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Part II




Thirty: Original Sin

 

 

            The Bible teaches us clearly that all our thoughts, words, and actions are tainted by original sin. The problem of original sin began with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. God placed them in paradise and gave all Creation over to them. God allowed Adam and Eve to eat from every tree in garden but forbid them eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

            Satan stepped forward in the form of a serpent and debated the exact nature of the command with Eve. Catching Eve in an exaggeration, the serpent hissed that God was motivated by jealousy rather than loving concern. God’s command lost its force and authority.

 

Genesis 3:6

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

 

Christians call this episode the Fall of Man, because Adam and Eve sinned against God’s command, felt guilt and shame, and no longer lived in innocence and peace.

            Adam and Eve revealed their new sense of shame by sewing clothes to cover their nakedness. They hid from God, but that was impossible. God asked Adam what happened. Revealing his sinful nature, Adam blamed Eve—the woman whom thou gavest to be with me—for the episode. Adam also implied in his response that God had created a defective mate for him. God turned to Eve and asked for her account. She blamed the serpent for beguiling her.

            God drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and prevented their return. He cursed the serpent and promised a Messiah who would crush his head.[1] God promised Eve difficulty and sorrow in childbirth. God warned Adam that he would have to work hard for his food, battles thorns and thistles, and die. Death entered the world through Adam because the penalty for sin is death.

            Original sin means that we are born sinful rather than innocent. Although babies are relatively innocent, they are inherently selfish and self-centered. Children raised without discipline or faith have no conscience, no concern for others, no sense of responsibility. Even when we have the best possible training and the noblest intentions, we are all sinful, as Paul confessed.


 

Romans 7:18-19

18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

 

In an age where we confess everyone’s sins except our own, Paul’s admission reminds us of our weakness and inability to resist temptation.

 

Through all man’s powers corruption creeps,

And him in dreadful bondage keeps;

In guilt he draws his infant breath

And reaps its fruits of woe and death.[2]

 

Many classes of mankind pretend to have motives so pure that their words and actions are beyond criticism. However, God’s Word does not recognize a perfection accomplished through works, whether it is pacifism, socialism, vegetarianism, ecumenism, or any other type of activism.

 

Romans 3:10-18

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. 13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: 14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: 15 Their feet are swift to shed blood: 16 Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17 And the way of peace have they not known: 18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

 

In fact, original sin is so powerful in all mankind that people deny it exists and cannot understand it with their own human reason. No one understands original sin unless the Holy Spirit teaches him through the Law that this is a profound corruption of our nature and not merely missing the mark.[3]

            Christians refer to their sinful nature as the Old Adam, a reminder of the power of original sin. God has provided a remedy for the terminal illness of sin.

 

1 Corinthians 15:21-22

21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

 

The more we know about our sinful nature, the more we appreciate the forgiveness offered to us through the atoning death of Christ. The greatest sinners are the most grateful to God, because they know the magnitude of their rebellion against God’s Word and the suffering following from that opposition to His will.

 

Power of the Devil’s Kingdom

 

"Even the history of the world shows how great is the power of the devil's kingdom. The world is full of blasphemies against God and of wicked opinions, and the devil keeps entangled in these bands those who are wise and righteous [many hypocrites who appear holy] in the sight of the world. In other persons grosser vices manifest themselves. But since Christ was given to us to remove both these sins and these punishments, and to destroy the kingdom of the devil, sin and death, it will not be possible to recognize the benefits of Christ unless we understand our evils. For this reason our preachers have diligently taught concerning these subjects, and have delivered nothing that is new, but have set forth Holy Scriptures and the judgments of the holy Fathers."[4]



Thirty-One: God’s Law

 

 

            No one can understand his sinfulness from his own experiences or thought. Because of our fallen nature, we resist any suggestion that we are less than perfect. Therefore, the Holy Spirit teaches us about sin through the Law.[5] The entire Bible has Law passages in it. Some passages are commands, such as the Ten Commandments. Other Law passages contain threats and warnings. God gave the Law to Moses.

 

Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:1-20

Commands about God

 

I.                Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

 

II.              Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

 

III.            Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

 

Commands about Man

 

IV.            Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

 

V.              Thou shalt not kill.

 

VI.            Thou shalt not commit adultery.

 

VII.          Thou shalt not steal.

 

VIII.        Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

 

IX.            Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house,

 

X.              thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

 

The first three commandments concern our relationship with God. These commandments are the most neglected and abused today. No wonder so many children are growing up without a soul, as some have noted in news articles. No wonder so many adults have such a confused notion of God, forgiveness, and eternal life. Our materialistic society worships the creation but not the Creator. God’s Name is taken in vain regularly, by young children and celebrities, in the schoolyards and in the media. Worship is neglected or worse, turned into a religious amateur hour where congregational talent is used to entertain friends and relatives. Moreover, anyone’s opinion about religion is regarded as confirmed if fanaticism accompanies the new revelations.

          Most societies base their laws upon a Creator instilling basic principles of right and wrong. All human laws are directly related to the second table of the Ten Commandments. Order and authority are necessary, beginning in the home. Murder is forbidden in all civilization. The refusal to protect vulnerable life—the unborn, the disabled, the elderly—is a certain sign of the rapid decline of society. Immorality has always been a problem, but now the breaking of the Sixth Commandment is so rampant that long-lasting marriages are rare. The two commandments about coveting (an evil desire to have something or someone) explain why the prohibitions against murder, adultery, stealing, and slander are so commonly violated today.

            The Law has limitations, but it is useful, spiritual, and good. God commands what is good for us, so the Gospel teaches us to love what God commands. Our sinful nature rebels against the Ten Commandments, but the Law shows us our need for a Savior, Christ Jesus. We cannot save ourselves or atone for our sins.

 

Jeremiah 23:39

Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?

 

The Holy Spirit works through the Law to burn away our impurities and to soften our hardened hearts. No one would try to plant a garden in a place where cars were parked for years. The soil would be too hard and packed to allow seed to be planted or take root. But once the rock-hard soil is softened and prepared, seed can take root and produce crops. The Law of God has done its work when we no longer make excuses or blame others for our sinfulness, asking only for forgiveness through Christ.

            The Law is limited because it demands perfection and shows us our sinfulness, but the Law cannot make us better or give us forgiveness. The Law is like an x-ray machine. If someone’s arm is swollen and injured, an x-ray will reveal any broken bones. But no doctor would order another x-ray to heal the broken bones. The Law is diagnosis but not medicine.

 

The Law of God is good and wise

And sets His will before our eyes,

Shows us the way of righteousness,

And dooms to death when we transgress.


Its light of holiness imparts

The knowledge of our sinful hearts

That we may see our lost estate

And seek deliverance ere too late.[6]

 

            Anyone who offers the Law as the solution for sin is providing something more dangerous than continuous x-rays of an injury. Law solutions are very common today, and they always contain must or have to.

1.     You have to develop more self-esteem.

2.     You have to surrender your life to Jesus before you can be saved.

3.     You must have a born again experience or you are not saved.

4.     You must speak in tongues first or you are not really a Christian.

5.     You must give up smoking, dancing, cards, and make-up.

6.     You must get involved in social issues or you are not really part of the Church.

7.     You have to witness to your faith or God will not let you grow as a Christian.

8.     You have to be a soul-winner.

9.     You have to promise to be better.

10.  You have to tithe.[7]

These unholy man-made commandments overturn the Gospel. If a believer must do something to qualify for forgiveness, then the death of Christ on the cross was inadequate to atone for the sins of the world.

            Law passages can be found in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament.

 

Romans 1:28-32

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

 

James 1:13-15

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

 

Law passages in the New Testament are often accompanied by the Gospel.

