In Further Defense of the Faith

This is a follow-up to my post written two weeks ago, entitled Defenders of the Faith, which was our first look at one of the greatest defenders of the faith, St. Augustine, from his book The City of God. It was written at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire – both to strengthen the faith of the Christians within Rome and the immediate vicinity, and to help them find answers to why they suffered the experience of oppression by that same imperium.

Augustine often writes in a series of questions that had concerned those of faith, as well as expositions against the Romans’ behaviors towards the believers. Many of these topics are just as germane today as they were then.

One question, for example, was the fate of the souls of Christian women that were raped by either the Romans or the barbarian conquerors. Obviously, the answer to this would be timeless – applying to anyone forced to commit an immoral act. Augustine answered it thusly:

…the virtue which makes the life good has its throne in the soul, and thence rules the members of the body, which becomes holy in virtue of the holiness of the will; and that while the will remains firm and unshaken, nothing that another person does with the body, or upon the body, is any fault of the person who suffers it, so long as he cannot escape it without sin.

…the sanctity of the body is preserved, because the will to use it holily, remains…

“Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or were the upright ever cut off?” Job 4:7 NKJV

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors though Him who loved us. Rm. 8:35 – 37. NKJV

We are innocent of anything we are forced to do against our will. Our soul remains pure in this trauma, separate from the flesh. Furthermore, there is no one who can stand up to He who lives in us, and He brings no charges against us.

In addition, according to Augustine, there were Christians that were so afraid of being violated in any manner by the pagans, that they would take their own lives so that they would remain ‘pure’ in the eyes of God. BIG MISTAKE. Augustine elucidates:

…he who kills himself is a homicide, and so much the guiltier of his own death, as he was more innocent of that offense for which he doomed himself to die.

He gives the example of Judas, who after hanging himself, had removed any chance for repentance, and thus was doomed to eternal death. Augustine then reminds his audience that there is nowhere in the entire Bible where they are given a license to kill themselves. Indeed, it is a violation of the 6th of the Ten Commandments, that one of against committing murder, as he explains:

The commandment is, “Thou shalt not kill man;” therefore, neither another or yourself, for he who kills himself still kills nothing else but man…those who die by their own hand have no better life after death.

You cannot sin to avoid sinning…

Augustine continues to a new question by writing about pagans who ask the Christians why their God doesn’t rescue them from oppression.

Sometimes life is hard. Many times we can’t explain it. That’s usually because we can’t see God’s big picture. But we can take comfort in knowing that He will deliver His faithful children out of their trials within the framework of His right timing:

And we know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Rm. 8:28 NLT

Augustine also explains to believers how to answer the scoffers when their life conditions are less than stellar:

The whole family of God, most high and most true, has therefore a consolation of its own – a consolation which cannot deceive, and which has in it a surer hope that the tottering and falling affairs of earth can afford. They will not refuse the discipline of this temporal life, in which they are schooled for life eternal; nor will they lament their experience of it, for the good things of earth they use as pilgrims who ate not detained by them, and its ills either prove or improve them.

You know that people who sin, love to have others sin with them – primarily for self-justification. That’s exactly what’s at the root of the Roman unbelievers’ line of questioning, trying to get the Christians to turn their backs on their faith, and join in with their licentious behavior. Augustine calls them out on it:

…why in your calamities do you complain of Christianity, unless because you desire to enjoy your luxurious license unrestrained, and to lead an abandoned and profligate life without the interruption of any uneasiness or disaster…your purpose rather is run riot in an endless variety of sottish pleasures, and thus to generate from your prosperity a moral pestilence which will prove a thousand fold more disastrous than our fiercest of enemies.

And yet, Augustine finishes by saying that God is still waiting for them to come to Him:

And that you are yet alive is due to God, who spares you that you may be admonished to repent and reform your lives.

Isn’t that God’s plea to everyone?

