Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Worthwhile Reading

The last time I posted a potpourri of publications was October. I trust you will enjoy the following collection of articles from the past couple months. Let’s begin with a pair of unrelated items:

This article by Amanda Hinton gives good advice on what qualities a future husband should possess.

Larry Peters offers his thoughts on the importance of church membership.

Moving on…
I have read several books on making disciples, but there is one recent read that should be given a serious look – Follow Me: Discipleship According to St. Matthew (available at CPH and Amazon). While other works pore over the lives of godly men in Scripture to build a working discipleship method, Martin Franzmann explains how the apostle wove his narrative from an introduction of Jesus to the final sending of the Twelve as a model for discipleship. The book may be 50 years old, but there is much wisdom within.

Patristics twin-bill
Todd Pruitt from Mortification of Spin is recommending Craig Carter’s, Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition. Carter exposes a 21st-century weakness: we do not know or care how the Church Fathers approached Scripture. He attempts to break the mold of modern and postmodern theological connect the reader to early exegesis—a largely untapped and unfamiliar resource. The likes of Irenaeus and Ambrose will challenge your thinking in a good way.

In similar fashion, Shawn Wilhite has written a piece for The Center for Baptist Renewal (CBR) on bringing Patristic exegesis into the local church. Pastors and teachers would do well to retrieve the wisdom of these ancient writers to improve their thinking and teaching.

And speaking of worship…
Two other articles of note have come from CBR on recapturing neglected liturgical elements. The first comes Ray Van Neste on the corporate confession of sin. Confession is acknowledged by every branch of Christendom: the difference is in the application. For millennia, the Church has been practiced corporate confession during worship, however, this practice went out of favor among those groups groups that emphasize individualistic Christian faith and practice. While individual confession is good and proper, so is corporate confession. One only needs to read the Psalms or other Old Testament prayers to understand the corporate bond as they confessed their sins before Almighty God.

The second article I find more intriguing and more necessary for today – Why We Should Include Lament Songs in Our Worship by Samuel Parkison. In a time when many (most?) local churches have relegated hymns to the proverbial dust bin in favor of the latest and greatest pop worship song, this is a needed corrective. Anymore, Sunday singing comprises attempted manipulation of God to come down, show His glory, and do what He does, so that we can live victoriously (Have you noticed that Scripture never speaks this way? But I digress.) Or there is some version of “Jesus, I love you, because it makes me feel good to say it.” And for any songs that may include an element of hardship or pain, the sentiment is closer to “Daddy, I fell down. Can you kiss my boo?” We can’t always feel upbeat. Lament helps us express the depths of suffering, and allows others to share in it.

And now for something truly lamentable
Andy Stanley appears to be headed into outright Marcionism (an ancient heresy rejecting the Old Testament) as noted in a First Things article by Wesley Hill. Stanley is quoted as saying, “Christians must unhitch the Old Testament from their faith.” As an aside, I have heard parts of the sermon being quoted and can affirm its accuracy. Pastor Stanley is either very ignorant of facts of the Bible and history, or he is lying in order to delude his hearers.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Pentecost Sunday

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them: Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:14–18)
The word of offering shows the lavishness of the gift, for the grace of the Holy Spirit was not to be granted, as formerly, only to individual prophets and priests, but to everyone in every place, regardless of sex, state of life or position. The prophet subsequently explains what all flesh may be, saying, “Your sons and daughters will prophesy” and so forth, and “I will give wonders in heaven above and signs on the earth beneath.” The wonders in heaven were given when with the Lord's birth a new star appeared, and with his ascending of the cross the sun was dimmed and heaven itself was covered with darkness. The signs on the earth were given when, with the Lord’s breathing forth of his spirit, the earth trembled violently, broke open sepulchers, split apart rocks and brought forth alive again the bodies of many of the saints who had fallen asleep.

