Christ the Example
St. Mary Magdalene
22 July 2016
There are those who think of their faith as "purely spiritual." Such highly spiritual folks have no need of the humble earthly props that God offers in the incarnation of Christ of Mary and the means of grace which God gives in His church. They are above all that sort of thing. Unaffected by the ravages of the fall, they think they can approach the Light directly and experience God unalloyed by flesh or human weakness. Augustine of Hippo speaks of such people sarcastically as those who are "pure intellectual spirits." The rest of us poor fallen sinners are left with seeking God in the flesh.
In Christ the very Image and Wisdom of God becomes incarnate. In so doing we also receive the Wisdom and Image of God. He comes as the un-patterned One who is the Wisdom and Image of God from eternity, that we, who in our pride have lost that pattern from God, might again from His coming receive back the beginnings of the wisdom and image of God.
The incarnate Wisdom becomes an example to us sinners. However, Augustine is not thinking of Christ as a "moral" example. It is not as though if we just imitate His example we will have eternal life, but rather that this Wisdom and Image will become ours through faith in Him, so that the promise of a truly wise life will be ours. The word "example" means something taken away. What Christ is is taken away by those who are God's children by faith. This life will be brought to its fullest expression when we see the blessed vision of the face of Christ, the Image of God. For Augustine the example which we follow in Christ means that we will have full wisdom in Scripture, the full life in Him who is the Life, and have a refurbishing of the image of God in Him who is the true Image.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"When anything concerning wisdom is declared or narrated in the Scriptures, whether as itself speaking, or where anything is spoken of it (Lk 11:49; 1Co 1:24), the Son chiefly is intimated to us. And by the example of Him who is the Image, let us also not depart from God since we also are the Image of God. We are not equal to Him, since we are made so by the Father through the Son, and not born of the Father, as the Image is. We are so, because we are enlightened with light; but that is so, because it is the light that enlightens; and which, therefore, being without pattern, is to us a pattern. For He does not imitate any one going before Him, in respect to the Father, from whom He is never separable at all, since He is the very same substance with Him from whom He is.
"We, by striving, imitate Him who abides, and follow Him who stands still, and walking in Him, reach out towards Him; because He is made for us a way in time by His humiliation, which is to us an eternal abiding-place by His divinity. To pure intellectual spirits, who have not fallen through pride, He gives an example in the form of God and as equal with God and as God; so, in order that He might also give Himself as an example of returning to fallen man who on account of the uncleanness of sins and the punishment of mortality cannot see God, 'He emptied Himself;' not by changing His own divinity, but by assuming our changeableness: and 'taking upon Him the form of a servant' (Phil 2:7) 'He came to us into this world,' (1Ti 1:15) who 'was in this world,' because 'the world was made by Him' (Jn 1:10). He did this that He might be an example upwards to those who see God, an example downwards to those who admire man, an example to the sound to persevere, an example to the sick to be made whole, an example to those who are to die that they may not fear, an example to the dead that they may rise again, 'that in all things He might have the pre-eminence' (Col 1:18).
"Because man ought not to follow any except God to blessedness, and yet cannot perceive God; by following God made man, he might follow at once Him whom he could perceive, and whom he ought to follow. Let us then love Him and cleave to Him, by charity spread abroad in our hearts, through the Holy Spirit which is given unto us (Rm 5:5). It is not therefore to be wondered at, if, on account of the example which the Image, which is equal to the Father, gives to us, in order that we may be refashioned after the image of God, Scripture, when it speaks of wisdom, speaks of the Son, whom we follow by living wisely; although the Father also is wisdom, as He is both light and God."

Augustine, On the Trinity, 7.3
Colossians 1:15-23

[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, (ESV)
O Lord Christ, the Wisdom and Image of God, make us wise unto eternal life through giving us the blessings of Your restoration of the Image among men. Amen.
For Dale Meyer, President of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, that God the Holy Spirit would send him His grace and every favor
For all farmers, that they might be blessed in their vocation of providing seed for the sower and bread for the eater
For Bob Randolph, who is recovering from surgery, that he may be kept safe and be granted a full recovery

For Hilary Murray, who is traveling tomorrow, that the holy angels would keep her safe in all her ways
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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