Archive for the ‘Church Fathers’ Category

Circumcision and Name of Jesus

January 1st, 2014 1 comment

El Greco, Adoration of the Name of Jesus, 1578-79, Oil on canvas, 190 x 140 cm; Chapter House, Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial

“The name ‘Jesus’ is food, light, medicine. You have this medicine for yourself, O my soul, and it lies concealed in the capsule of this word, which certainly is Jesus, the bringer of salvation.”

— St. Bernard, Sermon de coena Domini, quoted by Blessed Johann Gerhard in On Christ (CPH 2009) p. 12.

Happy New Year!

On January 1 the Church observes the Feast of the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus. Here is more information.

“The name ‘Jesus’ is food, light, medicine. You have this medicine for yourself, O my soul, and it lies concealed in the capsule of this word, which certainly is Jesus, the bringer of salvation.”

— St. Bernard, Sermon de coena Domini, quoted by Blessed Johann Gerhard in On Christ (CPH 2009) p. 12.

Already on the eighth day of Jeuss’ life, His destiny of atonement is revealed in His name and in is circumcision. At that moment, His blood is first shed and Jesus receives the name given to Him by the angel: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). In the circumcision of Jesus, all people are circumcised once and for all, because He represents all humanity. In the Old Testament, for the believers who looked to Gods promise to be fulfilled in the Messiah, the benefits of circumcision included the forgiveness of sins, justification, and incorporation into the people of God. In the New Testament, St. Paul speaks of its counterpart, Holy Baptism, as a “circumcision made without hands” and as “the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11).

We pray:

Lord God, You made Your beloved Son, our Savior, subject to the Law and caused Him to shed His blood on our behalf. Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit that our hearts may be made pure from all sins; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Source: The Treasury of Daily Prayer, p. 1078.

We pray:

Lord God, You made Your beloved Son, our Savior, subject to the Law and caused Him to shed His blood on our behalf. Grant us the true circumcision of the Spirit that our hearts may be made pure from all sins; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Source: The Treasury of Daily Prayer, p. 1078.

Augustine is Awesome: Case in Point

September 5th, 2013 Comments off

Just received the second, and final, volume of Augustine’s magisterial work, “The City of God” in a new translation released by New City Press, part of their “Augustine for the 21st Century” project. Describing the resurrection of the body and the final end of this present age, Augustine concludes:

“There we shall be still and see, see and love, love and praise. Behold what will be in the end without end! For what else is our end but to reach the kingdom that has no end?”

-Augustine, City of God, Book XXII.30

Categories: Church Fathers

Angry Boldness and Gentle Boldness — Learning the Difference

February 16th, 2013 6 comments

imagesHere’s the thing: just because we are on a mission from God, which we are, does not give us the right to say whatever we want, whenever we want to say it.

We all need to heed these very wise words from St. John Chrysostom. I know I sure need to work on this. Oh how often have I lashed out unthinkingly or said something that may be true, but not helpful.

If we speak in anger, we do it with passion and the “boldness” of those who are confident of their case. But if we speak with gentleness, this is boldness. Boldness is a success and anger is a failure. And success and failure can’t possibly go together. Therefore, if we want to have boldness, we must clear away our anger so that no once can attribute our words to it. No matter how sound your words may be, no matter how boldly you speak, how fairly you correct, or what not, you ruin everything when you speak with anger. Look at Stephen and how free his words to his persecutors were from passion. He didn’t abuse them but reminded them of the prophets’ words. In order to show you that it wasn’t done in anger, he prayed as he suffered evil from their hands, “Lay not to their charge this sin.” He was far from speaking those words in anger. No, he spoke out of grief and sorrow for their sakes.

BRACE YOURSELF! Lent is coming. CPH Has Got You Covered with a Complete Lenten/Holy Week Kit

January 9th, 2013 Comments off


The Concordia Publishing House 2013 Complete Lent Resource Kit is available for immediate shipping.


