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“The Holy Trinity,” Matthew 28:16-20

 

Audio

 

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed 5Creedccthem. 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.  Amen.

Into this Name were you baptized.

Into the Name of the Only true God were you baptized.

Besides this One true God, there is no other.

The true God is One in Three Persons and Three Persons in One God.

God has revealed Himself in this way—Three Persons, yet One God.

What God has made known about Himself through Holy Writ, this we confess, ‘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 is common to all because all Christians believe that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.

As confessed in the Augsburg Confession,

Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term “person” they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself. (AC, Article 1, Of God)

Christians everywhere believe and confess this, with the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creed, because these expound what Holy Scripture teaches concerning the Godhead.

Believing in Jesus is what saves, this is true, but 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.

Whoever receives Jesus receives also His Father.

Whoever does not believe in Jesus does not believe in the Father.

“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 Jn. 2:22-23 NKJ).

“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 Jn. 1:9 NKJ).

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 have the One apart from also having the other.

All who claim to have the true God, like Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, they do not have the true God.

They worship a false god, a god of their own making.

They deny the divinity of the Son, thus also the Godhead.

Because they do, their god is false, an idol, not to be feared.

Such words contrast with our world and many in Christendom today who don’t know or don’t really care about the truth because they rather live in their own self-made reality, where they can personally believe what they want, regardless of what the Bible says.

Such is the spirit of our times, as it has always been: to dismiss God’s Word and to follow one’s own ways.

Such a way minimizes the Godhead according to personal opinions.

Such a way sifts through the teaching of the Bible, picking and choosing what is acceptable to the reader and not what is according to what the text actually says.

God speaks differently.

God speaks the truth of man’s waywardness and corrupted hearts and the truth of salvation in Christ.

He Himself reveals what is to be believed and how to live, by faith and not by sight.

In the preaching and in the teaching according to God’s inspired writings, you hear God’s Word to sinners, bringing down because of sin, but lifting up in the light of God’s forgiveness.

The Law of God shows you your sin and how you stand condemned before God because of it.

The Gospel of God shows you your 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 wrath and condemnation.

Christ became the sinner for you, “that” you “might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

You are not the one who decides what is the right and the true doctrine.

God alone has this prerogative.

You cannot believe whatever you want to believe or follow whomever you want to follow and still rightly consider yourself a Christian.

The tendency to do this is the leaning of all of our natures since the fall in the garden.

Such inclination to go our own way is not of God.

This is one of the crosses we continue to bear as God’s people, even of our own sinfulness, which would lead us away from God’s goodness and grace.

Denying ourselves, we follow Jesus.

God speaks and teaches only the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

This is most certainly not always what we want to hear, but God says what you need to hear, that you might repent and be saved.

Good preaching doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, the sought after ingredient of many-a-hearer.

God says what He says in order that you hear Him, listen to Him, be humbled, and that He lift you up.

The way God leads, the doctrine He gives, the Word He speaks, the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper administered are for nothing less than your salvation.

He gives you these that you believe Christ to be your Savior from sin and death and that you continue in this faith, the Christian faith, faith in the Triune God.

Jesus Christ is both God and man, 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.

Jesus preaches 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 about that salvation, not through man’s work, but through His, through Jesus Christ whom He sent.

The world does not acknowledge that it needs salvation or a Savior.

It is not willing to admit how bad things really are.

We are at a crossroads, literally, 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; baptizing with water in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; giving body and blood in bread and wine.

Through God’s Christ and by His means, God gives life and salvation.

This life and salvation is God’s desire for all people.

This life and salvation is also the desire of God’s people.

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.

God has made Himself known.

God does show forth His mercy to sinful mankind.

Yet, not all believe this.

Not all take God at His Word.

Only those who believe God’s Word will see Christ for who He is: Savior, not Judge; Redeemer, not the one whom we owe; God, apart from whom is no other; the 2nd person of three of the Trinity.

All that we know of God’s salvation in Christ God reveals in Holy Word.

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.

There, in the Holy Scriptures, we see Christ, paying the price for our sin with His own death, though He was sinless.

There, in the Holy Scriptures, we see Christ, giving His promise through means of Word and Sacrament, giving life where there was only death; giving health where there was only sickness; giving knowledge where there was only ignorance; giving wisdom where there 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 (a participle, not an imperative) 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, to make disciples, to disciple, by baptizing and teaching.

