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Matthew 16:13-23

 

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."   He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock  I will build my church, and the gates of hell  shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed  in heaven." Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

 

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.   And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance  to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man." (ESV)

 

 

 

A Good Corporation

Monday after the Baptism of our Lord

12 January 2015

Some years ago, I waded through an antique of American literature in my casual reading: Lew Wallace's The Prince of India. Wallace, was the governor of New Mexico in the 19th century, but is best known as the author of Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ, which was made into a movie, starring Charlton Heston, in 1959. The Prince of India, set in late-Christian Constantinople, is highly critical of the church as an organized institution. The most important characters in the book all have a plan to reform Christianity in one way or another, but each of those plans includes the abolition of the church. The church of those days certainly had its venalities, but no less than those who seek to abolish it. Of course, at various times Emperors and politicians tried to control the church as a creature of the state, sometimes her patriarchs were greedy and self absorbed, her clergy legalistic and bent on the maintenance of their worldly privileges. However, their abuse never invalidated Christ's original design that the church should be His bodily presence in the world.

 

Just as there were exceptions to the original design of the church as a sign Christ in the world, so too there were glittering exceptions to her occasional venality and moral weakness. John Chrysostom, the patriarch of Constantinople, was one of those exceptions. He was made patriarch against his will in 398. Upon arriving in Constantinople, he refused to curry favor with the politically well-connected, instead spending his time helping the poor of the city. He ran especially afoul of the Empress, Aelia Eudoxia, who presumed John's public preaching against ostentatious clothing was meant for her. John would not back down and finally his enemies in the Greek church and among the well-to-do of Constantinople had him deposed in 403. He was recalled from exile for a short time but died in his second exile in 407. For John the church still had to fulfill its mission of calling men and women to repentance no matter who that preaching hit.

 

John was convinced that the evils that plagued the church could be attributed to ignorance of Scripture. If Scripture was a lamp illuminating our way, those who know it not are walking in darkness. John trusted nothing but God's Word and placed himself in the gracious care of God. When he was deposed as patriarch it may have come to him as a relief, because it was an office that he did not seek in the first place. He just preached the Word of God. Those who listened were enlightened. Those who refused to listen were left in the dark. John's view is still correct today. The church's problem is not its "corporate" nature, because it is still the body of Christ (corpus Christi). There is no Christ apart from the church because He Himself promises that the "gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Mt 16:18), because He is the church's Lord and protector. Talking about a church-less Christianity is like talking about getting mortgages without banks and financial institutions; it is nonsense. The church must remain the mouth of Christ preaching His Word, and thus creating His body in the world. That's a good corporation, if you ask me.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"Countless evils have arisen from ignorance of the Scriptures. From this the plague of heresies has broken out. From this there are neglectful lives. From this there are labors without benefit. For just as men deprived of daylight of this world do not walk rightly, so those who do not look to the gleaming of the Holy Scriptures must be frequently and constantly sinning, in that they are walking in the worst darkness."

 

"That this not happen to us, let us hold our eyes open to the bright shining of the Apostle's words. For this man's tongue shone forth brighter than the sun. He abounded more than all the rest in the word of doctrine. He labored more abundantly than they and also received for himself a large measure of the Spirit's grace (1Co 15:10). And this I constantly affirm, not only from his letters, but also from the Acts. For if there were anywhere a season for preaching, to him men everywhere gave the opportunity."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, Introduction 

 

Prayer

Lord Christ, You are the light of the world. At all times You have defended Your holy church both from her external enemies and from her false sons. Keep us in Your body through Your Word that we might not stumble in our faith because of her weakness. Amen.

 

For Irene Schroeder, who is gravely ill, that the Lord Jesus would send His holy angels to watch over her

 

For the leaders of Memorial Lutheran Church, who will be meeting this evening, that they would be motivated by the truth of Christ our Savior and the power of His gospel

 

For Pastor Scott Murray who will be traveling during the next four weeks, that the holy angels would attend him
Art: RENI, Guido Baptism of Christ (c. 1623)

 

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