Bede, Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles 2.17

Friday, May 11, 2018

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Seventh Sunday of Easter

Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. (John 17:11b-19)

Christ wishes the disciples to be kept in a state of unity by maintaining a like-mindedness and an identity of will, being mingled together as it were in soul and spirit and in the law of peace and love for one another. He wishes them to be bound together tightly with an unbreakable bond of love, that they may advance to such a degree of unity that their freely chosen association might even become an image of the natural unity that is conceived to exist between the Father and the Son. That is to say, he wishes them to enjoy a unity that is inseparable and indestructible, which may not be enticed away into a dissimilarity of wills by anything at all that exists in the world or any pursuit of pleasure, but rather reserves the power of love in the unity of devotion and holiness. And this is what happened. For as we read in the Acts of the Apostles, “the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul,” that is, in the unity of the Spirit. This is also what Paul himself meant when he said “one body and one Spirit.” “We who are many are one body in Christ for we all partake of the one bread,” and we have all been anointed in the one Spirit, the Spirit of Christ.

Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of John 11.9

Friday, May 4, 2018

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Sixth Sunday of Easter

And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins. (Acts 10:39–48)

The apostles, therefore, preached the Son of God, of whom men were ignorant; and His advent, to those who had been already instructed as to God; but they did not bring in another god. For if Peter had known any such thing, he would have preached freely to the Gentiles, that the God of the Jews was indeed one, but the God of the Christians another; and all of them, doubtless, being awestruck because of the vision of the angel, would have believed whatever he told them. But it is evident from Peter’s words that he did indeed still retain the God who was already known to them; but he also bore witness to them that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the Judge of the living and the dead, into whom he did also command them to be baptized for the remission of sins. And not this alone, but he witnessed that Jesus was Himself the Son of God, who also, having been anointed with the Holy Spirit, is called Jesus Christ. And He is the same being that was born of Mary, as the testimony of Peter implies.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.12.7

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Choosing the Obvious

What shall I give back to the Lord
For all He rendered to me?
I will take up the cup of salvation,
And call upon the name of the Lord. (Ps 116:12–13)

I read the above passage yesterday and was struck by the obvious. The Lord has provided all things abundantly in Christ. What else can I do but take up the cup of salvation He offers? what else but call upon Him? It is to His glory that I have been so richly blessed. It is only right that my response is fully unto Him, even as Cyprian once wrote:
For this it is which especially pleases God; it is this wherein our works with greater deserts are successful in earning God’s good-will; this it is which alone the obedience of our faith and devotion can render to the Lord for His great and saving benefits, as the Holy Spirit declares and witnesses in the Psalms: “What shall I render,” says he, “to the Lord for all His benefits towards me? I will take the cup of salvation, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Who would not gladly and readily receive the cup of salvation? Who would not with joy and gladness desire that in which he himself also may render somewhat unto His Lord? Who would not bravely and unfalteringly receive a death precious in the sight of the Lord, to please His eyes, who, looking down from above upon us who are placed in the conflict for His name, approves the willing, assists the struggling, crowns the conquering with the recompense of patience, goodness, and affection, rewarding in us whatever He Himself has bestowed, and honoring what He has accomplished?

Epistle to Nemesianus and Other Martyrs in the Mines 76.4

Friday, April 27, 2018

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7–11)