 

1 John 3:4

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

 

The purpose of the Law is not to leave someone under the sentence of condemnation, but to offer forgiveness in the Gospel. Notice the change to the Gospel in the next verses.

 

1 John 3:5-6

5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. 6 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.

 

The Law prepares us to hear the Gospel but should never be confused with the Gospel. The demands and threats of the Law make us hunger and thirst for the Good News of sins forgiven freely through Jesus Christ.

 

Psalm 42:1-4

1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God? 4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.

 

This Psalm was interpreted beautifully in the following hymn:

 

As pants the hart for cooling streams

When heated in the chase,

So longs my soul, O God, for Thee

And Thy refreshing grace.[8]

Chief Office of the Law

 

"But the chief office or force of the Law is that it reveal original sin with all its fruits, and show man how very low his nature has fallen, and has become [fundamentally and] utterly corrupted; as the Law must tell man that he has no God nor regards [cares for] God, and worships other gods, a matter which before and without the Law he would not have believed. In this way he becomes terrified, is humbled, desponds, despairs, and anxiously desires aid, but sees no escape; he begins to be an enemy of [enraged at] God, and to murmur, etc. This is what Paul says, Romans 4:15: 'The Law worketh wrath.' And Romans 5:20: Sin is increased by the Law. [The Law entered that the offense might abound.'][9]




Thirty-Two: The Gospel

 

 

            The Law cannot give us a speck of comfort or make us any better. The Law salesmen get into a hellish rage when they hear this truth revealed in the Scriptures. Nothing strikes terror into their hearts more than taking away their false concept of salvation earned through works of the Law. Our sinful nature wants to be comforted by the Law, because every single person wants to hold himself above all others. Many people give this away when they confess horrible sins and yet excuse them. One drug dealer said, “I never sold drugs to children.” A con artist said, “I took millions from people, but it was only because they were so greedy.” However, when we listen carefully to the Law of God and apply it to ourselves, we can only say, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

            The Gospel offers only comfort, forgiveness, love, and peace.[10] The Gospel makes no demands except that we believe its promises. However, the Gospel provides what it demands – faith. People hear the Gospel promises and believe in them, not because they have made a decision but because the Holy Spirit has created this profound trust in forgiveness through the cross of Christ. Everyone who has been converted by the Word or awakened to a new understanding of the Gospel can confirm what Paul said about the power of the Word.

 

           1 Thessalonians 2:13

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

 

Just as rain and snow come down from heaven and always have an effect, so the Word of God goes out His mouth and always accomplishes His will.[11] One effect is to create faith. Another effect is to harden and blind those who oppose the Gospel. If a believer confesses his faith in forgiveness through the atoning death of Christ, an anti-Christian cult member will laugh scornfully or become angry. Someone who rejects the authority of the Bible will say, with great pride, “I do not think that God requires a sacrifice for me to be forgiven.”

            Some of the most comforting passages of the Bible are found in the Old Testament.

 

Psalm 23:1

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 

Isaiah 43:1

But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.

 

Psalm 103:8-17

8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. 13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. 14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. 15 As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. 16 For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. 17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;

 

Jeremiah 31:31-34

31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

 

The Old Testament is full of these comforting passages. Most of Isaiah 40-66 is Gospel, ending with some of the most joyous and exalted passages of the Bible.


Isaiah 66:12-13

12 For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees. 13 As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.

 

The Gospel fills us with peace because the Word assures us that our sins have been forgiven, eternal life won through our Savior. This great miracle of the Word is God’s work alone. The Law serves as a mirror to show us as we really are, with many sins. The Gospel covers these transgressions, blotting them out with the innocent blood of Christ. This atoning death for our sins is an unlimited treasure of grace.

 

Jesus, priceless Treasure,

Fount of purest pleasure,

Truest Friend to me.

Ah, how long in anguish

Shall my spirit languish,

Yearning, Lord, for Thee?

Thou art mine, O Lamb divine!

I will suffer naught to hide Thee,

Naught I ask beside Thee.![12]

Priceless Treasure

 

"For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain ourselves."[13]




Thirty-Three: Justification by Faith

 

 

Romans 5:1-2

1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

 

            This term, justification by faith, is the one we use when we say God forgives our sins and pronounces us innocent because of Christ. A similar term is the righteousness of faith. Both expressions are the most comforting and encouraging words a believer can hear. We are familiar with justifying ourselves. We do it everyday. A child says, “He hit me back first!” Adults say, “He hurt me so I decided to get even.”

            We may pronounce ourselves innocent. We may even try to atone for our sins by making up for the wrong we have done. But only God can pronounce us innocent, forgiven, justified. Any other form of justification is an illusion and contrary to the Gospel. This justification takes place without any merit or works on our part. The apostle Paul described this truth in a three-fold manner in Romans.

 

Romans 5:6, 8, 10

6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 

 

8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.           

 

10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

 

In each and every case, from the baptism of infants to the conversion of adults, the Word of God creates saving faith. This faith receives the promises of God, chiefly the forgiveness of sin, but also the blessings of justification. Sin brings death, so forgiveness brings eternal life. Justification by faith begins our journey toward heaven and brings heaven to earth in many ways. Wherever the Gospel is taught and believed, the fruits of the Gospel grow and flourish:

 

Galatians 5:22

1.     Love

2.     Joy

3.     Peace

4.     Longsuffering

5.     Gentleness

6.     Goodness

7.     Faith

8.     Meekness

9.     Temperance.[14]

The Law motivates us to do the minimum. Students ask the teacher, “How long does my essay have to be?” Workers ask the boss, “When can we go home?” The Gospel motivates us to do the maximum. Love does not ask how little but how much, not waiting for a reward but finding joy in giving rather than receiving.[15]

 

1 John 4:10-12

10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. 12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

 

Justification by faith means dwelling in the Gospel, trusting in God’s mercy, motivated to be a channel of the Savior’s love to our friends, neighbors, and family.

            The Bible teaches us with great clarity that the righteousness we receive from the Gospel is the righteousness of Christ. The Son of God took on our human nature when He was born of the Virgin Mary. He was tempted in every way we are tempted, but He did not sin. Nevertheless, He became sin for us. He paid the price for our sins to give us His righteousness. For that reason, God looks past our sins and sees the righteousness of His Son. More than that, He loves us because of our love for His Son.

 

John 16:26-27

26 At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.          

 

Justification by faith is the opposite of condemnation. The entire world is condemned because of unbelief. Wherever the Gospel is proclaimed, sin and death are defeated by faith in Christ.

 

John 3:18

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

 

Martin Luther, the Reformer, described this in his great hymn about justification by faith.

 

 

But God beheld my wretched state

Before the world’s foundation,

And, mindful of His mercies great,

He planned my soul’s salvation,

A father’s heart He turned to me

South my redemption fervently:

He gave His dearest Treasure.

 

To me He spake: Hold fast to Me,

I am Thy Rock and Caste;

Thy Ransom I Myself will be,

For thee I strive and wrestle;

For I am with thee, I am thine,

And evermore thou shalt be Mine:

The Foe shall not divide us.[16]

 

God provides the Gospel and ministers to proclaim the Good News. All those who listen to the message of salvation through Christ alone are justified by faith.


Faith Lays Hold of the Treasures

 

"These treasures are offered us by the Holy Ghost in the promise of the holy Gospel; and faith alone is the only means by which we lay hold upon, accept, and apply, and appropriate them to ourselves. This faith is a gift of God, by which we truly learn to know Christ, our Redeemer, in the Word of the Gospel, and trust in Him, that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteous by God the Father, and are eternally saved."[17]



Thirty-Four: The Means of Grace

 

 

            The term grace is frequently used by Christians, but many people do not know exactly what grace means. Grace not only includes God’s forgiveness, love, and favor, but also the fact that God freely gives it, without merit or price on our part.