Augustine then reminds the Romans that Rome was beginning to crumble long before Christ was incarnated. Afterwards, he picks on their many ‘gods’ that never held their worshippers to higher moral values, never extolled virtue, and likened them to Greek philosophers, of whom he said:

…the teachings of the philosophers are not the commandments of gods, but the discoveries of men…

The result?

Here, then, is this Roman republic, “which has changed little by little from the faith and virtuous city it was, and has become utterly wicked and dissolute.” (He is quoting an author who wrote about Rome long before Christ’s coming.)

Then, Augustine contrasts the sorry state of Rome with the kingdom of God:

…true justice has no existence save in that republic whose founder and ruler is Christ…the city of which Holy Scripture says, “Glorious things are said of thee, O city of God.” (Ps. 87:3)

In addition, he pulls no punches with respect to who the ‘gods’ are that the Romans worship:

as Scripture informs us, and as the facts themselves sufficiently indicate, the demons are found to look after their own ends only, that they may be regarded and worshiped as gods, and that men may be induced to offer to them a worship which associated them with their crimes, and involves them in one common wickedness and judgment of God.

And yet, Augustine doesn’t forget His Christian duty to evangelize, even to lost souls such as these:

Choose now what you will pursue, that your praise may not be in yourself, but in the true God, in whom there is no error…Do not listen to those degenerate sons of yours who slander Christ and Christians…Lay hold now on the celestial country, which is easily won, and in which you will reign truly and forever…No longer then, follow after false and deceitful gods…Gods they are not, but malignant spirits…Awake more fully: the majesty of God cannot be propitiated by that which defiles the dignity of man…Incomparably more glorious than Rome is that heavenly city in which for victory you have truth; for dignity, holiness; for peace, felicity; for life, eternity.

Wow. What can we take from this? First, there is evil in the world, and it uses people (who are willing), to do us harm. If that harm is forced upon us, and it transgresses the word of God, our integrity is not broken in His eyes. The forceful perpetrator however, has a really heavy price to pay:

“But whoever causes on of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he drowned in the depths of the sea.” Mt. 18:6 NKJV

God is our judge. We do our best to live by His word. We have the blood of Jesus that cleanses us. If we fall into the muck because of our own devices, we can confess and repent. Jesus doesn’t turn anyone away. We don’t ever have to live in shame.

We know that life has its knocks. But if we have faith, God is making all the right decisions for us. As long as we’re walking on God’s path, He is bringing us to an eternal perfection, the potential of which, we can share with anyone else who has yet to understand the promise of the kingdom.

We can make our faith and faith-based behavior inspirational to those who have yet to grab a hold of the joy of knowing Jesus Christ, and we must be willing to share His promise of salvation, even to the most worldly-seasoned people – remembering that we all once walked that road…

Goodnight and God bless.

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We Have So Much to Be Thankful For

In every aspect of our lives, we can find a plethora of things to be thankful for. First, we can look around at the world we live in – the land, the sea, the heavens and all the wonders that occupy them. God fashioned all of this universe for you, custom tailor-made so that you could thrive in it, and then He gave it to you and made you a steward over it:

 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. Gn. 2:15 NKJV

 Furthermore, He blesses us for that endeavor:

 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…” Gn. 1:28 NKJV

 God loves us through His blessings, whereby we become favored with talent and abundance, which helps us to prosper both spiritually and physically:

 It is the LORD that makes rich, and He add no sorrow to it. Pr. 10:22 NASB

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places… Eph. 1:3 ESV

 Everything looks peachy right? But our humanity gets in the way.

