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Christ Your Hope

Jesus.EmptyTomb

 

19 If in this life we only have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

 1 Corinthians 15:19-21

He is Risen.  He is Risen indeed.  Alleluia!

On this joyous occasion, Christ’s church confidently rejoices in the bodily resurrection of Jesus her Lord.   The suffering and death that Christ had endured is now past.  Jesus reigns victoriously over death and the grave.  His three-day tomb remains forever empty.  Jesus is risen, just as He had said.  Sin has lost its power and dominion.

Jesus our Savior died with your sin on the cross Good Friday.  But He who knew no sin, who became sin for us, was the only victor, the only one of the two standing when all was said and done.  Darkness had covered the land with Jesus’ death.  But now, the light of Christ shines brightly, piercing through the darkness of death and rejoicing the heart with resurrected gladness.

News of Christ’s triumph flows as a river throughout the world, giving life to all who drink from it.  This water is the pure water of God’s truth.  This water contains no contaminates, nor is any harmful material to be found in it.  It does not make sick.  It brings to health.  It does not make weak.  It brings strength.  It does not cause complacency.  It moves to faith.  It does not cause despondency.  It moves to confidence.  It does not bring hopelessness.  It raises to blessed assurance, the blessed assurance that Jesus is yours, that He has overcome death and the grave.  Just as He has been resurrected from the dead, so you too are brought to life in Christ Jesus our Lord, raised from the deadness of your sin to the resurrection of eternal life.

This is good news!  Christ has now arisen.  Had Christ, who once was slain, not burst His three-day prison, our faith had been in vain.  The words of Hymn 482 in Lutheran Service Book, appropriately titled, “This Joyful Eastertide,” echo the words of St. Paul where he writes, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14).  With these words, St. Paul the apostle demonstrates the futility and the utter uselessness of faith apart from the bodily resurrection of our Lord.

In the day of this blessed apostle, there were those who claimed that there was no resurrection of the dead (v12).  For some reason, they had lost sight of the truth of Christ’s resurrection.   Having lost sight of that, they could do no other except lose sight of the hope and promise of God.  Though St. Paul proclaimed Christ as having been raised from the dead (v12), this message had lost significance among some in the church of Corinth.  Therefore, these men falsely concluded that there was no resurrection from the dead.  Having no confidence in the Lord’s resurrection, they could do no other except construct a hope of their own making.  In the process, the very hope that St. Paul had preached to them became null and void, not because it wasn’t true, but because there was no trust in what had been rightfully and diligently proclaimed.

Except it be for the witness and testimony of the Holy Scriptures, we too would be in the same boat of doubt and denial when it comes to the resurrection of the dead.   But the Words of God before us today reveal differently.  This day called Easter witnesses and testifies, according to the Bible, that there is a resurrection from the dead and that Christ is alive according to the flesh.

These things cannot be apprehended apart from God’s witness and testimony.  They cannot be understood and held to be true based on our own personal experiences.  Instead, the things of God are not naturally known.  They are revealed through the heavenly Word, not the heavenly word of our own heart or head, but the heavenly Word written and sealed in God’s book, written by the apostles’ and prophets.

If these Word’s of our Lord were not so, there would indeed be no bodily resurrection of Christ.  There would be no ‘rose again from the dead’ or ‘rose again according to the Scriptures’ of the Apostolic and Nicene Creeds.  Christians everywhere would be making false confessions and lying before the world of Him who died and rose again; if indeed Christ had not risen.

If there were no resurrection of the dead, all worship and praise would be empty and worthless.  There would be no need to worship in a Christian congregation, for all ‘roads would certainly lead to heaven.’  There would be no uniqueness to Christianity, for it would turn into a religion of salvation by works, as all the other religions are today.  Believers and nonbelievers alike would all be going to the same place.  It would not really matter what one believed, as long as one was sincere of heart.

If Christ did not rise, then it would truly be as St. Paul says, “If in this life we only have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (v19).  If there was no resurrection of the dead, and if Christ had not been raised, then the church’s proclamation of her risen Lord would be for nothing.  Her number one priority would not be preaching the Gospel of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, but preaching man’s works and emphasizing his own endeavors, not in the service of others, but for earning recognition with God.  God’s ministers would be false teachers and false witnesses, because they testify of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if in fact the dead do not rise (v14-15).