 

Romans 3:23-26

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

 

Ephesians 2:5-7

5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

 

How are people forgiven freely by God? The shorthand term we use for this is the Means of Grace. Believers employ this term because the Gospel comes to us in various ways:

  1. The Gospel preached and taught;
  2. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism;
  3. The Sacrament of Holy Communion;
  4. Absolution;
  5. The mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren.

Another way to define the Means of Grace is – the Gospel in Word and Sacrament. God has bound Himself to His Word, bringing His Gospel of forgiveness only through the Word.

 

We praise you for the Means of Grace

As homeward now our steps we trace.

Grant, Lord, that we who worshiped here

May all at last in heaven appear.[18]

 

            The Word of God can be invisible or visible. The Word is invisible when it is taught, preached, and communicated in conversation. Although some people are converted to the Christian faith by reading the Scriptures, most are converted through the spoken Word. Jesus converted people through the spoken Word, giving us many examples of the power of the Word.

 

John 4:40-42

40 So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his own word; 42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.

 

We should never be shy in trusting this Word, God’s only appointed means for doing His work. What is more powerful – our personalities and methods or the Sword of the Spirit?

 

Hebrews 4:12-13

12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged 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. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

 

The Word is visible when it comes to us in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. The question is not whether God needs the Sacraments. God does not need, He provides. In offering us forgiveness, God is a prodigal giver, patiently extending His Word to us through ministers, family, and friends.[19] The Sacraments are a special help for believers because Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are individually received. The spoken Word can pass over our heads, especially if we become distracted and do not listen attentively as we should. But when we receive forgiveness through Holy Baptism or Holy Communion, it is personal.


Christ: Through the Means of Grace

 

"Moreover, the declaration, John 6:44, that no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him, is right and true. However, the Father will not do this without means, but has ordained for this purpose His Word and Sacraments as ordinary means and instruments; and it is the will neither of the Father nor of the Son that a man should not hear or should despise the preaching of His Word, and wait for the drawing of the Father without the Word and Sacraments. For the Father draws indeed by the power of His Holy Ghost, however, according to His usual order [the order decreed and instituted by Himself], by the hearing of His holy, divine Word, as with a net, by which the elect are plucked from the jaws of the devil. Every poor sinner should therefore repair thereto [to holy preaching], hear it attentively, and not doubt the drawing of the Father. For the Holy Ghost will be with His Word in His power, and work by it...."[20]




Thirty-Five: The Spoken Word

 

 

            Jesus preached the Gospel, the Good News, to His followers.

 

John 15:9-11

9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

 

When we feel the burden of our sins or the scowl of the unbelieving world, the Gospel comforts us with God’s Word of forgiveness and His promises of help. Jesus taught the Gospel to those around Him, converting many but not all.

 

John 6:65-66

65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

 

A believer finds it strange at first that the patient and kindly words of Jesus would offend His followers. However, the Word is always effective in accomplishing God’s will. People set their hearts against the forgiveness found only in Christ. They oppose and reject the Gospel, harden their hearts against Christ, and take great pleasure in persecuting the Christian faith.[21]

            The minister and the congregation, the speaker and the listener, both must realize that the Gospel always gives what the Gospel promises – forgiveness of sin, comfort, peace, joy, and all the blessings of God. The gardener and the farmer can understand how God works in this regard. Apples come from trees. Anyone who wants delicious, juicy apples with perfect flavor will plant apple trees. He will not grab any old twig from a corner store. He will plant the right tree for the apple he wants to have. In the same way a Christian will plant the Gospel, sow the Gospel, broadcast the Gospel…to get the fruits of the Gospel.

            Many people would like loving relationships in their lives and in their congregations. An abundance of the Gospel will produce an abundance of the most important Gospel fruit – love. Forgiveness and love flourish together. We know that from the opposite situation. When people hold grudges and never forget a slight, whether real or imaginary, love and forgiveness vanish. The solution is not to increase the condemnation of the Law: why are we so loveless? The answer is to dwell upon the overwhelming message of God’s love and forgiveness for all of us sinners.[22]

 

Titus 3:3-7

3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration[23], and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

 

These Gospel passages lift our spirits when we consider what God has done for us foolish, disobedient, and deceived people.

            We all need to hear the Gospel spoken to us. We should also be grateful that God gives us the opportunity to use the power of His Word, to see the results of the Gospel, and yet to realize that all of the honor belongs to God alone. The mutual consolation of the brethren includes all those times when we informally speak the Gospel to those we know. Many times we offer and receive forgiveness from family and friends, so God’s grace is never limited to the confines of a church building, but is always bound to the Word. Many people who seem allergic to church hear the Gospel from their friends, as Martin Luther said:

 

"The first and highest work of love a Christian ought to do when he has become a believer, is to bring others also to believe in the way he himself came to believe. And here you notice Christ begins and institutes the office of the ministry of the external Word in every Christian; for He Himself came with this office and the external Word."[24]

 

This highest work of love is also what parents perform when they baptize their children and teach them the Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Gospel.

 

 

The External or Spoken Word

 

"The apostle's purpose in praising his co-laborers is to prevent them from despising the external Word as something inessential to them, or well enough known. For though God is able to effect everything without the instrumentality of the outward Word, working inwardly by his Spirit, this is by no means his purpose. He uses preachers as fellow-workers, or co-laborers, to accomplish His purpose through the Word when and where He pleases. Now, since preachers have the office, name and honor of the fellow-workers with God, no one may be considered learned enough or holy enough to ignore or despise the most inferior preaching; especially since he knows not when the hour may come wherein God will, through preachers, perform His work in him."[25]



Thirty-Six: Holy Baptism

 

 

            Babies were especially fragile in the ancient world because medical care was slight and childbirth primitive. Newborn children still have a high mortality rate today, so many parents naturally worry about their infants. God has provided assurance in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Through the power of the Word God plants faith in the hearts of baptized children, using water as a symbol of washing and rebirth. A baptized baby is a believer, justified by faith, a member of the Kingdom of God, a temple of the Holy Spirit. Holy Baptism removes the power of original sin. Therefore, if a baptized baby dies, he will be with Christ in heaven. Not because he was innocent. Not because he had perfect parents. But because he died believing in Christ Jesus.

 

He that believes and is baptized

Shall see the Lord's salvation;

Baptized into the death of Christ,

He is a new creation.

Through Christ's redemption he shall stand

Among the glorious heavenly band

Of every tribe and nation.


 

With one accord, O God, we pray:

Grant us Thy Holy Spirit;

Look Thou on our infirmity

Through Jesus' blood and merit.

Grant us to grow in grace each day

That by this Sacrament we may

Eternal life inherit.[26]

 

            Holy Baptism is also a great comfort for parents of healthy children. Parents know that newborns show evidence of belief as well as lack of trust. When a baby looks into the face of a stranger who holds him, he cries in fear because he does not trust the looks and the sound of the new person. When the stranger gives the baby back to the mother, she holds her infant and soothes him with her voice. The crying stops.[27] The baby who trusts the voice of his mother also listens to the voice of his Shepherd.

 

I am Jesus’ little lamb,

Ever glad at heart I am;

For my Shepherd gently guides me,

Knows my need, and well provides me,

Loves me every day the same,

Even calls me by my name.[28]

 

The name we receive at our baptism is very important. Every believing soul has a name in God’s Kingdom, a Christian name. The minister asks, “How will this child be named?” The last name is generic, but the other names are his Christian name. The minister addresses the baby by name and says, “name, I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

            Holy Baptism is so important that people converted as adults are baptized into the Church. Human reason says, “That is for babies and their families.”[29] God’s Word commands us to baptize because it is such a certain sign of belonging to Him. The inclusion of water gives us a constant reminder of the washing of Holy Baptism and our thirsting for righteousness.

