• April 2011
    S M T W T F S
    « Mar   May »
     12
    3456789
    10111213141516
    17181920212223
    24252627282930
  • Audio Sermons & Devotions

  • Recent Posts

  • Post Categories

  • Fighting for the Faith

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 561 other followers

  • Blog Stats

    • 39,464 hits
  • Advertisements

The Substance of our Faith

19On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”

      24Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

      26Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

      30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  [John 20:19-31 (ESV) ]

1 What unbelief, not just doubt, looks like

The devil, the world, and our sinful flesh are mighty foes indeed to faith.  Truly, unbelief is an easy thing.  It comes natural to all of us.  As the Psalmist says, Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5).  From birth man is cursed with an unbelieving heart.  Of ourselves and by ourselves, we do not know what it is to truly have faith in the Lord Jesus, for of ourselves and by ourselves, we are not able to receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to natural man, nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned, as God reveals through the hand of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:14).

It is a result of sin that natural man does not believe the promises of God or the Holy Word of God.  To remedy this state which man is in naturally, help must come from the outside, not from within.  Thus did God the Father send His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17).

Man must be born anew and not remain in his first birth of sin and death.  Therefore does God give His Holy Word and Baptism, Word and water, by which your are washed of your sins and made clean, declared His child, and birthed anew of water and the Spirit (John 3:5).  Through the waters of your Baptism, God makes you new creatures.  The old has passed.  The new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Through Baptism, God gives faith, the faith given by means of the Word.  It is that Word, God’s Word, ‘in, with, and under’ the water, that gives new life.  Baptism is not water only.  It is water and God’s Word applied to the one who is Baptized.  God does the doing.  And God doing the doing means that it is done.

Faith takes this to be so.  Unbelief does not.  Unbelief wants proof, evidence, and verifiability.  It wants to see and know for itself with tangible kinds of evidence that can be handled, felt, and experienced. It doesn’t go on what another says.  It goes by what is felt in the heart, seen with the eyes, and known in the mind according to reason.  Such was the case with Thomas.  Whereas unbelief trusts what it knows according to the senses, faith in God rests in God and His Word, hoping for what it does not see and resting in another’s Word and Promise and not its own (Romans 8:24-25).

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the twelve disciples of our Lord, was a man with a nature such as we too are born with.  This one was not with the other disciples when the risen Lord Jesus Christ had first appeared unto to them on that first day of the week called Easter, the Resurrection of our Lord.  Though the others had certainly told Him the good news that Christ Jesus was alive and no longer dead, this news and their words fell on deaf ears.  Thomas did not believe them.  With hard-headedness and in unbelief did Thomas, one of the Lord’s chosen disciples, say that he would not believe that the Lord had risen form the dead, unless he would see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place his finger into the mark of the nails, and place his hand into his side (John 20:25).

This is a sure sign, not of doubt, but of stubborn unbelief, unbelief that denies the word of not only one voice, but several voices testifying to what had indeed been seen.  So much for the picture of a Holy Saint Thomas who believed what was told him and had not a thread of sinning unbelief yet in his heart!  But what of St. Peter, who dared rebuke the Lord Jesus for speaking the truth of what was to be, that Jesus was to suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day (Matthew 16:21)?  What of him who also denied the Lord three times and all who scattered like sheep when their shepherd Jesus was struck and arrested (Matthew 26:31, 56)?

Holy Scripture reveals such testimony of God’s people, and even His disciples, as sinners, sinners to whom God is gracious and kind, yet sinners who remain sinners, sinners with failings and weaknesses, sinners who doubt and even disbelieve God’s Word and promise.  This is given for your comfort and for help, for you, like the examples of God’s people in the Testaments, both Old and New, are of the same flesh and blood.  You too do not believe as you ought.  You have been given the witness of Christ risen from the dead, but you still at times fear.  You are at times uncertain.  You at times give in to temptation. Though you have God’s Word placed before you, it is not always evident that you are full of confidence and have complete trust in God’s Word alone all times and in all places.

