Justin Martyr and a Developing Catholic Eucharist

Justin Martyr (c.114-165 C.E.) is an important Early Church Writer. The editor of the writings of the "Ante-Nicene Fathers", A.Cleveland Coxe, has noted, "the conversion of such a man marks a new era in the gospel history." Justin Martyr, before accepting his active role in developing catholic Christianity, was an outstanding disciple of Socrates and Plato. He continued to wear his philosophers gown, and as a Christian in the city of Rome, he taught "the only safe philosophy" (A.N.F. p.160). He, not unlike other Christian martyrs and Socrates before them gave his life for what he believed. In his view of the Christian use of the bread and wine, Justin Martyr records and passes to subsequent generations of "Church Fathers" a subtle yet important step in the evolution of the catholic rite.

There exists a consensus among scholars who study the history of early Christianity: New Testament Christianity underwent development in the hands of the dominant teachers of the following centuries. The homogenized teachings of these dominant and transitional authorities has been called "patristic orthodoxy" Scholarly opinion becomes more complex when the question of compatibility is raised, that is, compatibility between the evolving "patristic orthodoxy" and the teaching of the New Testament. The development of "patristic orthodoxy" is what Adolf Von Harnack called the "chronic Hellenization of Christianity" which he compared with the less patient "acute Hellenization" which was carried out among teachers who would later be categorized as "Gnostics". The early "orthodox" ancients set themselves against the more radical Hellenizing teachers; even though both would introduce pagan or Hellenistic elements into a form of Christianity.

Where can the student of this early history look to find a standard of authentic doctrine with which the more subtle Hellenization may be gauged? How far back and to what source should one push to find the real teaching of the Lord about the bread and the wine and salvation, free from false adjustments? If the prophetic scriptures of the New Testament are to be considered a complete doctrinal resource, essentially incomparable to other "Christian writings," then an answer is within reach. Jesus Christ sets forth the distinction between the word of God and the word of man, when addressing the Jewish traditionalists who held the extra-canonical writings to be of great doctrinal authority: And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men (Mark 7:6-8)." Note the further distinction in authority between what Moses (the apostle of God) taught and the writings of later Jewish teachers. Jesus was also saying to them, "You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said,....but you say,....thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down (Mark 7:9-13)." Alfred Edersheim notes that from a traditionalist's point of view it was thought that many of these extra-biblical traditions "had been orally delivered to, but not written down by Moses." If traditions were of another sort, Edersheim would say, "To this class belonged all that was supposed to be implied in, or that could be deduced from, the Law of Moses. The [Law of Moses] contained, indeed, in substance or germ, everything; but it had not been brought out, till circumstances successfully evolved what from the first had been provided in principle (Edersheim, p.70)." In the Mark 7 passage quoted above the dynamic designation "the word of God" is given to that which came through Moses. This designation is now applied to the gospel teachings of Jesus. Jesus promised to bring all things to the apostles’ remembrance and stated that "his sheep" would be made up, not only of his immediate disciples, but also "those who will believe in me through their word." These apostles understood their role in the forming of new prophetic scriptures to be similar to that of Moses in forming the Pentateuch of the Old Testament. Peter wrote: "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, "This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased"-- and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts (2 Peter 1:16-19). I am merely touching on the subject of the prophetic scriptures as the communication of the "word of God" here. A full discussion on the authority of the word of God might go on at length but let me merely give two quotes that exemplify our understanding. “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13).” “As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed (Galatians 1:9)!” The correct New Testament understanding of authority rightly exalts the teaching of Jesus Christ. For the purpose of our present topic we recognize that if the “word of God/ word of man distinction” is maintained then great force is given to what at any rate is an observable development from New Testament teaching to what becomes known to some as “patristic orthodoxy”. With the points made above in mind the early writings even of men like Justin Martyr should be examined for subtle shifts that become authoritative stepping stones in some minds for further development.

There are, in the main, three adjustments in Justin Martyr’s approach to the bread and wine that we should note: 1) He uses “Eucharist” as a technical term for the developing “orthodox” rite. 2) He assumes greater similarity with, and even adopts, the Hellenistic “mysteries” as a valid ritual category for his developing orthodoxy. 3) His “eucharist” has transitioned from the biblical use of the bread and wine with memorial words in the context of a fellowship meal to a mere symbolic or liturgical meal as a cultic rite.

