Sin Forgiven: Nourishment for Life and Joy for Living

Monday, 20th September 2021
Image: sin-forgiven-nourishment-for-life-and-joy-for-living

By Davy Ellison

For a long time I found the Church Fathers unappealing. I struggled to pronounce their names, was unable to read Latin and the dust in the section of the library their works were to be found often triggered sneezing fits. But my avoidance of them diminished my Christian life. The Church Fathers are vitally important. They are the link between the apostolic era and the rest of church history. Moreover, they shaped key aspects of church life.

Dr Michael Haykin has therefore greatly served the church by writing Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church (Crossway, 2011). After reminding us that “during the course of the Patristic era there is little doubt that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper or, as it is more commonly called in this era, the Eucharist became a central aspect of the worship of the church” (p. 93), Haykin introduces two Church Fathers and their thinking on communion. The reminder in communion of sin forgiven, they argue, is nourishment for life and joy for living.

Cyprian: Otherworldly Joy

First, Haykin introduces Cyprian of Carthage (Tunisia). He was born about 210 AD and died about 258 AD. While little is known about Cyprian prior to his conversion, it is clear that he grew up in a wealthy family and enjoyed a privileged lifestyle. However, it seems that he became increasingly dissatisfied with the luxuries and privileges provide by such an upbringing. Around the same time that this disillusionment with earthly pleasures began to unsettle Cyprian he befriended an older man who served as an elder in the Christian community in Carthage.

Through this friendship Cyprian heard the gospel, was convicted of sin, and experienced conversion. He soon became a catechumen (a learner of the Christian faith). Cyprian was bright and intelligent. Within a couple of years of his conversion and baptism he was appointed Bishop of Carthage. Cyprian was now a leading voice in North African Christianity.

For Cyprian communion proved to be a conduit for spiritual wisdom. By this he meant that partaking of communion called men and women from their infatuation with earthly pleasures toward an infatuation with Jesus Christ. Spiritual wisdom reminded one that there is something greater than the pleasures of here and now: sin forgiven.

For the Christian who strives to live a faithful life participating in communion is imperative. As a variety of freedoms, joys and pleasures clamour for our attention and affections, seeking to distract us from the good portion, we need nourishment to strengthen our resolve. Cyprian of Carthage would have us remember that participating in communion points us to otherworldly joy. This spiritual wisdom aids us in our faithfulness.

Ambrose: Tangible Intimacy

Second, Haykin introduces Ambrose of Milan (Italy). He was born sometime between 337 and 340 AD and died about 397 AD. Like Cyprian, Ambrose was aristocratic; unlike Cyprian, Ambrose was heavily involved in the political scene. Prior to being appointed the Bishop of Milan he was the provincial governor. The switch from politician to churchman was a difficult one for Ambrose, exacerbated by his lack of formal theological training.

Despite these difficulties, however, Ambrose contributed to Christian thinking regarding communion. Similarly to Cyprian, Ambrose argued that there should be exuberant joy in the Christian’s observance of communion. In fact, he considered participating in communion as pure joy. The reason for the joy that accompanies partaking of the bread and wine is the reminder of sin forgiven.

Ambrose pushed this a little further than Cyprian, however. Sin forgiven results in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Attempting to illustrate this intimacy Ambrose turned to the Song of Solomon. The joy, intimacy and oneness in the relationship between Solomon and his bride foreshadowed the joy, intimacy and oneness between Jesus and his people. Therefore, Ambrose claimed that receiving communion was akin to the joyful and intimate experience of being kissed by one’s beloved.

For the Christian striving for faithfulness this reminder of the intimacy that believers enjoy with their Saviour is necessary. For many we are emerging from an almost exclusively virtual existence and thus know all-too-well the desire for tangible intimacy. According to Ambrose of Milan we can experience that tangible intimacy with our Saviour by participating in communion.

Jesus: My Flesh and My Blood                                                                                                                                          

Otherworldly joy and tangible intimacy are captured in Jesus’s words recorded in John 6. After feeding the 5,000 and announcing that he is the bread of life, Jesus makes the startling claim that his followers must feast on his flesh and blood:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53–58)

The first Christians and the Church Fathers were frequently labelled cannibals. Given Jesus’s words this is hardly surprising. But Jesus is not speaking literally. He can’t be; his resurrected, glorified body is seated at the right-hand of the Father. Rather, Jesus is speaking figuratively of his death; a death remembered in communion.

