LISTEN: Ambrose of Milan, Part 4: The Bishop and the Throne (The History of Christianity Podcast #145 with Daniel Whyte III)

Our Scripture for today is Psalm 77:11-13 which reads: “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings. Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God?”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Polycarp. He said: “Let us then persevere unceasingly in our hope, and in the pledge of our righteousness, that is in Christ Jesus.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Ambrose [AM-BROZE] of Milan [MEE-LAHN] (Part 4): The Bishop and the Throne” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

The Western portion of the empire was ruled by Gratian [GRAY-SHUN] and his half-brother Valentinian II [VAH-LEN-TIN-EE-UHN]. Since the latter was still a child, Gratian [GRAY-SHUN] was also regent in his domain. Gratian [GRAY-SHUN] was then killed in a rebellion, and the usurper, Maximus, threatened to take Valentinian’s [VAH-LEN-TIN-EE-UHN’s] territories. The boy emperor was defenseless, and therefore, in a desperate move, he and his mother Justina sent Ambrose [AM-BROZE] as an ambassador to Maximus. The bishop was successful, and the expected invasion was averted.

In spite of this, relations between Ambrose [AM-BROZE] and Justina were not good. The empress was Arian [AHR-EE-UHN] and insisted on having a basilica where Arian [AHR-EE-UHN] worship could be celebrated. On that point, Ambrose [AM-BROZE] was adamant. He would not have a holy place desecrated by heretical worship, nor would he allow the empress’s power to be used to further the Arian [AHR-EE-UHN] cause in Milan [MEE-LAHN]. Thus followed a long series of memorable confrontations. At one point, Ambrose [AM-BROZE] and his followers were besieged by imperial troops surrounding a disputed church. While those outside threatened the besieged with the clash of arms, Ambrose [AM-BROZE] rallied his flock by singing hymns and psalms. Finally, Justina sought an honorable retreat by demanding that, if not the church, at least its sacred vases be delivered to the emperor. After all, had not Ambrose [AM-BROZE] done as much for a mob of refugees and captives? Again the bishop refused, and answered:

I can take nothing from the temple of God, nor can I surrender what I received, not to surrender, but to keep. In so doing I am helping the emperor, for it is not right for me to surrender these things, nor for him to take them.

It was in the midst of such confrontations with imperial power that Ambrose [AM-BROZE] ordered that an ancient burial ground under one of the churches be dug up. There two skeletons were found, probably dating back long before the Christian Era. But someone remembered hearing as a child about two martyrs, Protasius [PRO-TAY-SEE-US] and Gervasius [JER-VAY-SEE-UHZ], and immediately the remains were given those names. Soon rumors were circulating about the miracles performed by the “sacred relics,” and the people rallied ever more closely around their bishop.

Next time, we will continue looking at “Ambrose [AM-BROZE] of Milan [MEE-LAHN] (Part 5): The Bishop and the Throne.”

Let’s pray.


Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Whom this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.