Justin Martyr may be the earliest writer to apply the term "eucharist" to the bread and the wine. There is one writing by Ignatius in which the term is used but it shows evidence of being spurious (Lightfoot, Harmer, and Holmes p. 132, 133, 189). The designation “Eucharist” for a rite in which consecrated foods are distributed by a priest can be used as a rhetorical device to close what is actually a significant gap between a Hellenistic sacrificial system and the fellowship meal setting of the memorial rite of the bread and wine. Authentic Christianity is adverse to any ongoing sense of cultic sacrifice. Under the word translated “sacrifice” the theological dictionary of the New Testament recognizes that “...in His sayings concerning the temple in Mt. 12:6;26;61, cf27:40; Jn. 2:19; 4:21ff. Jesus makes it clear that sacrifices are of secondary value and are doomed to perish....This original purpose of sacrifice is finally fulfilled in the personal act of Christ, in the voluntary and unique offering up of his life. Sacrifice is thus brought to an end in Him. Cultic sacrifice is not merely transcended but ended by the unique self-offering of Christ. Heb. 10:18; cf. 9:8...(Kittel Vol. III, p. 184-185)." Undaunted by the New Testament aversion to an ongoing material sacrificial system, the writers of the developing "orthodoxy" create a rhetorical link to the New Testament's figurative phrase “sacrifice of thanksgiving” (Heb. 13:15) by adopting a new technical term for their ritual -Eucharist. The original context of Hebrews finds eucharistia used with it's lexical meaning "thanksgiving." It is only in later extra-biblical writings that "eucharist" is given the technical meaning that accomadates the Hellenistic and idolatrous ideas and actions of an ongoing ritual sacrifice. Hellenistic sacrificial thinking is so fused with the developing "orthodoxy’s hybrid ritual" that the developing "orthodoxy" would soon have to appeal to the Old Testament terminology and sacrificial system to explain their “eucharist”. The candor with which the conservative Lutheran, then Eastern Orthodox scholar Jarslov Pelikan traces this phenomenon makes the following quote worthwhile.

The growth of the cultic, hierarchical, and ethical structures of Christianity led to the Christianization of many features of Judaism....In the New Testament itself the concept of “priest” referred either to the Levites of the Old Testament, now made obsolete, or to Christ or to the entire church—not to the ordained ministry of the church. But Clement, who was also the first to use the term “layman,” already spoke of “priests” and of “the high priest” and significantly related these terms to the Levitical priesthood; a similar parallel occurred in the Didichae and in Hippolytus. For Tertullian, the bishop was already “the high priest,” and for his disciple Cyprian, it was completely natural to speak of a Christian “priesthood”. And so by the time of Chrysostom’s treatise On the Priesthood it seems to have become accepted practice to refer to Aaron and Eli as examples and warnings for the priesthood of the Christian church, Chrysostom also spoke of “the Lord being sacrificed and laid upon the altar and the priest standing and praying over the victim,” summarizing the sacrificial language about the Eucharist which had also become accepted practice. Therefore the apostles, too, were represented as priests. But this re-Judaization does not indicate any recovery of close association between Judaism and Christian theology, on the contrary,...[it was] a practice which was both an index to and a cause of the isolation of Gentile Christian thought from Judaism contemporary with itself as well as from the Jewish Christianity out of which it had originally come (Pelikan Vol.1,p.25).

We know the Old Testament had a material sacrificial system and this is why the Old Testament became a source for any biblical rationale to the developing eucharistic teaching. The actual and immediate source of strange ritual and ideas is everywhere present in the idolatrous Hellenistic religions. It is with this assertion that two remaining adjustments of Justin Martyr are chiefly related.

The term “mystery” in Hellenistic religion stands for the “magical action” or “for the formula which effects the magic” (Kittel Vol.4, p.810).

More generally the term refers to “...the sacramental rites which constitute the true event of the mystery, the cultic actualization of the deity, which shows itself to be present in the sacred drama, in the exposition by the hierophants of the sacred symbols and the pronouncement of the accompanying formulae, and which enters into sanctifying sacramental fellowship with the devotees. Because this encounter takes place in the mystery liturgy, the sacred actions and objects must be protected from all profanation (Kittel Vol.4, p. 807).”