Behold, in order that we may love God, we have exhortation. Could we love Him, unless He first loved us? If we were slow to love, let us not be slow to love in return. He first loved us; not even so do we love. He loved the unrighteous, but He did away the unrighteousness: He loved the unrighteous, but not unto unrighteousness did He gather them together: He loved the sick, but He visited them to make them whole. Love, then, is God. In this was manifested the love of God in us, because that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we may live through Him. As the Lord Himself says: Greater love than this can no man have, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13) and there was proved the love of Christ towards us, in that He died for us: how is the love of the Father towards us proved? In that He sent His only Son to die for us: so also the apostle Paul says: He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how has He not with Him also freely given us all things? (Rom 8:32) Behold the Father delivered up Christ; Judas delivered Him up; does it not seem as if the thing done were of the same sort? Judas is traditor, one that delivered up, [or, a traitor]: is God the Father that? God forbid! Do you say. I do not say it, but the apostle says, He that spared not His own Son, but tradidit Eum delivered Him up for us all. Both the Father delivered Him up, and He delivered up Himself. The same apostle says: Who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. (Gal 2:20) If the Father delivered up the Son; and the Son delivered up Himself, what has Judas done? There was a traditio (delivering up) by the Father; there was a traditio by the Son; there was a traditio by Judas: the thing done is the same, but what is it that distinguishes the Father delivering up the Son, the Son delivering up Himself, and Judas the disciple delivering up his Master? This: that the Father and the Son did it in love, but Judas did this in treacherous betrayal. You see that not what the man does is the thing to be considered; but with what mind and will he does it. We find God the Father in the same deed in which we find Judas; the Father we bless, Judas we detest. Why do we bless the Father, and detest Judas? We bless charity, detest iniquity. How great a good was conferred upon mankind by the delivering up of Christ! Had Judas this in his thoughts, that therefore he delivered Him up? God had in His thoughts our salvation by which we were redeemed; Judas had in his thoughts the price for which he sold the Lord. The Son Himself had in His thoughts the price He gave for us, Judas in his the price he received to sell Him. The diverse intention therefore makes the things done diverse. Though the thing be one, yet if we measure it by the diverse intentions, we find the one a thing to be loved, the other to be condemned; the one we find a thing to be glorified, the other to be detested. Such is the force of charity. See that it alone discriminates, it alone distinguishes the doings of men.

Augustine of Hippo, Homilies on the First Epistle of John

Friday, April 20, 2018

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Peter and John before the Sanhedrin.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8–12)

The builders were the Jews, while all the Gentiles remained in the wasteland of idols. The Jews alone were daily reading the law and the prophets for the building up of the people. As they were building, they came to the cornerstone, which embraces two walls—that is, they found in the prophetic Scriptures that Christ, who would bring together in himself two peoples, was to come in the flesh. And, because they preferred to remain in one wall, that is, to be saved alone, they rejected the stone, which was not one-sided but two-sided. Nevertheless, although they were unwilling, God by Himself placed this at the chief position in the corner, so that from two Testaments and two peoples there might rise up a building of one and the same faith.

Bede, Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles

For “there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” since “there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved,” and “in him God has defined to all men their faith, in that he has raised him from the dead.” Now without this faith, that is to say, without a belief in the one Mediator between God and humankind, the man Christ Jesus; without faith, I say, in his resurrection by which God has given assurance to all people and which no one could of course truly believe were it not for his incarnation and death; without faith, therefore, in the incarnation and death and resurrection of Christ, the Christian truth unhesitatingly declares that the ancient saints could not possibly have been cleansed from sin so as to have become holy and justified by the grace of God. And this is true both of the saints who are mentioned in holy Scripture and of those also who are not indeed mentioned therein but must yet be supposed to have existed—either before the deluge or in the interval between that event and the giving of the law or in the period of the law itself—not merely among the children of Israel, as the prophets, but even outside that nation, as for instance Job. For cleansing from sin was by the selfsame faith. The one Mediator cleansed the hearts of these too, and there also was “shed abroad in them the love of God by the Holy Spirit,” “who blows where He wills,” not following people’s merits but even producing these very merits Himself. For the grace of God will in no wise exist unless it be wholly free.

Augustine of Hippo, On Original Sin

Friday, April 13, 2018

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Third Sunday of Easter

Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Lu 24:44-49)

Then He opened their mind to understand the Scriptures. When He had quieted their reasonings by what He said, by the touch of their hands, and by partaking of food, He then opened their mind to understand, that “so it was necessary for Him to suffer,” even upon the wood of the cross. The Lord therefore recalls the minds of the disciples to what Me had before said: for He had forewarned them of His sufferings upon the cross, according to what the prophets had long before spoken: and He opens also the eyes of their heart, so as for them to understand the ancient prophecies. The Savior promises the disciples the descent of the Holy Spirit, which God had announced of old by Joel, and power from above, that they might be strong and invincible, and without all fear preach to men everywhere the divine mystery. He says to them now that they had received the Spirit after the resurrection, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and adds, “But tarry at Jerusalem, and wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard of Me. For John indeed baptized with water, but you must be baptized with the Holy Spirit;” in water no longer, for that they had received, but with the Holy Spirit: He does not add water to water, but completes that which was deficient by adding what was lacking to it. Having blessed them, and gone a little in advance, He was carried up to heaven, that He might share the Father's throne even with the flesh that was united to Him. And this new pathway the Word made for us when He appeared in human form: and hereafter in due time He will come again in the glory of His Father with the angels, and will take us up to be with Him. Let us glorify therefore Him Who being God the Word became man for our sakes: Who suffered willingly in the flesh, and arose from the dead, and abolished corruption: Who was taken up, and hereafter must come with great glory to judge the living and the dead, and to give to every one according to his deeds: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be glory and power with the Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Eat Me, Drink Me

