Friday, May 25, 2018

Patristic Wisdom: Looking to Holy Trinity Sunday

Holy Trinity
Bring to the Lord, O you sons of God,
Bring to the Lord the sons of rams;
Bring to the Lord glory and honor.
Bring to the Lord the glory due His name;
Worship the Lord in His holy court.
The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
The God of glory thundered;
The Lord is upon the many waters.
The voice of the Lord is strong;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord shatters cedars,
And the Lord shall grind to powder the cedars of Lebanon;
And He shall grind them fine like the young bull, and like Lebanon,
But His beloved shall be like a son of unicorns.
The voice of the Lord cuts through fiery flames;
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert,
And the Lord will shake the desert of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord causes deer to calve,
And uncovers the thickets;
And in His temple, everyone speaks of His glory.
The Lord shall dwell in the deluge,
And the Lord shall sit as King forever.
The Lord will give strength to His people;
The Lord will bless His people with peace. (Psalm 29:1–11 LXX)

Everyone who discusses divine matters in an orderly way so as always to hold the correct opinion concerning the Father, the Godhead of the Only-begotten, and the glory of the Holy Spirit, brings glory and honor to the Lord. And, because His providence penetrates even to the smallest things, he increases the glory who is able to give the reasons for which all things were created and for which they are preserved, and also for which, after this present stewardship, they will be brought to judgment. He who is able himself to contemplate each individual creature with clear and unconfused thoughts and, after having contemplated them himself, is able to present to others also the facts concerning the goodness of God and His just judgment, he is the one who brings glory and honor to the Lord and who lives a life in harmony with this contemplation. For, the light of such a man shines before men, since by word and work and through manly deeds of every kind the Father in heaven is glorified.…

We have learned in the creation of the world that there is water above the heavens, again, water of the deep, and yet again, the gathered waters of the seas. Who, then, is He who holds together these waters, not allowing them to be borne downward by their physical weight, except the Lord who established Himself upon all things, who holds sway over the waters? Perhaps, even in a more mystic manner the voice of the Lord was upon the waters, when a voice from above came to Jesus as He was baptized, “This is my beloved Son.” At that time, truly, the Lord was upon many waters, making the waters holy through baptism; but, the God of majesty thundered from above with a mighty voice of testimony. And over those to be baptized a voice left behind by the Lord is pronounced: “Go, therefore,” it says, “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters.”

Basil of Caesarea, Homily on the Psalms 13.2–3

From this he prophesies the power imparted to the apostles.... The narrative of the Acts also teaches us things in harmony with this: we learn from there how at his ascension Christ the Lord addressed his holy disciples in the words, “Stay in this city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Ten days later on the feast of Pentecost, “there came a sound from heaven like that of a violent wind blowing.” ... Now, he gives the name “voice” to the grace of the Spirit filling the apostles with power and might and rendering puny people magnificent. ... The choir of the sacred apostles received the grace of the all-holy Spirit in forms of fire, and were illuminated but not burnt. In the future life, the twofold operation of fire will be divided, illuminating the athletes of virtue and incinerating evildoers.

Theodoret of Cyrus, Commentary on the Psalms 29.5, 7

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