An Ancient Letter explaining why Christianity spread so quickly
“Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.
They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.
To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.
Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.”
From a letter to Diognetus (Nn. 5-6; Funk, 397-401)
Some people in Scotland think too highly of John Knox; others think ill of him. A Scottish cab driver was driving an American up the hill to Edinburgh Castle: “That is the house of John Knox.” The visitor replied: “And who was John Knox?” The driver said in disgust: “Go home, man, and read your bible!” The cab driver thought too much of Knox.
John Knox was converted by the Holy Spirit as he read John 17. He was discipled by “Master” George Wishart, whom Knox wielded a two-handed claymore sword for so that Wishart could preach the Gospel without being attacked in Scotland. When Wishart was summed to die as a martyr Knox asked to accompany Wishart, but Wishart said: “Nay, return to your bairns, and God bless you. One is sufficient for a sacrifice.”
Knox was called to preach in front of a congregation of Protestant refugees in St Andrew’s castle by another preacher (Mr. Rough), and Knox burst forth into an abundance of tears. The French brigaded the castle, seized Knox as a galley slave for 19 months, and burned Rough at the stake.
The English rescued Knox from the French, and for ten year Knox was a pastor-preacher in exile from Scotland because he was a Protestant (1549-1559). He served in Berwick & Newcastle (England), Frankfurt (Germany), and Geneva (Switzerland). Looking back over the years in England Knox imagined Christ saying to him something like Christ would have said to Peter: “Yet art thou too proude to be a pastour, thou canste notstoupe, nor bowe thy backe down to take up the weake shepe;thou does not yet knowe thine own infirmitie and weakness,and therefore canst thou do nothing but despise the weak ones.” (Dawson, p. 69)
When Knox returned to Edinburgh, Scotland on May 2, 1559. The bishops assembled in the Monastery of the Black Friars to discuss improvements to the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland. For example, any priest caught in adultery loses 1/3 of pay; and priests could not put their sons in their wills (not supposed to have any sons in the first place). For example, Cardinal Beaton had 8 illegitimate sons. While meeting, a messenger unannounced entered the meeting and shouted: “Knox is returned to Edinburgh!” We read: “at once they closed their meeting & arose hastily.”
The Summer of 1559 was an extraordinary time of revival. Knox preached in the major cities, and promoted reformation of the church. Knox said he was: “Churching it like a Scythian.” (There was no watering down of the wine among the Scythians of Ancient Greece.)
In the summer of 1559 when he first returned to St Andrews, warning was sent to him by the bishop that if he dared to preach the next Sunday there would be a dozen hand guns discharged in his face. His friends advised delay, but he went ahead and took for his text Christ driving the buyers and sellers out of the temple. The famous painting above is of the scene of Knox leaning out over the pulpit before the Dutchess of Arguile holding her baby by Sir David Wilkie captured something of that day, June 11, 1559, and the effect of it at the time can be seen in the 14 priests of the Roman Church, who confessed the faith.
Five Swift Reforms that Year 1559
By the 1560 the French forces were defeated.
Parliament adopted laws
RCC was replaced with Presbyterianism
A Nat’l Confession of Faith established by 6 men named “John” in five days. The closing words of the Scots Confession—a prayer: “Arise, O Lord, and let Thine enemies be confounded; let them flee from thy presence that hate thy godly name. Give thy servants strength to speak thy word with boldness, and let all nations cleave to the true knowledge of thee.”
Book of Discipline
How was Scotland Reformed into Presbyterianism so Fast?
“In Scotland the whole nation was converted by lump; and within ten years after popery was discharged in Scotland, there were not ten persons of quality to be found in it who did not profess the true reformed religion, and so it was among the commons in proportion. Lo! Here a nation born in one day.’” ( Kirkton’s History)
Calvin wrote to Knox: “We wonder at success so incredible and in so short a time.”
Knox explained the success of the Reformation in Scotland in his History: (Citing Isaiah 40 in Geneva Bible) . . . “This promise has been performed for us Christians here in the realm of Scotland. For what was our force or strength? What was our number? Yea, what was our wisdom or worldly policy was to us to have brought to a good end so great an enterprise?”
Knox replied to Calvin: “God gave His Holy Spirit to simple men in great abundance.”
Three Broad Lessons from the Ministry of John Knox
The Logos, Ethos, and Pathos of Reformation Preaching
Logos: “Unto me…is this grace given that I should preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Ephesians 3:8
“God is friendly minded to sinners”
“We opened more fully the fountain of God’s grace to sinners”
“Christ so tender towards those who put Him to death that He first sent unto them the ministry of reconciliation.”
Ethos: The primacy of preaching over writing (“I consider myself rather called by my God to instruct the ignorant, comfort the sorrowful, confirm the weak, and rebuke the proud, by tongue and living voice, in these corrupt days, than to compose books for the age to come.”)
“It hath pleased God of his superabundant grace to make me, most wretched of many thousands, a witness, minister and preacher.”
Used Plain speech – Puritans loved this word plain. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” 1 Corinthians 14:8
Pathos: (“A dinging the pulpit”) – To Ding is to hit the pulpit hard and almost seem to be flying out of it.
A student there at the time was fifteen-year-old James Melville, and he would see Knox walking to church from the old priory, a staff in one hand and held under his other armpit by a friend, with furs wrapped round his neck. It was the year before his death and his strength was gone. Melville wrote in his Autobiography:
“Of all the benefits I had that year  was the coming of that most notable prophet and apostle of our nation, Mr John Knox, to St Andrews . . . I heard him teach there the prophecy of Daniel that summer and winter following. I had my pen and my little book, and took away such things as I could comprehend. In the opening up of his text he was moderate the space of an half hour; but when he entered to application, he made me so grew [shudder] and tremble, that I could not hold a pen to write.”
