A.J. Castellitto
October 30, 2014
What a friend is he to those who follow and believe!
By A.J. Castellitto

http://youtu.be/tMqJKUlgjbQ

The great prophet Isaiah told of the coming Savior when he declared,

"Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? ...Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed......"

He has become a light unto the Gentiles throughout the ages. He is the Great Comforter and He works in the hearts of men to do great things on His behalf. Flawed men laden with sin, have been driven upon their knees and submitted themselves unto the mercy and loving kindness of the anointed one. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they have enabled themselves to be used to advance the kingdom of God. These men were unreconciled sinners before their conversions and they would each wrestle with indwelling sin for the rest of their days (despite their many blessings and righteous works).

Despite their special gifts, these men were not wholly perfect in walk or even full understanding; but what they all did have was a true sense of their own iniquity and a deep impression of the dire necessity of grace via Jesus' sacrificial atonement. They were men of different times and place. They are Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Thomas Aquinas, John Wycliffe and Martin Luther.

Their contributions and declarations before a hostile world were vital to the preservation of the true and everlasting Word of God!

In fourth century Africa, Augustine of Hippo, a learned philosopher and orator, would come to know the misery of sin and unbelief before finding himself wholly disarmed and subdued by the great and righteous fight of faith (and greater spiritual calling). Augustine would come to grow in great knowledge and influence as he soundly and skillfully proclaimed the doctrines of grace against the various forms of heretical thought espoused in his day. The faithful preservation and reaffirmation of the early church owes a debt of gratitude to this mighty and influential early church father whose vital and elaborate commentaries would prove a living testimony to the efficacy of a true faith founded upon abundant grace. Augustine, illuminated by the power of the spirit, was able to vividly verify the faithful path. A narrow path that would require multiple rediscoveries in the centuries to come.

Many years later, Thomas Aquinas, a 13th Century Dominican Friar, would make some of the most vital and essential contributions to an aging church. The Italian theologian is arguably one of the greatest and most influential Christian apologists the church has ever known. He was essentially a religious existentialist whose vast spiritual expositions bridged the natural realm of knowledge and understanding.

Aquinas wrote volumes analyzing and defending how Christianity exists and intersects within all areas of the human experience. Aquinas soundly applied the universal principles inherent in the Christian faith as revealed in the living word of Truth. He aptly described how God's special design and created purpose is alive in all things! In the complete cross-section of creative redemption, all that is natural, spiritual, carnal and eternal will come together and an infinite and glorious transcendence will be realized.

Augustine's hollow philosophical intellect (and political ambitions/aspirations) would eventually give way to the spiritual depth of the passion narrative. Aquinas, more than any other, was able to advance Augustine's vital and compelling insights. He ultimately took Augustine's spiritual exhortations to the next level, in which they were thoroughly applied to all experiential/observable areas of human existence. One thing was still lacking, however, and that's where John Wycliffe comes in....

One of the early and most prominent Church Reformers, Wycliffe, who hailed from the United Kingdom, would come to be known as the 'Morning Star' of the Reformation. Wycliffe publicly sought and advocated for a true Biblical purification of the church in his day; a day in which abuses and heresies were increasingly perpetuated upon the masses.

The 14th Century theologian was so bold in his defense of the Word of God (and the need for true spiritual reform) that the religious authorities would come to consider him a bold threat to their stranglehold on the souls of the people. Wycliffe stood firm against the perverting of biblical truth for financial gain. So faithful and outspoken was he in his convictions that he would eventually earn the wrath of the papacy. Wycliffe would not wilt, however, as he declared,

"I am ready to defend my convictions even unto death.... I have followed the Sacred Scriptures and the holy doctors."

Wycliffe's bold writings and public exhortations in defense of Gospel purity were widely embraced as his influence and popularity spread throughout England. If it weren't for some unrelated controversies within the church at the time, Wycliffe would have certainly paid with his life. He was ultimately placed on house arrest, and years after his death his body was dug up and his remains we're burned and scattered. But such retaliatory tactics were ultimately carried out in vain, as the essential seeds had already been planted and had taken root. Despite the churches public and symbolic condemnation of this just man, they were unable to tarnish Wycliffe's faithful legacy; for a righteously zealous and brazen crusader would soon pick up his mantle and finish the job he had so faithfully begun! This crusader was Martin Luther.

A spiritually sincere and outspoken 16th Century German monk who thirsted for righteousness and personal absolution, Martin Luther is proof that God can use anything and anyone to advance his holy cause. Luther was sometimes crass and often abrasive in speech, especially when his passions were raised. But nobody could ever dispute his sincerity and commitment to the faithful mission of elevating Jesus and His word above all the deceitful practices of the Roman Catholic authority. The rot that metastasized within the hierarchy of the church is perfectly summed up in this nefarious phrase:

"As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs."

This little jingle vividly reveals the heretical union between falsehood and greed that was heavily promoted through the sale of indulgences in Luther's day. Steeped in God's Holy Word, Luther would come to see through the deceptions.

Luther would act as a chosen vessel of spiritual courage and conviction to advance the vital Biblical doctrines of Faith Alone through Grace Alone. With just the right amount of secular support backing and protecting him, Luther aggressively advanced spiritual truth and in the process mortally wounded the Roman Catholic Church's widespread monopoly on Christianity. From his day forward, the Bible would retain its rightful place at the center of the Christian faith and Luther would go on to proclaim,

"For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God, and where He is there I shall be also!"

© A.J. Castellitto

 

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A.J. Castellitto

A.J. Castellitto is a freelance writer who resides in NJ with his wife and five children. He holds a B.S. in Counseling and Human Services from the University of Scranton and his writings have been published at The Center for Western Journalism, The Christian Post, Intellectual Conservative and Reformed Perspective Magazine.

Tweets: @AjCastellitto

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