Thursday, August 13, 2020

Chrysostom on Bringing Heaven to Earth

As I have been preaching through the gospel of Matthew, I have been reading several commentaries such as those by John Calvin (1509-1564), David Dickson (1583-1663), and R.T. France (1938-2012). For a perspective from the early church, I have also been reading the sermons of John Chrysostom (347-407). Chrysostom gained his name (which means "golden-mouthed") from his reputation as a good preacher who was eloquent, engaging, and bold. His preaching was also respected by the Reformers for his exegetical and practical approach as he worked verse by verse though books of the Bible. You can read many of his sermons here (his sermons on the Gospel of Matthew are here). Here I want to share the ending of his sermon on Matthew 12:38-45 where he exhorts his congregation on the perennial issue of Christ and culture, of being "in the world but not of the world," of being godly in the midst of our earthly callings.

"Let us show forth then a new kind of life. Let us make earth, heaven; let us hereby show the Greeks, of how great blessings they are deprived. For when they behold in us good conversation [behavior], they will look upon the very face of the kingdom of Heaven...

"Let us take heed therefore to ourselves, that we may gain them also. I say nothing burdensome. I say not, do not marry. I say not, forsake cities, and withdraw thyself from public affairs; but being engaged in them, show virtue. Yea, and such as are busy in the midst of cities, I would fain have more approved than such as have occupied the mountains [as monks]. Wherefore? Because great is the profit thence arising. 'For no man lighteth a candle, and setteth it under the bushel' (Matt. 5:15). Therefore I would that all the candles were set upon the candlestick, that the light might wax great.

"Let us kindle then His fire; let us cause them that are sitting in darkness to be delivered from their error. And tell me not, 'I have a wife, and children belonging to me, and am master of a household, and cannot duly practise all this.' For though thou hadst none of these, yet if thou be careless, all is lost; though thou art encompassed with all these, yet if thou be earnest, thou shalt attain unto virtue ... For so Daniel was young, and Joseph a slave, and Aquila wrought at a craft, and the woman who sold purple was over a workshop, and another was the keeper of a prison, and another a centurion, as Cornelius; and another in ill health, as Timothy; and another a runaway, as Onesimus; but nothing proved an hindrance to any of these, but all were approved, both men and women, both young and old, both slaves and free, both soldiers and people.

"Let us not then make vain pretexts, but let us provide a thoroughly good mind, and whatsoever we may be, we shall surely attain to virtue, and arrive at the good things to come; by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen." 

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