Who is your favorite Church Father? How do they encourage you to share the Gospel?

(SeanO) #1

Greetings, everyone. @andrew.bulin and I were discussing the impact the testimonies of the Church fathers can be for us, so I was hoping we could share our favorite Church father’s story (feel free to share stories of female leaders as well!) and how that encourages us to share the Gospel.

Origen is one of my favorite Church fathers because he encouraged his students to think outside the box and lived out the life that he taught. He had some eccentricities, but he encourages me to share the Gospel because he practiced what he preached and sought what I would consider an honest approach to engaging with Scripture, albeit influenced by his times and culture, that brought admiration from those with whom he shared the Gospel.

“Aside from these, he introduced his students to all the schools of philosophy so that they would not get stuck, before they had the capacity to judge, in any one set of opinions, or become too attached to any one teacher other than God and the prophets. Gregory also notes that in contrast to many philosophers of the day, Origen’s ethical teaching was primarily practical in nature, and that he taught even more by the example of his life than by words.”

(Jimmy Sellers) #2

John Chrysostom was born 349 AD and died 407 AD. During his life he was a deacon, the priest of Antioch, the Archbishop of Constantinople and in the end was exiled and died. He was known as the golden mouth because of his persuasive preaching style and because he spoke to the issues of the day (in my mind he would have many a very good Southern Baptist preacher). He preacher grace he called out sin he comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable. He has a great body of work that has survived him in the form of sermons, letters and yes, even commentaries. One article I read stated that he is one of the few church fathers whose sermon are still read today 1600 years after they were written,

and historian Hans von Campenhausen wrote that his sermons “are probably the only ones from the whole of Greek antiquity which … are still readable today as Christian sermons.

Here are a few excerpts from his sermons:

On the temporal gifts of God.

“It is foolishness and a public madness,” he once preached, “to fill the cupboards with clothing and allow men who are created in God’s image and our likeness to stand naked and trembling with the cold so that they can hardly hold themselves upright.… You are large and fat, you hold drinking parties until late at night, and sleep in a warm, soft bed. And do you not think of how you must give an account of your misuse of the gifts of God?”

On the importance of scripture as it applies to our daily life:

“Each of you take in hand that part of the Gospels which is to be read in your presence on the first day of the week. Sit down at home and read it through; consider often and carefully its content, and examine all its parts well, noting what is clear and what is confusing. From such zeal there will be no small benefit to you and to me.” (Interesting because it suggests that they had copies and that they could read)

On sin and repentance:

“Go into the church and wipe out your sin. As often as you fall down in the marketplace, you pick yourself up again. So too, as often as you sin, repent of your sin. Do not despair. Even if you sin a second time, repent a second time. Do not by indifference lose hope entirely of the good things prepared.
“Even if you are in extreme old age and have sinned, go in, repent! For here there is a physician’s office, not a courtroom. [The church] is not a place where punishment of sin is exacted, but where the forgiveness of sin is granted. Tell your sin to God alone: ‘Before you alone have I sinned, and I have done what is evil in your sight.’ And your sin will be forgiven you.”

On facing opposition:

“The waters are raging, and the winds are blowing, but I have no fear for I stand firmly upon a rock. What am I to fear? Is it death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Is it exile? The earth and everything it holds belongs to the Lord. Is it loss of property? I brought nothing into this world, and I will bring nothing out of it. I have only contempt for the world and its ways, and I scorn its honors.”

Another interesting point was that John was not impressed with “reason” alone as a means to evangelize, on that subject he said:

“Let us show forth then a new kind of life. Let us make earth, heaven; let us hereby show the Greeks of how great blessings they are deprived. For when they behold in us good conversation, they will look upon the very face of the kingdom of Heaven.… Thus they too will be reformed.… For not even a dead man raised so powerfully attracts the Greek as a person practicing self-denial.”

(SeanO) #3

@Jimmy_Sellers Great stuff! I was not aware that his sermons were so practical.

It was also a really interesting point that self-denial was effective in reaching Greeks - I would imagine Stoics in particular.

I will have to read more of Chrysostoms writing

(Jimmy Sellers) #4

One more nugget from John on he saw the role of the church as it stood against the pagans and the heretics.

“Our song leads us in the battle against the heretics, not to throw to the ground that which is standing upright, but to raise that which is lying prostrate. That is our kind of battle. It does not kill the living, but brings the dead to life.”

(SeanO) #5

@Jimmy_Sellers That is a very encouraging quote - especially during the turbulent times in which he lived - when debate over doctrine could cause people to do physical violence to one another (so contrary to what Christ Himself taught).

It is apparently said that after he was exiled and died on his way to his destination, Chrysostom’s last words were:

“δόξα τῷ θεῷ πάντων ἕνεκεν” (Glory be to God for all things)

Hard to say if these were genuinely his last words, but certainly his attitude seems to have honored Christ in the quotes you have provided.

(Jennifer Judson) #6

I’ve read excerpts here and there over the years from the Church Fathers, although I did read Augustine long ago and some Thomas Aquinas. But never put any serious time or study to it, though I know I should. Can you all recommend some good starting places? Books, articles, etc.

(SeanO) #7

@Jennifer_Judson The following article offers some suggestions for initial reading material and Litfin had a good reputation when I was at Moody (author of the linked book).

I think reading the Church Fathers is like hunting through the attic. There are lots of cobwebs and things that are outdated, but there are also treasures there if you go to the trouble to find them.

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #8

This is a fun topic. My favorite Church Fathers are Polycarp (Bishop of Smyrna) and Clement (Bishop of Rome). They encourage me since there are people recorded in history who knew the apostles personally. Polycarp was appointed by John, and Clement was appointed by Peter. Aside from that, their belief, like Clement’s letter to the Corinthians which talks about his certainty on the resurrection, and Polycarp’s willingness to be a martyr encourages me further in the truthfulness of my belief. This helps me in being able to share the gospel in every season, because no matter what may come my way, I could still stand due to the solid foundation that God has given me.

(SeanO) #9

@omnarchy Praise God indeed for the faithful who have gone before us and the solid foundation of the apostles and prophets!