 

John 4:13-14

13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

God also commands us to baptize because we should enjoy what He fills with so many blessings. Holy Baptism begins a journey toward eternal life, whether our days on this earth are short or long.

 

The Flower of God’s Church

 

"The purest and best part of the human race, the special nursery and flower of God's Church, is tender youth. Youth retains the gift of the Holy Spirit which it received in Baptism; it learns eagerly the true doctrine about God and our Redeemer, Jesus Christ; it calls Him God with a chaste mind and with a simple, pure faith; it thanks Him with a quick and joyful heart for the blessings received from Him; in its studies and the other parts of life, it carries out the duties commanded it; and it obeys God and parents reverently. Particularly God-pleasing, therefore, are the studies of one's earliest age: prayer, obedience and praises which honor God, regardless of how weak and stammering its voice may be."[30]

             



Thirty-Seven: Holy Communion

 

 

            The Last Supper of Jesus with His disciples was also the first service of Holy Communion. Human reason asks, “How could Jesus give His body and blood when He was standing there?” We could ask the same question about anything miraculous in the Bible. How could God create the universe in six days…or at all? The answer to all these questions can be summed up in a few words: God accomplishes His will through His Word. God declares us forgiven through His Word. His Word is the power in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.

            Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper for all Christians.

 

Luke 22:19

And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

 

The importance of Holy Communion in the Apostolic Church can be seen from Paul’s description of the Sacrament.

 

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.

 

The Lord’s Supper is symbolic, but the Sacrament is not limited to symbolism. Paul asked:

 

1 Corinthians 10:16

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

 

Communion means fellowship with God. God’s Word consecrates the bread and wine of Holy Communion. Those who commune receive the Body and Blood of Christ with the bread and wine.

In consecrated wine and bread

No eye perceives the mystery dread;

But Jesus' words are strong and clear:

“My body and My blood are here.”

 

 But here we have no boon on earth,

And faith alone discerns its worth.

The Word, not sense, must be our guide,

And faith assure since sight's denied.[31]

 

            Holy Communion gives us forgiveness because it is the visible Word.

 

Matthew 26:28

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

 

The Christian Church has taken these words so seriously that only repentant sinners with the proper understanding of the Sacrament have been able to participate in the Lord’s Supper – a practice described as closed communion. If someone is too young or untrained to understand the Sacrament, he does not know what he is receiving. If he is an unrepentant sinner, the Church should not harden his heart and damn him with Holy Communion. The apostle Paul was absolute in his declaration of this principle:

 

1 Corinthians 11:27

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

 

Therefore, some are suspended from Holy Communion until they repent of their sins while being counseled by the minister of the congregation. A few are excommunicated if they refuse all efforts to encourage godly sorrow for sin and faith in the Gospel. However, excommunication is a last resort after all other attempts at restoration and forgiveness have failed.

            An odd notion has taken over many Christians, who have been trained to think that everyone should be able to receive Holy Communion at any church they visit. The origin of this fad is the liberal ecumenical movement that denies the basic teachings of the Bible—even the divinity of Christ—and regards sound doctrine as a trivial matter. The professed goal of ecumenism is the unity of the Church, but true unity can only be based upon doctrinal agreement. Therefore, a congregation with closed communion is one where the teachings of the Bible are taken with utmost seriousness.


God’s Action in Holy Communion

 

"When the preacher who is administering this holy Sacrament repeats, along with the Lord's Prayer, the words of institution, he first of all is testifying that he does not desire to perform, from his own opinion, a human action and institution; rather, as a householder [steward] of the divine mysteries, he is, in accordance with Christ's command, desiring to administer a holy Sacrament. Accordingly, he sets aside visible bread and wine so that it can be the means and instrument for the distribution and fellowship of the body and blood of Christ. Further, he prays that, in accordance with His institution and promise, Christ would be present in this action, and that by means of the consecrated bread wine he might distribute Christ's body and blood. Finally, he testifies that by the power of the institution of Christ, the bread and wine in the holy Supper are not [merely] base bread and wine, but rather that Christ's body and Christ's blood are received sacramentally united and present with the bread and wine. He will herewith then point out this institution and ordinance of Christ to the communicants."[32]




Thirty-Eight: Absolution

 

 

            The Book of Concord lists absolution as a Sacrament in one place.[33] Christians normally consider absolution a part of their baptism, since they base their forgiveness on the promises made by God in that Sacrament. But it is important to consider confession and absolution separately because they are so important in receiving forgiveness. When we confess our sins, we admit that we are sinful by nature.

 

1 John 1:7-10

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

 

The apostle John wrote about confession and absolution in child-like simplicity, repeating simple phrases, to teach us about the need for acknowledging our sin and believing in forgiveness.

            Absolution means that the believer’s sins are removed and forgotten through the power of the atoning death of Christ. God no longer remembers the sin and strengthens against temptation through His kindly and patient forgiveness. He does not forgive us because of the depth of our sorrow but because of the righteousness of faith. We receive and benefit from the cross of Christ, receiving the innocence of Jesus in exchange for our sinfulness. There is no sin that is not covered by the blood of Christ. Dying without faith in Jesus is the sin against the Holy Spirit.[34]

            When the minister pronounces absolution, either for the congregation or in an individual counseling session, the Word of forgiveness is not his but Christ’s. The minister is another weak sinner, tempted like anyone else, but the absolution does not depend upon him but the objective Word of God. When God pronounces the believer forgiven, he is indeed freed from all his sins.

 

The words which absolution give

Are His who died that we might live;

The minister whom Christ has sent

 Is but His humble instrument.

 

When ministers lay on their hands,

Absolved by Christ the sinner stands;

He who by grace the Word believes

 The purchase of His blood receives.[35]

 

Absolution gives believers so much comfort and peace that we should always emphasize it in our worship and enjoy its blessings.

            Many people are misled by those who claim the Biblical word for repentance (metanoia) means “to change your ways.”[36] Hearing this, they think that forgiveness depends upon their ability to stop sinning. In fact, the original meaning of the term is “to regret.” In the Bible the term means to have godly sorry for sin and to believe in the Gospel.

 

Mark 1:14

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

 

Forgiveness does not depend upon the enormity of our sorrow or upon our promises to do better. Forgiveness rests upon the cross of Christ alone. The Law is God’s means to make us hunger and thirst for righteousness, seeing ourselves as we really are. However, God does not wish to kill us with His perfect Law but to make us eager to hear and posses the comfort of the Gospel. The message of forgiveness through Christ is food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, healing for the wounded, peace for the soul in strife and anguish.

 

Isaiah 52:7

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

 

The unbelieving world longs for absolution but cannot see how the crucifixion of Christ can atone for the sins of all time. Paul’s prayer is therefore used at the conclusion of Gospel sermons.

 

Philippians 4:7

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.[37]

 

Our Need for Absolution

 

"We further believe that in this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought through the holy Sacraments and Absolution, moreover, through all manner of consolatory promises of the entire Gospel. Therefore, whatever is to be preached, concerning the Sacraments belongs here, and in short, the whole Gospel and all the offices of Christianity, which also must be preached and taught without ceasing. For although the grace of God is secured through Christ, and sanctification is wrought by the Holy Ghost through the Word of God in the unity of the Christian Church, yet on account of our flesh which we bear about with us, we are never without sin."[38]

 

 

 

 

                       



Thirty-Nine: Sound Doctrine

 

 

            The importance of sound doctrine can be illustrated in the following ways:

·       Several members of an orchestra decide to play the notes they like best.