 

2 The grace of God and the blessing of faith given from Him through His Son

But you, like Thomas and others throughout the Bible, are not left without help.  Yur Lord is compassionate to the troubled, kind to the meek, and gentle to the lowly (Matthew 11:29).  The stubborn He reproves and the exalted He humbles (Mathew 23:12).  Our Lord did not leave Thomas in unbelief, for Jesus had surely known what state Thomas was in on that eighth day when He appeared unto him an declared, Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe (John 20:27).  But these were not Jesus’ first words to Thomas and the disciples on that day.  Jesus’ first words were as the week before, but now Thomas also heard for himself and with His own ears that word which first proceeded out of the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).  That word was peace.

Peace unto you, Jesus said, who also stood in their midst, not as one dead, but as one who had died and was now risen from the dead (John 20:26).  With these words, Jesus calmed their fears and put to rest their anxieties.  Also for Thomas.  And also for you.

The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead is no myth, untrue event, or merely a teaching of what some had believed to have happened, but with no basis in reality.  Thomas and the other disciples had seen the Lord with their own eyes.  Thus does John write in his first letter,  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-3).

The Word of life that John speaks of is none other than Christ, the crucified Christ, the risen from the dead Christ. Jesus who once was dead has burst forth from His three day prison.  If it had not been so, utterly vain and futile would our faith in a dead savior truly be, and more pitiable than all men would we be.  But now Christ is risen from the dead! (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 20)

No longer are you in our sins.  Christ has conquered death.   This means your life.  The Good News is true.  Fear and anxiety is cast aside in the resurrected glory of Christ who has overcome death and the grave and through whom you too overcome death and the grave.  Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead means your bodily resurrection from the dead, which means that you need not fear death and the fear of death, for these Christ has overcome and swallowed up in His victory (1 Corinthians 15:54).

Holy Scripture testifies to the Good News of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and that peace with God through Jesus which the world cannot give and which passes all human understanding.  And through God’s Word preached and proclaimed, Christ speaks peace to your heart, blesses you with confidence before God in Jesus Christ, and gives you His grace and favor.  Unbelief is replaced by faith in God’s Son for your salvation, not because you see, but by God bringing about that faith in you through His mighty and effective spirit and life Word (John 6:63).  By means of that Word, God creates faith within your heart that you believe what you have not seen and trust alone in His promise through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God does not leave you on our own.  He does not abandon you to unbelief.  Rather does He, by means of His Holy Word, call you to the truth.  In His Word, you know that Christ is for you and not against you, Christ dying your death and Christ in the grave no longer.  But go not by His Word, and on your own and in your sin you will continue to be.  But thanks be to God!  God  has revealed His Son that you not remain in sin, but have eternal life.  Christ comes to you, revealing Himself as your risen Savior.  In Him is true confidence of a loving God and sure hope of the life to come.

3 The purpose for the Gospel of St. John, indeed, for all of the Holy Scriptures generally

The Thomas in our text did not believe until the Lord showed Himself to him.  But the Lord was kind and gentle to the troubled Thomas who trusted not in the word of others but only the self-seeking evidence of his own heart.  Jesus appeared to Thomas, nail prints, spear mark, and all.  And then did Thomas confess with his mouth what certainly was believed in His heart of Jesus, My Lord and My God! (John 20:28).  He confessed what was right and true because the Lord revealed to Him what was so. He denied it not any longer.

And that you may continue in the confession of Thomas, saying with him, My Lord and My God unto Jesus Christ, Jesus reveals Himself to you, too.  By means of His Word, even the testimony of the Apostles and prophets, God makes known unto you that we are indeed sinners, but sinners for whom Christ died.  These things, writes St. John, are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you have life in His Name (John 20:31).  You stumble and fall, but your Lord who comes unto you is gentle and kind.  He speaks to you the word of peace; peace with God, sins forgiven, and life everlasting in Christ Jesus.  He gives you His Word, that you hold to it and believe it, trusting His promises.  And thereby does He give you certainty of His favor and mercy.  Amen.

The peace that passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

Advertisements

“He is Risen, as He Said”

1Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” [Matthew 28:1-10 (ESV)]

Jesus is risen, as He said.  These words bring joy to the ear this morning.  These we cannot pass over.  He is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

The joy of those women who heard the words of God’s messenger that morning and saw not our Lord in the tomb is also our own.  By God’s inspired Word, we know that our Redeemer lives.  Christ is victorious over the grave.  He who had authority to lay down His life also had authority to take it up again (John 10: 15, 17, 18).  This Jesus did on the Third day, the very day that He rose bodily from the dead.

