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

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles by Eugene Merrill – Book Review

Merrill, Eugene H. A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2015. 637 pp. Hb; $39.99. Link to Kregel.

There are portions of Biblical books that are avoided by Christians because the content seems insurmountable or downright boring.  The solution for this malaise may be found with instructors and instructional materials produced at an academic level, yet accessible to the average Christian.  Such a resource is available through this work from Eugene Merrill.

The introduction sets a solid foundation for later chapters, presenting a balanced presentation of theories concerning the Chronicler’s identity, intent, and provenance, along with textual concerns.  Especially helpful are explanations of overall structure and theology.  While an average reader may approach this part of Scripture as simply nine painful chapters of genealogies followed by dry historic narrative, Merrill posits an intentional chiastic literary structure centered on Solomon’s temple in light of the promises delivered in the Davidic Covenant.

The Scripture text is divided into logical sections, depending on a prominent theme.  Each section is then subdivided into events wherein Merrill uses a three-fold outline—(1) biblical text, (2) text-critical notes, and (3) exegesis and exposition—to develop the passage.  Finally, an overall theology of the section is given.  While the average reader will likely not have an interest in the text-critical notes, the exegesis and theology are a strength of this work.  Merrill does not wander into theoretical speculations but maintains a solid aim of explaining how the Chronicles are moving forward and how tie to redemptive history with a culmination in Jesus Christ.  This conservative approach to the presentation of the material speaks to the author’s high regard for the Scriptures and his intent to properly instruct his readers.

Throughout the book the author will place a helpful chart or excursus to enable understanding through tangential comparisons and topics.  Notably, commonalities with 1 and 2 Samuel plus 1 and 2 Kings are made to help fill understand thematic differences and place rulers and subject matter in proper perspective.  I found this extra material to be beneficial in understanding the background of an event or person.

I found this work to be a solid, robust look at what many might consider dull material and has much to commend it.  That said, there are a possible weak points:
  • First, the text of Chronicles within this book appears to be New International Version (NIV) throughout, but the title page specifically states that the English translation was the author’s own.  At no place in the book did I find a reference to the NIV translation’s use save for the acronym where the text was given.
  • Second, Merrill may have overstated his understanding of the Mosaic instruction of a central sanctuary as applied to David’s desire to build a permanent temple (375).  The Lord’s instructions to David and Solomon are sufficient believe to conclude that while God did not want or need a permanent structure at the time, He would honor their desire by taking residence therein
  • Third, Merrill states that prior to King Ahaz “the worship of Yahweh at high places was sanctioned by Samuel, Elijah, and others who built or made use of those places” (486).  This statement is problematic since worship of the Lord was to be specifically at the tabernacle, not the high places.  It is more probable that worship away from the tabernacle was endured, rather than blessed, by a merciful and long-suffering God.
The Chronicles are an interesting read, recounting the history of the United and Divided Kingdoms with a clear emphasis on the Davidic line.  Minor weaknesses aside, this work would make a useful addition to any Bible student intent on furthering their knowledge of Chronicles and its place in the canon.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Sunday

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.  (1 Thess 4:3-8)

It is, then, a matter to be diligently learned not to be wanton.  But we possess our vessel, when it is pure.  When it is impure, sin possesses it.  And reasonably.  For it does not do the things which we wish, but what sin commands.  “Not in the passion of lust,” he says.  Here he shows also the manner according to which one ought to be temperate—that we should cut off the passions of lust.  For luxury, and wealth, and idleness, and sloth, and ease, and all such things, lead us on to irregular lust.  “Even as the Gentiles,” he says, “who do not know God.”  For such are they who do not expect that they shall suffer punishment.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on First Thessalonians

It is quite possible to pass decisive sentences on vessels and on instruments, to the extent that they may participate in the merits of their proprietors and employers.… For every vessel or every instrument becomes useful by external manipulation, consisting as it does of material perfectly extraneous to the substance of the human owner or employer; whereas the flesh, being conceived, formed, and generated along with the soul from its earliest existence in the womb, is mixed up with the soul likewise in all its operations.  For although it is called “a vessel” by the apostle, such as he enjoins to be treated “with honor,” yet it is designated by the same apostle as “the outward man,”—that clay, of course, which at the first was inscribed with the title of a man, not of a cup or a sword, or any common vessel.

Tertullian, On the Resurrection of the Flesh 16