·       Writers no longer refer to dictionaries but use the spelling and the meanings they prefer.

·       Tired of the smell of yeast, a baker decides to replace it with brown sugar in his bread dough.

·       Two football teams decide the rules are not fair. They add players to each side and change the rules every few minutes. Finally the people in the stands get on the field and join in the game.

·       The navigator of a commercial airliner is not good with math, so he decides to follow his gut feelings in finding his way on a trans-Atlantic flight.

Each example is a recipe for chaos, but there is a more significant reason to remain faithful to the Scriptures. The revealed Word of God belongs to Him alone and not to anyone else. Departing from the clear, plain language of the Bible means substituting Satan’s word for God’s Word. Jesus gave an example of this in the Parable of the Tares.

 

Matthew 13:24-26

24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: 25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. 26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

 

Tares are weeds. Every good plant has a weed that looks just like it at the beginning. This parable teaches us that weed-doctrines are going to grow next to the sound teachings of Jesus. Satan and his disciples will always invade a group of believers. Their weed-doctrines grow best where the soil is fertile and producing already. The growth of Satan’s weed-doctrines should not fool us. No matter how large and lush a weed may grow, its seed is still worthless.

            The most recent weed-doctrines of Satan are too numerous to list completely. All false doctrines recycle over the years. Some contemporary  toxins are:

  1. Jesus was only a man who taught wisely and then died.
  2. God is so kindly that everyone will go to heaven, even when those who reject the atoning death of His only-begotten Son.
  3. The Bible was written by men, so we do not have to agree with or obey any section of the Scriptures that might annoy us.
  4. Satan does not exist.
  5. We can learn from false teachers because we know how to separate sound teaching from the destructive doctrines of the devil.

All of these ideas appeal to our sinful nature, but the final result of believing these ideas is indifference toward the Gospel, loss of faith, and eternal damnation.

            The Bible warns us against any teaching not from God.

 

2 Corinthians 6:14-16

14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with un-righteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial?[39] or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Galatians 1:8-9

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

 

2 Timothy 2:15-17

15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17 And their word will eat as doth a canker:[40] of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; 18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.

 

Titus 3:10-11

10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; 11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

 

2 Peter 3:17-18

17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. 18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

 

Therefore, since these warnings are addressed to everyone, we all have a responsibility to remain faithful to God’s Word. When a person dies and faces God, that person must answer for himself. He cannot rely on the faith of another person to rescue him. Moreover, he must guard against associating with false teachers who destroy his faith. No one is immune. We cannot handle charcoal and keep from blackening our hands. In the same way we darken our understanding of the Christian faith when we have religious fellowship with those who attack God’s Word.

            We should not be dismayed or discouraged by hostility toward the Christian faith today. The success of false religions should not intimidate us or make us want to imitate their Satanic doctrines and methods. God’s Word does not celebrate bigness or worldly success. In fact, the Scriptures warn us that the end of time will be marked by the Great Apostasy, the falling away from the faith of Christian leaders.

 

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4

3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away[41] first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

 

2 Timothy 4:3-4

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

 

The extent of this falling away should encourage us, since it shows that the Bible correctly stated what would develop. Twenty years ago no one would have believed it.

            No one can escape the influence of the Great Apostasy. However, we can arm ourselves against losing faith by clinging to the Scriptures and sound Christian books. It is no surprise that this falling away is happening in the midst of almost complete ignorance of the Reformation. Fortunately, the publication of many books has made it possible to study the writings of those who began and established the Reformation. The reading list at the end of this book is a good beginning. Sincere believers are few in number, but we can encourage one another with the truth of the Gospel.


Rewards for False Teachers

 

"And such false teachers have the good fortune that all their folly is tolerated, even though the people realize how these act the fool, and rather rudely at that. They have success with it all, and people bear with them. But no patience is to be exercised toward true teachers! Their words and their works are watched with the intent of entrapping them, as complained of in Psalm 17:9 and elsewhere. When only apparently a mote is found, it is exaggerated to a very great beam. No toleration is granted. There is only judgment, condemnation and scorn. Hence the office of preaching is a grievous one. He who has not for his sole motive the benefit of his neighbor and the glory of God cannot continue therein. The true teacher must labor, and permit others to have the honor and profit of his efforts, while he receives injury and derision for his reward."[42]



Forty: Christian Life and Worship

 

 

            Christians have a unique perspective on the world. Everything has already been done for them. Jesus has earned forgiveness and salvation on the cross. God has made it possible for people to receive the treasure of the Gospel through the Means of Grace. Through faith Christians receive the blessings of the Gospel. All of this is God’s work and effort. He sends His Word out and His Gospel accomplishes His will. Therefore, all good works are a result of the Gospel. Believers show love and kindness toward others because they are thankful for all God has done for them.

            One couple spent a week at a motel, then checked out with the expectation of paying the bill. The desk clerk said, “There is no bill.” The couple insisted. “We are checking out now. We have not paid yet.” The clerk checked his records and said, “You cannot pay. There is no bill. It has already been paid.” The couple was very happy, to say the least, expecting to pay several hundred dollars. In the same way we expect to pay for our sins. God says, “The note has been paid in full. You cannot pay because Christ has already paid for you.” The result should be joy and thankfulness. If we are not thankful, then we should examine whether we truly understand the Gospel.

            A believer enjoys worshiping God because he wants an opportunity to listen to God’s Word in the company of other believers. When he worships, heaven opens up and the angels join him in worship. Jesus is the gate of Heaven.

 

Hebrews 12:22-24

22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

 

The new man created by the Word loves to hear the Gospel and to glorify God’s Name in his words and deeds. Our sinful nature battles against this, so we need the strengthening of the Means of Grace to overcome sin and temptation. The sinful nature will continue as long as we live. As Luther said, “You can tie a hog to a tree, but you cannot keep him from squealing.”

            Christians seek out the company of other believers and avoid situations where their faith is compromised and attacked. The Scriptures do not teach us loyalty to man-made institutions, fidelity to buildings, or devotion to friends and relatives. Yet these idols are often cited as reasons why someone cannot support the pure Word of God when it is under attack.

 

Matthew 19:27-29

27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? 28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

 

If we choose security, friendship, and comfort instead of the truth of God’s Word, then we have really made an idol out of that first choice. Will the scorn of friends and the threats of relatives keep us from the saving truths of the Gospel? Then we do not really believe in those truths. And yet if we remain faithful to the Word when others are faithless, the rewards are beyond comprehension.

           

Prayer

 

            God has given us prayer in the Name of Christ as a way in which to communicate with Him at all times.[43] Although God commands us to pray, He also moves us to pray by giving us many promises attached to this act.

 

                    Matthew 21:21-22

21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. 22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

 

Luke 11:9-13

9 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

 

1 Peter 3:12

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

 

The Scriptures show us that Jesus Himself prayed, although His disciples urged Him to get busy and get some work done.[44] The Bible has so many promises attached to prayer that we cannot offer any excuse to refrain from praying to God in the Name of Christ for all of our needs.

Worship – The Third Commandment

 

"Note, therefore, that the force and power of this commandment lies not in the resting, but in the sanctifying, so that to this day belongs a special holy exercise. For other works and occupations are not properly called holy exercises, unless the man himself be first holy. But here a work is to be done by which man is himself made holy, which is done (as we have heard) alone through God's Word. For this, then, fixed places, times, persons, and the entire external order of worship have been created and appointed, so that it may be publicly in operation."[45]

             



Forty-One: Marriage and Family

 

 

            God established marriage through His Word. It is a sign of the times that many people consider God’s institution of marriage a burden to be avoided or nullified at the earliest possible moment.