It is by feeding on Jesus through faith in communion that Christians find nourishment and joy for living life in the present evil age. By reflecting on these thoughts from the Church Fathers we are “reminded that the table was ultimately meant to be a place of exuberant spiritual joy over sins forgiven and union with Christ” (Rediscovering the Church Fathers, p. 103). Occasionally participating in communion can become repetitive and stale. If this is your experience let these words of wisdom from another era stir your soul. Rightly meditating on sin forgiven brings nourishment for life and joy for living.

    Blog Archive

Let’s Read Irish Baptist College Conference (Online) From Intern to Undergraduate (Emily Middleton) Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — The Reason for Redemption Baptists and Revival in the Long 18th Century Second Year Placements From Intern to Undergraduate (Josh Brown) Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — The What and Why of Holiness Final Year During A Pandemic 2nd Year Placement Experience Friends of the College 2021 Update The Art of Reading More Books Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — The Real Possibility of Holiness A Basic Easter Fact The Servant King Podcast Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — You Are Holy Third Year Reflection Gospel Guardians: Protecting the Purity of the Gospel for Future Generations Graduation 2021 Book Review: Succeeding at Seminary Let's Read: The Hole in Our Holiness — A Work in Progress Why the Irish Baptist College is Vital to the Health of the Association A Good News Story: The Ministry Partnership Scheme Why Study the Biblical Languages? Profit in Toil: A Short Message on A Level Results Day Let's Read: Small Preaching Recognition Service Report 2021 Sin Forgiven: Nourishment for Life and Joy for Living Let’s Read: Small Preaching—The Character of the Preacher Commencement Service Report Placement Friends of the College Update God Rejoices over His People: A Meditation on Zephaniah 3:17 Let’s Read: Small Preaching—Constructing the Sermon Evangelism Teams: Newcastle and Brannockstown Evangelism Teams: Stonepark and North Belfast Christian Fellowship First Year Reflections (Reuben and Andrew) Some New Books Let’s Read: Small Preaching—The Craft of Preaching Let's Read: Small Preaching—What is God Saying? A Christmas Reflection on John 1 - ‘The coming of the light’ Christmas Reflection on John 1 - ‘Life, Light & Glory’
Time to read Genesis...again Friends of the College - January 2020 Friends of the College - January 2020 Finances Tribute to Marion Craig The Resilient Pastor: Surviving & Thriving in Ministry Just a Blow-in? What is new on the shelves at IBC? Friends of the College - February 2020 Four Reasons to Study Theology Academically From Spain to Moira Testimonial Financial Update Friends of the College – March 2020 Irish Baptist Historical Society: The Mayflower Thomas Patient: the Father of the Irish Baptist Church Testimonials The Pastors’ Conference: An Encouraging Privilege Testimonials (part-time studies) In the worst of times: COVID-19 and the Book of Ruth Friends of the College - April 2020 The Long Wait: Victory Delayed Testimonials - Preparation for Ministry and Evening Classes The Leadership Podcast Testimonials - Ladies Study Fellowship The Leadership Podcast (part 2) Friends of the College - May 2020 Reflections from the Student Chairman Why do we teach the Old Testament? Reflections on first year at IBC Friends of the College - June 2020 Why do we teach Romans? IBC Placement Is Church History a Thing of the Past? Friends of the College - July 2020 Friends of the College – August 2020 Friends of the College September 2020 Recognition and Graduation Service Introducing the Irish Baptist College’s New Logo Commencement Service Friends of the College - October 2020 Filled with the Spirit: Soundings in Luke’s Theology of the Holy Spirit The Famous Five: The Abiding Relevance of the Solas of the Reformation Friends of the College - November 2020 The Importance of Theological Training in Fulfilling the Great Commission First Year Reflections — Tim Houston Singing: The Place of Theology in Corporate Worship New Library Books Friends of the College – Unite to Pray – December Christmas Reflections
Agree and Close notice.

By continuing on our website you agree with our Privacy Policy and to the use of cookies by third party plugins. Find out more here