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Minors and Majors

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

Acts 16:31

In the Name of Jesus.  Amen.  How easy it is to focus on the “minors” rather than on the “majors,” on things trivial and not the main thing.  Such happens in the church, too.  We become so obsessed with appearances, actions, and external things that we actually miss the “one thing needful,” as in the hymn, “One thing’s needful; Lord this treasure.” [1]  When how we live and what we do (or don’t do) become the focus of our preaching and our life, we major on the minors.  In the church, too, when the center becomes growing the church or “doing this” or “doing that,” (and the “right way”) and not on Christ and the Gospel, we’re losing sight of our means of salvation and eternal life.

The Christian life is of Christ, and remaining in Him.  Only if the tree is first good does that tree bear good fruit, says our Lord (Matthew 7:17-18).  Jesus cleanses us with His Word (John 15:3), and we are clean.  Clean in Him means that our sins are not counted against us.  By remaining in Jesus, we do good works and bear fruit (John 15:4-5).

The concern of the Christian, therefore, is remaining in Christ who works the good works within us, which is faith.  If one is not doing good works, it is because that one is not first good in Christ.  On the other hand, one who is doing good works is only doing so because Christ is doing the good works in him.

Our concern, then, is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Where this faith is placed aright, right confession and good works follow.  The Gospel works this, not the law.  The Law condemns and shows us our sin (Romans 3:19-20).  It is the Gospel that saves, that God forgives your sins through faith in Christ Jesus.

St. Paul and the early church faced opposition to the clear Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, as do we.  In his day, and demonstrated in his letter to the Galatians (and elsewhere), some were saying that you had to keep the law in order to be saved (i.e. circumcision, etc.  See Colossians 2:6-23).  You had to do things “the right way” for eternal life.  Thus, they emphasized the command of Moses, ritual, and ceremony.  Doing so, they set aside Christ, even as they spoke piously about God, His Son, and the church.  The preaching of Christ crucified and the forgiveness of sins took “back seat” to “living rightly” and “doing the right thing” to be assured of God’s favor.

We, of course, have the same struggle today.  For some, it’s what “Mother Church” says.  For others, it’s what “the pastor” says.  Still, for others, it’s what “I say or believe.”  However, each of these demonstrate the removal of Christ as the means of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Instead of pointing to Pope, Church, pastor or self, the attention of Christian doctrine is Christ and His Word and work.  The pope, the Church, the pastor, and self are to look to Christ alone, and to draw attention away from themselves to Him who forgives.  Our works and what we do never will save.  Only the work of Christ and what He has done does!

For this reason, circumcision and following the Law doesn’t merit you eternal life.  These can’t help you obtain salvation, but they can prevent it if such are your hope.  But where Christ is your hope and your foundation, know that you have God’s forgiveness.  And having God’s forgiveness in Jesus, the main thing, everything else will fall into place and will indeed, become trivial, as they are.  Yet Christ and His Word, His doctrine, will only become more and more precious and meaningful.

Luther

“It is neither sin nor righteousness to be either uncircumcised or circumcised, just as it is neither sin nor righteousness, but a physical necessity, to eat and drink. For whether you eat or do not eat, you are neither better off nor worse off (1 Cor. 8:8). But if anyone came along and attached either sin or righteousness to it and said: “If you eat, you are sinning; but if you abstain, you are righteous,” or vice versa, he would be both foolish and evil. Therefore it is a very wicked thing to attach sin or righteousness to ceremonies. This is what the pope does; in his formula of excommunication he threatens with punishment the soul of anyone who does not obey the laws of the Roman pontiff, and he makes all his laws necessary for salvation.6 Therefore it is the devil himself who is speaking in the person of the pope and in all such papal decrees. For if salvation consists in the observance of the pope’s laws, what need do we have of Christ as our Justifier and Savior?” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p87)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep us from disputing over trivial matters and grant us rather to “set” our “mind on things above, not on things of the earth” (Colossians 3:2), ever trusting in only Your Son, our Savior.  Amen.


[1] Lutheran Service Book, Prepared by The Commission on Worship of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, (St. Louis: CPH), 536.

 

 

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