God commands what is good. That is the most basic truth of natural law. Jesus showed His approval of marriage by attending the marriage at Cana, where He turned water into wine. It is no small matter that He chose to reveal His divine power at a wedding so humble that they ran out of wine. In addition, God uses marriage as a portrait of the relationship between His Son (the groom) and His Church (the bride).

Marriage offers many blessings for believers. First of all, it provides a way in which a man and woman can share their love and companionship responsibly.

 

Genesis 1:27

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them

 

Husband and wife form a union and become one flesh. It is a public contract with legal responsibilities and oversight by the state. Every government in the world regulates marriage and views the family as the basic unit of society.

            God established marriage because men and women are happiest when they enjoy a life-long marriage. Children are happiest when they grow up with both of their parents. Not surprisingly, those children who live with both their parents and have a mother at home are the most secure, peaceful, responsible, and successful.

            A marriage cannot last without forgiveness. When couples add up grudges and sins, the condemnation of the Law tears them apart. Children often pay a terrible price when couples divorce in an effort to find peace. The parents do not realize how we all take our problems with us in any relationship. For that reason a marriage needs to be founded upon the Means of Grace. Confession and forgiveness unites couples. The Gospel establishes happiness in the midst of trials and difficulties.

 

Oh, blest the house, whate’er befall,

Where Jesus Christ is all in all!

Yea, if He were not dwelling there,

How dark and poor and void it were!

 

Blest such a house, it prospers well,

In peace and joy the parents dwell,

And in their children’s lot is shown

How richly God can bless His own.[46]

 

            The Bible offers advice to couples. The Holy Spirit teaches through the apostle. Husbands often do not show love, tenderness, and consideration toward their wives, so God compares the male role to Christ’s relationship toward the Church.

 

Ephesians 5:25-31

25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

 

The Holy Spirit also teaches wives about their role in marriage. The temptation for wives to dominate is contrary to the will of God.

 

Ephesians 5:22-24

22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

 

When both passages are studied together, husbands and wives benefit equally. When a marriage is based upon the Gospel, both partners strive to serve and please each other. Both benefit and both are blessed. Even when only one partner is a Christian the faith of the believer creates an atmosphere of peace.

            The Holy Spirit also advises children:

 

Ephesians 6:1-4

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. 4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

 

Children who learn this passage from their parents will enjoy many blessings from belonging to society rather than warring against all authority figures. One girl came home from high school announcing how she had told off the dean in language suitable for a seasoned sailor, not even realizing how self-destructive she sounded.

            Mothers who stay at home to raise their children are an immense blessing for everyone. They are able to devote attention to their young children when character is first being molded. The time spent and love expressed paves the way for helping children pass from the teen years into adult life. Mothers at home also make the lives of their husbands more enjoyable and productive.

            Children learn how to be husbands and wives, fathers and mothers from their experience growing up. If they have caring parents, they will want to be loving parents as well. If they see forgiveness taught and practiced, they will live the same Gospel in their daily lives. Children seem to turn into parents and grandparents overnight, so the time spent in the earliest days of their lives will soon pay dividends in the blessings that follow.

            The happiest mothers and fathers are those who realize early that possessions and honors mean nothing as the years pass. One can live in poverty for years and then enjoy security and prosperity. Then the privation of the early years no longer matters. But no one can recapture the brief moments of a child’s life. Many hyperactive people reap rich monetary rewards and social honors, only to realize that they missed their children growing up. Children become strangers, enemies in some cases. The richest reward is to having a loving adult child, to enjoy grandchildren, to relish happy memories of the past.

            Fathers can establish a wonderful rapport with their children by reading a story to them every night. A few pages a day will add up to a thousand pages in a year, thousands of pages in the early years. How much laughter and drama can come from those pages when good literature is read! Then, when the father says prayers with the children at night, the children grow up knowing and believing that the Christian faith is a religion for real men, for loving fathers, for mothers who are deeply loved and appreciated by their fathers. In this way God brings Heaven down to earth and makes each child feel like a prince or princess with royalty for parents.

 

1 Peter 2:9-10

9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

 

In the same way, the husband can read to his wife every night. He might read from Luther’s Family Devotions or Luther’s Sermons. He should select one of the best theologians of the past, such as J. Gerhard, rather than recent writers. In one year he can read aloud 700-1000 pages.

            Men often complain about their lot in life, but how many conduct themselves as the head of the household? How many lead their families in prayer? How many teach their children the catechism? The Book of Concord says the head of the household will teach the catechism. By defaulting to their wives, most men confess they are not willing to be the head of the household. What is more important: deciding the family vacation or teaching God’s Word? The husband and father will make an enormous difference in everyone’s life if he loves God’s Word, teaches it in his family, and gladly worships with his wife and children. If the major matters of life—the spiritual values—are settled, the little matters (money, work) will fall into place.


Water into Wine, Marriage into Delight

 

"God's Word shall do it, by which all things are made, preserved and transformed; that Word which turns your water into wine, and distasteful marriage into delight. That God has instituted marriage (Genesis 2:32) the heathen and unbelievers do not know, therefore their water remains water and never becomes wine; for they feel not God's pleasure and delight in married life...."[47] 

 

 

 



Forty-Two: Social Issues

 

 

            When America was founded as a republic, the statesmen who worked on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution wrote from the perspective of natural law. The founders agreed that right and wrong were based upon Creation, that God instilled certain principles in the world He created. When Creation is assumed, there is little debate among the historic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam about the most significant social issues. However, when right and wrong are determined apart from divine Creation, any loud and aggressive fad can establish itself as a sacred right.

            Once people were convinced that marriage was a burden, it did not take long for them to look at babies as an obstacle to happiness. The fanatical propaganda campaign against the unborn child aimed at our weakest point: our selfishness and self-centeredness. One college student summarized the shallowness of the abortion ethic by saying in class, “I want to do what I want to do. And I do not want anyone telling me not to.”

            Unfortunately, a superficial attitude toward the Christian faith made many people think they would rather hide a problem with an abortion than bear the responsibility of a child. Adding to this was the shameful advocacy of many so-called Christian leaders in promoting abortion as a religious right. These religious thugs angrily asserted that the Bible is silent about abortion, that no one knows when life begins in the womb. The Word of God is not silent.

 

Psalm 139:13-15

13 For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. 14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. 15 My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

 

The Roman Empire thought nothing of leaving unwanted babies (girls especially) exposed to wild animals, deserted on roadsides. The early Christians risked their lives to save these children because the believers knew each child’s life was sacred to God. They learned this from the Scriptures.

            The abortion juggernaut has caught and crushed many since the Supreme Court legalized abortion as a means of birth control. Many mothers and fathers still suffer from unresolved grief after realizing later than the instant solution offered so glibly was a terrible sin against the weakest of the weak, the poorest of the poor. The repentant can take comfort in forgiveness through Christ. His death on the cross paid for all sins.

            We love and serve our neighbor whenever we help the unborn and his parents. Many people need financial and emotional support when a child is coming. The initial shock of a baby can fill the parents with dread about all the problems ahead. Christian counsel and encouragement with the Gospel can be just the help needed for that tiny child. It is immensely gratifying to help a frantic young woman see that the life within her is a gift from God, precious in His sight. Many times a gift of baby furniture, clothes, and food will be a practical help and a symbol of Christian concern.

