Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Call to Boldness in Preaching

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace …  (2 Tim 1:8-9a)

The preaching was about cross, insults, humiliation, suffering, death.  This seemed to unbelievers to be shameful.  “The word of the cross,” he says, remember, “is folly to those who are perishing.”*  Hence he claimed in his own case in the letter to the Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation for every believer.”†  So he urges the disciple to preach these things with boldness—hence the reason for his mentioning also his own bonds, to bring out that he was held in prison for the sake of the message.

The suffering of the preachers he called suffering for the gospel since it was for its sake they suffered the manifold punishments.  So he urges him to bear nobly, and he encourages him with the mention of the divine power: the one who calls to salvation provides power as well, measuring the grace to match the faith of the recipients.  He called us, not having regard to our way of living, but solely on account of his lovingkindness.

Theodoret of Cyrus, “The Second Letter to Timothy”

*  1 Corinthians 1:18
†  Romans 1:16

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Message Is Simple and Clear

What is the Gospel?  We quickly answer: It is the good news of salvation, the glad tidings of the gracious remission of sin through faith, which is in Christ Jesus. – The center of all Gospel preaching is Christ, as Paul testifies, “I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  Since the days of the Apostles there has been no other preaching by which the Church was built and spread in the world, by which sinners were converted to God and brought into the blessed fold of Christ, but alone by the preaching of this Gospel.  In the Gospel God meets the sinner and offers him His hand of reconciliation, His free grace and mercy, the full forgiveness of all his sins, the life and salvation which Christ has merited. – When Christ our dear Savior died on the cross and exclaimed, “It is finished,” He had then finished the work of redemption for the entire sinner-world.  Through the resurrection of Christ, God declared that He has accepted Christ’s work of redeeming the sinful world.  Therefore, Christ’s resurrection is God’s declaration of the justification of the entire world of sinners, according to Rom. 4:25, “Who was delivered for our 0ffenses, and was raised again for our justification.”

Christopher Heidenreich, sermon delivered December 15, 1901

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Cry Not of Despair or Distress, but of Faith

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  (Mark 15:34)

This prayer was not a cry of despair, not a complaint against God.  It was not a cry of disappointment that the help upon which He had hoped had not come in the end.  We understand this right away when we read Psalm 22 and see that of which it speaks.  First and foremost, we notice that here speaks a tortured person in his uttermost distress, a distress that strikingly reminds us of what happens with Jesus, of course.  The one who here speaks is mocked and ridiculed by the people: they shoot out the lip and shake the head, saying “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him.  Let Him deliver Him since He delights in Him!” (Psa 22:8).  He has become a reproach of men and despised by the people.  His enemies surround him.  They have pierced his hands and his feet and divided his garments among them.  His strength is dried up, and his tongue sticks to his jaws.  In the midst of distress, he can nevertheless confess that God is God, saying “But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel” (Psa 22:3).  God will not despise nor abhor the affliction of the afflicted (Psa 22:24).  He will do what all the ends of the world shall remember (Psa 22:27).

In other words, we do not hear a cry of despair here from someone who has lost his faith.  This is, rather, a prayer that is indeed born of faith.  At the same time that Jesus lets us understand that He truly is forsaken of God and tastes of the utter and most awful consequences of our fall from God, He shows that He does this in obedience to God's will, in faith in God.  Therefore, this cry—this word from the cross—belongs well together with the other words from the cross.  When He says, “It is finished,” He means precisely that work work which His Father gave Him to do—that work which in every point kept the Law which we have broken.  To the last drop He tastes the consequences of all that we have neglected and done wrong.  And when He says, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (quoting Psalm 31:5), He expresses the same obedience and the same faith.  He was “obedient unto death,” says Paul, “even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:8).

Eric Andrae/Bo Giertz, Gottesdienst, Vol. 22.1

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Price of Mediation: Christ Paid a Ransom for All

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 2:3-6)

[Paul] wants all to enjoy salvation.  Then he confirms the statement on another basis as well—there is not one maker of the faithful and another of the unfaithful.  There is one creator, one broker of peace, who brought together in himself what were apart.  He spoke of Christ as man since he called him mediator: by becoming man he acted as mediator.  Just as the person wanting to reconcile two parties by the right hand and the other by the left and brings them together in friendship, likewise in his case by uniting humanity to the divine nature, he brought about entire and indissoluble peace.  If on the contrary, according to Arius and Eunomius, he has no share in the being of the Father, how is he a mediator?  While he is united with us in so far as he is one in being with us in terms of humanity, he is not likewise united with the Father if, in their view, he is removed from that nature.  But the divine apostle called him mediator.  Consequently, he is united both with the Father in divinity and also likewise with us in humanity.

Theodoret of Cyrus, “The First Epistle to Timothy”

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Come, Marvel, and Glorify

When the Lord had clothed himself with humanity, and had suffered for the sake of the sufferer, and had been bound for the sake of the imprisoned, and had been judged for the sake of the condemned, and buried for the sake of the one who was buried, he rose up from the dead, and cried aloud with this voice:
Who is he who contends with me?  Let him stand in opposition to me.  I set the condemned man free; I gave the dead man life; I raised up the one who had been entombed.  Who is my opponent?  I am the Christ.  I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven, I am the Christ.  Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins.  I am your forgiveness, I am the passover of your salvation, I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you, I am your ransom, I am your light, I am your savior, I am your resurrection, I am your king, I am leading you up to the heights of heaven, I will show you the eternal Father, I will raise you up by my right hand.
This is the one who made the heavens and the earth, and who in the beginning created man, who was proclaimed through the law and prophets, who became human via the virgin, who was hanged upon a tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from the dead, and who ascended to the heights of heaven, who sits at the right hand of the Father, who has authority to judge and to save everything, through whom the Father created everything from the beginning of the world to the end of the age.  This is the alpha and the omega.  This is the beginning and the end–an indescribable beginning and an incomprehensible end.  This is the Christ.  This is the king.  This is Jesus.  This is the general.  This is the Lord.  This is the one who rose up from the dead.  This is the one who sits at the right hand of the Father.  He bears the Father and is borne by the Father, to whom be the glory and the power forever.  Amen.