 God made us in His Spiritual image; but in the flesh, we are weak. Many times, we transgress the word of God, which imparts death to the impenitent. God knows that we are weak, and is acutely aware of the consequences of sin, which is a separation from Him. He loves us so much that He can’t bear to be apart from us. And so, He gave us a written manual (Bible,) and gave up His only begotten Son, so that He could grant us clemency. We can be forever thankful for that path which opens the doors of eternity:

 “…if My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin…” 2 Chr. 7:14 NKJV

 …he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Pr. 28:13 ESV

 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins.” Is. 43:25 NKJV

 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free… Gal. 5:1 NKJV

 And, God chose you for this ultimate salvation before you were born:

 …God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth… 2 Thess. 2:13 NKJV

 Moreover, God sent His Son to be with you in every moment; and He keeps watch as well:

 “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Mt. 28:20 ESV

 “For the eyes of the LORD are [looking favorably] upon the righteous (the upright), and His ears are attentive to their prayer (eager to answer)…” 1 Pt. 3:12 AMP

 However, as we can all attest, life has its valleys as well. Can we be thankful during our trials and tribulations? Is God even present in the hard times? Job had similar doubts:

 “Why do You hide Your face [as if offended] and consider me Your enemy?” Job 13:24 AMP

 And yet, God never acts like that with regards to the suffering of His children. He had us on His loving radar before we were born and remains with us still:

 For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and that my soul knows very well…And in your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. Ps. 139:13, 14 & 16. NKJV

 From my mother’s womb You have been my God. Ps. 22:10 NKJV

 How precious are you to God in this life? 

 “…the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Mt. 10:30 NKJV

 And you’ll be precious still, when you make your transition to eternity:

 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. Ps. 116:15 NKJV

 God understands us because we were made in His image, and He knows what we go through because He submitted His Son to the same trials and tribulations. Thus, God can relate to our various lots in life: 

 In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. Is. 63:9 NASB

 The LORD said, “I have in fact seen the affliction (suffering, desolation) of My people…for I know their pain and suffering.” Ex. 3:7 AMP

 For it was fitting for God [that is, an act worthy of His divine nature] that He, for whose sake are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the author and founder of their salvation perfect through suffering [bringing to maturity the human experience necessary for Him to be perfectly equipped for His office as High Priest]. Heb. 2:10 AMP

 God empathizes with your sufferings, even though He knows that human suffering is not from Him; but is brought about by:

 1) the sufferer him or herself:

 A prudent man sees evil and hides himself and avoids it, but the naive [who are easily misled] continue on and are punished [by suffering the consequences of sin]. Pr. 27:12 AMP 

 2) serendipity: 

 …the race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, or bread to the wise, or riches to the discerning, or favor to the skillful; rather, time and chance happen to all of them. Eccl. 9:11 CSB

 Or finally, 3) satanic influence: 

 So the great dragon was thrown out – the ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth… Rv. 12:9 CSB

 Regardless of how your suffering came to be, God stands ready to help: 

 ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Is. 41:10 NASB

 God will guide you out of your circumstances. He makes manifest your hope for victory, even if it seems like the time it takes for that to occur is elongated, (yet it is perfect within the timing of God’s plans):

 The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” Ps. 32:8 NLT

 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [healing the pain and comforting their sorrows]. Ps. 147:3 AMP

 “Write the vision…so that the one who reads it will run. For the vision is yet for the appointed future time. It hurries toward the goal [of fulfillment]; it will not fail. Even though it delays, wait [patiently] for it, because it will certainly come; it will not delay.” Hab. 2:2, 3. AMP

 Remember, that God’s ultimate aim is for all His children to be rid of suffering forever: 

 “…and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be death; there will no longer be sorrow and anguish or crying, or pain…” Rv. 21:4 AMP

God delivers us from all our afflictions in life all. We can be thankful in every moment for that. 

 We can also show our gratitude to God for meeting our every need: 

 And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19 AMP

 “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” Mt. 21:22 NASB

 In fact, we can give thanks to our Creator just for the joy of being here: 

 This is the day which the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Ps. 118:24 NASB

 Think of how much He loves you: 

 “The LORD your God is in your midst, the Mighty One will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph. 3:17 NKJV

 …thus says the LORD:…I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them.” Jer. 32:42. 