 

The Fifth Commandment

 

“Secondly, under this commandment not only he is guilty who does evil to his neighbor, but he also who can do him good, prevent, resist evil, defend and save him, so that no bodily harm or hurt happen to him, and yet does not do it. If, therefore, you send away one that is naked when you could clothe him, you have caused him to freeze to death; if you see one suffer hunger and do not give him food, you have caused him to starve. So also, if you see any one innocently sentenced to death or in like distress, and do not save him, although you know ways and means to do so, you have killed him. And it will not avail you to make the pretext that you did not afford any help, counsel, or aid thereto, for you have withheld your love from him and deprived him of the benefit whereby his life would have been saved.”[48]

 

 





Words of Comfort

 

"Patient continuance is so altogether necessary that no work can be good in which patient continuance is lacking. The world is so utterly perverse and Satan is so heinously wicked that he cannot allow any good work to be done, but he must persecute it. However, in this very way God, in His wonderful wisdom, proves what work is good and pleasing to Him. Here the rule holds: As long as we do good and for our good do not encounter contradiction, hatred, and all manner of disagreeable and disadvantageous things, so we must fear that our good work as yet is not pleasing to God; for just so long it is not yet done with patient continuance. "But when our good work is followed by persecution, let us rejoice and firmly believe that it is pleasing to God; indeed, then let us be assured that it comes from God, for whatever is of God is bound to be crucified by the world. As long as it does not bring the cross, that is, as long as it does not bring shame and contempt as we patiently continue in it, it cannot be esteemed as a divine work since even the Son of God was not free from it—(suffering for the sake of the good He did)—but left us an example in this. He Himself tells us in Matthew 5:10, 12: 'Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake…Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.'"[49]

 

"In order to keep your faith pure, do nothing else than stand still, enjoy its blessings, accept Christ's works, and let him bestow His love upon you. You must be blind, lame, deaf, dead, leprous and poor, otherwise you will stumble at Christ. That Gospel which suffers Christ to be seen and to be doing good only among the needy, will not belie you."[50] 

 

"But all this is portrayed here in order that we might learn that with God nothing is impossible, whether it be misfortune, calamity, anger, or whatever it may be, and that He sometimes allows misfortune to come upon the good as well as upon the wicked."[51]

 

"On the other hand, we are outwardly oppressed with the cross and sufferings, and with the persecution and torments of the world and the devil, as with the weight of heavy stone upon us, subduing our old sinful nature and checking us against antagonizing the Spirit and committing other sins." [52]

 

"For whom the devil cannot overcome with poverty, want, need and misery, he attacks with riches, favor, honor, pleasure, power and the like, and contends on both sides against us; yea, he 'walketh about,' says St. Peter in 1 Pt. 5:8...."[53]

 

"Your first desire will be that all men may obtain the same knowledge of divine grace. Hence your love will not be restrained from serving all to the fullest extent, preaching and proclaiming the divine truth wherever possible, and rejection all doctrine and life not in harmony with this teaching. But take note, the devil and the world, unwilling that their devices be rejected, cannot endure the knowledge of what you do. They will oppose you with everything great, learned, wealthy and powerful, and represent you as a heretic and insane."[54]

 

"Yet this is also true, that Christ often delays the bestowal of His help, as He did on this occasion, and on another, John 21, when He permitted the disciples to toil all the night without taking anything, and really appeared as if He would forget His own Word and promise."[55]

 

"For if I perish, no great harm is done; but if I let God's Word perish, and I remain silent, then I do harm to God and to the whole world."[56]

 

"Therefore God must lead us to a recognition of the fact that it is He who puts faith in our heart and that we cannot produce it ourselves. Thus the fear of God and trust in Him must not be separated from one another, for we need them both, in order that we may not become presumptuous and overconfident, depending upon ourselves. This is one of the reasons why God leads His saints through such great trials."[57]

 

"We have the comfort of this victory of Christ--that He maintains His Church against the wrath and power of the devil; but in the meantime we must endure such stabs and cruel wounds from the devil as are necessarily painful to our flesh and blood. The hardest part is that we must see and suffer all these things from those who call themselves the people of God and the Christian Church. We must learn to accept these things calmly, for neither Christ nor the saints have fared better."[58]


"But wine is sharp and signifies the holy cross that immediately follows. A Christian need not look for his cross, it is always on his back. For he thinks as St. Paul says, 2 Timothy 3:12: 'All that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.' This is the court-color in this kingdom. Whoever is ashamed of the color, does not belong to this king."[59]

 

"Again, with truly pious hearts, which in many respects are timid and tender, his [Satan's] practice is just the opposite. He tortures them with everything terrible that can be imagined, martyring and piercing them as with fiery darts, until they may find no good thing nor comfort before God. His object in both cases is to ruin souls by means of his lies and to lead them to eternal death."[60]

 

"Thus you see, that God can deal with His saints in a way to deprive them of happiness and comfort whenever He pleases, and cast them into the greatest fear concerning that in which they have their greatest joy. So, likewise, He can again confer the greatest joy."[61]

 

"That temptation occurs before God's Word is heard; this after we hear the Word, namely thus: when we know that God has promised help in the time of any trouble, but are not content with it, go forward and will not abide His promise, but prescribe time, place, and manner for His help; and then if He does not come as we expect and desire, faith vanishes."[62]

 

"For the devil will not allow a Christian to have peace; therefore Christ must bestow it in a manner different from that in which the world has and gives, in that he quiets the heart and removes from within fear and terror, although without there remain contention and misfortune."[63]

 

"Therefore, such a trial of the saints is as necessary or even more necessary than food and drink, in order that they may remain in fear and humility, and learn to adhere alone to the grace of God."[64]

 

 


Forty-Three: Reading List

 

The King James Version of the Bible is the best and most precise translation. Various updates of the KJV are available if  modern language is preferred.

 

Christian Book Distributors offers a seven-volume edition of Luther’s Sermons, #AJ11997. This $50 set is one of the best ways to study the historic lessons of the church year. It is also a very inexpensive way to own the best of Luther’s work. 1-800-247-4784.

 

Luther’s Family Devotions is a one volume edition of Luther’s sermons edited down to two pages for each day of the church year. Order from:

Mark V Publications

Pastor Joel Baseley

2000 North York

Dearborn, Michigan 48128

 

A convenient and inexpensive edition of the Book of Concord, the English version of the Concordia Triglotta, is available from:

Repristination Press

Pastor James Heiser

hunnius@aol.com

716 HCR 4324 E.

Malone, Texas 76660

Repristination Press is also publishing a number of Johann Gerhard’s theological works. The most popular is Sacred Meditations.

 


Independent Congregations

 

A Mighty Fortress Lutheran Church

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

6421 W. Poinsettia Drive

Glendale, Arizona 85304

 

Bethany Lutheran Church

1523 South Minnesota

New Ulm, Minnesota

 

Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Pastor Martin Kalish

Midland, Michigan

 

New Hope Lutheran Church

Pastor Ed Binder

Newport News, Virginia

 

St. John’s Lutheran Church

Pastor Kevin Hastings

8th and Vliet

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

 

 

 



[1] Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

[2] Lazarus Spengler, “All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #369.

[3] Some people define sin as “missing the mark,” using an ancient Greek definition. This definition is far too weak and implies that more effort will remove sin altogether, if we only aim better.

[4] Apology Augsburg Confession, II. #50. Original Sin. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 119. Tappert, p. 106. Heiser, p. 32. 

 

[5] "All preaching of sin and God's wrath is a preaching of the Law, no matter how or when it may be done. On the other hand, the Gospel is such preaching as sets forth and bestows nothing but grace and forgiveness in Christ. And yet it is true that the Apostles and preachers of the Gospel sanctioned the preaching of the Law, as Christ Himself did, and began with this in the case of those who had not yet acknowledged their sins and had felt no fear of God's anger." Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, IV, p. 158. Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Luke 5:1-11.    