Justin is not only familiar with the category of “mysteries” as used in his former Hellenistic religion-- “...we who, out of every race of men, used to worship Bacchus the son of Semele, and Apollo the son of Latona, and Proserpine and Venus (who were maddened with love of Adonis, and whose mysteries also you celebrate)...(A.N.F. Vol.1, p. 171)” –he may also have an affinity for “mysteries” as a valuable category in his new religion. By defending his developing “orthodoxy” with the declaration “that promiscuous intercourse is not one of our Mysteries (A.N.F., Vol.1 p. 172)” Justin seems to retain the category in general. The similarity becomes more obvious when Justin, after describing his eucharist in it’s developing form, he continues his description: “Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated (A.N.F. Vol.1, p. 185).

If this approaching parallel with the term “mystery” seems insignificant in Justin Martyr, we should only recognize that the following generation of “orthodox” writers will adopt the term “mystery” along with it’s Latin equivalent “sacramentum” and a host of mystery-religion-terms as the normal designation for the rite of the bread and the wine. “The original cultic concept of mystery found rejuvenation in the early church when [mystery] became a fixed term for the sacraments (Kittle Vol. 4, p.826).” We also notice that Justin Martyr’s use of “mysteries” as a category of cultic actions would not be out of step with developing a culturally elite “orthodoxy” in the city of Rome during this period. John C. Gager points out that “...it was in the second century that the emperors Hadrian and Marcus Aurelis became initiates of the Eleusinian mysteries...(Gager p.102).

A third point of adjustment in Justin Martyr’s eucharist is the separation of the memorial words of Jesus from the context of a fellowship meal and the reformation of the rite into a service with mere symbolic or liturgical eating of consecrated food alone. Justin says, “When our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought,...there is a distribution to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine and water for a participation in the eucharistic elements...(A.N.F. Vol.1, p.186)”
Justin Martyrs description does not prove there was no meal before or after but his is the first description that lacks reference to the meal context. The change in form makes the developing “orthodox” rite fit more closely with the descriptions of the liturgical eating of the Mithraic, and other ancient mystery cults. In the gospel accounts the institution of Christ’s memorial is in the context of a memorial meal -the Passover. In modern banquets we have experienced when one person rises at the meal to offer a toast which gathers the attention of all the participants of the meal. The memorial words with the bread and the cup at a meal are closer in form to this than to the liturgical eating and drinking of mystery cults. Notice in Matthew’s gospel that the context of the memorial is a meal at which conversation would not be inappropriate. “Now when evening had come He sat down with the twelve. Now as they were eating He said,...And each of them began to say to Him,...Then He answered and said, “He who dipped with me...Then Judas said...And as they were eating Jesus took bread,...(Matthew 26:19-26). The institution of the Lord’s memorial is recorded similarly in the gospel of Mark and the gospel of Luke with the explanatory words “this do, for my memorial (Luke 22:19 Marshall).” In the Corinthian church the very problem that Paul was addressing (1Cor. 11:20-34) was that some of those who were wealthier were partaking of their own food which they had in abundance, before it had been set out to share in common with the whole body of believers, they were (at the place of meeting) separating themselves; having a meal to themselves separate from the common meal in which the memorial with the bread and wine would take place. What was intended to be the “love feast”, was being made an “elite feast” by leaving the meager remains of food and drink for the general “fellowship” part of the meal. Paul’s complaint: what kind of fellowship meal could it be when by their actions the wealthy were despising the gathered people of God and thereby not being considerate of the body of Christ?

In sum, three areas of adjustment to the memorial of Christ’s body and blood found in Justin Martyr’s eucharist are: 1) Use of the technical term eucharist for the evolving “orthodox” ritual. 2) The association with, and apparent adoption of, “mysteries” as an “orthodox” category. 3) The transition in form from a memorial as part of a meal, to the “eucharist” participation as part of a liturgical ritual.


The Bread and the Cup: Biblical Memorial or Catholic Sacrament?