There seemed to be no use in waiting by the little door, so she went back to the table, half hoping she might find another key on it, or at any rate a book of rules for shutting people up like telescopes: this time she found a little bottle on it, (‘which certainly was not here before,’ said Alice,) and round the neck of the bottle was a paper label, with the words ‘DRINK ME’ beautifully printed on it in large letters.

It was all very well to say ‘Drink me,’ but the wise little Alice was not going to do
that in a hurry.… However, this bottle was not marked ‘poison,’ so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavor of cherry-tart, custard, pineapple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off.…

Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words ‘EAT ME’ were beautifully marked in currants. ‘Well, I’ll eat it,’ said Alice, ‘and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I'll get into the garden, and I don't care which happens!’…

So she set to work, and very soon finished off the cake.

If you are familiar with the above from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, then you know Alice’s dilemma of being not quite the appropriate size for a doorway. A change is needed, and the only appropriate catalyst is something to consume, which she takes willingly because of the delicious taste. Alas, for poor Alice, matters go awry and her state after drinking and eating is worse than before. A similar end comes to Edmund Pevensie immediately after eating Turkish Delight in C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, though while Alice partook out of need, Edmund did so from selfishness and became enslaved. We can see from these literary examples, and also from common sense, that what we feed on has a direct influence on our outcome: healthy eating leads to soundness; unhealthy eating leads to corruption.

Where do we go for healthy eating? What is proper to consume? Probably one of the best things to take in is wisdom, of which the following provided the catalyst for this post:
Come to me, you who desire me,
And take your fill of my fruits.
For the remembrance of me is sweeter than honey,
And my inheritance is sweeter than the honeycomb.
Those who eat me will hunger for more,
And those who drink me will thirst for more.
He who obeys me will not be put to shame,
And those who work with me will not sin.
Sirach 24:19–22

Wisdom calls out and promises that not only will it be pleasing but will continually build desire to feed at that table ever more. Wisdom literature and the prophets also uses this same motif of the call to dine:

Proverbs 9:1–5 Isaiah 55:1
Wisdom has built her house,
She has hewn out her seven pillars;
She has slaughtered her meat,
She has mixed her wine,
She has also furnished her table.
She has sent out her maidens,
She cries out from the highest places of the city,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him,
“Come, eat of my bread
And drink of the wine I have mixed.”
Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price.

With the invitation to eat and drink made, we return to the question of source. Where do we find wisdom that we may take that in? The initial offer tells us from where we should never partake. The serpent, in tempting the woman, described the effect of eating as being like God, able to know or distinguish good and evil (Ge 3:5), which the woman correctly understood as “desirable to make one wise” (Ge 3:6); however, this was not the way God had intended wisdom to be learned. By eating from the wrong source, they chose poorly. Better would have been to abide in the Divine presence and commune with Him.

God continued to reach out to His creation, offering times of communion with Himself. One of these came on Mount Sinai after the people of Israel had come out of Egypt.
Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank. (Ex 24:9–11)
Here we find the beginning of a recurring theme found within the Mosaic Covenant: God communes with His people and they with each other. On an individual level, this can be seen in the Peace Offering wherein God, priest, and offerer share together in the sacrifice. The individual was welcome into fellowship with God because of the peace between them. On a corporate level, as part of their calendar, Israel was required to come together for three yearly feasts: Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits (or Harvest), and Tabernacles (or Ingathering) (Ex 23:14–16; Le 23:4–14, 33–43). These feasts brought the people of God together in systematic fashion to instill in them the need for fellowship beyond the family or tribal unit. All the elect are equally welcome participants as one family.

