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Archive for May 21st, 2019

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Translation: “In this Sign, You Will Conquer”

Introduction: Constantine I served as Roman Emperor from A.D. 306 to 337. During his reign the persecution of Christians was forbidden by the Edict of Milan in 312, and ultimately the faith gained full imperial support. Constantine took an active interest in the life and teachings of the church and  called the Council of Nicaea in 325 at which orthodox Christianity was defined and defended. His mother, Helena(ca. 255-329), strongly influenced Constantine. Her great interest in locating the holy sites of the Christian faith led her to become one of the first Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Her research led to the identification of Biblical locations in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and beyond, which are still maintained as places of worship today.

From The Ecclesiastical History of Christianity by Sozomen (Salminius Hermias Sozomenus[a] (Greek: Σωζομενός; c. 400 – c. 450 AD), also known as Sozomen was a historian of the Christian Church.)

Chapter 3. By the Vision of the Cross, and by the Appearance of Christ, Constantine is led to embrace Christianity.— He receives Religious Instruction from our Brethren.

“We have been informed that Constantine was led to honor the Christian religion by the concurrence of several different events, particularly by the appearance of a sign from heaven.

“When he first formed the resolution of entering into a war against Maxentius, he was beset with doubts as to the means of carrying on his military operations, and as to the quarter whence he could look for assistance. In the midst of his perplexity, he saw, in a vision, the sight of the cross shining in heaven. He was amazed at the spectacle, but some holy angels who were standing by, exclaimed, Oh, Constantine! By this symbol, conquer! And it is said that Christ himself appeared to him, and showed him the symbol of the cross, and commanded him to construct one like it, and to retain it as his help in battle, as it would insure the victory.

“Eusebius, surnamed Pamphilus, affirms that he heard the emperor declare with an oath, as the sun was on the point of inclining about the middle of the day, he and the soldiers who were with him saw in heaven the trophy of the cross composed of light, and encircled by the following words: By this sign, conquer.

“This vision met him by the way, when he was perplexed as to whither he should lead his army. While he was reflecting on what this could mean, night came; and when he fell asleep, Christ appeared with the sign which he had seen in heaven, and commanded him to construct a representation of the symbol, and to use it as his help in hostile encounters. There was nothing further to be elucidated; for the emperor clearly apprehended the necessity of serving God.

“At daybreak, he called together the priests of Christ, and questioned them concerning their doctrines. They opened the sacred Scriptures, and expounded the truths relative to Christ, and showed him from the prophets, how the signs which had been predicted, had been fulfilled. The sign which had appeared to him was the symbol, they said, of the victory over hell; for Christ came among men, was stretched upon the cross, died, and returned to life the third day. On this account, they said, there was hope that at the close of the present dispensation, there would be a general resurrection of the dead, and entrance upon immortality, when those who had led a good life would receive accordingly, and those who had done evil would be punished. Yet, continued they, the means of salvation and of purification from sin are provided; namely, for the uninitiated, initiation according to the canons of the church; and for the initiated, abstinence from renewed sin. But as few, even among holy men, are capable of complying with this latter condition, another method of purification is set forth, namely, repentance; for God, in his love towards man, bestows forgiveness on those who have fallen into sin, on their repentance, and the confirmation of their repentance by good works.

Reflection:  I do not know the historical accuracy of the account above. We do know that the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity by the 4th Century. This was after over 2 centuries of persecution, sometimes wicked and bloody as the Lord taught the Apostolic Church before His Ascension in AD 33 which would occur (e.g. Matthew 5: 9-12; Matthew 10: 16-23). The Lord had not left His Church orphans but was with His Church,then as of now  At the eve of the Battle of Milvian Bridge, it is estimated that up to half the Roman Empire was Christian. The growth of the Church was a miracle bar none. For over 2 centuries, the Church lived in a world that thrived on conquering and living off the conquests of gold and human flesh.  Christians already knew what Constantine saw about the Cross of Christ, “By this Sign You Will Conquer”, but even more:  

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8: 37

Let us pray and sing:

1. O little flock, fear not the Foe
Who madly seeks your overthrow;
Dread not his rage and power.
What though your courage sometimes faints,
His seeming triumph o’er God’s saints
Lasts but a little hour.

2. Be of good cheer; your cause belongs
To Him who can avenge your wrongs;
Leave it to Him, our Lord.
Though hidden yet from mortal eyes,
His Gideon shall for you arise,
Uphold you and His Word.

3. As true as God’s own Word is true.
Not earth nor hell with all their crew
Against us shall prevail.
A jest and byword are they grown;
God is with us, we are His own;
Our victory cannot fail.

4. Amen, Lord Jesus, grant our prayer;
Great Captain, now Thine arm make bare,
Fight for us once again!
So shall Thy saints and martyrs raise
A mighty chorus to Thy praise,
World without end. Amen.

Hymn #263 The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Luke 12:32

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