We are not here speaking of some spirit who now lives, as if the body of Christ remained in decay.  Christ in His body is living.  Neither are we speaking of an event without significance.  As it is written, If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1 Corinthians 15:14-17).

Sin is real.  It is doing what God does not command and not doing what He does command.   Death too is real.  It is a consequence of sin.  Sin brings about physical death, of which we all must face, sooner or later.  It also brings about eternal death, unless there be salvation from another who has overcome death.  This is what Christ did by His resurrection.  His resurrection testifies to the truth that death is powerless against the Lord Christ.  So too is eternal death powerless against the Lord’s brethren, of whom we are, through faith in His blessed Word.

Now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

The death of Christ was real.  On the cross Jesus did die.  His resurrection is just as real and true.  This is how we know that Jesus truly keeps His Word.  Believe not this, and faith will be lacking.

The Lord’s resurrection also means our resurrection.  Christ being raised from the dead means our rising from the dead, not only from the deadness of our sin to new life now by faith, but also when our Lord returns.  His resurrection means the same for us.

Christ says through the Apostle Paul, The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

In another place, Paul writes, We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Jesus Himself says, The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:28-29).

Here, our Lord makes distinction.  Scripture teaches that all will rise from the dead, both believers in Christ and nonbelievers.  But only those who have done good, only those who have faith in Christ’s goodness, forsaking their own, only these will be with the Father unto all eternity.

On the other hand, those who have done evil, those who do evil by not taking Christ’s Word and work as their own, these will rise to eternal death.  Having not believed the promises of the Lord while in the world, these receive the due reward of their unbelief.  But those who do believe the promises of God, though they not see them fulfilled in the now time, these Will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12).

As to the spiritual rising only, Jesus ate and drank after being raised.  As it is reported in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence. (Luke 24:36-43)

A spirit does not eat or drink.  But this Jesus did.  The eyes don’t tell the whole story.  When it comes to God and His Word, do not accept what your mind tells you.  Leave reason and human understanding aside.  If you don’t, you will not rightly believe what God truly declares to be so.  From the virgin birth to His bodily resurrection, and from the creation of the world to the Lord’s glorious return on judgement day, trust not what you think or what you believe to be so.  Trust in the Lord and in what He has said.  Only here will you find Jesus living and dying, and rising and ascending, for you.

Here is the difference between judgement and forgiveness, death and life, and hell and heaven.  What God declares to be so in His Word is for your salvation.  It is not just for anyone and everyone.  It is for you.  Believing that the Bible is true is a good thing.  Believing that there is a god is good thing.  But ‘a god’ doesn’t save.  The God of salvation is not unknowable.  Unless the God of Scripture, even Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is your God, all the believing in the world will not help you.  Christ did die and He did rise from the dead.  But His death and resurrection will not save you unless it is also yours.

You carry your sin no more.  It was crucified with Christ.  He died and rose again.  Jesus left your sin for dead on Mt. Calvary, but on the third day, His body was not in the tomb.    If you wish to carry your own sin and have it your way, Christ’s death and resurrection will profit you none.  You will bear your own load and come the judgment, the penalty for your sin will be yours and yours alone.

On Christ, your sin is gone forever and God does not count your daily sins against you.  In Christ, your sin is forgiven.  Lay your sins on Him, therefore, and receive His forgiveness.  Believe the heavenly Word of grace, mercy, and peace.  Through the death of His Son, God demonstrated these.  Through resurrection does Christ testify of them.

Our Lord does not lie.  Nor will He speak deception into your ears.  What He says will come to pass.  This was so before His death and His coming back to life, and this is so now.  Christ’s resurrection bears witness and sure testimony that His Word He will fulfill.  Though we see the fulfillment, this matters none.

Just as Christ had said, He rose from the dead.  Before that Friday that we call Good, Jesus declared to His disciples, Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again (Matthew 20:18-19).  A few other times, too, did Jesus speak of what would soon come to pass.  And it did.

Jesus Christ, alive from the dead forevermore, is our surety and guarantee of what is to come, not only later, but even now, as we hear Christ’s Word preached, eat and drink His body and blood, and receive His blessing.  For your good does our Lord speak and for your good does our Lord give.  The joy of His gifts are yours.  Christ is risen, just as He said.  Our Redeemer lives.  Jesus Christ is risen today.  Alleluia!  Amen.

