Friday, August 26, 2016

The Lamb Dies; The Lion Prevails

But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep.  Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”  (Rev 5:5)

We read in Genesis that this lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered, when the patriarch Jacob says, “Judah, your brothers shall praise you; you have lain down and slept, and have risen up again as a lion, and as a lion’s whelp.” [Gen 49:8-9].  For He is called a lion for the overcoming of death, but for the suffering for men He was led as a lamb to the slaughter.  But because He overcame death, and anticipated the duty of the executioner, He was called as it were slain.  He therefore opens and seals again the testament, which He Himself had sealed.  The lawgiver Moses intimating this, that it behooved Him to be sealed and concealed, even to the advent of His passion, veiled his face, and so spoke to the people, showing that the words of his announcement were veiled even to the advent of His time.  For he himself, when he had read to the people, having taken the wool purpled with the blood of the calf, with water sprinkled the whole people, saying, “This is the blood of His testament who has purified you” [Ex 24:7-8].  It should therefore be observed that the Man is accurately announced, and that all things combine into one.  For it is not sufficient that that law is spoken of, but it is named as a testament.  For no law is called a testament, nor is anything else called a testament except what people make who are about to die.  And whatever is within the testament is sealed, even to the day of the testator’s death.  Therefore it is with reason that it is only sealed by the Lamb slain, who, as it were a lion, has broken death in pieces, and has fulfilled what had been foretold.  And He has delivered man, that is, the flesh, from death, and has received as a possession the substance of the dying person, that is, of the human members that as by one body all men had fallen under the obligation of its death, also by one body all believers should be born again unto life, and rise again.  Reasonably, therefore, His face is opened and unveiled to Moses, and therefore He is called Apocalypse, Revelation.  For now His book is unsealed—now the offered victims are perceived—now the fabrication of the priestly anointing oil; moreover the testimonies are openly understood.

Victorinus of Petovium, Commentary on the Apocalypse

Friday, August 19, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.  (Phil 2:14-16 NKJV)

We ought to understand what is the force and meaning of this saying, for the word may suit the leader, but the effectual work suits the king.  And accordingly, as one who looks for the arrival of his king strives to be able to present all who are under his charge as obedient and ready and estimable and lovely and faithful, and not less also as blameless and abounding in all that is good, so that he may himself get commendation from the king and be deemed by him to be worthy of greater honors as having rightly governed the province which was entrusted to his administration, so also does the blessed Paul give us to understand our position when he uses these words: “That you may be as lights in this world, holding the word of life for my glory against the day of Christ.”  For the meaning of this saying is, that our Lord Jesus Christ, when He comes, will see that his doctrine has proved profitable in us, and that, finding that he, the apostle, has not run in vain, neither labored in vain, He will bestow on him the crown of recompense.  And again, in the same epistle, he also warns us not to mind earthly things, and tells us that we ought to have our conversation in heaven, from which also we look for the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ

Archelaus of Caschar, Disputation with Manes 38

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Entirely Righteous and Holy

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lᴏʀᴅ.”  (1 Cor. 1:30-31)

What I have hitherto and constantly taught concerning this I know not how to change in the least, namely, that by faith, as St. Peter says, we acquire a new and clean heart, and God will and does account us entirely righteous and holy for the sake of Christ, our Mediator.  And although sin in the flesh has not yet been altogether removed or become dead, yet He will not punish or remember it.

And such faith, renewal, and forgiveness of sins is followed by good works.  And what there is still sinful or imperfect also in them shall not be accounted as sin or defect, for Christ's sake.  The entire man, both as to his person and his works, is declared to be righteous and holy from pure grace and mercy, shed upon us and spread over us in Christ.  Therefore we cannot boast of many merits and works, if they are viewed apart from grace and mercy, but as it is written, 1 Cor. 1:31: He who glories, let him glory in the Lᴏʀᴅ, namely, that he has a gracious God.  For thus all is well.  We say, besides, that if good works do not follow, faith is false and not true.

Martin Luther, Smalcald Articles Part III, Article XIII

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Potpourri Post

I have been saving some miscellaneous items to pass along, so without further ado …

The first item comes from Dr. Michael J. Kruger at Canon Fodder.  He has begun a series entitled “Taking Back Christianese.”  He has just three posts in the series—the first an introduction.  As an aside, I regularly read Dr. Kruger’s posts and highly recommend them.

