This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #167, titled, “Augustine of Hippo (Part 8): Minister and Theologian of the Western Church (Part 3).”
When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.
Our Scripture for today is Romans 5:12 which reads: “Sin first is pleasing, then frequent, then habitual, then confirmed; then the man is impenitent, then he is obstinate, then he is resolved never to repent, and then he is ruined.”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from Robert Leighton. He said: “Sin first is pleasing, then frequent, then habitual, then confirmed; then the man is impenitent, then he is obstinate, then he is resolved never to repent, and then he is ruined.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Augustine of Hippo (Part 8): Minister and Theologian of the Western Church (Part 3)” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
But Augustine remembered when he both willed and did not will to become a Christian. This meant that human will was not as simple as Pelagius [PELL-AY-JEE-US] characterized it. There are times when the will is powerless against the hold sin has on it. The will is not always its own master, for it is clear that the will to will does not always have its way, nor can the will do that which its fallen condition does not permit it even to imagine.
According to Augustine, the power of sin is such that it takes hold of our will, and as long as we are under its sway we cannot move our will to be rid of it. The most we can accomplish is to struggle between willing and not willing, which does little more than show the powerlessness of our will against itself. The sinner can will nothing but sin. Within that condition, there certainly are good and bad choices; but even the best choices still fall within the category of sin.
This does not mean, however, that freedom has disappeared. The sinner is still free to choose among various alternatives. But all of these are sin, and the one alternative that is not open is to cease sinning. In Augustine’s words, before the fall we were free both to sin and not to sin. But between the fall and redemption the only freedom left to us is the freedom to sin. When we are redeemed, the grace of God works in us, leading our will from the miserable state in which it found itself to a new state in which freedom is restored, so that we are now free both to sin and not to sin. Finally, in the heavenly home we shall still be free, but only free not to sin. Again, this does not mean that all freedom is destroyed. On the contrary, in heaven we shall continue to have free choices. But none of them will be sin. At that point, our minds will be so overwhelmed by the goodness of God that sin will be as unimaginable as not sinning is now.
Back to the moment of conversion, how can we make the decision to accept grace? According to Augustine, only by the power of grace itself, for before that moment we are not free not to sin, and therefore we are not free to decide to accept grace. The initiative in conversion is not human, but divine. Furthermore, grace is irresistible, and God gives it to those who have been predestined to it.
In contrast, Pelagius [PELL-AY-JEE-US] claimed that each of us comes to the world with complete freedom to sin, or not to sin. There is no such thing as original sin, nor a corruption of human nature that forces us to sin. Children have no sin until they, out of their own free will, decide to sin.
Next time, we will continue looking at “Augustine of Hippo.”
Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.
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