Some of the most striking differences between fidelity to Christ and fidelity to Christendom arise around the bread and the cup.  Two distinct understandings of how and why we partake of the bread and the cup among the assembly can be distinguished.  On one hand,  a "memorial" approach, and on the other, a "sacramental" approach. 

For us to say our participation in the bread and cup is a memorial, we are resting on Jesus' word: "do this in memory of me".  Some have assumed that the bread and the cup of the Lord's Supper, along with water immersion, are actions which should be called "sacraments" no matter how one understands their meaningfulness.  But "sacrament" is a man-induced category which, without warrant from prophetic scripture, will ultimately confuse many who would desire to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

In the prophetic scriptures, these two actions, immersion and partaking of the bread and the cup, are not joined under the single strange heading: "sacrament," from which strange doctrinal inferences can be assumed.  And to say a little more, the term "sacrament" has historically carried with it a "conduit of grace" idea which is also foreign to the teachings of Jesus Christ. 
...the rites practiced from a very early date by the Church in its native Jewish environment were not sacral acts....These symbolic rites rapidly and inevitably in the larger Hellenistic environment developed into sacraments and were equipped with the efficacies of Hellenistic mysticism (Angus 180).
In "The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge it is stated that:

...the same influence of pagan religious tradition...began about the same time, though more slowly and gradually, to have an effect on the Church....  This is most clearly seen in the history of baptism and the Lord's Supper.  The very name sacramenta is a token of this (article on Lord's Supper 28).
Some more recent dictionaries of Theology have provided definitions or etymologies of "sacrament" that might be more palatable to evangelical taste by emphasizing that the Latin "Sacramentum" was used to describe Roman military oaths.  However, the military oaths described were religious initiation rites which would coincide with the elements of Greek "mysterion" from the mystery religions.  Edward Gibbon affirms: "On [a Roman soldier's] first entrance into the service, an oath was administered to him [renewed annually] with every circumstance of solemnity.  He promised never to desert his standard.... The attachment of the Roman troops to their standard was inspired by the united influence of religion and of honor.  The golden eagle, which glittered in the front of the legion, was the object of their fondest devotion.....  Tacitus calls the Roman eagles Bellorum Deos.  They were placed in a chapel in the camp, and with the other deities received the religious worship of the troops" (Gibbon 1,227).

The development of the Christendom approach out of, and away from, the approach which retains fidelity to Christ at its center is marked by several distinctions.  The way to justify approaching the bread and the cup as a memorial is to hold closely to the biblical record while ignoring, or discounting later "insights".  The way to justify approaching the bread and the cup as a mysterious, grace conveying, sacrament is to adhere to traditional catholic teachings while ignoring or discounting conflicts with the biblical data.
A "first glance" distinction is seen in nomenclature.  The terms used to describe the bread and the cup are multiplied in the Christendom approach. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in an article titled, "What Is The Sacrament Called?" includes the following: "The Eucharist", "The Sacred Mysteries", "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass", "Medicine of Immortality", and "Pure and Holy Sacrifice".  In the Catholic version of the Christendom approach, the Bread and Cup or "elements" may only be administered by a priest.  This priestly administration is considered necessary to fulfill the ideas of: consecration (moment of changing common elements into means of grace), epiclesis (the invoking of the Holy Spirit upon the Bread and the Wine), and oblation (elements offered as sacrifice to God).

From the "fidelity to Christ" approach we observe that in prophetic scripture there is no requirement for a specialized administrating officiant.  Bishop Cheney admits, "There is not a word even to indicate that the presence of a minister was necessary to the proper celebration of the rite (Cheney 33)!"  The contrast between the two approaches on this point has not escaped the attention of N A D Scotland. In a booklet
chronicling the order in which accretions from the culture were accepted as part of the growing catholic tradition around the bread and the cup, Eucharistic Consecration In The First Four Centuries And Its Implications For Liturgical Reform (Oxford: Latimer House, 1989),  Scotland says: "The whole fourth century concept of consecration is totally out of keeping with the New Testament (Scotland 43)." 

The bread and the cup, viewed through the lens of the growing tradition, is central  to Christendom's false system of Guilt and Grace. In the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church the developed traditional approach to the bread and the cup is given central importance as a means of salvation. This centrality is born out in statements such as these: "The Eucharist is 'the source and summit of the Christian Life." And, "As sacrifice the Eucharist is also offered in reparation for the sins of the living and the dead and to obtain spiritual or temporal benefits from God."