If Christ had not been raised, faith would be in vain.  Worship would be void and hypocritical.  There would be no reason to come to church, even only a few times a year, because there would be no hope in this hopeless world.  There would be no God but oneself, for who could know God if the Bible was untrue?  There would be no eternal hope for a blessed peace.  All would live as many do now, living for themselves and not for the Lord or for neighbor.  There would be little concern for the future and more for the instant gratification of today.

With no resurrection of the dead, nor resurrection of Christ, what would be the hope of sinful man before the just God?  Could man by His work or ability satisfy the penalty of sin, the debt of iniquity, or the guilt of transgression?  What would be the end of it all?   And what would be the end of the entire world, even of us who confess Christ Jesus to be Lord, except hopelessness, misery, and grief.  Satisfaction and contentment could never be guaranteed and everyone would be in the ‘rat race’ of trying to make peace with God at any expense and by any means.

But thanks be to God!  It is not as they in St. Paul’s day claimed.  Nor is it as many in our day believe, that Jesus is a crutch and that one has the power to altar or change one’s destiny before God.  Christ has indeed risen from the dead!  This means everything to us and to Christ’s church.  Death could not hold Him.  The grave could not bind Him.  The tomb could not contain Him.  Christ was not sealed in by death.  He opened the way to life, the hopeful life, the confident life, the blessed life, and the eternal life.

Christ is your hope this day.  By His death, He died your death.  By His life, you are raised to new life.  No longer does your guilt have the last word.  Consciences are clear and free.  The debt of your iniquity is paid.  The penalty of your sin, forgiven.  In Christ, you have everlasting hope before the just God.  Instead of liable, you are innocent.  Instead of accountable for sin, you are liberated from your sin.  Peace with God is now our state of affairs in the presence of God.  Christ is your peace.  Hopefulness, joy, and delight are now your end.  Instead of meaninglessness, there is meaningfulness in life.

Christ is risen from the dead!  Our faith in the resurrection is not in vain.  He who died lives forevermore.  There is reason for eager anticipation and joyous expectation of what will be.  Our heavenly homecoming is drawing near.  His Means of Grace are effective and powerful.  God’s Word gives what it says.  Even today, His Word works wonders.  Great expectations are the product of the faith founded on the Lord’s promises, not only for the future, but even in the present.

The Church’s proclamation of her risen Lord is not for nothing.  Her Lord is her everything.  Through liturgy and song, the church confesses her Savior.  Through prayer and praise, she confesses her Christ.  The preaching that man’s sins are forgiven in Christ Jesus continues to be the mission of the church.  Man does not earn recognition with God by what He does.  But God, in His mercy, grants His favor to man through His beloved Son.  Through Jesus, God recognizes you as saint, holy, and righteous.  The Lord’s resurrection is true.  God’s Word is not untrue.

Because Christ has risen from the dead, worship of the Triune God is not trivial and without value.  Worship of God in spirit and truth is full of meaning and import.  Because God and His Word are true, heavenly gifts are offered at the baptismal font and at the Lord’s altar.  Our Lord speaks words of life.  Those of His sheepfold listen to His voice and feast at His banqueting table of Word and Sacrament.  Because the Lord is risen from the dead, there is complete uniqueness to the religion called Christianity.  No other religion teaches the salvation of the God who became man, died, and rose again on the third day.   All other religions do lead to the same place, but Christ alone grants eternal life.  All others lead elsewhere.  It really does matter what one believes, regardless of how sincere one is.

The Apostolic and Nicene Creeds of Christendom are true.  They do give an accurate witness to the faith of Christians everywhere, both of Christians today and of Christians before.  Their confessions testify to the world of Christ’s resurrection and of Him who died and rose again.  There is a ‘rose again from the dead’ and a ‘rose again according to the Scriptures’, for Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.  The Scriptures are really true.  The testimonies are correct.  The Word is sure.  The truth is found.

