The Preacher with the Golden Tongue

It may be one of the gutsiest sermons ever preached. John Chrysostom (A.D. 354 – 407) was considered the best preacher in the early church. (They gave him the name “Chrysostom” – golden tongue — in spite of his humility.) John was a very popular preacher in Antioch where the people loved his direct style of preaching. Unlike many teachers of his era who used flights of fancy to interpret the Scriptures called “Allegorical Interpretation,” John encouraged the literal approach – “It means what it says.” He believed the Bible was its own best interpreter and he made the Scriptures come alive with practical applications.

He was invited to become the archbishop of Constantinople and preach for the empress. He continuously refused. John was content to minister to live the simple life of a monk and preach in Antioch. Finally, he was kidnapped and forced to move there. It didn’t take long for John’s straightforward approach got him into trouble.

Can you imagine the empress coming to church with her jewels and fabulous garments? It took a full day to style her hair weaving pearls and other precious jewels into it? The Apostle Paul wrote: “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works” (1 Timothy 2:9, 10).

Let’s sit back and read the text of John Chrysostom’s sermon that Sunday.

“Paul however requires something more of women, that they adorn themselves “in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair or gold or pearls or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” But what is this “modest apparel”? Such attire as covers them completely, and decently, not with superfluous ornaments, for the one is becoming, the other is not.”

Can you see the empress in church listening to John? He continues:

“What? Dost thou approach God to pray, with broidered hair and ornaments of gold? Art thou come to a dance? to a marriage? to a gay procession? There such a broidery, such costly garments, had been seasonable, here not one of them is wanted. Thou art come to pray, to supplicate for pardon of thy sins, to plead for thine offenses, beseeching the Lord, and hoping to render Him propitious to thee. Why dost thou adorn thyself? This is not the dress of a suppliant. How canst thou groan? How canst thou weep? How pray with fervency, when thus attired? Shouldest thou weep, thy tears will be the ridicule of the beholders. She that weeps ought not to be wearing gold. It were but acting, and hypocrisy. For is it not acting to pour forth tears from a soul so overgrown with extravagance and ambition? Away with such hypocrisy! God is not mocked! This is the attire of actors and dancers, that live upon the stage. Nothing of this sort becomes a modest woman, who should be adorned ‘with shamefacedness and sobriety.’ Imitate not therefore the courtesans.”

Amazing! Shortly thereafter, John was exiled, and when that couldn’t shut him up, they killed him. I wonder what our tongues are made of?

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