Justin Martyr: Incomparable wisdom

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Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, enslaved and free, but Christ is all and in all! Colossians 3:5-11

“Do not suppose, ye Greeks, that my separation from your customs is unreasonable and unthinking; for I found in them nothing that is holy or acceptable to God… And your public assemblies I have come to hate. For there are excessive banquetings, and subtle flutes which provoke to lustful movements, and useless and luxurious anointings, and crowning with garlands. With such a mass of evils do you banish shame; and ye fill your minds with them, and are carried away by intemperance…

Henceforth, ye Greeks, come and partake of incomparable wisdom, and be instructed by the Divine Word, and acquaint yourselves with the King immortal; and do not recognise those men as heroes who slaughter whole nations. For our own Ruler, the Divine Word, who even now constantly aids us, does not desire strength of body and beauty of feature, nor yet the high spirit of earth’s nobility, but a pure soul, fortified by holiness, and the watchwords of our King, holy actions, for through the Word power passes into the soul…

Come, be taught; become as I am, for I, too, was as ye are. These have conquered me–the divinity of the instruction, and the power of the Word: for as a skilled serpent-charmer lures the terrible reptile from his den and causes it to flee, so the Word drives the fearful passions of our sensual nature from the very recesses of the soul; first driving forth lust, through which every ill is begotten–hatreds, strife, envy, emulations, anger, and such like. Lust being once banished, the soul becomes calm and serene. And being set free from the ills in which it was sunk up to the neck, it returns to Him who made it.”

Justin Martyr (c. 150-160) in Discourse to the Greeks (Roberts-Donaldson English Translation).

In my reading yesterday I came across this discourse. In the full version, Justin outlines why has separated from the Greek customs which are “excessive” and “useless” and instead chosen to partake of incomparable wisdom.

Pause for a second. Wisdom was a big deal for the Greeks, the ultimate attainment. So, after unmasking the foolishness of their customs, he pointed them to incomparable wisdom. Come and partake. Come, be taught.

And a key thread to grasping wisdom is abandoning earthly ways which make a person a slave to their lusts. This echoes the Apostle Paul who exhorted us to put these lusts to death and be instructed by the Word.

I am pausing my exploration of “gratitude” in the early Christian writings to rest this week in a warm, tropical place with my wife. This break, made possible by the grace of God, frequent flyer miles and hotel points.

I brought some books to read and plan to get rest, to be instructed by the Word to drive forth lusts and experience calm and serene. Join me this week. Accept Justin’s invitation. Come, partake, and be taught.