There is much reason to rejoice this day.  The Christ, who had once been slain, has burst His three-day prison.  Death no longer entombs Him.  ‘Christ has triumphed!  He is living!  Alleluia!’  (LSB 465, “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds”).  This is a ‘Joyful Eastertide’, for Christ ‘the Crucified has sprung to life’ (LSB 482, “This Joyful Eastertide”).  ‘He lives, yes, He lives, and will nevermore die’ (LSB 480, He‘s Risen, He’s Risen).  Jesus is your Savior, faithful and true.  Because He lives, you too shall live with Him, now and forevermore.  Amen.

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The Word of faith which we preach


 

“ ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’

(that is, the word of faith which we preach)”

Romans 10:8

Commenting on 2 Corinthians 11, verse two,[1] Luther writes some penetrating words (see below).  In the context, St. Paul writes, “I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted — you may well put up with it!” (2 Corinthians 2:3-4).

Paul seems to indicate that there is only genuine Jesus.  All others are other Jesus’.  In other words, only One Jesus is Savior from sin.  All other Jesus’ are counterfeits.  So does Paul also indicate this where he distinguishes gospels, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.  For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.  But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-12).

According to God’s inspired Word through His servant Paul, one who seeks to please men cannot also at the same time be a “bondservant of Christ.”  Those preachers who do seek to please men preach a different gospel and not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Here we must say that just as there are preachers who seek to please men, there are also hearers who seek to please, not God, but themselves, for they do not seek out the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ, but another.  They look for that which God has not promised.  They seek to have their “itching ears” scratched.  They do not seek to repent at the hearing of God’s Word, but they seek another Jesus.

Thus, when they hear things they don’t like to hear or how they like to hear it, they turn the power button off and refuse to further listen.  Rather than test the preaching they hear with the Holy Scriptures, they test it according to what they would like to hear or how they would like the message to be delivered.

Essentially, however, doing these things only demonstrates the characteristic of so many who are Christians in name only—the refusal to listen to the Word and the despising of the very Office of preaching which God has established.

Here, the question arises, “How does God come to us?” “How does Christ give us the forgiveness we so desperately need?”  Another way of asking the question is this, “by what means does God give His forgiveness of our sins that we know with certainty that it is ours?”

Some would, of course, answer the question with the word “faith.”  But is it upon your faith that you have absolute certainty of God’s grace and favor?  If the answer here were yes, then certainty is really upon you. And any certainty upon you is really nothing but uncertainty.

On the other hand, if the answer to the question of means is not on my/our faith, but on that which is sure and true, that which God does and gives, there can be no uncertainty in it at all, except that which we add to it of ourselves, if it were possible for us to do so.

Faith has been defined by some as “certainty.”  Such a definition does not have foundation in itself.  We do not trust our faith to be certain because of or on account of our faith.  Rather than trust in one’s own faith or in one’s own certainty, the Christian trusts in nothing less and nothing more than the Word of God that establishes that faith.

And where is that Word preached and heard?  In the Lord’s house.  And by whom?  The pastor.  And what is the pastor to be preaching in the Lord’s house?  Only the Word—only Christ.  Where the pastor is doing this, there you can be sure that God is forgiving sins.  There, you can be sure that God is giving you salvation, because of the Word that is preached.

Also in the Lord’s house, God established the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar.  For what purpose?  For the purpose of bringing to you that salvation won by Christ’s cross.  Thanks be to God for such gifts!  And instead of murmuring and grumbling about the way God brings these gifts (i.e. through human voice, water, and bread and wine), we rejoice all the more in them (see 1 Corinthians 1:27-31), trusting God’s Word and sure of His goodness, not because we “see,” but because of His blessed promises.

    Luther

 

“Christ has instituted this (apostolic) office as if to say, ‘I send you that you should claim and fetch me my bride who was previously prepared or was washed from sins and became pure and holy.’  Now this happens daily in Christianity through the preaching office, in which one proclaims and preaches that Christ has given himself for you, as St. Paul says.  This was done when he suffered and died on the cross and on the third day was raised again.  For through that he has earned grace and the forgiveness of sins for us.  But if that were left there, it would not yet help us.  For even if he earned the treasure for us and has done all, we would not yet receive it.  But how does this same salvation which he has bestowed finally come to us?   For has he now gone up to heaven and left us behind?  He says it must go to us through the Word and Baptism which he has mandated the apostles to bring to us, to bring us home.  Namely, that through them they should bring us  forgiveness of sins, in his name.” (Geo. Link, Luther’s Family Devotions, 648-649)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant that my faith not be founded on anything in me, but only upon You and Your Holy Word.  Keep me from doubting the way You work and the means by which you give me life and salvation through Jesus Christ.  Rather, lead me to give thanks and to rejoice all the more in Your blessed kindness and favor in coming to me in what is esteemed as humble and lowly in the eyes of the world, that Your Holy Name be exalted continually.  Amen.