The Lord Jesus gives His body, the Church, the authority to do so—the authority of God to preach repentance unto sinners, to forgive, 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, 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.

There is no God without the Son.

There is no Spirit apart from the Son.

There is no faith apart from the Spirit.

There is no salvation without faith in the Son.

Where Father, Son, and Spirit are, distinct yet 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).

This we believe, teach, and confess.  Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty. Keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 

Audio

 

 

“He is not here, for He has risen,” Matthew 28:1-10

 

For audio, go here.

 

Readings: Psalm 16; Acts 10:34–43; Colossians 3:1–4; Matthew 28:1–10

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.”

 

In the Name of the risen Lord Jesus. Amen.

Jesus.VictorJesus is risen, as He said.

These words bring joy to the ear this morning and always.

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

The great joy of those women who heard the words of God’s messenger that morning and did not see 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.

“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 real consequence of sin.

Sin brings about physical death, of which all must face, sooner or later.

Sin also brings about eternal death, unless there be salvation from Another who overcomes sin and death.

This is what Christ did by His resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection testifies to the truth that death is powerless against the Lord Christ.

So too is eternal death powerless against the Lord’s brethren,  who we are, through faith in His blessed Word.

“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 you know that Jesus truly keeps His Word.

The Lord’s resurrection also means your resurrection.

Christ being raised from the dead means your rising from the dead, not only from the deadness of your sin to new life now by faith, but also when our Lord returns.

Christ’s resurrection means your resurrection, your resurrection unto life.

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 will receive the due reward for their unbelief.

Those who do believe the promises of God, though they not see them all fulfilled here and now, these “Will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

As for Jesus only spiritually rising from the dead and not bodily, which some contend happened, 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. A spirit does not drink.

Jesus did these very things, right in front the disciples.

From the virgin birth to Christ’s bodily resurrection, and from the creation of the world to the Lord’s glorious return on judgment day, do not trust what you think, what reason tells you, or what our current scientific establishment tells you to be true.

Trust in the Lord and what He says.

There will you find Jesus living and dying, and rising and ascending, for you.

Here is the difference between judgment and forgiveness, death and life, 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.

Unless the God of Scripture, even Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is your God, all the believing in the world won’t help you.

Christ did die and He did rise from the dead.

But His death and resurrection does not save you unless it is also yours.

By means of His own death, Jesus Christ put your sin to death.

If you wish to carry your own sin and have it your way, Christ’s death and resurrection won’t profit you.

You will bear your own load and come to judgment; the penalty for your sin will be yours and yours alone.

In Christ alone is your sin fully forgiven.

Lay your sins on Him, therefore, and receive His forgiveness.

Believe the heavenly Word of grace, mercy, and peace.  These are yours—in Christ.

The Lord does not lie.

Christ’s resurrection bears witness and sure testimony that He fulfills and will fulfill, and does and will do, all that He says.

Just as Christ had said, He rose from the dead.

Before that Good Friday, Jesus had clearly 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, Jesus spoke of what would soon come to pass.  And it did.

Jesus Christ, alive from the dead forevermore, is your surety and guarantee of what is to come, not only later, but even now, as you hear Christ’s Word preached, eat and drink His body and blood, and receive His blessing.

The joy of Christ’s gifts are yours.

Christ is risen, just as He said.  Your Redeemer lives.  Jesus Christ is risen today.  Alleluia!  Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty God the Father, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect of the Day for The Resurrection of our Lord)

 

For audio, go here.

 

 

“He has Risen, as He said,” Matthew 28:1-10

“He has 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)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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

The great joy of those women who heard the words of God’s messenger that morning and did not see 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.

“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 sin and 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,  who we are, through faith in His blessed Word.

“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 you know that Jesus truly keeps His Word.

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

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 will receive the due reward for their unbelief.

But those who do believe the promises of God, though they not see them fulfilled here and now, these “Will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

As for Jesus only spiritually rising from the dead and not bodily, which some contend happened, 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 Jesus did these very things, right in front the disciples.

From the virgin birth to Christ’s bodily resurrection, and from the creation of the world to the Lord’s glorious return on judgment day, do not trust what you think or what reason tells you to be so.  Trust in the Lord and  what He says.  There will you find Jesus living and dying, and rising and ascending, for you.