 How about a little gratitude for His faithfulness: 

 “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…” Dt. 7:9 ESV

 “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Is. 40:8 NKJV

 We can also be thankful that God moves any mountains in our path: 

 “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Mt. 19:26 NASB

 Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more that all we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us… Eph. 3:20 AMP

 We can depend upon God as well because He comes to our defense: 

 “…for I will contend with the one who contends with you…” Is. 49:25 NASB

 “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity…” 1 Kin. 1:29 ESV

 And can be grateful for the peace that ensues:

 …do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:6, 7. ESV

 Even if life seems static and monotonous, we can be grateful that God is transforming us inwardly every day to become more like His Son:

 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Cor. 3:18 NKJV

 Why the transformation? It’s because God is preparing you a place in heaven through His Son: 

 “In My Father’s house are many mansions…I go to prepare a place for you.” Jn. 14:2 NKJV

 The only thing that stands in our way is the devil, but God’s got that handled: 

 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Col. 1:13, 14. NKJV

 Remember that all of these wonderful things that God provides can only be received if we have faith. And God sees to it that if we seek Him, He will render it to us: 

 God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Rm. 12:3 NASB

 How long can God’s gift of faith strengthen our hope?

 Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations… Ps. 119:89, 90. NASB

 And how do we seal our guarantee? 

 …if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Rm. 10:9 NKJV

 We can be so thankful that everything God provides us with is a result of the grace He so lovingly delivers: 

 …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Rm. 3:23 – 25. ESV

 Happy Thanksgiving! 

 

Goodnight and God bless. 

Defenders of the Faith

Who are defenders of the faith? They are those who do their best to spread the gospel of salvation to the unsaved masses, those who take a loving stand against all that is ungodly – with the hope that the perpetrators of ungodliness may be saved, and finally, those who study, teach and / or preach the word of God in its pure form, to drive any potential heresy away, so that the first two aforementioned groups are properly armed with the Truth for their godly endeavors.

 We have recently completed a 7-part study of a 13th century monk, Thomas Aquinas, who was a great example of a defender of the faith. Now, let’s look at Aquinas’s theological inspiration (besides the Holy Spirit), which was a 5th century monk of at least equal renown and Holy Spirit-inspiration, St. Augustine of Hippo, from his book: The City of God, translated by Marcus Dods, D.D.

 He was the author of 113 books and 218 letters. His longest work is The City of God, meant to fortify Christianity in the Roman Empire, which took 15 years to write, begun in 413 A.D. This was just after the city of Rome (referred to as the ‘Eternal City’) was plundered by the Visigoths. 

 Simultaneously, Rome was also crumbling under the weight of overspending on multitudinous military campaigns to increase the size of its empire. Many of the wealthier citizens migrated to more rural settings to escape the extreme taxation that the spending depended upon, which also reduced Rome’s coffers.  

 As the empire expansion was no longer able to sustain itself, the heretofore forcefully inducted slave labor from their various conquests were no longer available, resulting in a labor shortage that reduced Rome’s exports, also driving down the economy. 

 In addition, the eastern and western divisions of the Roman Empire became embattled as to how the empire should be run, and they divided. 

 As with any government, the Roman Empire was excessively corrupt and ineffective. 

 Because soldiers died in so many battles, the military hired barbarian mercenaries to bolster their army, which diluted the capability of the highly-trained Roman soldiers – making victories hard to come by. 

 Also, at this time, Christianity began to spread in the empire, (thanks to the help of the Roman emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion in Rome in 337 A.D.), which stood in stark contrast to the Roman ways of thinking and acting. Subsequently, Christians became the ‘crux of Rome’s problems,’ or at least that is where the blame was laid. The Romans blamed their declining lot on the Christians for serving their God rather than the ‘Roman gods.’

 It is in this atmosphere that Augustine begins defending the faith…

 …we must speak also of the earthly city, which, though it be mistress of the nations, is itself ruled by its lust of rule. 

