John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God Sermon 11 The Father and Son share one Glory One Power

Though considered the 11th sermon in the series, this sermon is in some ways a first even though it was second. Confused yet? It appears that this sermon was the second sermon that John Chrysostom preached in Constantinople after his appointment as bishop. After an introduction in which he encourages his hearers and alludes to some elements of his first sermon in Constantinople, the preacher delves into the subject matter rather conversationally (1-7).[1]

Would it be better to base argument on the Old Testament or the New? Chrysostom astutely observed that it would be better to start with the Old Testament. He reasons that using the Old Testament allows him to confront a greater number of heretics (8). In many ways his reasoning still applies today. Non-Christians are not going to be surprised if the New Testament speaks of the glory of Jesus. No one is surprised to find Ipads in an Apple store. But if the glory of Christ can be demonstrated from the Old Testament, it is an even more impressive argument apologetically speaking.

Chrysostom begins at the beginning with the statement “Let us make man in our own image” (12-13). By saying “Let us” the Father demonstrates that the Son is an equal part in the work of creation. The Father has no counselor: Scripture makes this clear. But to show the glory of the Son, Scripture calls him Wonderful Counselor. No man knows the mind of the Lord. No one knows the Father except the Son. The Father creates man in counsel with the Son.

Together they make man in the image of God.

…when God said: “Let us make man,” he did not add: “According to your image which is less than mine.” Nor did he say: “According to my image which is greater than yours. What did God say? “According to our image and likeness.” And by speaking in this way, he showed that there is a single image of the Father and the Son. (23-24)

Chrysostom supports this assertion of equal power and glory with some careful exegesis. He notes to sit on a throne demonstrates power and glory, while to stand at a throne demonstrates the mark of a subordinate waiting for orders (25). So the Old Testament several times makes mention of the myriad of hosts attending the throne.[2] The Son is not one of these countless ministers to the Lord. The Son is seated with the Father, sharing in one glory.

Chrysostom concludes in his customary fashion: a pastoral exhortation. The preacher encourages his hearers not to forsake the assembly. Church[3] is where believers are fed by the word of the Lord (30). The gathering of the church is to be valued above all earthly treasure, there is nothing more valuable (31-33). The mere attendance is an encouragement to believers and a shame to the enemies of the cross (33-37). The habit of gathering serves to encourage other believers to faithfulness. When Christians see other members of the church lax in their attendance it is discouraging to them and might lead them to stop attending as well. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is what the church is: the body of Christ. As its head, Christ is always present when his church gathers. But where is his body?

Therefore, do not let the head to be allowed to set foot in this sacred place without its body, let not the body be seen without its head, but let whole human beings come in, head and body… (39)

[1] All paragraph references refer to those in Paul W. Harkins, St John Chrysostom On the Incomprehensible Nature of God (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1984).

[2] Dan. 7:9-10; Is. 6:1-2; 1 Kings 22:19

[3] By “church” I mean the gathered assembly of believers to worship the Lord and edify one another.

The Importance of the church part 5: Why should I be faithful to the church?

Previous posts in this little series on the importance of the church have addressed: the fact of its importance- providing several patristic quotations indicating those who are not a part of the church cannot be saved. Then we had three posts on the nature of the church: what it is. It is the body of Christ, the building of God, the “place “the Spirit blesses. The next several posts will transition from foundational to motivational reasons for faithful church membership.

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. Matthew 16:18

God and the forces of hell are engaged in constant warfare. It is not eternal because it has not always existed, and it not always will: so it is persistent, but not eternal. If the Bible is to believed, and I think that is always a good place to start. Satan is actually somewhat successful in his campaign against the Lord of hosts. He is so successful in fact, that the entire world is going to be dissolved in fervent heat (2 Peter 3:10). God wins, but he does so be completely destroying this creation and making it anew.

In college I often heard the only things on earth that are eternal are the souls of men and the word of God. The cliché left out one important thing though: the church. If Jesus is to believed, and, again, I think that is always a very good place to start, the church will never fail. The church will not die. There is no other group, institution, nation, any kind of any collection of any people in all the world that has this promise.

Denominations will fail. If Luther or Wesley walked into one of “their” churches today each would probably leave in fit of rage. Denominations will fail. Jesus did not promise to build a denomination. He promised to build his church.

Schools and seminaries will fail. Did you know that almost every single Ivy League School started as an institution to train men for the ministry? Why are none of them faithful to Scripture any longer? Because Jesus promised to build his church, not a school.

Conferences will whither up and blow away. Whether the Student Volunteer Movement, Promise Keepers, or Together for the Gospel. Jesus did not promise to build a conference. He promised to build a church.

Your radio stations, TV networks, blogs (!), will all end in emptiness. Jesus did not promise to build a media conglomerate. Jesus promised to build a church.

Your bands, actors, movies, comedians, will all perform their last and be remembered no more. Jesus did not promise to build an entertainment empire. HE promised to build a church.

It is rumored that somewhere in the hidden recesses of man’s nobility there is a desire for things that matter, a life that matters, a life that makes a difference with lasting impact. It is the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90:17,  “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” Establish the work of our hands. If this is your prayer, if you want a life that matters, Jesus has already given you the answer. It is a promise. “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Do you want a successful life? Do what Jesus is doing. The kingdom of Jesus will last. Yours will not.