“Faith Alone”, Paul, and James

 The very words “alone” or “only” are not grammatically next to the word faith in any of St. Paul’s letters.  However, in the epistle of James, we have these words, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24).

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he writes, “that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28).

So which is it?  Is man justified by faith (Paul), or is man justified by works and not by faith alone (James).  Lutherans (and most non-Catholics) will affirmatively confess the former,[1] Roman Catholics the latter.  Whose right?

For an answer, we must note that the emphasis of James is different than that of Paul.  The context itself indicates this.

James, clearly, is speaking of how works demonstrate a faith already present (Read James 2:14-26), while Paul is speaking of the righteousness of faith (Read Romans 3:21-26, 28, 2-8, etc.).

As you read Paul in the sense that he is writing, that is, according to text and context, and with the words that he uses, even without the words “sola,” “alone,” or “only” preceding or post the word faith, the meaning Paul plainly intends is that righteousness is through faith, with no works attached whatsoever to justification (note esp. Romans 3:21, 28; 4:6—he doesn’t use the word “alone” or “only,” of course), but he does use the word “apart from” or “without,” depending how the Greek word is translated.

For clarification, Luther did not add “faith alone” in order to justify the Lutheran tradition (See the following).

LW35.OnTranslating-AnOpenLetter.SelectedQuotes

The text of Paul’s letter to the Romans itself indicates that righteousness is through faith, without/apart from anything that man does (See the following).

LW35.PrefaceToRomans.a


[1] For example, as in Robertson’s Word Pictures, “Jam 2:24 – James is discussing the proof of faith, not the initial act of being set right with God (Paul’s idea in Ro 4:1-10). And not only by faith (kai ouk ek pistewj monon). This phrase clears up the meaning of James. Faith (live faith) is what we must all have (2:18), only it must show itself also in deeds as Abraham’s did.”

To Fear God…

To fear God, on the one hand, does mean to “be afraid” of him, as in “fear his wrath” (i.e. Exodus 20:20; Matthew 28:10 ).  On the other, it can also mean “to fear” in the sense of “believe”, respect, honor, etc.

In Psalm 147(v11), we have a parallelism (common in the Psalms):

“The LORD takes pleasure

                         in those who fear Him,

                         In those who hope in His mercy.”

Here, those who fear God are those who hope in the Lord’s mercy.

Much more could be said on this.  However,  we could with certainly say that the Bible uses the word “fear” in various ways.  Context will often determine such usage.

 See also The First Commandment of the Large Catechism.

Christ’s Passion and Death

  John 18-19

Before breathing His last, Jesus declared, It is finished! It was for no small reason that Jesus spoke thus.  By these words, Jesus testified to His completed work for your salvation.  It was not on the day of Easter, the day that our Lord resurrected bodily, that sin and death were put to an end.  It was the day He died that sin too had died and death had lost its eternal hold.  For this reason, the unforgetful words of our Lord, It is finished! bring comfort and consolation to hearts troubled by sin and burdened by its effects.

Through His suffering and death, Christ brought about that peace with God that surpasses all human understanding.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29, 36).  The price for that peace, the cost for that sin being taken away, was His blood.  It is as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed, that Christ ‘redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, that He purchased and won from sin, death, and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death’ (Meaning to the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed).

The Jesus of the Bible was not an unbloody Jesus.  He shed His own blood, not for Himself, but for you.  The servant of Isaiah chapter 52 & 53 is truly the servant of the Most High God, but He is the suffering servant, whom we esteem as stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Instead of the crown of kings, the Christ of God received a crown of thorns.  Instead of the honor due His name, the Son of the Living God was mocked and blasphemed.  Though His Words and works gave witness to His true identity, still did they crucify Him.

Though Jesus endured such hostilities, though He died at the hands of sinful men, though His life ended just after His last words that still echo in the ears, It is finished! He surrendered Himself to death and permitted Himself to be crucified.

Jesus did not say what He said because His suffering in this world had ended.  Jesus did not do what He did because He was sinful from birth and in need of a savior.  Jesus did not give Himself over to suffer and die to save Himself.

