Sojourners in a City

Imagine living as a Christian in a wealthy, cosmopolitan city, with a beautiful climate and stunning coastline. A city that hosts Olympic games. A place where citizens from across the world mingle. A place known partly as an intellectual and trade center, but even more for its night-life, parties, and celebrations of hedonism and promiscuity. A place of broken marriages and commonplace adultery. A place where the church is small and counter-cultural, and when known is either misunderstood, despised, or persecuted. Like many global cities today, this was Corinth in the days of the early church. Continue reading

O Sweet Exchange!

A beautiful testimony to the person and work of Christ, and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, is found in the Letter to Diognetes. The authorship of this second century writing is uncertain. The writer gives himself the title “Mathetes”, meaning “a disciple”, but is otherwise unknown. Despite the lack of clarity of authorship, scholars agree that this work was penned sometime between 125 and 200 AD — several generations after the death of the last apostle, John. “Mathetes” writes,

“When our wickedness had reached its height, and its wages – punishment and death – were clearly hanging over us, the time arrived which God had appointed beforehand, for Him to manifest His own kindness and power. He revealed how His love had such an overwhelming regard for the human race, and that He did not hate us or thrust us away or remember our sins against us, but showed great longsuffering and patience with us. He Himself took upon Himself the burden of our transgressions; He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the Holy One for sinners, the Blameless One for the wicked, the Righteous One for the unrighteous, the Incorruptible One for the corruptible, the Immortal One for mortals. For what else could cover our sins except His righteousness? Who else could justify wicked and ungodly people like us, except the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable work! O blessings that surpass all expectation! The wickedness of the many has been swallowed up in a single Righteous One; the righteousness of One has justified a multitude of transgressors! Even before Christ came, God showed us that our nature was incapable of achieving life. Now, having revealed the Savior, Who is able to save what could not previously be saved, God has willed by these truths to persuade us to trust in His kindness, and to reckon Him as our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counsellor and Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honor, Glory, Power and Life, so that we should have no anxiety about mere food and clothing…”

“I do not speak of things strange to me, nor do I aim at anything inconsistent with right reason, but having been a disciple of the Apostles, I am become a teacher of the Gentiles. I minister the things that are delivered to me… For who that is rightly taught and begotten by the loving Word, would not seek to learn accurately the things which have been clearly shown by the Word to His disciples… For whatever things we are moved by the will of the Word commanding us, we communicate to you with pains, and from a love of the things that have been revealed to us.”

Epistle to Diognetes [c.160]

Patristics: Fulgentius on Desire for Human Praise

“In all good works, be careful lest you be stirred by desire for human praise.  You ought to be praised in your good works, but insofar as you do them, you ought not to expect human praises.  The human tongue may praise you, but desire praise from God alone.  And thus it may come about that while you do not seek human praise, God may be praised in your deeds.  Recall how much the Lord forbids us to do our righteous works to garner human praise, saying, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”  Therefore, when he says that we should look out lest we do our righteous deeds before human beings, that we may be seen by them, and again he commands that our light shine before human beings, is he not commanding contrary things?  Certainly not, but he commands that good deeds be done in such a way that we wish, not that we ourselves, but that God be praised in our works…”

Fulgentius of Ruspe, To the Widow Galla, 36. [c.500AD]