Here is the difference between judgment and forgiveness, death and life, 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 knowable.  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.

By means of His own death, Jesus Christ put your sin to death. 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 does not profit you.  You will bear your own load and come the judgment, the penalty for your sin will be yours and yours alone.

But in 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.  In Christ, these are yours.

Our Lord does not lie.  What He says is true and truly will come to pass.

Christ’s resurrection bears witness and sure testimony that He fulfills and will fulfill, and does and will do, all that He says.

Just as Christ had said, He rose from the dead.  Before that Good Friday, 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, Jesus spoke of what would soon come to pass.  And it did.

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

 

All about People? The Place of the Word in Mission

Speaking to His disciples before ascending into heaven, Jesus said, “‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’  Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20, NKJ). [For reflection on the use of these words today, see this article from the [The Not-So Great Commission, part 1; The Not-So Great Commission, part 2].

Interestingly, in the Greek New Testament, the first verb in v19 is a participle, not an imperative (a command), as in many a translation.  In other words, after Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18), He immediately follows with an aorist passive participle.  This is suggestive of another word of Jesus, where He says, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21).

In other words, just as the Father had sent Jesus into the world to speak life and salvation through the forgiveness of sins, so also, in a similar way, Jesus was sending out His disciples (apostles, “sent ones”) to speak the same words of life and salvation through Jesus Christ.

Therefore, in Matthew 28:19ff, Jesus was not telling His disciples to “go” in the sense of command.  Rather, as Jesus’ disciples, as He was sent, so He, Jesus, was sending them.  And being Jesus’ sent ones, “going” is what Jesus’ sent ones do.

The other verbs are significant as well… “(Make) Disciple(s)” Imperative, command … “baptizing” Present participle… “teaching” Present participle… “to observe/keep” Present infinitive… “commanded” Aorist… “I am Present with you”.

Going, the disciples were to “disciple”/”make disciples” by: 1 baptizing “all nations” (not just those of a certain age) and 2teaching, teaching what the Lord Jesus had commanded them.

The emphasis of Jesus’ words to His disciples before He ascended, then, were on the baptizing and teaching.  In this way, Jesus’ disciples/apostles were to be discipling others, the emphasis being on what Jesus said.

Such an emphasis seems to run contrary to current themes in what is today called “mission” or “evangelism.”  For example, at a recent conference, a pastor had said, “We need to know people as much as we know the Gospel” (Italics are the article’s).  He also “encouraged” the attending students “to share their personal testimony by describing what God has done in their lives” (Reporter).

Personal testimony about what God has done may have a place in witnessing, but it does not have the same place as God’s Word.  Personal testimony and people do not have the same position as the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  To say that knowledge of people is just as much a necessity as knowledge of the Gospel is to minimize Christ.  And to encourage the sharing of personal testimony by describing what God has done in one’s life maximizes subjective experience and minimizes the testimony of God’s Word.

Christ and the Gospel are first and foremost, and are to be nothing but central.  No equal standing exists between people and the Gospel nor personal testimony and the Gospel.  Personal testimony does not create faith.  It is God’s Word that does this (Romans 10:17).

So often, it seems, in dialogue about “mission” and “evangelism,” greater weight is given to the hearer than to the Gospel, or to the speaker than to the Gospel.  Lesser weight is attributed to God’s Word and the power of that Word to bring about changed hearts.  However, God Himself says that His Word “shall not return to” Him “void” (Isaiah 55:11), and that “Neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

Instead of focusing “as much” on knowing people, the Bible focuses on Christ and the Gospel.  This is what His disciples confess and delight in.  And Christ and the Gospel is what the church is about, not self-testimony, but the testimony of Him whom God sent, who was crucified, died, buried, resurrected the third day, and lives forevermore, sitting at God’s right hand.

Rather than emphasizing methodology, sociology, culture, the hearer or the speaker, Holy Scripture emphasizes that the Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” and that, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

In effect, Holy Scripture speaks Law and Gospel, distinguishing between the two; the Law convincing of sin, and the Gospel speaking of Christ the Savior.  To be “mission” and “evangelism” oriented is to speak God’s Word, centering on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and trusting in the same, acknowledging Him alone as Savior, and Him who alone forgives our weak witness.

Speaking the language of the people?  Of course!  Speaking the Word of Christ?  Unashamedly!

To God alone be the Glory!

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