As important as the times of communion would become, there needed to be an established basis for that communion. Not long after being baptized with Moses in the Red Sea crossing (Ex 14:26–31; cf. 1 Cor 10:1–2), the people became hungry and thirsty being forced to rely on God’s daily provision of manna (Ex 16:14–16) and water (Ex 17:1–7). This reliance would serve as a picture of needed daily spiritual intake from Him enabled by regularly teaching future generations the Lord’s commands (De 6:1–9). It would be this regular feeding on and drinking in the good Word of God that would feed their souls and provide wisdom and nourishment characteristic of a holy people. Not that this endeavor would bring the follower into a right or better relation with his Lord, but because he has believed what has been graciously promised, so the commands are not bitter, but because they are “more to be desired than gold” and “sweeter than honey and the honeycomb” (Ps 19:10).

Feasting continues as a theme in the New Testament but takes an interesting turn when, in a reference to the manna, Jesus taught that He was the bread of life, which would sate the desire man needed if one believed (John 6:33, 35, 48). Indeed, He seemed to ramp up the challenge of those listening to pronounce the seemingly impossible:
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”… Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” (John 6:51–57)
The net effect of this revelation was that all but the twelve turned away from following Him, yet this was, and continues to be, the very thing needed by all. As the true bread of life having come down, Jesus delivers to us what we need for true life—a spiritual eating and drinking through His Word. This would later be made most graphically as Jesus, on the night before He was crucified, took bread and wine and said this is My body, this is My blood. All that He taught and accomplished on earth was coming to its expected conclusion. In a most vivid fashion, He emphatically proclaims that He, in His fullness, is with the bread and cup coming to us as we partake and are built up in Him. Paul later elaborates on this when he teaches:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.  (1 Co 10:16–17)
As the visible elements are in communion with the body and blood, we have unity when we partake of the same, since Jesus Himself is being received.

Unlike Alice, who needed something to eat or drink to make herself appropriate for the topsy-turvy, nonsense Wonderland, we live in a nonsense world but look for a city whose builder and maker is God. We need the true food and true drink satisfying our spiritual hunger and thirst, and that brings “a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). It is this eating and drinking that the Christian turns to and continues in to grow in Christ.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to the Second Sunday of Easter

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21–23)

To the extent that light is more appealing after darkness, that serenity is more appealing after a gloomy storm, to the same extent is joy more welcome after grief. He said to them again: “Peace be with you” (v. 21). What does this repetition in bestowing peace mean, except that He wants the tranquillity that He had announced to their minds individually also to be kept collectively among them by granting peace repeatedly? He knew, at any rate, that they were going to have far from insignificant struggles in the future stemming from his delay, with one boasting that he had persevered in faith, and another in grief because he had doubted.… Peter denies, John flees, Thomas doubts, all forsake him: unless Christ had granted forgiveness for these transgressions by his peace, even Peter, who was the first in rank of all of them, would be considered inferior, and would perhaps be undeserving of His subsequent elevation to the primacy.

The mention of His having been sent does not diminish Him as Son, but declares that what He wants to be understood here is not the power of the One who sends, but the charity of the One who has been sent, since He says: Just as the Father, not the Lord, has sent me, so I send you no longer with the authority of a Master, but with all the affection of a Lover. I send you to endure hunger, to suffer the burden of being in chains, to the squalor of prison, to bear all kinds of punishments, and to undergo bitter death for all: all of which certainly charity, and not power, enjoins on human minds.

Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 84.5–6

What truly wonderful gifts! Indeed, it does not only give the power over the elements and the faculty to make signs and wonders but also concedes that God may name them [judges], and therefore the servants receive from Him the authority that is proper to Him. The prerogative to absolve and retain sins only belongs to God, and the Jews sometimes raised this objection with the Savior, saying, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” The Lord generously gave this authority to those who honored Him.

Theodore of Mopsuestia, Commentary on John