Certainly a sacramental interpretive grid can be placed onto the prophetic scriptures with some measure of felt success for those so inclined.  I won't engage every potential strength with its counterpoint weakness here. The best antidote to abstracted systematic error is found in clearer apprehension of the biblically contextualized, narrative whole.  But just the scarcity of passages which even mention the bread and cup memorial should serve as a clue that the systematicians of sacramental theology have gotten off track.  Out of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, what might be a name for the memorial is mentioned only once: 1Corinthians 11:20. Other wise the original Bread and Cup memorial of the New Covenant is in three of the four Gospel narratives.  We note that upon comparing these three narratives, we do not find a fixed (liturgical) form.  And further more the Gospel according to John gives record of the meal with many details yet he omits any mention of the Bread and Cup.  This lack of scriptural emphasis on the bread and the cup makes the extraordinary contrast between the biblical memorial and the Catholic sacrament all the more remarkable.

The importance of the fellowship meal with it's memorial use of the bread and the cup should not be devalued for what it is. Remembering Him and His Gospel, we know our union with him is by fidelity to Him. Jesus did not call the bread and the cup a "sacrament". He did not call the bread and the cup many popular but potentially confusing names. Men in claiming to be religious have created their own religion.  They adopt a way of thinking and teaching on the bread and the cup which God has not given us in His Word. True loyalty to God requires us to repristinate our doctrine according to His Word.  May God help us do that.


A New Testament Perspective on Eating

Is salvation enacted directly by God as He looks on the faithfulness of His Son and the faith of those who loyally recognize Him...or is salvation mediated through the eating of foods consecrated by a priest at an altar?    In this post we will look at some explicit New Testament statements about eating. Doing this we can shape a kind of New Testament "doctrine of eating."  This will provide a stable starting point from which to judge some of the more divergent teachings of "sacramental eating" that are developed outside of the prophetic scriptures.
In the Gospel some Pharisees and Scribes criticized Jesus' disciples for eating without performing ritual washings, Jesus called the multitude together and responded.   "Hear Me, everyone and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.  If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear (Mark 7:14, 15)!"   The disciples, unsure that they understood the full import of His teaching, asked for further explanation.  Jesus responded with more on the subject of eating: "Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated (Mark 7: 18,19)?" Notice that Jesus is making a distinction between that which is physical -the food and the stomach, and that which is non-physical -the heart.  As recorded in Luke's gospel, Jesus Christ instructs His followers with anxiety-excluding-wisdom, and this wisdom points to the life of faith in God over against the peripherals of food and clothing. "For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing (Luke 12:22, 23)."

In the passage above, Jesus speaks of eating in a non-mystical...even rationalistic sense.  Jesus' rational view of eating does not prevent Him, however, from using "eating food" as a powerful metaphorical illustrator of spiritual truths; as in the following three examples:
1)"I have food to eat that you do not know about...My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work (John 4:32-34)."
2)"Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal....This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent (John 6:27-29)."
3) "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst (John 6:35).
The New Testament perspective of eating does give room to the importance of the intimate fellowship and the relational aspect of a shared meal.  Under this aspect we properly understand the revelation to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), The stern warning against selfish class distinctions at Corinth (1 Cor.11:17-34), and the frequent shared meals in the book of Acts.

  The New Testament perspective on eating, not being weighted with religious ceremony or mysterious power, stands out in contrast to the backdrop of both Judaism and to the Hellenistic Idolatry of the Gentiles.  The New Testament understanding of the Kingdom of God gives rise to this contrast:  "...for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17)."

In the passage cited below the Apostle Paul, addressing the issue of Idolatrous rituals, undercuts the validity of Hellenistic sacramental thought.  The popular thought in idolatrous circles was that eating consecrated foods offered before idols would confer saving power to the participants. So Paul says, "But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat (1 Corinthians 8:8)."  In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author speaks of New Testament liberty from the Mosaic ceremonial laws which: "...relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation (Hebrews 9:10).  And the message of Hebrews is reiterated with this: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited (Hebrews 13:8-9)."