[6] Matthias Loy, "The Law of God Is Good and Wise," The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #295. Psalm 19:8.

[7] Some fanatical groups tell people that giving 10% (a tithe) is not an offering, since it is required, so these leaders demand tithes as a minimum and offerings beyond that. This approach destroys any notion of giving thankfully based upon one’s blessings. The government is more lenient with taxes!

[8] Nahum Tate, Nicholas Brady, “As Pants the Hart for Cooling Streams,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #525.

[9] Smalcald Articles, Third Part, II. #3. The Law. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 479. Tappert, p.303. Heiser, p. 142. Romans 5:20; Romans 4:15.  

[10] Sometime believers use the term Gospel to include both the Law and the Gospel, such as a man being called a Gospel preacher, or when it is said that the Church proclaims the Gospel. But when we compare Law and Gospel, we mean the Gospel as distinguished from the Law.

[11] Isaiah 55:10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

[12] Johann Franck, “Jesus, Priceless Treasure,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #347.

[13] The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III, #38, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 689. Tappert, p. 415. Heiser, p. 194.  

[14] Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

[15] John 1:16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

[16] Martin Luther, “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #387.

[17] Formula of Concord, SD, III 10, Righteousness of Faith before God, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 919. Tappert, p. 541. Heiser, p. 250.      

[18] Scandinavian, “Almighty Father, Bless the Word,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #52.

[19] "If the question is put, 'Why did God ordain so many means of grace when one suffices to confer upon the sinner His grace and forgiveness?' we quote the reply of Luther who writes (Smalcald Articles, IV: 'The Gospel not merely in one way gives us counsel and aid against sin, for God is superabundantly rich in His grace. First through the spoken Word, by which the forgiveness of sins is preached in the whole world, which is the peculiar office of the Gospel. Secondly through Baptism. Thirdly through the holy Sacrament of the Altar. Fourthly through the power of the keys and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, Matthew 18:20.'" John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, A Handbook of Doctrinal Theology, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p. 447. Matthew 18:20.

[20] Formula of Concord, SD XI. #76-77. Election. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1089. Tappert, p. 629. Heiser, p. 293. John 6:44.

[21] John 16:2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

[22] Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

[23] This is literally the washing of being born again (dia. loutrou/ paliggenesi,aj). Holy Baptism is being born again through water and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5).

[24] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 359. First Sunday after Easter. John 20:19-31.   

[25] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VII, p. 134. Sunday Before Lent. 1 Corinthians 13. Isaiah 55.

[26] Thomas Kingo, 1689, "He That Believes and Is Baptized" The Lutheran Hymnal, #301.

[27] Based upon actual experience baptizing babies.

[28] Henriette L. von Hayn, “I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #648.

[29] The lack of baptism of the repentant thief dying on the cross is not a statement about the lack of importance of the Sacrament. Faith saves and unbelief damns. If God demanded baptism in every single situation, including people dying without the possibility of the Sacrament, then God would be as legalistic as those who find one exception to Holy Baptism and then dismiss the Sacrament as unimportant.

[30] David Chytraeus, A Summary of the Christian Faith (1568), trans., Richard Dinda, Decatur: Repristination Press, 1994. p. 9.   

[31] Matthias Loy, 1880, "An Aweful Mystery Is Here" The Lutheran Hymnal, #304.

[32] Johann Gerhard, A Comprehensive Explanation of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper, 1610, ed. D. Berger, J. Heiser, Malone, Texas: Repristination Press, 2000, p. 301f.

[33] Therefore Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and Absolution, which is the Sacrament of Repentance, are truly Sacraments. For these rites have God's command and the promise of grace, which is peculiar to the New Testament. For when we are baptized, when we eat the Lord's body, when we are absolved, our hearts must be firmly assured that God truly forgives us for Christ's sake. And God, at the same time, by the Word and by the rite, moves hearts to believe and conceive faith, just as Paul says, Romans 10:17: 'Faith cometh by hearing.'" Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XIII, #3-5. Number/Use Sacraments. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 309. Tappert, p. 211. Heiser, p. 94.

[34] Matthew 12:32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

[35] Nicolaus Herman, "Yea, As I Live, Jehovah Saith," The Lutheran Hymnal, #331.

[36] Language changes over time and words have different meanings. For that reason believers have always used the rule that “Scripture interprets Scripture.” If a passage is not clear to us, we compare other passages. Plato and Aristotle are seldom much help with Biblical terms.

[37] This verse is called the Votum, the Latin word for prayer. It is the prayer of every faithful minister that God may keep his congregation with the peace of forgiveness, a peace beyond all comprehension.

[38] The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III. #54. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 693. Tappert, p. 417. Heiser, p. 195.

[39] Belial is another name for Satan.

[40] Canker is another word for cancer. The Greek word is translated either as gangrene or cancer. Gangrene and cancer could only be treated one way at that time – by cutting it out.

[41] Apostasy is the term the Bible uses for this falling away. It refers only to people who once believed in Christ but no longer do.  Many church leaders like Bishop John Spong and Bishop Herb Chilstrom are famous for rejecting the doctrines of the Bible and remaining in their leadership positions.

[42] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VII, p. 110f. Second Sunday in Lent. 2 Corinthians 11:19-33; 12:1-9. Psalm 17:9.

[43] "The Christian's faith trusts in the ordinary means.  Prayer is not a means of grace.  Means of grace are divine appointments through which God uniformly offers blessings to all who use them.  Faith is the means by which the blessings are received and appropriated.  God gives us bread, when we ask it, not through the channel of prayer, but through the ordinary channels of His providence.  He gives us grace when we ask it, not through prayer, but through the ordinary means appointed for this end, namely the Word and Sacraments.  He who despises these will as little have grace as he who refuses to accept bread produced in the ordinary way of nature.  Faith asks with confidence, and trusts in the ordinary means of God's appointment for the blessings asked." Matthias Loy, Sermons on the Gospels, Columbus: Lutheran Book Concern, 1888, p. 387.        

[44] Mark 1:35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. 36 And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. 37 And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.

[45] The Large Catechism, The Third Commandment, #94. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 607. Tappert, p. 378. Heiser, p. 175. Exodus 20:8-11. 

[46] C. C. L. von Pfeil, “Oh, Blest the House, Whate’er Befall,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #625.

[47] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 57. Second Sunday after Epiphany, John 2:1-11, Genesis 2:32.

[48] Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, Fifth Commandment, Book of Concord, p. 181f.

[49] Commentary on Romans, trans. J. Theodore Mueller, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976, p. 55. Romans 2:6-10.

[50] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, I, p. 110. Third Sunday in Advent Matthew 11:2-10.

[51] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 143. Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity Luke 7:11-17.

[52] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VIII, p. 145. Sixth Sunday after Trinity, Romans 6:6.

[53] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 145. First Sunday in Lent 1 Peter 5:8.

[54] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 147. Second Christmas Sermon. Titus 3:4-8.

[55] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, IV, p. 154. Fifth Sunday after Trinity. Luke 5:1-11; John 21.

[56] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 176. Fifth Sunday in Lent. John 8:46-59.

[57] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 21. First Sunday after Epiphany. Luke 2:41-52.

[58] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 263. Exaudi. John 15:26-16:4.

[59] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 30. Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity. Luke 10:23-37; 2 Timothy 3:12.

[60] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed. John N. Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 302. Pentecost Sunday. John 14:23-31.

[61] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 36. First Sunday after Epiphany, Second Sermon. Luke 2:41-52.

[62] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, I, p. 366. Epiphany. Matthew 2:1-12.

[63] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 380. Second Sunday after Easter, Third Sermon John 20:19-31.

[64] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 40. First Sunday after Epiphany, Second Sermon. Luke 2:41-52.