[1] “For I have betrothed you to a man so that I present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

We Confess the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)

 

 

In the Name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  Into this Name were you baptized.  This is who God is, Only God, the Only True God.  Besides this One, there is no other.  The true God is One in Three Persons and Three Persons in One God.  This is so not because it makes sense or because men in the early church made it up long ago, but because God has revealed Himself as Three Persons, yet One God.  What God has revealed, this we confess with the words, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty…And in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord…  I believe in the Holy Spirit…’

We confess what is common to all Christians, not only on this day called Trinity Sunday, but every Sunday.  It’s common to all because all Christians will believe that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.  It can be no other way.  This is the litmus test of who is of the Christian faith and who is not.  Though it is true that believing in Jesus is what saves, believing in the Jesus of the Bible means also believing His Word, even where He says, I and My Father are one (John 10:30) and Whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me (Mark 9:37).  The Christ of Scripture cannot be divorced from His Father, by whom He was begotten.

In other words, whoever receives Jesus receives also His Father.  Whoever does not receive Jesus does not receive the Father either.  This was and is the problem of all who speak of a ‘belief in God’, but who do not acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son.  You cannot separate the two.  It is true that we distinguish between the Father and the Son, but you cannot have one without having the other.  This means that all who claim to have the true God, like Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, really do not have the true God, but worship a false god, a god of their own making, for they deny the divinity, the Godhead, of the Son.

Saying this does not sit well with a lot of people.  We live in an age where everything goes, and it does not matter what you believe, just do not ‘step on anyone’s toes’ or offend anyone, esp. in matters of religion.  As soon as distinctions are drawn and another is said to be wrong, lovelessness and intolerance are said to be at play.  The line has there been crossed.  Discrimination and righteous attitudes are said to be the culprit.  Because not everyone believes what you believe, what you believe might be your faith, but it is not mine.  Just because it might be true for you does not mean that it is true for me.

This notion has also crept into the church.  Just because the church says something, I do not have to believe it.  It is just the collective opinion of people anyway.  I can be a member of this church or of that church, but really, it does not matter what the church preaches and teaches.  I will believe what I want to believe.  It is not about the church anyway.  It is about what I believe.  That is what matters in the end.

Have you heard these things before?  Sound familiar?  It is the spirit of our times.  We minimize the Godhead according to our own personal opinions.  We sift through the teachings of the Bible, and pick and chose what we like or want to hear.  We go to church, not to encounter the Word of God, but to see how good the preacher sounds and catch up with others on their week.

But God speaks differently.  Church is where God’s Word and His gospel are proclaimed.  He has given the church what to speak and He has given you what to hear, both Law and Gospel, Law to the sinner and Gospel to the one sorry for his sin. God speaks the truth of our waywardness and the truth of our salvation in Christ.  He reveals what we are to do and how we are to do it.  He reveals that we are to believe Him and His Word, hear His Word, and receive life through His Means of Grace.  He has not given us to go our own way, but to follow His, for His is the way of life—the only way of life.

We learn this way of God through the books of the Old and New Testaments.  Where the preaching and teaching are according to these God inspired writings, there you will hear God’s Word to sinners, bringing down because of sin, but raising up in the light of God’s forgiveness.  The law of God shows us our sin and how we stand condemned before God because of it.  The Gospel of God shows us our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, the very same whom we confess as the Son of the Father, who now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty since His ascension into heaven.

On account of Christ, you are no longer under God’s condemnation.  Christ stood in your place, becoming sin for you, that you might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).  The only True God does not leave you in the darkness of your sin.  And you are not the one who decides what is the right and the true doctrine.  God alone is the One who decides this.  God alone is the one who has decided this.  You cannot believe whatever you want to believe or follow whomever you want to follow and still rightly consider yourself a Christian.  Your tendency to do this is the leaning of your nature since the fall in the garden, but this inclination to go your own way you are to continue to fight as God’s baptized child.