Hymn-writing is not dead as evidenced by Pastor Chris Thoma who posted three of his own works at Brothers of John the Steadfast.  They are “O, Lazarus, Come Out,” “The King Has Invited, Who Then Shall Refuse,” and “Mighty Lord, O Faithful Shepherd.”  With continued meat and potatoes being produced by men such as this, why do we clamor after the cotton candy found in popular Christian music for our worship?

Speaking of worship, Jonathan Aigner has a great post entitled “Why WOULD Anyone Sing in Church These Days?”  Aigner follows the devolution of worship from the historic liturgy to the modern stage performance.  I liked his three concluding points:
  • Do music that is meant to be sung, and in a way that encourages healthy, hearty singing.
  • Stop the Hillsongization of congregational singing.
  • Recognize that singing is, in and of itself, a sacred duty.
Bosco Peters picks up on that post in “The Day Church Singing Stopped,” agreeing with Aigner’s thesis.  I mention this post, because there is one well-stated comment that should be highlighted:
Mainstream popular music depends on a principle of planned obsolescence: a song is big hit for a short time and is then quickly replaced by the next big hit.  Within this environment, it’s easy to lose sight of the power of tradition.  There’s no musical experience quite as powerful (for an adult, that is) as singing a hymn that you’ve heard and sung since childhood.  All those moments of singing the same hymn begin to pile up and create layers of meaning and emotion.  I pity the congregation that abandons that kind of experience in pursuit of newness.
This is most certainly true (to borrow a phrase from Martin Luther).  If you want the next generation to fall away, feed the flock with whatever is fleeting.  However, if you want to leave a Christian legacy, build with what endures.

Lastly, I offer a post by Alexei Sargeant that asks the question, “Where has all the dark Christian music gone?”  He compares the “happy-clappy” music of the Christian industry with stanzas mixing hope with finality found in “O God Our Help in Ages Past” by Isaac Watts.  The author is Roman Catholic, so I disagree with some of his comments, but I want to note one paragraph:
The message, however, is not one of despair, though it paints a shadowy picture of earthly life.  It’s an admonishment to remember the transience of all things save God.  He and He alone is “our eternal home”—to everything else we say, this too shall pass.  For the poor and poor in spirit, it’s actually a comforting message. We feel ill at ease in the world because the world is not where our hearts should rest.  Psalm 90, the basis of the song, travels from fearful awe (“We are consumed by your anger/ and terrified by your indignation”) to a hopeful plea (“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,/ for as many years as we have seen trouble./ May your deeds be shown to your servants,/ your splendor to their children”).  It’s a psalm for all seasons, following a winter believer towards a dream of spring.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Promised Presence

Yesterday I heard some good teaching on Haggai 1 that related how God works to build His holy place through willing participants in the building process.  The final point point came from verse 14, which relates that the Lord stirred up the spirits of the politician, the priest, and the people.
And the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people.  And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.  (Hag. 1:14)
And what stirred everybody to the work of rebuilding the temple?  Was it the blueprints?  Was it the short-term and long-term visions cast by the production team?  Was it a rousing speech delivering a message that we can accomplish anything if we work together?  No, it was something more deeply powerful than these:
Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, “I am with you, declares the Lord.”  (Hag. 1:13)
The stirring came through the prophet—the Word of the Lord.  There was no viability study, no big promotion, and no splashy beginning with speeches, banners, and music.  Haggai had delivered a blistering message to the people for having nice houses while letting the house of God was in ruins.  As a result, the people feared because they were condemned, realizing what they had done and not done.  After the Law had done its work, Haggai followed up with Grace—God’s blessing and encouragement through His promised presence.

