Friday, April 18, 2014

God, the Son, Comes as Servant to Suffer for Sin

Surely he has borne our griefs
        and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
        smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
        he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
        and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
        we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
        the iniquity of us all.  (Isa 53:4-6)

Thus then, too, though demonstrated as God, He does not refuse the conditions proper to Him as man, since He hungers and toils and thirsts in weariness, and flees in fear, and prays in trouble.  And He who as God has a sleepless nature, slumbers on a pillow.  And He who for this end came into the world, begs off from the cup of suffering.  And in an agony He sweats blood, and is strengthened by an angel, who Himself strengthens those who believe on Him, and taught men to despise death by His work.  And He who knew what manner of man Judas was, is betrayed by Judas.  And He, who formerly was honored by him as God, is contemned by Caiaphas.  And He is set at naught by Herod, who is Himself to judge the whole earth.  And He is scourged by Pilate, who took upon Himself our infirmities.  And by the soldiers He is mocked, at whose behest stand thousands of thousands and myriads of myriads of angels and archangels.  And He who fixed the heavens like a vault is fastened to the cross by the Jews.  And He who is inseparable from the Father cries to the Father, and commends to Him His spirit; and bowing His head, He gives up the ghost, who said, “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again.”  And because He was not overmastered by death, as being Himself Life, He said this: “I lay it down of myself.”  And He who gives life bountifully to all, has His side pierced with a spear.  And He who raises the dead is wrapped in linen and laid in a sepulcher, and on the third day He is raised again by the Father, though Himself the Resurrection and the Life.  For all these things has He finished for us, who for our sakes was made as we are.  For “Himself has borne our infirmities, and carried our diseases; and for our sakes He was afflicted,” as Isaiah the prophet has said.

This is He who was hymned by the angels, and seen by the shepherds, and waited for by Simeon, and witnessed to by Anna.  This is He who was inquired after by the wise men, and indicated by the star.  He who was engaged in His Father’s house, and pointed to by John, and witnessed to by the Father from above in the voice, “This is my beloved Son; hear Him.”  He is crowned victor against the devil.  This is Jesus of Nazareth, who was invited to the marriage-feast in Cana, and turned the water into wine, and rebuked the sea when agitated by the violence of the winds, and walked on the deep as on dry land, and caused the blind man from birth to see, and raised Lazarus to life after he had been dead four days, and did many mighty works, and forgave sins, and conferred power on the disciples, and had blood and water flowing from His sacred side when pierced with the spear.  For His sake the sun is darkened, the day has no light, the rocks are shattered, the veil is rent, the foundations of the earth are shaken, the graves are opened, and the dead are raised, and the rulers are ashamed when they see the Director of the universe upon the cross closing His eye and giving up the ghost.  Creation saw, and was troubled; and, unable to bear the sight of His exceeding glory, shrouded itself in darkness.  This (is He who) breathes upon the disciples, and gives them the Spirit, and comes in among them when the doors are shut, and is taken up by a cloud into the heavens while the disciples gaze at Him, and is set down on the right hand of the Father, and comes again as the Judge of the living and the dead.  This is the God who for our sakes became man, to whom also the Father has put all things in subjection.  To Him be the glory and the power, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the holy Church both now and ever, and even for evermore.  Amen.

Hippolytus, Against the Heresy of One Noetus

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Love As I Have Loved You

Today, I learned for the first time why the day before Good Friday is called “Maundy Thursday.”  The term comes from the Latin Dies Mandati or Day of Commandment, referring to the new commandment given by Christ in the Upper Room
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  (John 13:34)
and then later
Do this in remembrance of me.  (Luke 22:19)
In giving the first command, our Lord Jesus wanted to elaborate on a love the disciples had scene and experienced over the past years, but the depths of which they had not possibly fathomed.  Even the eleven (Judas had left) do not understand fully what Jesus’ love entails—not now anyway.  That love will be manifest by the one with whom they are eating. Jesus will give himself over to his enemies, then endure injustice and an ignoble death.  That is the magnitude of his love.  And we are to love in that way?  Not by our own reason or strength, we cannot.  It is only be God’s empowerment through the Holy Spirit that we can conceive of such love, much less demonstrate it.

