Early Church Fathers on Wednesday

Paul expresses himself in this personal way because he was inflamed by affectionate longing towards Christ.  This flowed from contemplating humanity’s hopeless condition and Christ’s indescribable compassion toward us, in what He saved us from, and what He freely bestowed on us.  Likewise, the prophets often take to themselves personally the One who is God of all, as in the words, “O God, You are my God, early will I seek You” (Psalm 63.1).  This personal language teaches us that each individual owes as great a debt of thanks to Christ as if He had come for that individual’s sake alone!  He wouldn’t have begrudged His stooping down to earth even for a single soul.  Thus, the degree of Christ’s love for each individual is as great as His love for the human race at large.

Although Christ offered an all-sufficient sacrifice for the whole world, a sacrifice adequate in itself to save the entire human race, believers alone experience the blessing.  Still, the fact that not everyone would come to Him didn’t prevent Christ from coming to the earth, stooping so humbly.  He acted in keeping with that supper in the Gospel which the master made ready for all.  When, however, the invited guests failed to come, he didn’t take away the food, but called others to the feast (Luke 14.16-24).

Likewise, Christ didn’t despise the solitary sheep that had wandered away from the ninety-nine (Matthew 18.12).  Holy Paul indicates the same, when he says, speaking of the Jews, “What if some did not believe?  Shall their unbelief nullify God’s faithfulness?  Never!  Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3.3-4).  He loved you individually so much that He gave Himself up so that He might bring you, who were devoid of hope, to a life so wondrous and so blessed. – John Chrysostom (344-407), from “Commentary on Galatians 2.20.”

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Keeping Your Eye on the Ball

Let every preacher take note: amid the frustrations and hardships of ministry, the most Christ-like thing is to stay focused on your calling, give thanks to God, and go on preaching the gospel. – Joel R. Beeke (born in 1952)

Regarding Sin

We conclude that sin constitutes the breaking of the covenant.  This perspective implies that sin does not just represent a transgression of formal rules.  It goes deeper.  It is directed against the sovereign Creator, who not only creates life but also wants His people to experience a lasting communion with Himself.  Therefore, sin constitutes opposition to the Creator who commits Himself to grant life to man.

Sin is further intensified when it carries on in its rebellion against God, who gives His Son, Jesus Christ.  Sin against the original favor and goodness of God is compounded by the rejection of God’s grace.  In this way, sin does not change in character, but in intensity.  It rejects not only God’s original goodness but also His grace, which is meant to redeem from man’s guilt and the evil consequences of his sin.

From: Concise Reformed Dogmatics by J. van Genderen and W. H. Velema; translated from the Dutch by Gerrit Bilkes and Ed M. van der Maas (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008), pp. 396-397.  Dutch original published in 1992.

From the Psalms

Sing to the Lord, you, His faithful ones, and praise His holy name.  For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor, a lifetime.  Weeping may stay overnight, but there is joy in the morning.  (Psalm 30.4-5)

Regarding Humility

If we profess to have any real Christianity, let us strive to be of John the Baptist’s spirit.  Let us study humility.  This is the grace with which all must begin who would be saved.  We have no true religion about us until we cast away our high thoughts and feel ourselves sinners.  This is the grace which all saints may follow after and which none have any excuse for neglecting.  All God’s children have not gifts or money or time to work or a wide sphere of usefulness, but all may be humble.  This is the grace, above all, which will appear most beautiful in our latter end.  Never shall we feel the need of humility so deeply as when we lie on our deathbeds and stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.  Our whole lives will then appear a long catalog of imperfections, ourselves nothing and Christ all. – J. C. Ryle (1816-1900), on John 1.19-28.

Faith and the Intellect

Vitringa preached as well as practiced the principle that ministers should have a broad liberal arts education in preparation for their theological studies.  Those who argued for a shorter, streamlined course of training were seriously mistaken.  Ministers must become people of broad scholarship.  Knowing great thinkers of earlier times produces humility and modesty and teaches us to be patient with those who hold opinions other than our own in secondary matters.  Haughty pride typifies the semi-scholarly, and superficial scholarship tends to stir up unnecessary disputes.

