• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Smart Saints

I missed writing about Timothy and Titus (26 January), John Chrysostom (27 January), and Thomas Aquinas (28 January). So let me just say this about them.



Timothy and Titus are young pastors being commissioned and instructed by Paul in the letters bearing their names. But they were also brave companions of Paul, brave enough to encounter hardship and even rough persecution. The way Paul addresses them tells us that they were wise, good, capable people to whom he could gladly entrust his precious churches.


Several centuries later, John the Golden-Mouthed (= “Chrysostom”) was a renowned preacher and prolific author. He also, however, had a lion’s heart, as tradition suggests he led a mob to destroy the Temple of Artemis, the great Alternative in Ephesus that drew in so many hearts, minds, and drachae.

And almost a millennium after that, Thomas Aquinas rose to become the great theologian and philosopher of the Middle Ages whose teaching dominates the Roman Catholic Church and instructs so many others to this day—almost a millennium later.

All of these brilliant teachers of enormous capacity nonetheless clearly had their priorities straight. They kept the Main Thing, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the main thing. They did not merely busy themselves with speaking and writing about Jesus, but devoted themselves to the worship of Jesus, to the company of Jesus, to the enjoyment of Jesus.

Thus Paul knew he would find a ready audience for his teaching to Timothy about the fundamental purpose of the Bible—not to inform, but to transform: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:16-17).

Thus John Chrysostom composed not only glorious sermons and incendiary speeches, but also a luminous litany, in which is this prayer: “Let our mouth be filled with thy praise, O Lord, that we may sing of thy glory, because thou has counted us worthy to partake of thy holy, divine, immortal and lifegiving mysteries; preserve us in thy holiness, that we may learn of thy righteousness all the day long. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”

Thus did Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, leave off his theologizing in spiritual wonder, and leave us this prayer: “O Creator past all telling,

You have appointed from the treasures of your wisdom the hierarchies of angels, disposing them in wondrous order above the bright heavens, and have so beautifully set out all parts of the universe.

You we call the true fount of wisdom and the noble origin of all things. Be pleased to shed on the darkness of mind in which I was born the two-fold beam of your light and warmth to dispel my ignorance and sin.

You make eloquent the tongues of children. Then instruct my speech and touch my lips with graciousness. Make me keen to understand, quick to learn, able to remember; make me delicate to interpret and ready to speak.

Guide my going in and going forward, lead home my going forth.

You are true God and true man and live forever and ever.”

#JohnChrysostom #ThomasAquinas