Click here to order and read more about it.



The Saints, Not the Numbers, Make the Multitude

January 9th, 2013 Comments off

“Would you learn that it is the saints, not the numbers, which make the multitude? Lead out to war ten hundred thousand men, and one saint, and let us see who achieves the most? Joshua the son of Nun went out to war, and alone achieved all; the rest were of no use. Wouldest thou see, beloved, that the great multitude, when it does not the will of God, is no better than a thing of naught? I wish indeed, and desire, and with pleasure would be torn in pieces, to adorn the Church with a multitude, yea, but a select multitude; yet if this be impossible, that the few should be select, is my desire. Do you not see that it is better to possess one precious stone, than ten thousand farthing pieces? Do you not see that it is better to have the eye sound, than to be loaded with flesh, and yet deprived of sight?”

St. John Chrysostom, 5th Century, AD
Commentary on Acts, chapter 3

Categories: Church Fathers

The Antidote to Ignorance About Church History: Learn It and Tell It

March 9th, 2012 4 comments

I appreciated this post by Pastor Larry Peters, and I think you will too.

I taught a seven hour class on Saturday, March 3, as I began an introduction to what Lutherans believe, confess, and teach (yes, I know, seven hours? well it is easier for people to give me big blocks of time than to give me an hour a week for x amount of weeks).  I enjoy teaching this but it is a marathon to dojust the talking for 7 hours!  One of the sections we spend some time on is church history.  I am always surprised by how little we know history, especially our own history!  Lutherans often confuse modern day differences with Rome as the battleground issues of the sixteenth century and are shocked to find out what the Reformation was really about (such as not about the Pope speaking infallibly from the throne of St. Peter but about the very essence of the Gospel and whether the Word is the authority in the Church).

Often those coming from other backgrounds are surprised to find out what their own church’s believe.  I have found strange looks from Presbyterians when we talk about God’s sovereignty or about predestination.  I have had Baptists say in shock “you mean we don’t believe in Christ’s presence in Communion?”  I have had Roman Catholics deny that Rome teaches transubstantiation.  I could go on and on.  Some of them are felicitous in consistences — when the folks believe the right way (as Scripture teaches) even though the church they belonged to does not.  Some of them are just plain strange (most folks could tell you that this church believes that).  I don’t blame the folks.  I blame the catechesis and the teacher.

History, in particular, is largely untaught and unknown in the instruction of most churches – Lutherans included.  Because we do not know history, we also do not know where things come from or the relationships between church bodies.  For example in a discussion about purgatory, most folks did not know that purgatory was only for those headed to heaven and not yet fully cleansed; they had confused it with a sort of prejudge station or triage for God to decide who is going to make and who is not. The division between Rome and Constantinople is often a complete unknown.

The point I am trying to make is not that the communication of trivialities and oddities is important but that we owe it to the folks to flesh out of the faith through the ages.  This is very important to understanding the faith and why things are the way they are among the various churches.  It is also essential to knowing what we believe, confess, and teach.  It is not enough simply to teach the Gospel and leave them wondering about how we got from 12 apostles to a few thousand different Christian groups.  Who Lutherans are is so much easier to understand given the backdrop of what the Church looked like in the centuries prior to the Reformation.  It is amazing to me how little most folks know of such things as the Thirty Years’ War — a critical event in Lutheran history and one that had great implications for the shape of Lutheran piety and hymnody.

So I urge those doing youth or adult catechetical instruction — don’t leave out the history.  BTW if you do not know the story, pick up that book from Concordia Publishing House The Church from Age to Age and learn it so that you can tell it…

Categories: Church Fathers

Why Unbelief is Foolish

December 3rd, 2011 Comments off

St. Hilary of Poitiers (c. AD 315-67):

“All unbelief is foolishness, for
it takes such wisdom as its own finite perception can attain,
and measuring infinity by that petty scale,
concludes that what it cannot understand must be impossible.
Unbelief is the result of incapacity engaged in argument.”

