Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mathetes 7 - A Divine Advent

This is a continuation of my series on Mathetes letter to Diognetus. If you are unfamiliar with Mathetes or his letter to Diognetus, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.

Mathetes tells us that the faith of the Christians is not simply another philosophy of men, nor does its message have its origin with men. Rather its message and its origin are divine, both delivered and taught by God, not my men.
"For, as I said, this was no mere earthly invention which was delivered to them, nor is it a mere human system of opinion, which they judge it right to preserve so carefully, nor has a dispensation of mere human mysteries been committed to them, but truly God Himself, who is almighty, the Creator of all things, and invisible, has sent from heaven, and placed among men, [Him who is] the truth, and the holy and incomprehensible Word, and has firmly established Him in their hearts." (Mathetes 7)
What makes the Christianity, and its message, so powerful is the origin of that message. That message originated within God and was sent to us by God that we might believe in His message and His messenger. The word, truth, and message of God is more than just words, it is a person. The truth of God is a person, that same person who was sent to us that we might believe Him and His message.

So whom did God send? We should not presume, as some may, that it was simply an angle, a spiritual potentate, or a heavenly ruler. No, the one whom God sent was the very creator of the world.
"He did not, as one might have imagined, send to men any servant, or angel, or ruler, or any one of those who bear sway over earthly things, or one of those to whom the government of things in the heavens has been entrusted, but the very Creator and Fashioner of all things—by whom He made the heavens—by whom he enclosed the sea within its proper bounds—whose ordinances all the stars faithfully observe—from whom the sun has received the measure of his daily course to be observed—whom the moon obeys, being commanded to shine in the night, and whom the stars also obey, following the moon in her course; by whom all things have been arranged, and placed within their proper limits, and to whom all are subject." (Mathetes 7)
This is what John meant when he said, "He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him." (John 1:10-11) The one who came to this world was the same one who created it. The one who brought us a message to hear was the same one who created the ears for hearing and the heart for believing. This was not simply another angle He sent, rather He sent a part of Himself, He sent His own Son.

Yet He sent Him, not as some might suppose, to force us to loyalty through fear, violence, or vengeance, but rather He sent Him in the spirit of forgiveness, meekness, and love.
"Was it then, as one might conceive, for the purpose of exercising tyranny, or of inspiring fear and terror? By no means, but under the influence of clemency and meekness. As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Saviour He sent Him, and as seeking to persuade, not to compel us; for violence has no place in the character of God. As calling us He sent Him, not as vengefully pursuing us; as loving us He sent Him, not as judging us. For He will yet send Him to judge us, and who shall endure His appearing?" (Mathetes 7)
God did not come as we supposed, but He came as Himself, full of clemency, meekness, calling us, and loving us. He proved Himself to be a God in which "violence has no place in His character."

Unfortunately, much the last part of this chapter is missing from our manuscripts, but Mathetes ends with this thought.
 "Do you not see them exposed to wild beasts, that they may be persuaded to deny the Lord, and yet not overcome? Do you not see that the more of them are punished, the greater becomes the number of the rest? This does not seem to be the work of man: this is the power of God; these are the evidences of His manifestation." (Mathetes 7)
Most of us today are unfamiliar with this type of persecution, though, in some part of the world, such persecution still exists. But what amazed the people of Mathetes' day was the Christians' response to such persecution. The did not shrink back, they did not deny their faith, and, in the face of such persecution, they just kept growing stronger and greater in numbers. Such is not the response of those who have believed upon a mere message of men. Such is the response of a message that has been born and carried along by God. Such is the very evidence of the manifestation of God.

David Robison

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