But that leads us to the second.  We take the bread and wine.  We remember
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)
Jesus has accomplished all that was necessary to cover sin and for love to flow from the Father through us.  We have the promise that God’s love will be perfected in us as he abides in us (1 Jo 4:12).  Our love may be imperfect or halting now, and even require confession when we sin against one another, but it has a divine source and a divine purpose.

We love as Christ loved us, through the enabling of the Holy Spirit, so that those to whom it is expressed might know the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Faith Is a Gift of God

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.… And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.  (1 Thess 1:2-3; 2:13)

Could there be a fuller or more evident proof that the faith of the believers is a gift of God, than these thanks given to God precisely because they who heard the word of God in man’s preaching did not disbelieve in it as coming from man’s mouth, but believed in God speaking through men and producing in their hearts this very faith?

Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of All Nations I.23

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Abandoned by God and Man

O Lord, God of my salvation;
        I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
        incline your ear to my cry!

For my soul is full of troubles,
        and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
        I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
        like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
        for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
        in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
        and you overwhelm me with all your waves.  Selah

You have caused my companions to shun me;
        you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
        my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
        I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
        Do the departed rise up to praise you?  Selah
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
        or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
        or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

But I, O Lord, cry to you;
        in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
        Why do you hide your face from me?
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
        I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
Your wrath has swept over me;
        your dreadful assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
        they close in on me together.
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
        my companions have become darkness.  (Psalm 88:1-18)

These words, expressed by the sons of Korah, reveal the desperation and emotional agony of one has been completely abandoned.  He cries out to the Lord for some measure of relief and understanding, yet even there the psalmist feels hopelessness—that God Himself has turned his back.  But even in this there is a glimmer of understanding that the end will come, and God will deliver him.

Then I considered this in light of the cross.  We can see much the same being worked in the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world, as he was abandoned by his disciples and his Father, and gave himself to mockers, torturers, and finally to executioners.  All this for me and you.

Man of Sorrows! what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Even the Tabernacle Rubrics Pointed to and Are Fulfilled in Christ

Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.  For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.”  And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship.  Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.  (Heb 9:18-22)

He showed the old to be without question the type of the new.  So if even in the type the lawgiver took blood, mixed it with water, and sprinkled the covenant itself, the people and the tabernacle, and those defiled actually received purification from being sprinkled, what grounds for surprise are there if we find this happening also in the realization of the type? Now he was obliged also to cite the Mosaic testimony indicating this clearly,
This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.
Since the divine nature is immortal, through the blood of the victims he realized the type of death and confirmed the covenant.  Since God the Word became man and took a mortal body, there was no longer need of brute beasts as offerings.  Instead he confirmed the new covenant with his own blood, the type corresponding to the shadow, and the reality to the body.  The water was a type of baptism, the blood of brute beasts the saving blood, the heat of hyssop the grace of the divine Spirit, the scarlet wool the new garment, the piece of cedar (being a wood that does not rot) the impassible divinity, the ashes of a heifer the suffering of humanity.

Theodoret of Cyrus, “The Epistle to the Hebrews”

Monday, April 7, 2014

Intelligent Worship Satisfies the Soul

Readers may have noticed that my last post on liturgy was quoted from a Lutheran source.  Recently, I purchased two used books dealing with Christian liturgy, because I have noticed a lack of depth in the range of expression within the context of informal worship.  Some questions I intend to answer: Are all the elements expressed through informal worship designed for the interaction of God and his people?  Is our Lord the focal point?  What emphases of formal liturgy can assist the informal liturgy?  Wise and godly men initially constructed liturgies using God’s word as the basis for worship.  We would do well to consider following that same intent in our day.  Choice nuggets will be posted as I go along, including the following:
The simpler and the clearer the liturgical structure and the higher the intelligence and spiritual abilities of the worshipers, the more fully will devotional satisfaction and benefit be realized.… The more complicated and mystical the liturgy and the less developed the worshipers, the less likely are the latter to participate actively or to receive actually the blessings inherent in their services.
Luther D. Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy, 43

Friday, April 4, 2014

What Characterizes Your Worship?