God speaks and teaches only the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  This will not always what you want to hear, but God says what you need to hear, that you might repent and be saved, and not that you feel good about yourselves or find momentary fulfillment.  God says what He says in order that you hear Him, listen to Him, be humbled, and that He lift you up.

The way that God leads, the doctrine that He gives, the Word that He speaks, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are for nothing less than your salvation.  He gives you all these things that you believe Christ to be your Savior from sin and death and that you continue in this faith.  Not only was Christ man.  He was also God, God for you, dying your death, crucifying sin, and giving Life, even His own life, that you live in Him and He in you, now and forevermore.

For this reason, for your salvation, Jesus sent His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and even now through His Word, that you be in the faith of our Lord Jesus and remain in Him to the end.  For your salvation did Christ die and live again.  This is why God the Father sent Him into the world in the first place, that you not perish, but have everlasting life.

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).  This is the truth that the world does not see, first, that it needs salvation, second, that God desires this, and third, how God brings salvation, not through man’s work, but through His, through Jesus Christ whom He sent.

 As to the first, the law of God is preached among you and in the world to condemn the world and your sinful nature because of sin.  Any lack of tolerance for sin is not first yours.  It is God’s.  The world does not want to hear such things.  They want to hear that it is ok to do whatever they want, regardless of who gets hurt, because, after all, life is all about ME and what I want.  But not willing to hear God’s Law, the world also will not hear of the God-man Jesus dying on a tree as the sacrifice for sinners.  They thus deny God on two counts: one, as to His law which condemns, and two, as to His Gospel, which saves.

The world doesn’t see that it needs salvation because it is not willing to admit how bad things really are.  And how bad things are must be revealed by God Himself, for we can see that things are at least not 100% good, but we think that this is sufficient.  God says otherwise, and this is the condemning thing.  God doesn’t just say, ‘try’ or ‘do better next time’.  To Him, one ‘slip up’ in thought, word, or deed is sufficient for an eternal fall.  This is the problem, because none are even at the least minutely perfect in this regard.  God demands what we cannot fulfill.

We are at a crossroads with only One to help.  This One is revealed only in the Gospel of Christ.  God reveals this Gospel in His book.  Through Christ, your sins are forgiven and you have peace with God.  This is the ‘how’ of God bringing salvation — through Christ: on the tree, in the tomb, rising from the dead, ascending into heaven, sending His Spirit, preaching His Word, giving body and blood in bread and wine, and baptizing with water in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Through God’s Christ and by His means, God gives life and salvation.  And this life and salvation is God’s desire for all people.  For all people Christ died and gave His life.  The problem is not that God does not make this or Himself known or that He does not care.  Far from it!  God does care and He has made Himself known, and He does show forth His mercy to sinful mankind.  Not all this, because not all take God at His Word.  Only those who believe God’s Word will see Christ for who He is: as Savior, not as Judge; as redeemer, not as the one whom we owe; as our God, apart from whom is no other; and the 2nd person of three of the Trinity.

All that we know of God’s salvation in Christ God reveals in Holy Writ.  For this purpose was the Bible given, so writes St. John, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).  There, in the Holy Scriptures, we see Jesus, living under the law and fulfilling it for us.  There, we see Christ, paying the price for our sin with His own death, though He was sinless.  There, we see Christ, giving His promise through means of Word and sacrament, giving life where there once was only death; giving health where there once was only sickness; giving knowledge where there once was only ignorance; and giving wisdom where there once was only foolishness.  There, in the Bible, Jesus reveals Himself to be God’s Son, one with the Father, and one with the Spirit, the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Today’s Gospel text from St. Matthew’s points to the Lord’s desire for your salvation, for Jesus Himself says to His disciples before leaving them, Going therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).  The church is in existence even now to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  The Lord’s authority is now given to the church, the authority of God to proclaim the truth of sin and forgiveness, to make disciples, to baptize, and to teach.  This is the work of God, the very work that God works through His church, ushering in new life through His Word, and keeping and sustaining that new life through that same Word.