Many times we believers get discouraged or negligent in the work given to us.  We place our own wants and needs before those of our Lord and our neighbor.  May we be quick to remind one another of our vocations as believers in light of our certain hope
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  (Heb. 10:23-25)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.  (1 Thess 5:14)

Let us then bravely bear the evils that befall us; it is in war that heroes are discerned; in conflicts that athletes are crowned; in the surge of the sea that the art of the helmsman is shown; in the fire that the gold is tried.  And let us not, I beseech you, heed only ourselves, let us rather have forethought for the rest, and that much more for the sick than for the whole, for it is an apostolic precept which exclaims “Comfort the feeble-minded, support the weak.”  Let us then stretch out our hands to those who lie low, let us tend their wounds and set them at their post to fight the devil.  Nothing will so vex him as to see them fighting and smiting again.

Theodoret of Cyrus, Letter to Eusebius

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.  (1 Thess 5:23-24)

In the wicked, sin reigns over the soul, being settled as on its own throne in this mortal body, so that the soul obeys its lusts … but in the case of those who have now become perfected, the spirit has gained the mastery and put to death the deeds of the body, and imparts to the body of its own life, so that already this is fulfilled, “He shall give life also to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit Who dwells in you;” and there arises a concord of the two, body and spirit, on the earth…. But still more blessed is it if the three [i.e., body, soul, and spirit] be gathered together in the name of Jesus that this may be fulfilled, “May God sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Origen, Commentary on Matthew 14.3

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Awake, O Sleeper

I spotted the below piece at The Brothers of John the Steadfast.  Originally written in 1846, Dr. C.F.W. Walther admonishes Lutherans to awake from negligence and indifference to live as the baptized in Christ.  Walther’s assessment is not just a Lutheran issue: it is a Christian issue.  The Church in the United States needs this reminder every bit as much as it was needed 170 years ago.

In America no denomination has suffered any deeper fall than this fellowship that is called “Lutheran.”  All the sects of this land are more zealous to preserve the false doctrines upon which they’ve been founded, and that give them their unique character, than the present so-called Lutherans intend to hold fast to the holy and pure doctrine which is founded upon the clear Word of God, that was entrusted to her through God’s unspeakable grace.  Yes, we see the American Lutheran Church is not only dominated by negligence and indifference, but even by enmity against the true Lutheran Church.  She has retained nothing but the name.  She has lost the ancient truth and the ancient spirit of witness.  Yet we also see that we have no reason to despair over the condition of the Lutheran Church in America.  God has obviously once again picked up his winnowing fork to beat his threshing floor and to sift his wheat.  God has obviously resolved to no longer sit back and watch the hidden mice, those false saints, those fish in muddy waters.  God has once again begun to open eyes here and there, who fearfully acknowledge the apostasy of which the Lutherans have become guilty.  Here and there God is awakening men who are loudly demanding those who have abandoned their first love to return.  God be praised!  After a long winter the turtledoves are again heard in our land. (Song of Songs 2:11-13)

Rise, get up then dear brothers!  Let us not idly watch as false brothers band together ever more tightly to bury the foundation of our church and create another beside it.  Since these do all this while still fraudulently fighting under our name, they are more dangerous than our declared enemies.  They are their compatriots even while they bunk in our camp.  He who dwells in heaven surely laughs at them and the LORD mocks them, for “even if the sea billows and rages, and the mountains erode in their storm, yet the city of God remains vibrant and well with her fountains, where are the holy dwellings of the Highest. God is with her, so she will remain well.  God will help her early.”  But as impossible as it is for Luther’s doctrine, that is, God’s Word to be driven out of the world, yet it is just that easily possible, if we do not hold on tightly to it (Tit 1:9–11) and fight for it (Jude 1:3) to lose this gem, (2 John 1:8-9) and someday be rejected as unfaithful stewards.

Therefore, if we do not wish be called hypocritical Lutherans, but want to be and remain Lutherans in deed and truth, let us walk together and again gather around the banner of the ancient, unchangeable doctrine of our church; pleading together that the LORD awaken and create help that comfort again be taught; together fighting against all deceptions with the sword of the Spirit and together bearing the shame by which the LORD strives to designate his servants.  We dare not hope that the church in these latter, horrible times will be established again in a condition of glorious bloom, yet we may also not abandon hope that our witness and our battle will not be completely in vain, but rather will give way to praise of the LORD and convert many souls from the errors of their way.

