Late Bloomer
Augustine of Hippo, Pastor and Theologian
28 August 2017
Augustine was something of a late bloomer. He was well into His 30s when he was converted to the Christian faith and was baptized by Ambrose of Milan. Yet, God was preparing him for a fruitful ministry in North Africa and ultimately throughout the world with his prolific pen. His influence is felt everywhere the name of Christ is confessed. He may be considered the most influential Christian teacher between the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther. So despite his late start, he does much to defend the Christian faith against a number of pernicious influences that had arisen in his day, especially Pelagianism, the teaching that man is solely or partly the cause of his own conversion. Of course, Augustine taught that God was entirely the cause for the conversion of the sinner. His own experience was paradigmatic.
 
Augustine often exhibits a deep sense of the distinction dividing between law and gospel that Martin Luther, his later disciple and critic, would sharpen to a fine edge. He also understood fully the hiddenness of the kingdom of God under the shadow of the city of the world. He speaks of the ministry of Christ as hidden under the Word and speech of God. The Scripture testifies that Christ is the King who sits at the right hand of God. This cannot be seen and is not open to our scrutiny. Yet faith believes the clear testimony of the Psalmist, David, who tells us of the majestic rule and reign of the Christ, his son and His Lord.
 
This reign is hidden because the Lord rules from the throne of His cross. His gospel is the law that comes from His Zion where He established His kingdom forever by being the King-Priest, like Melchizedek, who comes to bless the world through the blood of the eternal testament, which he offered on the cross. That He triumphed over His enemies by the cross there is no doubt. That we should see that triumph is impossible until we pass from the realm of faith into that of sight. In His face, we shall see eyes lit by His triumphant victory over our enemies. For that we must wait patiently, now not seeing what shall be seen. Augustine's late arrival at the sightless faith of the church bloomed unto great fruit indeed. He now sees what once he only believed.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"In Psalm 110 where Christ is most openly proclaimed as Priest, even so He is here King, 'The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool"' (Ps110:1). The Christ who sits on the right hand of God the Father is believed, not seen. That His enemies also are put under His feet does not yet appear. It is being done, and [therefore] it will appear at last. Yes, this is now believed, afterward it shall be seen. But what follows, 'The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies' (Ps110:2), is so clear, that to deny it would imply not merely unbelief and mistake, but downright impudence. Even enemies must certainly confess that out of Zion has been sent the law of Christ, which we call the gospel, and acknowledge as the rod of His strength. But that He rules in the midst of His enemies, the same enemies among whom He rules themselves bear witness, gnashing their teeth and wasting away, and having power to do nothing against Him. When he says a little after, 'The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,' He indicates that what He adds is unchangeable, 'You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek' (Ps110:4). Who is permitted to doubt of whom these things are said, seeing that now there is nowhere a priesthood and sacrifice after the order of Aaron, and everywhere men offer under Christ as the Priest, which Melchizedek showed when he blessed Abraham? Therefore to these manifest things are to be referred, when rightly understood, those things in the same Psalm that are set down a little more obscurely, and we have already made known in our popular sermons how these things are to be rightly understood.

 

"So also in that where Christ utters through prophecy the humiliation of His passion, saying, 'They have pierced my hands and feet-I can count all my bones-they stare and gloat over me' (Ps22:16-17). By these words he certainly meant His body stretched out on the cross, with the hands and feet pierced and perforated by the striking through of the nails, and that He had in that way made Himself a spectacle to those who looked and stared. He adds, 'They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots' (Ps 22:18). How this prophecy has been fulfilled the Gospel history narrates. Then, indeed, the other things also which are said there less openly are rightly understood when they agree with those which shine with so great clearness. Especially because those things also which we do not believe as past, but see as present, are beheld by the whole world, being now exhibited just as they are read of in this very Psalm as predicted so long before. For it is there said a little after, 'All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations' (Ps22:27-28)." 

Augustine, The City of God, 17.7
Psalm 110

The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.  (ESV)
Prayer
O Lord God, the light of the minds that know You, the life of the souls that love You, and the strength of the hearts that serve You, give us strength to follow the example of Your servant Augustine of Hippo, so that knowing You we may truly love You and loving You we may fully serve You - for to serve You is perfect freedom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
 
For all's first responders who are helping people affected by Hurricane Harvey, that they would be competent in their duty and courageous in their tasks
 
For Brenda Blackwell, that the holy angels would surround her bed and that the peace that surpasses human understanding would be hers
 
For all those who travel professionally, that they would be kept safe and that their homecomings would be joyful
Art: BOTICELLI, Alesandro,  Augustine of Hippo (1480)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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