Melville says further that Knox had to be lifted up into the pulpit “where it behoved him to lean at his first entry; but before he had done with his sermon he was so active and vigorous, that he was like to ding that pulpit in blads and fly out of it!”
English Ambassador—Knox “put life into them more than 500 trumpets.”
A Love for the Church and the Courage to Reform Her
Two days before his death—“I have been in meditation these last two nights [concerning] the troubled church of God, the spouse of Jesus Christ, despised of the world but precious in his sight. I have called to God for it, and have committed it to her head, Jesus Christ.”
Earl of Morton at Knox’s funeral—“Here lies one who neither feared nor flattered any flesh.”
Faith in the Promises of God through Prayer
“Let us now humble ourselves in the presence of our God, and, from the bottom of our hearts, let us desire him to assist us with the power of his Holy Spirit . . . that albeit we see his Church so diminished, that it shall appear to be brought, as it were, to utter extermination, that yet we may be assured that in our God there is power and will to increase the number of his chosen, even while they be enlarged to the uttermost coasts of the earth.”
Prayer From John Knox for the Holy Spirit: “Because we have need continually to crave many things at your hands, we humbly beg you, O heavenly Father, to grant us your Holy Spirit to direct our petitions, that they may proceed from such a fervent mind as may be agreeable to your holy will. Amen.”
Allistair Begg writes: “In January of 1981, he invited me to speak at the Londonderry Young People’s Convention. Just what a man in his late seventies was doing as the chairman of such a gathering, you might well ask. The answer had to do with a particular ministry of his. He was the founder and leader of a boys’ Bible class called Crusaders, a weekly duty he fulfilled for fifty years. His mission statement was clear. He wanted every boy that came to class to have: A Bible in his hand, A Savior in his heart, and A Purpose in his life. Many boys had come to faith in Christ through the years as a result of his ministry, and not on account of T.S.’s athletic ability or dress sense or knowledge of contemporary music. He was devoid of all of that.
When I stayed as his guest for the week during which I spoke, I was introduced to what he referred to as his ‘rogues’ gallery.’ His sitting room had large windows, extremely high ceilings, and a central fireplace he kept stocked with coal. The furniture was plain and comfortable, and a large table over by the window was stacked with books and correspondence. And everywhere, pictures of his ‘rogues.’ Some were by this time successful surgeons. It had been one of “his boys” who had performed open-heart surgery on T.S. some years before. Others were schoolteachers, others in banking and commerce, a significant number in pastoral ministry, and all of them regularly in his prayers. Prior to my visit and certainly afterward, he had written to me and never failed to remind me that he remembered me ‘regularly at the best place.’
T.S. lived alone and had a housekeeper who came in regularly to take care of his domestic affairs. When she arrived on this particular morning, she was not met by the normal cheery smile and bright eyes. She found T.S. sprawled across his bed. He was fully dressed and had obviously begun his day as usual, because when others were called to help and they moved his body, they discovered that he had fallen on top of his prayer list. He had gone to heaven praying for his “rogues.” He could never have died that way had he not lived in such discipline. It is a matter of great concern to me that the varied opportunities of my life can be an excuse for neglecting the kind of routine that is clearly necessary for the maintenance of a meaningful walk with God.”
Begg, Alistair, Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith (Kindle Locations 583-603). (Chicago,IL: Moody Publishers, 2005). Kindle Edition.
Here are four simple ways to start pursuing community:
Meet at least one person once a month for coffee or lunch.
Set up a monthly phone call with a friend or colleague.
Send a message to a small facebook group of trusted friends and colleagues just checking in and sharing what you’re working on or struggling with. Create a private Facebook group to discuss prayer and spiritual growth.
Ask a friend to disciple at church or offer to pray for a friend in need.
2 Timothy 2:1-2 “And the things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
I made a deep commitment early in my Christian life to invest my life into faithful men, who would do the same. I challenged men to seek four generations of men to be raised up from at least one man they had invested their life in. God has raised up a number of faithful men over the last three decades, who are active in this ministry.
Life on life missional discipleship is the most strategic and fulfilling ministry that I have ever been a part of. Meeting “grandchildren” in the Lord through a few “sons” can be very rewarding, especially when high standards for evangelism, prayer, scripture memory, and true fellowship are practiced.
A Vision for Multiplication of faithful men and women, however, is never enough. Even a consistent practice of it, where the Gospel and identity-in-Christ are assumed, is always one generation from loosing the strength needed to sustain a multiplication movement of four generations or so.
Why? The dangers of legalism hang around this kind of movement. People can easily fall into seeking a righteousness of their own, while denying the righteousness of Christ by which alone a Christian is accepted by God. Without a constant reminder of the grace of Jesus, people attempt to fulfill a vision of spiritual multiplication in their own strength.
What are some signs of legalism in a life on life missional discipleship movement?
Five Warning Signs:
When the activity of discipleship is greater than the reasons for it.
When discipleship tools are more important than the Gospel.
When numbers and spiritual disciplines are valued more than Christian maturity and godly character.
When a good practice is made into a biblical mandate.
When high standards of Christian practice have no underlying grace to motivate.
All the beauty of the strategic vision in verse two is dependent upon verse one – “Be strengthened by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 2:1).” Without being strengthened by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the life on life process of discipleship quickly looses its luster and ability to continue. Gutting out the fulfillment of the multiplication vision in verse two will only breed self-righteousness, unless there is daily strengthening of God’s grace in verse one. In fact, the whole point of spiritual disciplines is to be strengthened by God’s grace.
Embrace the Truth; Renounce the Lie and Foolish Strategies