Jesus said what He said as a clear witness and testimony to all creation that His work of redemption for all people, here and there, near and far, at home and abroad, was now accomplished.  All the work that His Heavenly Father had given Him to do was now done.  There is nothing more to be done.  There is nothing undone that Jesus hasn’t fulfilled for your salvation.  There is nothing to add to, and nothing to take away from what the Lord Christ had completed in death – for you.

The penalty for your sin and justice for your guilt was laid upon Him who knew no sin.  The holy One became the unholy.  The righteous One became the unrighteous.  The sinless became the sinner.  In your place and as your substitute, the Passover Lamb Christ Jesus was slain.

Willingly our Savior endured the cross, even scorning its shame.  He was wounded for your transgressions, bruised for your iniquities, the chastisement of your peace was upon Him, and by His stripes you are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

This despised and rejected Jesus of Nazareth, this One called King of the Jews, who hung on a cross, is the only hope for our dying world, for sinful people, and for Christ’s church.

Whatever you would add or subtract from His work is all for nothing.  The sacrifice of God’s Son is sufficient satisfaction and compensation for all sin, whether it be the sin of the most pious saint or the sin of the most wretched sinner.  It makes no difference, for there is no partiality with God.  He shows no favoritism to anyone.

This is good news for all who sorrow over their sin, grieve because of their unrighteousness, and despair over themselves.   The first-born Son of God reconciled you to His Father.  He who is the way, the truth, and the life placated God’s wrath by means of humility, suffering, and death (John 14:6).

Christ the Messiah came to fulfill all that was spoken of Him.  He was the suffering servant of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52-53), the Psalmist calling out, My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me? (Psalm 22), and the seed of the woman crushing the serpents head (Genesis).  He came to fulfill all righteousness and willingly obeyed His Father in every respect.  He was the Servant of servants and the Slave of slaves to free both you and me and all the world by condemning sin with His flesh in death and doing the work which we could not.   This He has completed.  All is done.  It is finished.

In Christ the crucified, all requirements for your salvation are complete.  He is your perfection before God.  He is your righteousness before the Father.  He is your peace before the Just Judge.  Through His suffering and death, by His work of righteousness upon the land, on account of His faithful and perfect obedience to His Father, He fulfilled all the requirements of the law in your place and died your death, that you would live in Him and with Him for all eternity.  In Christ Jesus, it is truly finished!  All is accounted for, and through His death, you now have life.

This is how to see Christ’s death rightly: not that he was merely one who died who should not have, not simply  having pity toward the one who got what He Himself did not deserve, and not casting blame only on others, like the Jews or the Romans.  The Jewish religious leaders certainly called for His death.  The Romans did put Him to death by execution.

Christ was there for you.  For your sins He died.  Seeing Christ’s death rightly is believing that Christ died in your place, that you deserved all that He got, but that He took your place, even in death, so that you have life, and that you no longer be ruled by sin and its evil desires, but look to Him for help and salvation.

Christ’s death means your life, free from sin and death.  By Christ’s death, your sin too is dead.  Having been baptized into the Name of Christ, you have been baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6).  This means that you are now dead to sin, but alive to God, even as St. Paul writes, If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness (Romans 8:10).  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2).

Though this night be one of sorrow, sorrow for the death of Christ, more is it to be one of sorrow over your sins for which our Savior died.  On the way to the cross, some women had cried out after Jesus.  They were weeping in sorrow for what was coming upon Him.  But to them He said, Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children (Luke 23:28).  Jesus says the same to you.  Do not weep for Him.  Weep for yourselves and for your own sins.

On the cross you see where you should be, what should come to you.  Only for God’s grace are you not there, for Christ was.

The little suffering you find in this life is no comparison to Christ’s.  If He suffered so much for us willingly, can you not do the same?  The problem is that you don’t see Christ’s suffering and death rightly.  You believe our own trials and tribulations to be the greater.  If you did see them rightly, you would cling all the more firmly to Christ and see in Him your only help and salvation.

To this end the Lord would preserve you.  He directs you to view the suffering and death of His Son as your own.  In this way, you see rightly what Christ endured, that all is indeed finished.  Your sin is done away with.  It is no more.  In Christ, all is truly finished.  In Christ, your salvation is won.  Amen.