Melito of Sardis, On the Passover 100-105

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pray for Civil Leaders

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.  (1 Tim 2:1-2)

A supplication is an entreaty offered for release from some trouble, a prayer is a request for good things, an intercession is a charge against wrongdoers.  Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic lords of this age, against the spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places.  For right judgement against these we make our appeal, and we beg righteous assistance.  Thanksgiving is offered to God for the good things already won.

Now, he urges them to do this for all people since Christ Jesus also came into the world to save sinners.  It was very wise of him to include what is common to all people lest anyone take the prayer for kings as flattery.  Since at that time godless people held power and enemies of religion were in the public eye, he brings out the reasonableness of prayer being made for them.  With them keeping the peace, we share the tranquility and keep the laws in quiet godliness.  He associated reverence with piety to emphasize that faith requires actions; for a similar reason those of the Jews who were captives in Babylon wrote to those left behind in Judea to offer prayer for Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar.  The divine apostle recommends prayers be offered on their behalf not only for this reason but also that they give up godlessness and acquire piety in its place.

Theodoret of Cyrus, “The First Epistle to Timothy”

Friday, May 9, 2014

Glory Be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.  Amen.  (1 Tim 1:17)

Since [Paul] had presented Christ the Lord as source of those good things, he wanted to make clear that they were made with the good pleasure of God the Father and the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, so he moved from the one person to the commonality of nature, and offered the hymn to the Trinity, not mentioning the persons but celebrating the divine nature.  You see, the fact that the words apply not only to the God and Father but also to the Son and the Holy Spirit is easy to grasp.  It is not only the Father but also the only-begotten Son who is king of the ages, being maker of the ages.  And of course, the all-holy Spirit, whom the divine apostle also called eternal, “Who through the eternal Spirit.” [Heb 9:14]  And immortality and invisibility are proper both to the Son and to the Spirit.  With these matters clarified in this way, the term God is a term truly applied to the Trinity alone: beyond it no one else is God by nature.

Theodoret of Cyrus, “The First Epistle to Timothy”

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.  Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et saecula saeculorum.  Amen.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Giving Attention to Psalmody

The common recitation of the Psalter united the Jews scattered throughout many lands in their synagogue worship and in the temple services in Jerusalem upon the great feasts.  The early church incorporated the Psalter bodily into its worship.  It became the first hymn book of the Christians.  The medievel church used large portions of the Psalter in its liturgical and musical enrichment of the Mass.  As it developed the hour services into a great system it arranged that the Psalter be recited in its entirety once a week, because it regarded the book of Psalms an inexhaustible mine of devotion.  Priests and monks soon came to know the Psalter by heart.  An early council at Toledo ordered that no one “should be promoted to any ecclesiastical dignity who does not perfectly know the whole Psalter,” and similar statements can be found in the Eastern churches.

Luther Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy 393

I do not advocate a requirement for memorizing the Psalter as in the quoted paragraph above, but there would be great gain by anyone involved with Sunday worship to thoroughly understand it, for the ethos of  worship is therein contained.  Much would be corrected if the same devotion to God was present on Sunday morning as was demonstrated by those ancient composers.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Christ Saves Even the Worst of Sinners

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.  But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.  (1 Tim 1:15-16)
That the Only-begotten became man for the sake of sinners, he himself taught in the sacred Gospels, “I came to call, not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  [Paul’s] claiming to be foremost among all sinners surpasses the very bounds of humility; yet in what follows he develops a further case that is even more extreme:
Just as, in a single house where there are many ill at the same time and all despair of recovery, a physician takes one patient suffering from the worst condition, and by offering appropriate remedies and restoring this one to the peak of condition he instills confidence in all the others, so Christ the Lord, the physician of souls, became man for the sake of the salvation of sinners, brought me to notice, most lawless of all, and not only freed me from the former defilements but also plied me with marvelous gifts.  In me he showed all people immeasurable long-suffering so that none of those guilty of transgressions should despair of salvation once they have looked to me.
Theodoret of Cyrus, “The First Letter to Timothy”

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Who Is the Center of Your Worship?

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
        nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
        and worship before you, O Lord,
        and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things;
        you alone are God.  (Psa 86:8-10)

The secret of the vitality of the Psalms lies first of all in the sense of worship which animated their poets.  As the derivation of the word indicates, worship is “worth-ship,” namely the acknowledgement made by finite man of God’s infinite worth, and also the aesthetic representation of dramatic expression, by symbolic acts, attitudes, and words, of this recognition.  A service of adoration does not primarily aim at edifying, elevating, purifying, or consecrating the worshipers.  To be sure, it should bring about all these results, but they are only its by-products.  The purpose of worship is to ascribe glory to God.  The psalmists placed God at the center of their existence, not themselves: in other words, their conception of worship was “theocentric” and not “anthropocentric.”  Man was not their main concern, but the service of God was the goal of their life.

Samuel Terrien, The Psalms and Their Meaning for Today