 Thus, the Roman Empire (the ‘earthy city’) had come full circle, to acutely resemble the fallen state of man on the earth during the days of Noah:

 The [population of the] earth was corrupt [absolutely depraved – spiritually and morally putrid] in God’s sight, and the land was filled with violence [desecration, infringement, outrage, assault, and lust for power]. Gn. 6:11 AMP

 God puts in place every government that has ruled this world. Augustine suggests to the Romans that it would be far better for them to consider that instead of blaming external elements (opposing armies, vengeance of their gods, etc.), they would be far better served to see the hand of God in their situation as a benevolent force to get them to turn their lives around: 

 They ought rather, had they any right perceptions, to attribute the severities and hardships inflicted by their enemies, to that divine Providence which is wont to reform the depraved manners of men by chastisement…these ungrateful men who blasphemously impute to Christ the calamities which they deservedly suffer in consequence of their own wicked ways, while that which for Christ’s sake spared them in spite of their wickedness…

 God is always working on all people to bring them to the right path:

 So that godless men would not rule nor be snares for the people. “For has anyone said to God, ‘I have endured my chastisement; I will not offend anymore; teach me what I do not see [in regard to how I have sinned]; if I have done wrong (injustice, unrighteousness), I will not do it again?’ Job. 34:30 – 32. AMP

 We see God’s compassion throughout history, giving chance after chance: 

Nevertheless, my eye spared them, and I did not destroy them or make a full end of them… Ezek. 20:17 ESV

 Yet they are spared for only a time – a time in which to change from their ways:

 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness…because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. Rom. 1:18 – 20. NKJV

 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting…who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death… Rom. 1:28 & 32.

 God has given everyone an inherent knowing of Him, in both themselves and in the creations around them. Furthermore, by this time, Rome has had the gospel preached to them for at least 100 years.

 So, there is an infinite penalty for unrepentant ungodliness. Yet, Augustine then tries to show the Romans the fairness in the equity that God practices for the righteous and unrighteous alike:

 …nevertheless does the patience of God still invite the wicked to repentance, even as the scourge of God educates the good to patience. And so too, does the mercy of God embrace the good that it may cherish them, as the severity of God arrests the wicked to punish them. To the divine Providence it has seemed good to prepare in the world to come for the righteous good things, which the unrighteous shall not enjoy; and for the evil wicked things, by which the good shall not be tormented.

 But as for the good things in this life, and its ills, God has willed that it be common to both; that we might not too eagerly covet the things which wicked men are seen equally to enjoy, nor shrink with an unseemly fear from the ills which even good men often suffer.

Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both adversity (misfortune) and good (prosperity, happiness) proceed? Lam. 3:38 AMP

 Augustine is saying that life has its trials and tribulations and it is not a respecter of persons. Everyone is subject to them. It is how we let them mold us that is important. Do we embrace God and His ways, or do we turn our back on Him and follow our flesh? We can see that the ultimate outcome has vey stark differences; and for the rebellious, there is a literal hell to pay.

 Moreover, those who deny God and His ways, create a profound difference within themselves, that without repentance, invites the wrath of God. Augustine puts it like this:

 …though good and bad men suffer alike, we must not suppose that there is no difference between the men themselves, because there is no difference in what they both suffer. For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing…And thus it is in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise.

 To contrast the citizens of the earthy city to those of the city of God, Augustine spoke of how the Romans were distraught and depressed over their lack of worldly items when the Visigoths sacked the city of Rome; whereas those of the Christian faith who had lost their worldly goods as well could take solace in the truth that ‘the will of the Lord is their great possession…they have discovered by the pain of losing these things how much they were sinning in loving them.’  

 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. Job 1:21 NKJV

 Augustine then begins to answer what appears to be many questions put to him from Roman inquisitors. The first is whether or not one’s ‘length’ of life has any significance. His response fosters food for thought:

 …the end of life puts the longest life on a par with the shortest…death is not to be judged an evil which is the end of a good life; for death becomes evil only by the retribution which follows it…into what place death will usher them.