Vitringa believed that piety goes hand-in-hand with learning.  The theologian should be able to give an accurate opinion on any subject that pertains to his area of science.  But he will only attain to this (unless it be given him by an extraordinary grace of the Holy Spirit) through labor and strenuous effort.  Walking with God by faith in Christ does not dull but sharpens the mind.  Meditation on spiritual things and the practice of true piety provokes rather than stifles academic achievement and true scholarship.  The true Christian must seek the honor of God, and not his own, in all his studies.  Because he truly reverences God, he dedicates to God and the benefit of His church all his intellect, all his diligence, and all his labors, which are God’s gifts anyway.  Christianity can boast, above other religions, that true piety and true scholarship and rationality shine most brightly when they are combined.

From: “The Life and Works of Campegius Vitringa, Sr. (1659-1722)” by Anton Friedrich Busching, in The Spiritual Life by Campegius Vitringa, translated from the Latin and edited by Charles K. Telfer (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018), pp. xxxvii-xxxviii.

How to Spot Heresy

Heresy is usually quite sophisticated, actually has a meaning, and is to be taken very seriously.  It is, therefore, to be carefully distinguished from turgid, pretentious, badly-written Bullsgeshichte, to use the technical German theological term. – Carl Trueman (born in 1967)

Early Church Fathers on Wednesday

A mediator must have connection with both parties he mediates between.  This is a mediator’s character, to be in close connection with each of those for whom he mediates.  He would cease to be a mediator if he were connected with one but not the other.  If, therefore, Christ doesn’t share the Father’s nature, He isn’t a Mediator with Him, but separated from Him.  Just as He shares our humanity because He came to humankind, so He shares Deity because He came from God.  Since He had to mediate between two natures, He had to be close to both natures.  As a place standing between two others is joined to each, so a person standing between two natures must be joined to each.  He became man.  He was also God. . .

God was about to punish humanity, but refrained.  Humans were perishing but, in their place, God gave His own Son, then sent us as messengers of the cross.  This is enough to attract everyone and show Christ’s love.  So truly, unspeakably great are God’s blessings!  He sacrificed Himself for His foes who despised and rejected Him!  What no one would do for friends, brothers, children – this the Lord has done for His slaves!  Nor was this Lord of the same nature as His slaves.  He was God sacrificing Himself for humans – undeserving ones.  Had they been obedient and deserving, it would have been less amazing.  But He died for such thankless, wrong-headed creatures!  This is what stuns every mind with astonishment.  What we wouldn’t do for our fellow humans, God has done for us!  Yet, even after this demonstration of love towards us, we hold back and aren’t serious in our love for Christ.  He has sacrificed Himself for us.  Yet we make no sacrifice for Him. – John Chrysostom (344-407), from “Commentary on 1 Timothy 2.5-6.”

Regarding the Lord’s Day

God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested from all His work of creation. (Genesis 2.3, CSB)

This is the point from which any serious objective study of the Sabbath, or Sunday observance, must begin.  Not only was the Sabbath given as a blessing before it was a law, but it was “discovered” by God Himself and used for the divine satisfaction and enjoyment – grace, as ever, being prior to law.

The pleasure of the divine Sabbath derived primarily from the accomplishment of and satisfaction with creation and from the rest which its completion provided and justified for happy contemplation of a week’s work well done.  If God found the Sabbath to be a blessing to Himself, how much more will we frail and fallible mortals be blessed by the divine gift of the Sabbath rest?  This blessing He graciously offers us, having blessed it and sanctified it (set it apart). . .

If the divine pleasure in His Sabbath was satisfaction and rest, His pleasure and purpose in ours is in the particular opportunity it provides us to offer our worship to Him, so that the divine argument for our observance of the Sabbath is not only, “this is good for you,” it is also, “this is good for Me, for My greatest pleasure is derived not from natural creation, but from the glad, free offering of My people’s worship.” – William Still (1911-1997)

On the Virgin Mary’s Faith

The Virgin Mary gives meek and ready acquiescence to God’s revealed will concerning her.  There is far more of admirable grace in this answer than, at first,’s appears.  A moment’s reflection will show us that it was no light matter to become the mother of our Lord in this unheard-of and mysterious way.  It brought with it, no doubt – at a distant period – great honor, but it brought with it – for the present – no small danger to Mary’s reputation and no small trial to Mary’s faith.  But, she asks no further questions.  She raises no further objections.  She accepts the honor laid upon her with all its attendant perils and inconveniences. – J. C. Ryle (1816-1900), commenting on Luke 1.34-38.