength from weakness, glory from dishonor, life from death. The different sacrifices of animals are no more: the one offering of your body and blood is the fulfillment of all the different sacrificial offerings, for you are the true Lamb of God: you take away the sins of the world. In yourself you bring to perfection all mysteries, so that, as there is one sacrifice in place of all other sacrificial offerings, there is also one kingdom gathered from all peoples.

Dearly beloved, let us then acknowledge what Saint Paul, the teacher of the nations, acknowledged so exultantly: This is a saying worthy of trust, worthy of complete acceptance: Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).

God’s compassion for us is all the more wonderful because Christ died, not for the righteous or the holy but for the wicked and the sinful, and, though the divine nature could not be touched by the sting of death, he took to himself, through his birth as one of us, something he could offer on our behalf. The power of his death once confronted our death. In the words of Hosea the prophet: Death, I shall be your death; grave, I shall swallow you up (Hosea 13:14). By dying he submitted to the laws of the underworld; by rising again he destroyed them. He did away with the everlasting character of death so as to make death a thing of time, not of eternity. As all die in Adam, so all will be brought to life in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22-26).

St. Leo the Great, Sermon LIX (On the Passion, VIII.: on Wednesday in Holy Week.)

HT: Universalis

Apostolic Succession: Is It for Real?

Posted by on 26 Mar 2009 | Tagged as: Apostolic Succession, Catholicity, Church Fathers

nicaea_icon

Apostolic Succession Defined

Apostolic succession is historic continuity with the apostles imparted through the laying on of hands in ordination; thereby, receiving the apostles’ authority while simultaneously experiencing the Holy Spirit’s anointing to embody apostolic character and teach apostolic doctrine.

This ancient succession grants to the bishops the same authority, commission, and responsibility as the apostles. Also, an apostolic anointing extends special grace and authority to the clergy from the Holy Spirit to advance the gospel throughout the world. Succession is a gift which must be lived as well as believed.

As our blessed Lord ordained the twelve to be his representatives when He left the earth, so the apostles chose others to take their place when they in turn were withdrawn by death.  . . . During this long period, successors of the apostles, first receiving, and then in turn handing on the divine power and authority which Christ gave to the twelve, have never been wanting. The apostolic succession is the link or bond that connects the Church of the 20th century with that of the 1st century.

Vernon Staley, The Catholic Religion (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Press, 1983), 15.

The doctrine of apostolic succession has both Petrine and Pauline qualities. Petrine in that the bishop’s consecration and ministry must be in historic continuity with the church catholic and Pauline in that the bishop should be governed by the Holy Spirit and has an individual (not individualistic) walk with the Lord exemplified by the “faith that works through love.” If a bishop is not Pauline then he is not apostolic. In other words, no matter the fact of his ordination, he is not a representative of the church if he is not living a holy life and does not believe the historic doctrines of the apostles. However, when a bishop is Pauline and not Petrine, he lacks authority in his ministry. That deficiency keeps him from speaking from and to the church. As one presbyter stated,

When I received Christ, I discovered the grace of God. When I received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I discovered the power of God. When I received the laying on of hands in apostolic succession of the government of God, I discovered the authority of God.

Ed Wills, “Sensitive to the Holy Spirit,” Sursum Corda (November 1994), 2.

Yes, the doctrine of apostolic succcession is for real: not magic, just the gracious work of the Holy Spirit empowering his church to be the Church.

The Apocrypha: An Evangelical-Catholic Perspective

Posted by on 20 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: Apocrypha, Bible, Church Fathers, Evangelical, Scripture

The Apocrypha: An Evangelical Catholic Perspective[1]

Canon Glenn E. Davis

Overview

The Morning Star of the Reformation, John Wycliffe, voiced in the fourteenth century a love for scripture that Evangelicals embrace today:

Christian men and women, old and young, should study well in the New Testament, for it is of full authority, and open to understanding by simple men, as to the points that are most needful to salvation. Each part of Scripture (i. e. Old and New Testaments), both open and dark, teaches meekness and charity; and therefore he that keeps meekness and charity has the true understanding and perfection of all Scripture. Therefore, no simple man of wit should be afraid to study in the text of Scripture.[2]

For Evangelicals there is nothing more important than God’s word for in it is found “the infallible rule of faith and practice.”[3] However, Evangelicals disagree with Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as to exactly what books make up the canon-or the official list of books of scripture. This debate began in second century A. D. and magnified in significance during the Reformation. This disagreement persists to this day between Protestants, Roman Catholics and Orthodox, raising passions and intense theological debate concerning the nature of inspiration, the authority of the church, and the weight of Tradition. This dispute concerns the “Apocrypha,” a collection of fourteen or fifteen books (or parts of books) not included in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible, but translated in the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible called the Septuagint (LXX). These books were written during the last two centuries before Christ and the first century of the Christian era. The following are the titles of these books as given in the Revised Standard Version (1957):

1. The First Book of Esdras

2. The Second Book of Esdras

3. Tobit

4. Judith

5. The Additions to the Book of Esther

6. The Wisdom of Solomon

7. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach

8. Baruch

9. The Letter of Jeremiah

10. The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men

11. Susanna

12. Bel and the Dragon

13. The Prayer of Manasseh

14. The First Book of the Maccabees

15. The Second Book of the Maccabees

Three theological convictions dominate the discussion of the merits or deficiencies of including the Apocrypha as canon of  Scripture. The Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles state that the Apocryphal books are not Holy Spirit inspired, but are instructional.[4] The Evangelical position is that they are not Holy Spirit inspired but are useful only for historical study.[5] The Roman Catholic Church considers them as the inspired Word of God.[6] This essay will explore the early disagreements and focus on the Evangelical opposition to the inclusion of the Apocrypha.

Read the entire essay here: the-apocrypha-an-evangelical-catholic-perspective-blog-version.
Canon Glenn E. Davis

Canon Theologian, Southeast Province, CEC


[1] Lutheran Theologian, Carl Braaten, coined the term, “Evangelical Catholic.” An Evangelical Catholic is a believer who holds to the Tradition of the Early Church Fathers and regards the Reformation Period as a much needed corrective for a drifting Historic Church. Evangelical Catholics believe that the Western Church was losing her theological and moral direction in the Medieval Age and needed renewal. “By becoming more evangelical, the church will become more catholic; and by becoming more catholic, she will become more evangelical.” (Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism).
[2] John Wycliffe, The Wicket, Christian Quotation of the Day, December 31, 2006; available from http://www.cqod.com/.

[3] “The Lausanne Covenant,” Article Two, The Authority and Power of the Bible (The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization website); available from http://www.lausanne.org/Brix?pageID=12891.

[4] Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, Article Six, (The 1662 Book of Common Prayer website); available from http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/articles/articles.html#6 “And the other books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.”

[5] Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter One, Article III (The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics website); available from http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ . “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.”

[6] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Paragraph 120 (Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church website); available from http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s1c2a3.htm#120.