Meal of Salvation

17Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

      20When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

      26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

      30And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:17–30)

These Words of Christ in which He instituted the sacred meal are the very Words of our Lord on the night that He was betrayed.  On that night, Jesus held what is called the ‘Last Supper’ with His disciples.  But that ‘Last Supper’ is not ‘Last’ for us.  Our Lord says, As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:26).

The meal in which we partake of Christ’s very body and blood is a proclamation of the Lord’s death till He comes again in His glory.  It is a meal of remembrance.  It is also a meal in which the Lord Himself distributes what only He Himself gives.  Though the eyes see one thing, the ears hear another.  We see bread and wine, but the Lord says that more is going on than meets the eye.  The Lord would have us believe what He says.  This is how one eats and drinks the true body and blood of our Lord worthily, by faith in the very Words that the Lord speaks.

Though your eyes and reason say something different, believe what God speaks in His Word, and His promises are yours, even the forgiveness of all your sins.   You might not understand it, but that’s ok.  The Lord would not have you to understand it.  He would have you believe it, not according to your eyes, but according to His Word.  This is where true confidence and lasting peace are found.  This is where we hear the words, given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.

In the Lord’s Supper, in the meal offered for your salvation, our Lord Jesus gives His body and blood.  By these, God really remits all your sins.  Think not, ‘how can this be’?  Believe rather that because the Lord says it, it must be so.  What He offers and what He gives is your salvation.

As one before has said, “That person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words ‘for you’ require all hearts to believe.” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘Who, then, receives such Sacrament worthily?’)

We partake of the Lord’s Supper on the basis of God’s Holy Word, having faith in that and not in ourselves.  True faith is not just going through the motions.  It is not simply doing things because everyone else is doing them.  True faith is of the heart and takes God at His Word, seeing there His Son, for us, not only in Word, but in bread and wine and body and blood.  To not believe the Words of the Lord as they are is unbelief.  To believe is belief.  To those who do believe, God offers the promise of life and salvation.

It is for this reason that the Lord’s Supper is offered in our churches, offered and not forced.  We cannot coerce anyone to believe.  We do not force anyone to receive the Sacrament of the Altar.  The Lord does not give it to burden consciences.  He gives it to comfort and to gladden the heart.  He gives it that you know that you are forgiven according to His Word.

Jesus says, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).  Even as the Lord gives rest in His Gospel, so also does our Lord give rest in the Lord’s Supper.  In the Lord’s Supper, the Lord gives you this rest for your weary soul.  Here, He provides and nourishes you unto eternal life.  Here, He strengthens and preserves you to life everlasting.  He forgives your sin and gives Himself FOR YOU.

If you feel or think that you are not worthy to receive the holy things of God, know that true worthiness does not consist in you.  Your sincerity of confession or the sorrow of your heart is not the basis for going to the Lord’s Supper.  What is the basis for eating and drinking at the Lord’s Table is not you, but the Lord’s Word.

If you are waiting to feel worthy, you never will.  Believe His Word.  Though you know yourself to be unworthy, this supper is prepared for you, not because of your own righteousness, but because here the Lord gives you forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, “For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?’).

Christ’s words are to be taken as they are.  Many add to them or take away from them.  But this is not the right way.  What we cannot understand, we leave in God’s hands.  There, we are safe.  Anything else is going too far.  Sticking to the words of our Lord, we are on solid ground.

Christ gave bread and said, This is My body.  Christ gave wine and said, This is My blood.  He could not be more clear than that, saying what He means and meaning what He says.  If this Word is not enough, St. Paul also says, 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? (1 Corinthians 10:16)

What the Bible gives in one place will also be supported in another.  All interpretations of Holy Scripture therefore that contradict what Scripture says are against Scripture and not Christian.  The inconsistencies that abound in Christendom are the result of not everyone being faithful to the Lord’s Word.  True unity doesn’t consist in ‘agreeing to disagree’ or in ‘tolerating different opinions’ when it comes to the things of God.  It consists in this, believing what God says and confessing the same.  Because all churches do not say the same thing concerning the things of God, there is not true unity.

Because we are not united in the faith, we are not able to express true unity.  If we were, then we could commune at the Lord’s table with others, and they with us.  As it is, all do not agree with reference to what God says in His Word.  This is the problem.  We cannot express Christian fellowship where there is none.  To do so would be to deny Christ and His Word.