Aware of the New Testament perspective of eating which is behind these passages, the student of true religion is better prepared to grapple with, and reject, the catholic synthesis between  the doctrine of Christ and Hellenistic religion; especially as that synthesis popularizes a distraction from the way union with Jesus is actually effected. That is, by loyal-acknowledgment of Jesus Christ, chiefly manifest in a submitted embrace of His teaching.




If you live in the Oceanside area you may want to join us.

Sunday Night Fellowships 5:30 pm Agape meal, Lord's Supper, and Bible Study! @1721 Walton St.

Wed., and Fri. 5:45 pm for a devotional Scripture reading @ Fireside Park.
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If you need more information contact Jeff Miller. My cell phone number is (760)-576-9215

Jesus is Lord.


Criticisms of the Category, "Means of Grace"

The fact that the phrase “means of grace” is not found in scripture makes any doctrine of “means of grace” one very important step removed from being well founded, or at least from being well tested, as a biblical category of thought. I say this because our only way to know what is essential biblical doctrine is to employ a method that asks not, “what can men teach from the scriptures?” but instead asks, “what is actually (explicitly) taught in the scriptures?”

One important stage in such an approach is the examination of how the authors of scripture used the specific words that may be associated with any particular doctrine. When they used these words were they teaching our doctrine or something else? When we begin with this very conservative approach we must allow assumed or “implied” doctrines to be set to the side. For instance it may be that to most closely follow the thought in the scriptures we should refrain from assuming that the authors had or desired us to have a category: “means of grace,” in mind.

Historically the category “means of grace” has been a part of, or used to explain, “sacramental doctrines.” When we assume a category “means of grace” then logical but problematic steps of doctrinal development might seem natural. But even without this further development of thought, the category “means of grace” may in itself blur our view of the biblical term,“grace” and obscure the nature of our relation to “it.”

Perhaps it would be more biblically sound to simply understand “grace” as the generosity of God, and then to see God’s generosity in uniting us to Jesus Christ, in a relationship of faith and faithfulness. This direct communion with God through Jesus Christ is integral to, and a wonder of, the New Covenant in Christ.
The question may be asked: are not “church attendance1,” “Bible reading2,” or even a conversion inducing “altar call,” are these not means of grace? I am saying that the best answer is: “No, they are not means of grace.” Many helps may be extended to you by God in His gracious relationship to you. However, grace- that is to say God’s generosity, should not be de-personalized. We don’t get at God’s generosity except by getting at God, personally. A good relationship with God unfolds because God personally draws us. He gives us to His Son. Salvation begins and ends in God’s generosity. Again God’s grace or generosity never becomes less than His disposition toward us, and neither He nor His generosity are impersonal objects which we or others manipulate.

Perhaps there are many expressions of God’s grace, or even fruits of His grace, but no mediating “means of grace.” Isn’t this fitting to what we know? We do not stand in relation to God through angels. He has communicated with us in these last days, not through messengers, but in the Son. If we hear the word of life, we hear Him. Therefore if we either cling to old shadows, or make for ourselves new shadows, then we set ourselves in opposition to His true generosity. We become an affront to His grace.
1 See Revelation chapters 2 and 3 for a distinction between God’s generous disposition and church membership.
2 See John 5:39, 40 for a distinction between a gracious relationship with God and familiarity with the Bible.


God Has Power Over These Plagues

The God and Father of Jesus Christ is almighty.  He is even almighty over bad things that happen in the earth where man's disloyalty has precipitated The Curse and in this case "the bowls of the wrath of God". Chapters 15 and 16 of Revelation make up the 5th vision of Revelation; "The Vision of the Judgment of God in 7 Bowls".

One more time we see a situation in which brokenness and humility would be appropriate, but man offers up only more disrespect and stubborness.

Rev 16:1
(1)  Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, "Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God."

Rev 16:8-9
(8)  The fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch men with fire.
(9)  Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.

Reading Revelation reminds me that Jesus did not come on a mission to condemn the world, since the world was already condemned. The Story of the Bible is a story of two falls (Adam and Israel), two exiles away from God's favor (the garden and the land) and one Son of Man who responded appropriately to God's will under the circumstances. Praise God, Jesus is Lord.