Empress Eudoxia, a fifth-century Roman Empress, had quite a dilemma. What to do with John Chrysostom? Chrysostom was a faithful man of God and he feared no earthly rulers. There’s quite an amazing story to tell, but before I do so take a minute to consider the persecution of Christians. It’s been happening since the birth of the Church.
Have you have faced persecution because of your faith in Jesus? If not, just wait. Persecution is increasing as our world advances in its rejection of Jesus and its denial of God’s Word. If you haven’t experienced persecution, you will soon. Are you prepared to stand strong? It’s tempting to quickly answer with, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). But are you certain you can do that? It’s important that we all prepare our hearts and our minds.
Knowledge Breeds Strength
The way to prepare to stand strong is to grow in the knowledge of the Lord and His Word. Increasing biblical knowledge will increase our love for Jesus and will strengthen our faith. It will give us a firm foundation, upon which to stand, and the answers and reasoning we need to be able to defend and share what we believe. Study the Word of God, ponder His promises, and find rest in His strength. The Bible is filled with verses promising that God will be strong when we are weak.
Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
Proverbs 10:29 The way of the LORD is strength to the upright:
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And he [Jesus] said unto me [Paul], “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, will I [Paul] rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Sufficient Grace = Strength to Stand
Now we come to Eudoxia and Chrysostom. John Chrysostom is a wonderful example of having love for Jesus, knowledge of God’s Word, and faith and confidence in God and His promises. Chrysostom exhibited great strength and boldness in the face of persecution and stood strong in his faith. This created quite a dilemma for Empress Eudoxia (b.422 – d.462) when she found herself without any power over the faithful disciple of Jesus Christ — John Chrysostom.
The exchange of words between Eudoxia and Chrysostom reveals the importance of knowing God’s truths before we are faced with persecution. We must arm ourselves with God’s wisdom before the attacks of the world come and before Satan confronts us. The Word of God is the most powerful weapon we have and it will protect us when we are persecuted.
John Chrysostom was appointed the Archbishop of Constantinople in 397. His name means “golden-mouthed” and he was well known for his public speaking and preaching. Sometime in the early 5th century (circa 404), the Empress Eudoxia removed him from his position and threatened to banish him if he continued as a Christian preacher. History records the following conversation:
“You cannot banish me, for this world is my Father’s house,” said John.
“But I will kill you,” the Empress said.
“No, you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God.”
“I will take away your treasures,” said Eudoxia.
“No, you cannot, for my treasure is in heaven and my heart is there.”
“But I will drive you away from your friends and you will have no one left,” Eudoxia responded.
“No, you cannot,” said John, “for I have a Friend in heaven from whom you cannot separate me. I defy you. For there is nothing you can do to harm me.”
What a dilemma for the Empress. Despite her position and authority, she found herself to be without any real power over John Chrysostom. His hope, his faith, and his strength were not anchored in this world, but rather in a Person much more powerful than any earthly ruler. Chrysostom used eloquent words boldly, and in doing so he challenged Eudoxia’s efforts to control him. There was nothing she could take from him because his life was hid in Christ, his treasures were stored up in Heaven, and Jesus was his ever-present friend.
Where Did Chrysostom Find Such Courage?
Chrysostom’s words came directly from his knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. Just as Jesus quoted Scripture during the wilderness temptations, Chrysostom’s answers to Eudoxia’s threats came from the Scripture.
Reread their exchange of words. I have added Scripture references to illustrate that his boldness of speech was backed up by biblical truths that he had hidden in his heart and called upon in the face of persecution.
Chrysostom: “You cannot banish me, for this world is my Father’s house.”
Romans 8:39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
1 Corinthians 10:26 For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.
Eudoxia: “But I will kill you.”
Chrysostom: “No, you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God,” said John.
Colossians 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Eudoxia: “I will take away your treasures.”
Chrysostom: “No, you cannot, for my treasure is in heaven and my heart is there.”
Matthew 6:20-21 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Eudoxia: “But I will drive you away from your friends and you will have no one left.”
Chrysostom: “No, you cannot, for I have a Friend in heaven from whom you cannot separate me. I defy you, for there is nothing you can do to harm me.”
James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
Oh, that all Christians would be so bold when persecuted and would answer with such words of confidence. This is a beautiful lesson about the importance of hiding God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11). When we read and study the Bible, and commit to memory God’s words, we are strengthened to face all things in life. The words of the Holy Bible will prepare us to be ready to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15) that will deflect the attacks of an unbelieving world.
Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)
Pick up your Bible and claim the blessings that are yours. Strengthen yourself in the Word of God and prepare to face life, both the trials and the good times, with the Word of God. Live by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through you.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Is the Story True? Verifying quotes from early church fathers can be difficult. The earliest source for this quote is from the November 1874 issue of The Original Secession Magazine of the Church of Scotland. On page 839 is a commentary on Daniel that gives a summary of these words having been preached by Chrysostom. Whether the words were actually spoken to Eudoxia, or simply Chrysostom’s sermon illustration is uncertain. In any case, the words certainly reveal the devoted heart, steadfast faith, and eloquent testimony of John Chysostom whose words have inspired Christians throughout the centuries.
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