A remarkable feature of early Christian worship is its high degree of unity.  Notwithstanding fluidity of form in different places, there was substantial agreement in the essentials.  Services of the same kind were held everywhere.… With all its freshness and spontaneity, the public worship of the early church was characterized by dignity, simplicity, and restrained fervor.  Neither persecution nor the lack of institutional strength gave it a gloomy countenance.  Rather its forms were pervaded by  a spirit of peace, consolation, joy and thanksgiving.  Grave and moderate, the early church also possessed a richness and warmth not found in later Puritanism.  A common spirit determined what should be done and what should not be done.  The authority of leaders, and their agreement upon essential principles, undoubtedly account for liturgical unity as well as the larger unity of the church which confessed “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5).

Luther D. Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy, 38-39

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Shame on Us for Devaluing Shame

Matthew Cochran has written a good post on the devaluation of shame in our culture with its negative effects in our views on chastity and marriage.  Here is one snippet to whet your appetite:
Men and women are increasingly becoming sexually barbaric. Monogamous marriage having decades ago given way to successive polygamy (or, as it is less accurately known, serial monogamy), successive polygamy is quickly giving way to simple hook-ups—spontaneous sexual encounters with no spoken expectations of continuity. In other words, like a typical squirrel, smelling good and looking good during mating season is pretty much all there is to it for many young men and women. Though this is erroneously considered by many to be liberating, it has a remarkable tendency to inadvertently sound very unpleasant even as it is being extolled. This atrophy of chastity, though bad in and of itself, is accompanied by other types of harm: disease, depression, deliberate barrenness, children deprived of a stable home, and the murder of the inconveniently conceived. These changes in cultural attitudes toward children are particularly barbaric, for children represent the continuity of civilization.
He ends with a call to once again cultivate this good gift of God to society.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pray for Those of Whom Christ Gave Himself As a Ransom—All

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.  (1 Tim 2:1-6)

The apostle commands—rather, the Lord speaking through the apostle commands through him—that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions.  All priests and all faithful adhere unanimously to this norm of supplication in their devotions.  There is no part of the world in which Christian peoples do not offer up these prayers.  The Church, then, pleads before God everywhere, not only for the saints and those regenerated in Christ, but also for infidels and all enemies of the cross of Christ, for all worshipers of idols, for all who persecute Christ in His members, for the Jews whose blindness does not see the light of the gospel, for heretics and schismatics who are alien to the unity of faith and charity.

But what does she beg for them if not that they leave their errors and be converted to God, that they accept the faith, accept charity, that they be freed from the shadows of ignorance and come to the knowledge of the truth?…  While thanking Him for those who are saved, we should hopefully pray that the same divine grace may deliver from the power of darkness those who are still without light and conduct them into the kingdom of God before they depart this life.

Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of All Nations 1.12

Monday, March 31, 2014

A New Thing Promised and Completed

Through Isaiah also the Lord foretells the same things about His grace by which He fashions all men into a new creation.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
        now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
        and rivers in the desert.
The wild beasts will honor me,
        the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
        rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
        the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.  (Isa 43:19-21)
And again:
By myself I have sworn;
        from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
        a word that shall not return:
To me every knee shall bow,
        every tongue shall swear allegiance.  (Isa 45:23)
If, then, it is not possible that these shall not take place, because God’s foreknowledge is not faltering and His design not changeable, nor His will inefficacious nor His promise false, then all, without any exception, about whom these predictions were made are saved.  He establishes His laws in their understanding and writes them with His finger in their hearts, so that they recognize God not through the working of human learning, but through the working of the Supreme Instructor….  In all is implanted the fear that makes them keep the commandments of God.  A road is opened in the desert, the parched land is watered with streams.  They who formerly did not open their mouths to praise God but like dumb and irrational animals had taken on the ferocity of beasts, now, having drunk at the fountain of the divine pronouncements, bless and praise God and recount the power and wonders of His mercy, how He chose them and adopted them to be His sons and made them heirs of the New Testament.

Prosper of Aquitaine, The Call of All Nations 1.9