De Trinitate, III.24, cited in Douglas Kelly, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, p. 19.


HT: Justin Taylor

Base Everything on Faith in the Lord’s Incarnation

December 19th, 2010 Comments off

To make an altar of earth for the Lord is to place our hope in the incarnation of the Mediator. Our gift is accepted by God when, on this altar, our humility rests whatever it does upon faith in the Lord’s incarnation. We place the gift we offer on an altar made of earth if we base all our actions on faith in the Lord’s incarnation.

Paterius, Exposition of the Old and New Testament, Exodus 30.5 (PL 79:735); From: Joseph T. Lienhard and Ronnie J. Rombs, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture OT 3., 110 (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001).

Categories: Church Fathers

Hold On To What You Have!

December 6th, 2010 Comments off

“Confession of Christ does not make one immune from the snares of the devil. Nor does it defend one who is still placed in the world with a perpetual security against worldly temptations and dangers and onsets and attacks. Otherwise we should never have seen afterwards among the confessors the deceptions and debaucheries and adulteries that now with groaning and sorrow we see among some. Whoever that confessor is, he is not greater or better or dearer to God than Solomon. As long as he walked in the ways of the Lord, so long he retained the grace he had received from the Lord. After he had abandoned the way of the Lord, he lost also the grace of the Lord. And so it is written, “Hold what you have, lest another receive thy crown.” Surely the Lord would not threaten to deprive of the crown of righteousness unless when righteousness parts, it is necessary that also the crown depart”

— Cyprian, THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH 20.28

William C. Weinrich, Revelation, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 12, 46 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Categories: Church Fathers

Do as you please, because you are always forgiven? No.

November 25th, 2010 3 comments

We Lutherans are subject to a special temptation. We have been so much assured that our standing with God is based entirely on God’s free and undeserved love and not on any action of ours that the devil is right there to suggest: “Well, if it not based on any action of yours, your actions don’t matter. You have a nice cushion to rest on there. You have complete forgiveness in Christ. So do as you please. You are always forgiven.” There is no more hideous mockery of Christ and Calvary than that. Christ died in our place so we may not be condemned and punished for our sins. He takes all that for us so we may be forgiven and may know the living God as a God who graciously involves Himself with us and we with Him. Are we, then, to make of this the basis for a life that contradicts that we are involved with Him? — Dr. Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons, p. 348. HT: Weedon.

Categories: Church Fathers

God’s Love is Shown for Us Through His Correction

November 21st, 2010 1 comment

Fulgentius of Ruspe on Rev. 3:19: Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

“The kindness of God leads us to penance. He afflicts us with trials, he corrects us with infirmities, teaches us with cares, so that we who have sinned in the health of the body may learn to abstain from sins in infirmity. We who scorned the mercy of God in frivolity, corrected by the lash of sadness should fear his justice. Thus it comes about that we who by abusing health have begotten infirmity for ourselves, through that infirmity may again procure the benefits of health. And we who through frivolity have fallen into trials, through these trials may regain happiness. Holy Scripture bears witness that God’s love for us is shown more by the lash and correction. For it says, “My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproofs, for the Lord reproves the one he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”vAnd the Savior himself says that he loves those he reproves, saying, “Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise.” The teaching of the apostles does not cease to proclaim that “it is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” The Lord himself also says that the road which leads to life is constricted and the gate narrow.”

— Fulgentius of Ruspe, LETTER 7.16, TO VENANTIA.40

William C. Weinrich, Revelation, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 12, 53 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Categories: Church Fathers

The Grace of Justification is Completed in the Resurrection of the Body

November 17th, 2010 3 comments

Fulgentius of Ruspe, commenting on Revelation 12:10-11: Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.

