LISTEN: Ambrose of Milan, Part 1: An Unexpected Election (The History of Christianity Podcast #142)

This is Daniel Whyte III, president of Gospel Light Society International, with the History of Christianity Podcast #142, titled, “Ambrose of Milan (Part 1): An Unexpected Election.”

Our Scripture for today is Isaiah 46:9-11 which reads: “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”

Our History of Christianity quote today is from Ambrose of Milan. He said: “God ordered all things to be produces so that there would be common food for all, and so that the earth would be the common inheritance of all. Thus, nature has produced a common right, but greed has made it the right of a few.”

Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “Ambrose of Milan (Part 1): An Unexpected Election” from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).

The fourth century, so rich in great Christian leaders, produced none whose career was more dramatic than that of Ambrose of Milan.

It was in the year 373 that the death of the bishop of Milan threatened the peace of that important city. Auxentius, the dead bishop, had been appointed by an Arian emperor who had exiled the previous bishop. Now that the bishop’s seat was vacant, the election of a successor could easily turn into a riot, for both Arians and orthodox were determined that one of their number would be the next bishop of Milan.

In order to avoid a possible riot, Ambrose, the governor of the city, decided to attend the election. His efficient and fair rule had made him popular, and he had reason to hope for higher office in the service of the empire. But first he must deal wisely with the potentially explosive situation in Milan. Therefore, he appeared at the church, where tempers were beginning to flare, and addressed the crowd. He was trained in the best of rhetoric, and as he spoke calm was restored.

Suddenly, from the midst of the crowd, a child cried, “Ambrose, bishop.” This caught the fancy of the crowd, and the insistent cry was heard: “Ambrose, bishop; Ambrose! Ambrose!”

Such an election was not part of Ambrose’s plans for his career, and therefore he had recourse to various devices in order to dissuade the people. When that strategy failed, he repeatedly attempted to escape from the city, but was unsuccessful. Finally, when it became clear that the emperor was gratified with the election of his governor, and would be very displeased if Ambrose insisted on his refusal, he agreed to be made bishop of Milan. Since he was only a catechumen, and therefore was not even baptized, it was necessary to perform that rite, and then to raise him through the various levels of ministerial orders. All this was done in eight days, and he was consecrated bishop of Milan on December 1, 373.

Next time, we will begin looking at “Ambrose of Milan (Part 2): An Unexpected Election.”

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.