August 23, 2023

10th Anniversary: Revisiting Augustine

Stephen Nichols
10th Anniversary: Revisiting Augustine

Ten years ago, we set out on a journey in this podcast to witness God’s faithfulness throughout the story of Christianity. To celebrate a decade of 5 Minutes in Church History, today Stephen Nichols revisits an old friend from our very first episode: Augustine of Hippo.


Welcome back to another episode of 5 Minutes in Church History. On this episode, we are celebrating our 10th anniversary. It was 10 years ago in August that the very first episode rolled off, and it was on Augustine. Actually, it was on one word in Augustine, the word “Magnus.” It was the very first word that Augustine used when he started off his magnum opus, the Confessions, and it is a word about God. God is great, Magnus. Well, to celebrate our 10th anniversary, I want to return to our good friend Augustine, but let’s look at some of his final words, not his first words. If we go to that great book, the Confessions, his final words, there are, “But you,” speaking directly of God, “But you are goodness itself.” He goes on to say, “What man can teach another to understand this truth? What angel can teach it to an angel? What angel can teach it to a man? We must ask it of you, seek it in you. We must knock at your door. Only then, shall we receive what we ask and find what we seek. Only then will the door be opened to us.”

As we move to his other magnum opus, that big book City of God. When we get through all of those pages, 867 in my edition, we find this sentence, “For what other end do we propose to ourselves then to attain to the kingdom of which there is no end.” What is that purpose in life that we strive for and seek after and try to attain? Augustine says, “It is not the city of man. It is indeed the city of God or the eternal kingdom of God.” We have Augustine’s last letter. Now to be technical, this is the last letter in his own hand.

We have a few other letters after this that were dictated, but this was an invitation to Augustine by his friend Nobilis, to attend a church dedication. And Augustine writes, “So important is the ceremony to which your brotherly affection and invites me that I should drag my poor body to you with willingness, were it not detained by weakness. I might have come had it not been winter. I might have scorned the winter had I been young for either the glow of youth would have endured the rigor of the season or the glow of summer would have allayed the chill of age.” There we see the aging Augustine wishing he could be with his dear friend. And then we come to some words from what would be not the final sermon of Augustine, but one of his last sermons.

Augustine had been sick. He had been out of the pulpit for a long season. He had just returned to the pulpit, and he chose for his text Second Corinthians chapter 12, Paul’s pleading with God to remove that thorn in his flesh, and he hears those words from God, “My grace is sufficient for you because power is perfected in weakness.” And here’s Augustine, an old man reflecting on the grace of God at work in his life, reflecting on the power of God demonstrated in his own weakness. And so of course he’s going to be thinking about that text. And then he turns to his congregation, he tells them that he had been praying for God to remove this thorn in the flesh of him, this illness that he had, but God did not remove it, but instead God preserved him through it. And so, he turns to his congregation, and he says, “God always listens, dearest brothers and sisters, you must be absolutely clear about this so that you can pray with complete confidence. God always listens.” Well, God always listens because God is Magnus. God is caring for Augustine in his old age as he feels the chill of his age because God is Magnus. Augustine tells us that we should live for that eternal kingdom of God because God is Magnus, and he also tells us that God is goodness itself, perfection that is, because God is Magnus.

Well, thanks to Augustine for helping us celebrate our 10th anniversary and thank you for listening over all of these years. I’m Steve Nichols and thanks for listening to 5 Minutes in Church History.