For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'"(that is, to bring Christ down) or "'Who will descend into the abyss?'"(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (ESV)
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Monday After All Saints
2 November 2015
"How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity" (Ps 133:1
)! The unity of the church is a unity created by God's Word. The church then says together what our heavenly Father has given to her in that Word. The church's people can make that united confession with their mouths because it is with the heart that we believe (Rm 10:8-10
). Because the Lord has planted that faith in our hearts we are always thinking the same thing (1Co 1:10
). In a world where everyone considers his own thoughts as his own private possession such a unity seems absurd and impossible. Yet the church's children always strive to think and say the same thing. How important this is in the face of persecution! The ancient church understood this. Perhaps the church will learn this again in these grey and latter days.
Ironically, the persecution that arose in the fourth century, after Christianity was legalized in the Roman world, was perpetrated against the orthodox by heretical churches with the help of government agencies. How heartening it was then, that the simple Egyptians sailors who came to Constantinople on grain ships sought out the humble church in which Gregory of Nazianzus taught and offered the sacramental mysteries. They did this despite the fact that Bishop Peter of Alexandria in Egypt had tried to depose Gregory. Gregory was so delighted by the clarity of their confession of the orthodox faith that he considered them to have made up for the calumny of their leader; the previous outrage was made up for by their kindness. They were walking in the path laid out for them by Peter's now famous predecessor, Bishop Athanasius. Gregory considered himself the son and heir of Athanasius. For Gregory it was a great honor to have these faithful Athanasian seamen crowding around the altar of his little and despised sanctuary. How pleasant it is to have such unity.
Despite the fact that these men came to Constantinople from a country on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea and had different traditions and habits than the Constantinopolitans, Gregory considered them his people. The Egyptians were thrilled to hear this from the lips of the saintly Gregory. Gregory lavishes the name, "my people" upon them, making every possible sign of their unity together in the holy faith. The people of Egypt had endured physical persecution. Now in peaceful times they still made the good confession in the face of heresy, confessing Christ to be God of God of one substance with the Father. Especially in our day, when there is so much perversion of the holy faith of Christ by every preacher who has a "good" idea, it is heartening to pastors to have doughty lay people stand with them to confess the truth, like those Egyptian sailors of long ago. O my people, let us stand together and confess Christ!
"I embrace and salute you, most noble Christian people of the deepest faithfulness. You are worthy of your leaders. I can say nothing greater about you than this, nor anything with which to welcome you better. I greet you to a small extent with my tongue. I am deeply moved by your being here. O my people, I call you mine, because you are one mind and one faith with me (1Co 1:10
), instructed by the same Fathers [like Athanasius], and adore the same Trinity. My people, for mine you are, though it does not seem that way to those who envy me. Look, I give the right hand of fellowship before so many witnesses, seen and unseen, that those who are envious may be the deeper wounded. I put away the old insult by this new act of kindness. O my people, for mine you are, though in saying so I, who am least of all men, am claiming for myself that which is greatest. For such is the grace of the Spirit that it makes of equal honor those who are of one mind. O my people, for mine you are, although we are separated by great distance, because we are joined together by God, and in a manner wholly different from the unions of fleshly people; for then bodies are united in place, but we are souls are joined together by the Spirit. O my people, who once studied how to suffer for Christ, listen to me. You think you have done nothing, but consider the power to do sufficient, and consider your offering a sacrifice to Christ, as in the days of your endurance of persecution, so also in these days of peace.
O people to whom the Lord Himself has prepared to do good. O people, whom the Lord has chosen for Himself out of all peoples. O people, who are graven on the hands of the Lord, to whom the Lord said, 'you are my will' and 'your gates are carved work' (Acts 3:2?), and everything else that is said to those who are being saved. O people, do not marvel that I repeat your name so often; for I delight in this continual naming of you, like those who can never get enough when they enjoy certain games or music.
Gregory Nazianzus, Theological Oration, 34.6
Dear Christ, You have granted the church holy confessors in her midst. Grant that we would always express with our lips what you have implanted into our hearts, that You name would be glorified and many more would come to faith in You as the only true God and eternal life. Amen.
For Jim Keller, that he would recover from surgery
For Jo Lodholz as she undergoes therapy for pancreatic cancer, that the Lord of life would grant her strength of body and soul
For the candidates for local offices on Election Day, that those who are elected would serve the community as servants of the people
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015