“This then is done in them through grace so that the change brought about by divine gift may begin in them here. The change begins first through justification, in which there is a spiritual resurrection, and afterwards, in the resurrection of the body, in which the change of the justified is brought to completion; the perfected glorification, remaining for eternity, is not changed. To this end, first the grace of justification,  then the grace of glorification changes them so that the glorification itself remains, unchangeable and eternal in them. For here they are changed through the first resurrection by which they are enlightened that they may be converted. That is, they change from death to life by this, from iniquity to justice, from infidelity to faith, and from evil acts to a holy way of life. Therefore, the second death has no power over them. Concerning such people, it is said in the Apocalypse: “Blessed is the one who shares in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them.” Again it is said in the same book: “The victor shall not be harmed by the second death.” Therefore, just as the first resurrection is found in conversion of the heart, so the second death is found in eternal punishment. Let every person who does not wish to be condemned by eternal punishment of the second death hasten here to become a participant of the first resurrection.


William C. Weinrich, Revelation, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 12, 27-28 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Categories: Church Fathers

How Lutherans Regard the Errors of the Church Fathers

November 16th, 2010 3 comments

Martin Chemnitz, in his magisterial work, Loci Theologici, or “Chief Theological Topics,” has a comment about how we are to regard and deal with the errors of the early church fathers. We do not ignore them or overlook them, but neither do we dwell so much on them that we fail to recognize the benefit and blessing of reading them and gaining what wisdom is to be found in their writings and so Chemnitz says:

It is not our purpose to be like Ham, who uncovered his father’s shame. Thus we shall not deal with the lapses of those by whose labors we have been aided and whose gray hairs we ought to honor, but we will refer to them only as warnings so that we may be cautioned by their examples to be more careful and diligent in preserving the purity of this doctrine, so that we never give occasion to anyone to follow in these footsteps.

Martin Chemnitz and Jacob A. O. Preus, Loci Theologici, electronic ed., 470 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999).

Categories: Church Fathers

We Feed on Christ in His Church

October 21st, 2010 1 comment

“Who conquers, I will grant to eat from the tree of life,” that is, from the fruit of the cross, “which is in the paradise of my God.” The church is to be regarded as paradise, for “all things were done in figure,” and Adam was “the shadow of the one to come,” as the apostle teaches. Indeed, the tree of life is the wisdom of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who hung on the cross. In the church and in the spiritual paradise, he gives to the faithful food of life and the sacrament of the celestial bread, of which you read, “Wisdom is the tree of life to those who embrace her.”

Tyconius, COMMENTARY ON THE APOCALYPSE 2.7.36. William C. Weinrich, Revelation, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 12, 23 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Categories: Church Fathers

The Fathers Speak: Receiving the Fleshly Gifts of God in Christ and His Supper

July 7th, 2010 Comments off

“If the mingled cup and the bread that has been made receives the Word of God and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made — and these are the things from which the substance of our flesh is increased and supported — how can they  [the Gnostic heretics Irenaeus is writing against] say that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life, when the flesh itself is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord and is one of His membes? The blessed Paul declares the same thing in his epistle to the Ephesians: “we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of of his bones.” (Eph 5:30). He does nto speak these words of some spiritual and invisible person, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones. Rather, he is referring to that dispensation by which the Lord became an actual man, consisting of flesh and nerves and bones—that flesh that is nourished by the cup that is his blood and receive increase from the bread, which is his body. And jsut as a cutting from a vine planted in the ground bears fruit in its season, or as a grain of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed rises with manifold increase by the Spirit of God, who contains all things, and then, through the wisdom of God, serves for the use of people, and having received the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and bloof od Christ—in this same way also ou bocies, being nourished by it and deposited in the earth and suffering decomposition there will rise at teir appointed time. The Word of God grnts them resurrection to the glory of God, even the Father, who freely gives to this mortal immortality and to this corruptible incorruption, because the strength of God is made perfect in weakness.”

— Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.2.3; ANF 1:528.