 Again, this is a great case for getting right with God before that day comes.

 And so, we begin a journey with one of the greatest defenders of the faith…

 

Goodnight and God bless.

What Does Faith Guarantee?

This post is the seventh and final look at the Holy Spirit-inspired theology of Thomas Aquinas. I hope that you have enjoyed the richness of his insights…

What does faith guarantee? The application of it results in unwavering hope:

Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality – faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]. Heb. 11:1 AMP

Hope is based on faith in things unseen. Aquinas puts it this way: …even when we have faith, there still remains in the soul an impulse toward something else, namely, the perfect vision of the truth assented to in faith…among the various teachings of faith there is one according to which we believe that God exercises providence over human affairs. In consequence of that belief, stirrings of hope arise in the soul…

After all, we could not have hope if we did not have faith in that God cares about us, and that His word is inviolate (where we search to strengthen that hope):

…by two unchangeable things [His promise and His oath] in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled [to Him] for refuge would have strong encouragement and indwelling strength to hold tightly to the hope set before us. Heb. 6:18 AMP

We exercise this hope in prayer – a necessary exercise in order to petition God for having our hope fulfilled. It is a divine conversation between His Spirit and our soul:

“Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.” Mt. 7:7 AMP

Christ Himself gave us a template for prayer content, (commonly referred to as the ‘Lord’s prayer’), for constructing a powerfully effective way to convey our hope to our Father, wrapped in our faith that Jesus, the Author and Finisher of that faith, so generously laid upon us.

We can bathe in our hope, assured in our faith that God can and will answer our prayers if we do our best to walk in His ways:

Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. Is. 59:1 NLT

The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. James 5:16 CSB

So, because prayer is so important, Aquinas offers his insights as to why Jesus choose His particular script for praying:

“Our Father in heaven…” Mt. 6:9 NKJV

Firstly, we consider God as our Father because we are His children:

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ… Rm. 8:16, 17.

And if we are also heirs, then there must be a divine endowment:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept in the power of God through faith for salvation… 1 Pt. 3 – 5. NKJV

If that’s not a hope-builder, I don’t know what it.

Approaching God as our ‘Father’ also brings a declaration of our intimacy with Him, which increases our hope through our prayer:

…He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being…’For we are also His offspring.’ Acts 17:27, 28. NKJV

And we say ‘our’ Father as opposed to ‘my’ Father, so that our prayers include our brothers and sisters in Christ:

…we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Rm. 12:5 NKJV

In that same opening sentence, we include ‘in heaven,’ to remind us how BIG our God is, that there is nothing that He cannot accomplish. It also brings to the fore that our petitions must align with God’s heavenly words if they are to be answered. Finally, we recognize that our prayers come before God in heaven itself – where they stay.

“…your name be honored as holy.” Mt. 6:9 CSB

This being the second half of the first prayer sentence, is befitting the first of the Ten Commandments – to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. It is a demonstration of our reverential esteem for our Creator. It also reminds us to honor our ‘Great Commission’ by bringing the gospel to as many as we can – both by speaking it and by being a living example of the best holiness that we can muster, thereby glorifying God.

“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Mt. 6:10 CSB

This is a petition of hope that we might share in the glory of God’s kingdom – the presence of which brings happiness and peace that transcends anything the world has to offer and is incorruptible and only made possible by forming a union with our Creator. It is an attainment of our divine perfection that is reflected in and eternal joy-filled life.

In that final state, we shall rest in immeasurable abundance, goodness and sanctuary:

“…all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.” Pr. 1:33 NLT

Thomas Aquinas rested with the Lord before he could finish Short Summa, (which would have undoubtedly contained the remainder of the Lord’s prayer), but the can be thankful for the blessings he left.

What he did leave us with was citations of these last two scriptures, which lovingly bolsters our faith and hope in that we can choose to be in God’s kingdom and He will make it so…

“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.” Lk. 12:32 NLT

I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place and I will do all my will. Is. 46:10 CSB

Goodnight and God bless.