C.F.W. Walther
Der Lutheraner Volume 2, Number 11
January 1846, pg. 42-43
Translated by Joel Baseley

Friday, July 22, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you.  For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  For you are all children of light, children of the day.  We are not of the night or of the darkness.  So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.  (1 Thess 5:1-6)

The winged messenger of day
Sings loud, foretelling dawn’s approach,
And Christ in stirring accents calls
Our slumbering souls to life in Him.

“Away,” He cries, “with dull repose,
The sleep of death and sinful sloth;
With hearts now sober, just, and pure
Keep watch, for I am very near.”

Prudentius, Hymns 1.1-8

He writes this as though to people already instructed.  He compared the suddenness of the Lord’s coming to a thief, who tries to escape notice, but the one guarding the house detects the coming of the thief, whereas the one who is heedless and goes to sleep is robbed.  In similar fashion the one keeping watch for the Lord’s return recognizes the signs.… The pregnant woman knows she is carrying an unborn child, but does not know the time of labor.  So too in our case, the fact that the Lord of all will come we know, but we have not at all been given clear teaching about the time itself; hence we must always be on the lookout for that day.

Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on First Thessalonians

Friday, July 15, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

Resurrection of the Flesh by Luca Signorelli
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.  For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.  (1 Thess 4:13-18)

Here he proceeds now to start his discourse concerning the Resurrection.  And why? … Resurrection was sufficient to comfort him that was grieving.  But that which is now said is sufficient also to make the Resurrection eminently worthy of credit.… Therefore to afflict yourselves for the departed is to act like those who have no hope.  And they justly, for a soul that knows nothing of the Resurrection, but thinks that this death is death, naturally afflicts itself, and bewails and mourns intolerably as for lost ones.  But you who expects a resurrection, on what account do you lament?  To lament then is the part of those who have no hope.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on First Thessalonians

All men rise again, but let no one lose heart, and let not the just grieve at the common lot of rising again, since he awaits the chief fruit of his virtue.  All indeed shall rise again, but, as says the Apostle, “each in his own order.”  The fruit of the Divine Mercy is common to all, but the order of merit differs.  The day gives light to all, the sun warms all, the rain fertilizes the possessions of all with genial showers.

We are all born, and we shall all rise again, but in each state, whether of living or of living again, grace differs and the condition differs.  For, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, the dead shall rise incorruptible and we shall be changed.”  Moreover, in death itself some rest, and some live.  Rest is good, but life is better.  And so the Apostle rouses him that is resting to life, saying: “Rise, you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”  Therefore he is aroused that he may live, that he may be like to Paul, that he may be able to say: “For we who are alive shall not precede those that are asleep.”  He speaks not here of the common manner of life, and the breath which we all alike enjoy, but of the merit of the resurrection.  For, having said, “And the dead which are in Christ shall rise first,” he adds further, “And we who are alive shall together with them be caught up in the clouds to meet Christ in the air.”

Ambrose, On Belief in the Resurrection 2:92-93

Friday, July 8, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia.  But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.  (1 Thess 4:9-12)

The blessed Apostle, like a true and spiritual physician, either seeing this disease, which springs from the spirit of lethargy, already creeping in, or foreseeing, through the revelation of the Holy Spirit that it would arise…, is quick to anticipate it by the healing medicines of his directions.  For in writing to the Thessalonians, like a skillful and excellent physician he at first applies the soothing and gentle remedy of his words to the infirmity of his patients.  He begins with charity … that this deadly wound, having been treated with a milder remedy, might lose its angry festering and more easily bear severer treatment.  He writes: “But concerning brotherly charity you have no need that I write to you: for you yourselves are taught of God to love one another.  For this you do toward all the brethren in the whole of Macedonia.”  He first began with the soothing application of praise, and made their ears submissive and ready for the remedy of the healing words.… At last with difficulty he breaks out into that at which he was driving before.  He gave the first aim: “and that you take pains to be quiet.”  Then he adds a second: “and to do your own business,” and a third as well: “and work with your own hands, as we commanded you.” … He who does not care to sufficiently secure his daily food by the dutiful and peaceful labor of his hands is sure to look with envious eyes on another’s gifts and blessings.  You see what conditions, serious and shameful, may spring solely from the malady of leisure.

John Cassian, Institutes 10.7