Where that Word of God is kept, there God’s Spirit will be, calling by the Gospel, enlightening with His gifts, and sanctifying and keeping in the true faith.  There also will the Triune God be.  Where the Spirit is, there will also be Christ.  Where Christ is, there will also be the Father.  You can’t have One without the Other.  There is no God without the Son.  There is no Spirit apart from the Son.  There is no faith apart from the Spirit.  And there is no salvation without faith in the Son.

Where Father, Son, and Spirit are kept true and distinct, and God undivided, One God, yet Three Persons, there is salvation, for God the Father Sent His Son to save us from our sins, and the Spirit of truth testifies of the Son (John 15:26).

In order that salvation in Christ be made known, our Lord sends His church to proclaim the truth of His Word, even the truth of the Holy Triune God.  This truth is not of human origin.  It cannot be understood by rational formula or common sense.  Though it is true, all will not accept it.  It is only by faith that we believe, faith according to what God has already revealed in His Word, and faith according to what God now makes known to you.  It matters not what part of the world you were born in, or what the majority of the beliefs are in your neighborhood.  The truth of God is true for all people because it is true.  This is what God reveals in the only Holy Book, the Bible, Holy because it is the very Word of God given to man, that God make Himself known, that man believe in His Son and so be saved.  Amen.

“No One Can Serve Two Masters”

In the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Christians everywhere confess, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” These are not meaningless words. Nor are the words empty of meaning. Christians actually believe them. To say them but not to believe them is be a “play Christian,” one who mouths the words, but does not really mean what he says.

But we are no “play Christians.” We are not playing any games when we confess these words of the First Article of the Creed. We actually believe that according to the Bible, God did make heaven and earth. We believe that God created heaven and earth, just as recorded in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, not in the way that macro Evolutionists or theistic evolutionists believe, but exactly in the way God has revealed it. To say otherwise is, really, to call God a liar, and no child of God can do this and remain a child of God. The child of God takes God at His Word and does not follow his own opinions and determinations with the things of God…

Mt06.24-34, Epiphany 8, 2011A.pdf

And all the brethren who are with me.  To the churches of Galatia.

Galatians 1:2

In the ecumenical/universal creeds of Christendom, Christians everywhere confess faith in “the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints” (Apostles’ Creed) and “in one holy Christian and apostolic church” (Nicene Creed).

This same Church that Christians confess, on the one hand, consists only of those who have faith in Jesus Christ.  NonChristians and unbelievers are not members of this church.  They may be members of congregations and churchly organizations, but this kind of membership does not translate into membership into the communion of saints.  Not every member who attends church on Sunday morning or who retains membership in a congregation is Christian.

A Christian believes in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.  A Christian repents of sin.  A Christian is sorry for the sins committed against God and neighbor.  Only those who, confessing their sins, believe God’s promises in Christ, are members of the one true Church.  This is so only because of Jesus, and not because of how much external change we can see or evaluate.  Membership in the holy Christian Church is one of faith, not sight.

The Holy Christian Church consists of the saints still living who “call upon the Name of the Lord” (Romans 10:9).  It also consists of those who have died having faith in the Lord.  These faithful are also members of the Holy Church (not the Roman Catholic church), again, not because of all the good that they did, but because of Jesus.  They looked to Him for salvation and not to themselves.  They sought to be rid of their sin and the godlessness within themselves and the world.  They looked toward their heavenly home, prepared for all who wait upon the Lord.

Such a confession of membership in the Holy Christian Church and the Communion of Saints is not at all meaningless.  The Christian is confident that such a church exists on account of God’s Word.  This confidence leads to firm and bold confession of Christ and His Holy Name.  And that the Christian remain in this heavenly fellowship, God has given His Word and the Holy Sacraments.  He has given His Word that we readily hear and receive it, not doubting, but firmly believing the promises given.  The Lord has also gives His own body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins.

Luther

The Church is universal throughout the world, wherever the Gospel of God and the sacraments are present.  The Jews, the Turks, and the fanatics are not the church, because they oppose and deny these things (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p25-26).

Prayer: Gracious God, you have brought us into fellowship with You through the blessed death of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Give us faith in Your promises, that we not doubt, but confidently take You at Your Word.  Keep us in this faith, gladly hearing Your Word, remembering our baptism, and partaking of Christ’s body and blood, that we remain Your holy people and not be led astray by the temptations of our own hearts, the world, or the devil.  Amen.

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