The Need for Christ

I hope that you are enjoying our foray through pieces of Thomas Aquinas’ Shorter Summa, this version being translated by Cyril Volkert, S.J. – this present post being the sixth in our examination.

The need for Christ actually began in the Garden of Eden…

Aquinas’ sets the stage: …man was originally constituted by God in such a condition that his body was completely subject to his soul.

Adam’s soul was a pure image of God, and thus his body was incorruptible – innocent before God, living in a harmony given by God. Aquinas’ refers to Adam’s state at this juncture, as ‘Original Justice,’ and it was to be promulgated through his successive descendants.

This however, was entirely contingent upon humanity’s continual obedience to God.

When Adam and Even broached God’s commandment not to eat the forbidden fruit, they transgressed the purpose of the prohibition, which was to remain obedient to God. The fruit itself was just the symbol of obedience, as long as it remained uneaten.

The affixed outcome was that our first parents were both exposed to evil and generated it themselves through their actions.

Satan was the agent behind their downfall. He, who had already succumbed to sin, was jealous of the high position that God held Adam and Eve in – whereby they possessed ultimate love, peace, happiness and immorality. But the devil also knew that they had been given free will. Thus, they had the potential to sin. Knowing this, Satan made preparations to thrust a spiritual dagger into God’s heart.

He promised Eve great, heretofore unknown, knowledge that would place her on a high station – supposedly level with God Himself. She then succumbed to her pride and covetousness, and fell under his sway.

Adam did not have the luxury of feigning ignorance. He was intimately acquainted with God and His dictates. He purposely transgressed them to feed his pride and covetousness as well.

In the very moment that they disobeyed God, their flesh was cut loose from the perfection of their soul and became corruptible, beginning the battle between the flesh and the spirit – ultimately resulting in death.

Moreover, they were separated from God and became more vulnerable to the devil’s suggestions.

All of these traits were handed down to all of us, and sin became rampant. Gone was the blessing of ‘Original Justice’ – replaced by the corruption of the ‘Original Sin.’

Unlike other sins, this original sin cannot be removed by man alone, regardless of the vigor of his repentance.

Yet God loves us so much that He made a way for our redemption, so that we may be reunited with Him. First, because God is just, He must mete out justice for sin. Someone had to pay for our sins. And so, God sent a part of Himself in His Son for HIs children’s justification and redemption:

No one has gone up to heaven, but there is One who came down from heaven, the Son of Man [Himself – whose home is in heaven]…so must the Son of Man be lifted up [on the cross], so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life [after physical death, and will actually live forever]. For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes and has decided to trust in Him [as personal Savior and Lord] is not judged [for this one, there is no judgment, no rejection, no condemnation]… Jn. 3:13 – 18. AMP

Aquinas adds this: …divine Wisdom, who had made man, took to Himself a bodily nature and visited man immersed in things of the body, so that by the mysteries of His bodily life He might recall man to spiritual life. Furthermore, the human race had need that God should become man to show forth the dignity of human nature, so that man might not be subjugated either by devils or by things of the body.

Jesus is our ideal example of everything God meant us to be.

That Christ took upon Himself our likeness is born out in the demonstration of His having had a soul, which displayed human-like moments of fear and sadness:

He was hated and men would have nothing to do with Him, a man of sorrows and suffering, knowing sadness well. Is. 53:3 NKJV

“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I came to this hour.” Jn. 12:37 NKJV

And yet Jesus is unique, because He possesses a soul, body and is part of the Godhead, (His divinity). He came to make us (those who willing choose to be) one with Him, through His salvation. God imputed to Jesus His divinity, whereas Mary imparted His human nature.