For this reason, our churches and the Christian church throughout her history has practiced ‘close or closed communion’.  This is not the unloving practicing of welcoming all to the table, regardless of creed and confession.  It is the loving practice of clearly proclaiming Christ and Him crucified to a confused world, declaring that Christ and His Word does matter, and that Christ’s body and blood, truly and really present with the bread and wine, are given for life and salvation.

This we believe and this we confess.  The Lord offers the Sacrament of the Altar for our salvation.  Here, God gives the forgiveness of sins.  It is not the bodily eating and drinking that does this, but the words here written, “‘Given and shed for you for the remission of sins’; which words, besides the bodily eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?’).

To the Lord’s Words we cling.  It is here and in what He gives that you find rest for your soul and the promise of eternal life.  Hear it often.  Receive it plenty.  Amen.

Age of 120 years and Genesis 6:3

And the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’

(Genesis 6:3, NKJ)

How are these words of the Lord to be understood?  With other Bible readers, I always took this passage to refer to the age of man and not to anything else.  That reasoning seemed to make sense, “his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

However, Genesis 11 records that the father of Abram, Terah, lived to be 205 years old.  And most of those before him (also recorded in Genesis 11) lived more than 120 years.  Moses, in contrast, did not live as long as those before him, for Moses died at the age of 120 (Deuteronomy 34:7).

One reasonable explanation for the lapse in time between the greater ages of men in the earlier parts of Genesis (i.e. Noah, Terah, etc.) to the decreasing ages of men (i.e. Moses) shortly after the pronouncement of the Lord in Genesis 6:3 might be that the lowering of the maximum age to 120 years was not immediate.  Here, we might reflect on the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden.

The Lord had clearly said, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).  However, neither Adam or Eve physically died immediately, but they were surely in the “state of death.”  Also, and especially, to be outside of God’s blessing and favor surely does mean certain eternal death.[1]

I had understood these words of our Lord in Genesis concerning the 120 years to be referring to the limitation of man’s age due to his wickedness.  It was a word of judgment.  It made sense to me.  And even today, you hear of few people living over 110 years, let alone over that.  The explanation seemed “to fit.”

Nevertheless, another, and more likely, explanation exists which was recently brought to my attention…

The word of the Lord concerning 120 years is certainly a word of judgment.  But it is not to be understood as a word of judgment with reference to man’s age.  It is word of judgment with reference to how long the wicked of the world had before the coming destruction of the flood.

Note these following verses in Genesis 6:

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:5-8);

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.  And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth” (Genesis 6:11-13).

The world was corrupt.  The people were wicked.  Judgment was coming…

Genesis 5 records that Noah was 500 years old. Noah and his family (wife, three sons, and three daughters-in-law), totaling eight people, entered the ark when Noah was 600 years old.  This leaves a difference of only 100 years, twenty less than the Lord’s, “yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

In other words, the Lord wasn’t speaking of limiting man’s age, but limiting the amount of time before man’s judgment, that is, giving wicked man time to repent, to change his ways (i.e. Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19:12-14; Jonah & Nineveh, Jonah 3:4).[2]

Such truly is the way of the Lord, the way of grace and mercy, to give time to repent, to give time to turn from sin and believe His word and promises, for the Lord says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).

That time is now, not to wait as those who perished in the flood:

“Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’  For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.  But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.  But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:3-9).

Thus does our Lord say through the St. Paul the apostle:

“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

That the Lord would reveal the coming destruction of the world by flood as in Genesis (or by fire, 2 Peter 3:10ff) is not foreign to Holy Scripture.  That the Lord would reveal such coming destruction by means of giving the amount of time before such an event is also not foreign to the way God works, for the Lord does indeed desire sinners “to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:4).  However, if they do not, judgment is sure to come and will not delay.

LutherOnGenesis6.3


[1] This latter point might be what is truly meant with reference to the Lord’s words, “surely die.”  We might immediately think of physical death, but physical death, though indeed a result of sin, is not the instantaneous, nor the ultimate, consequence, but separation from God is, and all that this means.

[2] In Genesis 19, only Lot, his wife, and two daughters fled the city alive.  The sons-in-law refused to depart.  As for Nineveh, the king and its citizens did repent and were thus spared, though destruction did come later (Nahum 1:1ff; Zephaniah 2:13)

%d bloggers like this: