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Preachers and Hearers-Listen up!

“He who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully…”

Jeremiah 23:28

In the Name of Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Amen.

God would have His Word preached rightly.  He would have His Word preached truthfully.  Where such is taking place, there ought you to be to hear, to receive, and to believe.  However, where the Word of God is not preached according to His Word, there you are not to be.  There, where God’s Word is not preached in its truth and purity, the church preaches and teaches in error.

St. Paul says it this way, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8)

A little error mixed with the truth is a dangerous thing.  Yet, how many have apathy towards any distinctions whatsoever, even in today’s church!  Add a Bible verse here and a Bible verse there, and there you have what sounds to be right and true.

Many in Christendom give such an evaluation of the preaching and teaching that they hear without properly discerning whether or not the Bible is being used according to its sense, and therefore, according to its meaning.  We give more attention to the preacher than to the preaching itself (and here, I mean content, not delivery, style, or anything else that can be improved upon).  We give more heed to how the preacher preaches or teaches rather than what he actually says. Thus, the teacher or preacher, though he might sound orthodox, is actually heterodox, interpreting Scriptures according to his way and not according to God’s way, and therefore, preaching false doctrine and contrary to the Lord’s Word.

And many seem to care but little!  The hard work of testing the words preached is becoming a lost art.  Many readily will accept what they hear (and read) without giving second thought to comparing it with what God says.  Thus, you have the popular books such as Heaven is for Real, The Purpose Driven Life, and Every Day a Friday, which many Christians “eat up” and claim to be Gospel, but do nothing but lead away from the truth.

But the Lord teaches differently.  Concerning preachers, specifically, He says, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).

And to those who hear, He says, “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:6-8).

Again, our Lord says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:23-24).

Thus, keeping the Lord’s Word, His people will hear His voice, for as our Lord also says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John 10:27).

Luther

“No one likes to say that the church is in error; and yet, if the church teaches anything in addition or contrary to the Word of God, one must say that it is in error…Thus, I will not listen to the church or the fathers or the apostles unless they bring and teach the pure Word of God.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p66-67).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Your Name be hallowed among us.  Send us preachers who preach only Your divine and life saving truth.  Keep us from giving in to the temptation of looking more at the preacher than to hearing what he says, and comparing that with Your Holy Word.  Deliver us from succumbing to the false teachings of the evil one and give us discernment, that we ever and always abide by Your Word.  Amen.

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Pleasing God

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.

Galatians 1:10

To please God by what you do, apart from faith in Jesus God’s Son, is impossible to do.  To be sure, there are those who seek to please God only by what they externally do, erroneously believing that they will please God if they only try to be good on the outside.  Such is a main characteristic of all false religion—seeking to please (a) God only by what one does, apart from true faith in Christ.  However, the Bible states that, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).  And Jesus Himself says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

God is only pleased, according to Scripture, with one who first has faith in His Son.  If there is no faith first here, any works, though considered good by the world, are not considered so by God, not having been covered and cleansed by Jesus’ blood (1 John 1:7).  Of ourselves and apart from Christ, you are not pleasing to God, sinners as you are.  By yourselves, you cannot hope to attain God’s favor, for as Isaiah writes, “We are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).

But you do have God’s favor through faith in Jesus Christ, having Christ’s righteousness credited as your own through that same faith (Romans 3:22).  Thus, it is not by what you do that you have God’s favor.  It is rather through faith in His Son that you are pleasing to God (Romans 14:23).

Does this mean, then, that having faith, you do not do good works?  Do you then just serve yourselves and not concern yourselves with anything else, but do everything only out of self-interest because everything is now “right with God” because of Christ?

Some might immediately assume this.  But the way of true and genuine faith has faith to God and love for neighbor.  Salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and Christ having fulfilled God’s Law (Matthew 5:17) in no way abrogates God’s command to keep the Law; not that you do this for God, as if God needs anything from you, but because God commands it, and for the sake of your neighbor.

The weakness of Christians in serving their neighbor should not be attributed in any way to God, as if God is to be blamed for Christian hypocrisy.  Rather, the burden remains on the Christians themselves, who continue to struggle with their flesh.  Though many readily acknowledge the weaknesses of Christians everywhere, those many also use the weaknesses of Christians as an excuse not to seek the truth and to reject God’s Word entirely.  But the Christian’s failure to “be perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) does not at all negate the responsibility of nonChristians to also hear and believe the clear teachings of Christ.

As Christians have Christ’s righteousness covering their own sin so that their sinful actions or inactions not be counted against them, so also nonChristians, not having faith in Christ, will have all that they do on their own head.  They themselves will have to bear the consequences of their faithlessness, whereas the Christian, on account of Christ, remains forgiven.

It doesn’t matter not how good you are or how good you try to be in life for the inheritance of heaven.  God calls you to believe in His Son, and through God’s very Word, God creates and sustains such faith.  And having such faith, you are already pleasing to God because of Christ, and will all the more seek to live according to what God says; asking for forgiveness of your sin where you have done wrong and trusting in God’s absolution, therefore seeking to continual amend your sinful ways.

Seeking to live this way as a servant of God and pleasing God rightly first has to do with faith.  If faith be absent, any service of God is not in service of God, but is in service of self or pleasing others.  Thus do you see the myriad of Church bodies, congregations, preachers, and people who demonstrate the absence of true faith.  Though many may and do indeed use biblical language and verse, their meanings are devoid of the true biblical doctrine.  What they seek to do and to accomplish, as well as what they teach, is contrary to what God clearly says in His Holy Word.  They themselves will use Scripture to their own ends, working the text to fit their own conceptions.  They do not let the text change them.  Rather, they themselves seek to change the text (and its meaning).

Such activities are welcome and pleasing to men.  Such activities also are pleasing to the world, for then they do not have to hear about the extent of their corruption and man’s need for a Savior.  Sinners do not like to hear about their sin.  They do not like to hear how God condemns what they do and how their corrupted nature moves them away from God.  Sinners mistakenly believe that they understand and know God apart from His Word and apart from His Son.

Saying otherwise and speaking according to the truth, however, does not at all please the world, or the unrepentant sinner.  Such preaching of the truth brings the world’s wrath and displeasure.

For those of the world, acceptance and tolerance is the gospel.  Such things characterize the desire to please men.  Yet characteristic of the desire to please God is faithfulness to Christ and His Word, come what may.  Such faithfulness will bring persecution in its myriad of forms, but having peace with God for all eternity through faith in Christ is immeasurably greater than the acceptance of a temporal world.

Luther

“Today you will find many who try to please men.  In order to live in peace and in the smugness of the flesh, they teach human doctrines, that is, impious ones.  Or they approve of the blasphemies and wicked judgments of our opponents, contrary to the Word of God and their own consciences, just to be able to retain the favor of princes and bishops and not to lose their property.  On the other hand—because we try to please God and not men—we bring upon ourselves the envy of the devil and of hell itself.  We bear the slanders and curses of the world, death, and every evil.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p60).

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive me for my weaknesses and for seeking the acceptance of the world.  Keep my eyes firmly fixed on you, that I find in you my life, strength, and peace, now and always.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Preaching and Hearing the Word of God

The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD.

Jeremiah 23:28

Faithfulness to the Lord in preaching is a hard thing!  It is a hard thing because many will grumble.  Many will complain.  Many will grow tired and turn away from that which gives life.  The many do this because the Word of God does not “fit” them.  The Word of the Lord does not “do” for them what they think it should.  The Word of the Lord, essentially, is not to their own liking, independent of the outer dressing in which it is delivered.  It does not scratch the itchy conscience as it wants to be scratched.  It does not tell one troubled by sin that things are not that bad, that things will only get better, and that happiness is just around the corner.

The Word of the Lord preached faithfully speaks the reality of how things really are.  The Law of God does not mince words.  It does not pull back the punches.  Like the doctor who speaks the truth about one’s condition, so the Law reveals the hopelessness of our situation.  The Law says that you are a poor miserable sinner, deserving nothing but death and eternal condemnation.

Such a message does not sit well with one who wants to be his/her own savior.  Such a message does not parallel the false hope preached so often today, that all you have to do is try harder, or “give your life to Jesus.”  The Word of God contrasts the “it is not so bad” mentality of today’s church, for faithful preaching consists in addressing the condition and not only the symptoms of sinners.  Only by doing so is the true proclamation of the Gospel clearly heard and believed.

Jesus came to save real sinners, not partial sinners (Luke 5:32; 1 Timothy 1:15)! Jesus died in order to save real sinners from real condemnation and hell.  And this is just what Jesus did, not to make the world a better place, but to give eternal life.

While many go on proclaiming a false gospel of earthly hope and worldly utopia, true preachers of Christ preach the sure and certain hope of heaven.  They teach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), for the very purpose of leading the hearers to Christ and to heaven.  They call sinners to turn from their evil ways and to believe the Good News of sins forgiven through faith in Christ Jesus.

Not all who hear this message appreciate it.  Many turn away from it.  Most reject it.  Such is the world in which we live.  But by God’s grace, there are also most certainly those who do hear, who do believe, and who do confess Jesus Christ to be Savior.  They know God’s Word when they hear it, for they are of God (John 8:47).  They hear Christ’s voice and follow Him (John 10:16, 27).  And they seek none other than the true doctrine, for in this true doctrine is true and everlasting life.  And of this doctrine they are not ashamed, for it is not their own, but God’s.  Thus do they boldly declare it, and of it are most sure!

Luther

“With Paul, therefore, we boldly and confidently pronounce a curse upon any doctrine that does not agree with ours.  We, too, seek by our preaching, not the praise of men or the favor of princes or of bishops but only the favor of God.  We preach His grace and gift alone, treading underfoot and condemning whatever is our own.  Therefore anyone who teaches something different or something contrary – we confidently declare that he was sent from the devil.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p59).

Prayer: Gracious Father, you have given us Your holy Word that we believe it and boldly confess it.  Grant us not to be ashamed of what you say, nor to depart from it all of our days.  Forgive us our weaknesses, and bring us to firm confidence in Your doctrine and eternal life.  Amen.

We seek to please God, not men

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.

Galatians 1:10

Our Lord Jesus says to his disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.  But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me” (John 15:18-21).

Those who seek to please Christ are those who seek to abide by His Word and remain in it, regardless of the cost involved (John 8:31-32).  Such cost may include the loss of friends, family members, or job.  The hatred of the world may include isolation and persecution.  Collectively, also, for Christ’s Church, for His people gathered around Word and Sacrament, such hatred of the world may present itself in the refusal to hear the Word of God preached by the pastor, the denial of Christ’s absolution, the promotion of schism contrary to the true doctrine, the despising of God’s Means of Grace, and the desire to change the worship service from being that which God works through to deliver His blessed gifts of life and salvation in the hearing of His Word and the distribution of Christ’s body and blood, to what we give to God, without first acknowledging the extent of our sin before Him.

Like the Pharisee, we come to God’s house to tell God what we have done and how we have lived, and thus do we seek His favor based on our work and apart from His mercy in Jesus His beloved Son.  Contrast this pharisaical approach to God based on oneself with the manner that the tax collector approached God.  He could not even look up.  He did not claim any goodness of himself, but simply confessed what was right and true.  He had nothing to give. He had nothing to offer to God-only his sin.  So he says, “God, be merciful to me the sinner!” (Luke 18:9-14, my translation: the definite article is in use here in the Greek text, v13).

This “poor miserable sinner” claimed no merit of his own.  He did not at all trust in himself.  Nor did he look to himself for any “spark of goodness” whereby he might gain God’s favor.  Instead, He trusted only in the mercy of God for help and salvation.  He came expecting to receive from God, not to give.  And Jesus says receive everything, this sinner did, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (Luke 18:14).

To be justified before God means nothing less than having peace with God (Romans 5:1ff), having your sins forgiven, being unconditionally in God’s favor, and having nothing but God’s compassion and kindness upon you.  On the other hand, to not be justified before God means nothing less than having God’s wrath and judgment upon you and to not at all have God’s favor towards you.

Only in Christ Jesus do you have such true and lasting peace with God!  This is the Christ who God reveals in His Holy Word.  And this is the Christ which God’s Holy Church proclaims and who God’s people unashamedly confess.  This, too, is the same Christ which the world hates, and for which God’s people joyfully suffer. But God’s people suffer for the sake of Christ and for the sake of His Name because He is their Savior, “for there is no other Name, under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  They know no other God, for there is no other God (1 Corinthians 8:6).  All others are nothing but false God’s, man-made, and of the devil (Revelation 9:20).

This is why the world hates Christ, His Church, and His people—they are of God, not of the devil, the world, or of sinful man.  They teach the way of God aright, neither compromising or weakening God’s message.  They boldly confess and unashamedly proclaim the way of God in truth.

God’s people come before God’s throne of grace, not giving to God, but seeking to receive from Him the mercy that God gives through faith in His Son (Hebrews 4:16).  And by God’s mercy, that have it!

This is indeed not a popular message, for many, even within the church, reject it.  But it is only Christ who gives life (John 6:63).  We are lost and condemned in our sin, with nothing to give to God.  But God covers such sinners with Christ’s righteousness (1 John 1:8-9), and we, now, live unto Him, rejoicing in His bountiful goodness and believing His unmerited and undeserved mercy on account of Jesus, His Son and our Savior.  Amen.

Luther

“We do not seek the favor of men by our teaching either, if we may be permitted to say this without boasting.  For we teach that all men are wicked; we done the free will of man, his natural powers, wisdom, righteousness, all self-invented religion, and whatever is best in the world.  In other words, we say that there is nothing in us that can deserve grace and the forgiveness of sins.  But we proclaim that we receive this grace solely and altogether by the free mercy of God and His works, universally condemning all men for their works (Ps. 19:1).  This is not preaching that gains favor from men and from the world.  For the world finds nothing more irritating and intolerable than hearing its wisdom, righteousness, religion, and power condemned.  To denounce these might and glorious gifts of the world is not to curry the world’s favor but to go out looking for and quickly to find, hatred and misfortune, as it is called.  For if we denounce men and all their efforts, it is inevitable that we quickly encounter bitter hatred, persecution, excommunication, condemnation, and execution” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p.58).

Prayer: Dearest Jesus, preserve us, Your Holy people.  Keep us from compromising Your Holy doctrine or accommodating ourselves to the ways of the world for superficial peace in the world.  Give us strength to endure the temptations that befall us that we not forsake Your Word, but remain steadfastly in it and in the true faith for our salvation.  Amen.

If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.”

John 8:31

Enthusiasm, in the sense of excitement, can be a good thing.  It gets us moving.  However, enthusiasm can also be a hindrance, for it is often temporary.  It wanes away.  We begin something full of zeal, but then soon lose interest.  We then might begin to even despise what we were once eager about.

This happened during the Reformation concerning the Gospel in Luther’s day.  People were excited about the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  People paid in earnest to the teachings of God.  But shortly thereafter, the heat waned into lukewarmness and even into indifference on the count of many.  People tired of the truth and wanted something new and different to tickle their fancy.

Long before Luther, St. Paul the apostle encountered a similar situation, for to the Christians in Galatia he writes, “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” (Galatians 1:6-10).

The Galatian Christians were turning from the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to something else, another teaching, a teaching which was not of God.  They were tired, ironically, of the only truth that truly makes alive new.

Christians today are beset by the same temptations.  How easy it is to consider the glorious resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday, and then go into the “ho-humness” of everyday life, including Sunday morning!  How easy it is for us to distance ourselves further and further from the Lord and His saving doctrine and all the while take for granted the Good News of forgiveness in Christ!

Like the Christians in Galatia or the Christians during of the Reformation, we too currently face such trials as the people of God in the year 2012.  The answer, however, is not to be found in trying to solve this problem, trying harder, or in looking for something to bring about the escaping enthusiasm and excitement that we so long for.  The answer, simply, is turn from selfishness to Christ—to not seek what the world and our sinful nature looks for—but to seek Him who alone forgives and saves the ungodly (Psalm 32:1-2).

Enthusiasm goes up and down for this and for that.  It can be sometimes quite hot.  On the other hand, it can also become quite frigid.

God’s love for sinners, for you, in Christ, does not wax or wane.  It is constant.  And in Christ, God’s love for you is sure and certain (Romans 5:8).  Therefore do His people seek to continue in that sure and certain Word and doctrine of Christ, for it is only there that Christ’s disciples remain (John 12:26).

Luther

“Whatever we do, we are always very ardent at the beginning; but when the ardor of our initial feelings is spent, we soon lose our enthusiasm.  We give up on things and completely reject them as a impetuously as we undertake them.  When the light of the Gospel first began to appear after the great darkness of human traditions, many listened eagerly to sermons.   Now that the teaching of religion has been successfully reformed by the great growth of the Word of God, many are joining the sects, to their destruction.  Many despise not only Sacred Scripture but almost all learning.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p47).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive us for our lack of enthusiasm for Your Holy and life-giving Word.  Keep us from becoming indifferent to Your heavenly doctrine.  Uphold us by Your Word and grant us diligence in its study, that we continue to be Your faithful servants.  In  Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Faithful Pastors Preach Christ and His Word

 

Dr. C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the church body now know as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, in an 1848 presidential address, addressed the synod in convention, which included these words concerning the relationship between pastor and congregation:

“Only such a preacher is a servant of men as does not serve Christ faithfully because of fear of men or because of desire to please men, departs from God’s Word in doctrine or practice, and preaches for the itching ears of his audience.  But where the pastor is given only the power of the Word, but its full power, where the congregation, as often as it hears Chris’s Word from the mouth of the preacher, receives it as the Word of God, there the proper relationship between pastor and congregation exists; he stands in their midst not as a hired mercenary but as an ambassador of the Most High God; not as a servant of men but as a servant of Christ, who in Christ’s stead teaches, admonishes, and reproves…The more a congregation sees that he who has the rule over them in the Lord desires nothing but that the congregation be subject to Christ and His Word; the more it sees that he does not desire to dominate them, yes, indeed, that he himself with a jealous eye guards the liberty of the congregation, the more willing the congregation will become to hear his salutary recommendations also in matters which God has not prescribed; it will follow him in these matters not as a taskmaster because it must, but as their father in Christ, because they wish to do it for their own advantage.”[1]

These words of Walther are nearly forgotten in many an LCMS congregation today, both by pastor and people.  Pastors lord over the people, and people lord over the pastor, contrary to the words of our Lord where He admonishes His disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.  And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

The rule or authority of the pastor is none other than the Word of God itself.  In this way the pastor is to serve the congregation—preaching and teaching the very Word of Christ in all its truth and purity.  Where a pastor neglects doing so, he is doing nothing but neglecting His calling by God through the congregation.  The pastor is not to add to or subtract from the Word.[2]  Nor is he a people pleaser, compromising for the sake of peace.  If he is to stand and remain a faithful preacher, he must “abide in Christ.”[3]

All pastors who do not do this do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ, but another.[4]  These are false preachers and teachers, who teach what men want to hear or how men want to hear it.  But to be a servant of God, the pastor preaches according to Holy Scripture—nothing more and nothing less.  This is what God gives pastors to do.  Therefore, the congregation is to help and support them in doing so, even encouraging them with the Word and by praying for them in their solemn servitude.

Whereas the responsibility of the pastor is to be a faithful servant of God and a faithful servant to God’s people, “rightly dividing the Word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15) the responsibility of the congregation is to hear the pastor and honor him as one whom God has sent, for so God has.  Not doing so, that is, refusing to hear the pastor, is as not hearing God, just as Jesus says to His disciples, “He who hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16).

Far from this being a novel invention or “lifting up the pastor” to a godly like status, this is the way of God and His blessed Word for the sake of His beloved people.  Remember, the authority of the pastor is not that of himself, all that he says, or all that he does.  The authority of the pastor is that of the Word.  Where he speaks beyond the Word, there ears can truly be shut.  But as he proclaims and speaks the Word, there the ears are to be nothing but open—because it is not the pastor’s words, but God’s.

Thus does Holy Scripture in many places speak of the relationship, even the duty (and vocation) of pastors to their congregation and congregation to their pastor(s).  The following words are found under “The Table of Duties” in The Small Catechism of sainted Dr. Martin Luther:

To Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers

The overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 1 Tim. 3:2-4

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 1 Tim. 3:6

He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. Titus 1:9

What the Hearers Owe Their Pastors

The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. 1 Cor. 9:14

Anyone who receives instruction in the Word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Gal. 6:6-7

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” 1 Tim. 5:17-18.

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 1 Thess. 5:12-13

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. Heb. 13:17

As you can see, neither pastor or hearer is free to forsake the Word or invent new ways of serving God.  Rather, it is in doing what God has commanded, having faith in Christ, that we rightly please God and rightly serve Him.  For Lutheran pastors and Lutheran congregations, the Word is front and center.  The church is not centered on either pastor or people.  It is centered on Christ.  And where Christ is truly the center, both pastor and people rightly recognize their place and give glory, thanks, and praise to God.  Pastors diligently serve God’s people; and God’s people readily hear the preached Word, and give thanks for it.


[1] Carl S. Meyer (ed.), Moving Frontiers: Readings in the History of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1964), 175-176.

[2] “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.  Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6).

[3] “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples.  And you will know the truth and the truth will free you.” (John 8:31-32)

[4] Deuteronomy 18:20;  Isaiah 5:20; Jeremiah 23:1; Matthew 7:15-23; 15:9; Romans 16:17-18; Colossians 2:6-9, 18-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-6; 2 Timothy 3:13-17; 4:1-4; Hebrews 13:9; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1-6

 

 

Many are Called, Few are Chosen

1Again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

      11“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1–14)

In Dr. Luther’s explanation to the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, he writes, “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

By means of God’s Word and Sacrament, God’s Kingdom comes among us as His blessed Word is received and believed.  It is here, where God creates faith via His means (not ours), that God’s people gather and are to be certain of His Kingdom coming.  It is also here where God’s people are certain that Christ is truly present.

God’s Kingdom, synonymous with Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven, does not only refer to the time when our Lord Jesus returns in all of His glory.  God’s Kingdom also refers to the here and the now, present tense; not only the Word which is to come, but the Word that comes now, as St. Paul says, “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)

 Now is not the time to delay, wait, or sluggishly ponder concerning the Lord’s Word and His Christ.  Nor is it the time to make excuses concerning the God’s Kingdom here on earth where Word and Sacrament are freely given for the sake of God’s people.

All too often, people stay away from where God would have them be for the most insignificant of reasons.  But there is no significant reason to keep away from God’s Holy Word, even that which condemns (The Law) and that which saves (The Gospel).

Some might not like the preacher or the preaching, but even this is no reason to abandon God’s Kingdom where God’s Word is rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15).

The calling of repentance goes out to the many.  All is ready.  The meal is prepared.  Yet few do come, for they reject God’s Christ and His forgiveness, believing that they need it not.

Sadly, those who reject the preaching of God’s messengers (Called and ordained servants of the Word) also are rejecting Christ and His Word of forgiveness and eternal life (See Luke 10:16).  Because the Jews rejected Christ, they received their due punishment and the Gospel was taken away from them.

Beware, lest the Gospel be taken from you!  Do not give in to the popular notion that it does not matter from whom you hear the preached Word.  Nor follow the examples of the invitees in the text, who for the love of the world and their own life refused the invitation of the King himself, condemning themselves to the punishment to come.  Instead, heed the Word of the Lord.  Believe His promises.  Deny yourselves.  Wear what the Lord gives, even Christ’s robe of righteousness, in which you are clothed through faith, for only in that are you acceptable among the guests in the King’s court.  Amen.

Mt22.1-14, Pentecost 17, 2011A, Outline & Notes

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