We see the divinity expressed in Christ through His miracles and His omniscience. Remember that Jesus is the Word of God:

For the word of God is living and powerful…and is a discerner or the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Heb. 4:12, 13. NKJV

In His humanness, Jesus had to be the perfect sinless Man, to be suitable as the Source of our salvation:

He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness]. 2 Cor. 5:21 AMP

His divinity also conferred upon Him His veracious wisdom and the grace of His Father, to make us pleasing to God, as well as to be unified with Him.

…Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Cor. 1:24 NLT

…Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge [regarding the word and purposes of God]. Col. 2:2, 3. AMP

Going back to the fact that Jesus had to be sinless, He would have to be free of the ‘Original Sin’ as well. And that original sin was passed down to us by the seed of Adam through the seeds of all men:

…through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation… Rm. 5:18 NKJV

Therefore, Christ could not appropriate any flesh instigated by the corrupt seed of man. Thus, God, who is the creator of all nature, supernaturally appropriated Jesus’ flesh through the Holy Spirit. As well, that flesh had to be appropriated from a woman, as she is the flesh-giver in maternity. And not just any woman, but one untainted by the male seed – a virgin – energized to conceive by the Holy Spirit:

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son… Is. 7:14 NKJV

In order for Mary to be the perfect vessel for Christ, she herself would have to have been sanctified before the Holy Spirit stirred her flesh to bring forth life. Aquinas asserts that she must have been sanctified when she was in the womb, similarly to the prophet Jeremiah, which God revealed to him when He called Jeremiah to preach:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you…” Jer. 1:5 NKJV

God is ultimate justice. His charge against man demands ultimate and pure justifying satisfaction. That can only be satisfied by the sacrifice of one on His level, and there is only one – Jesus. God had to offer a part of Himself (Christ) to exact payment. Jesus willingly took on a mortal body to do so – to become potentially ‘sin-like’ (yet sinless):

There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death…by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us… Rm. 8:1 – 4. ESV

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us… Gal. 3:13 NKJV

Jesus stepped up to endure the sufferings that we rightly should have to endure – even death, though He Himself was faultless. He chose to die so that we might live a godly life, and to show us that there need be no fear in dying, because He’ll be waiting.

Adam sinned at the tree, Jesus was hung on one. When He died, His body-soul connection was severed; His body was indeed dead. However, both were still connected to the Spirit of Christ. Jesus’s soul then descended into hell:

“…so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Mt. 12:40 NKJV

Aquinas states that Jesus was freeing all the people in hell that were there solely because of the stain of the ‘original sin’ – establishing Him as the Savior of the living and the dead.

Christ was risen glorified and immortal. His sufferings brought us grace which means the atonement of sins for those who accept Him as their Savior.

Our glorified Savior showed Himself to many after His resurrection, where He was seen, touched, conversed with, shared meals with, passing through walls, and brandishing the scars of His impalement upon the cross.

What Christ’s followers gain, is freedom from the first death (body-soul separation) and from the second (separation from God, which is solely for those who refused Christ). Thus, we get both a physical and spiritual resurrection from the gift of Christ’s life, given for us, rendering us justified and sanctified.

Jesus is a lot bigger than we think:

“No one has gone up into heaven, but there is One who came down from heaven, the Son of Man [Himself – whose home is in heaven].” Jn. 3:13 AMP

Christ is like His Father, ever-present, everywhere. He was in heaven, hell and on the earth simultaneously.

At the end of time, all peoples are brought before the judgment seat of Christ – whose authority to judge is given by God:

“…He has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is a Son of Man [sinless humanity, qualifying Him to sit in judgment over mankind].” Jn. 5:27 AMP

Christ will appear in all His glory – a joy to His saints, a harbinger of dread to those that rebelled against Him. Everyone will answer for how they conducted their lives. Those who lived a life of faith will be with Jesus, rewarded for how they advanced the kingdom. The faithless will be sifted out for eternal punishment – never to see God, Jesus, or any goodness forever.

Jesus is with us in every aspect of our lives. All the good is found in Him. We need Christ…

Goodnight and God bless.