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STANDARD EPISTLES

PART 1

C.F.W. WALTHER

Translated by;        Livermore

Donald E. Heck        Iowa

Reprinted by permission of

Donald E. Heck

CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY PRESS

Fort Wayne, Indiana

1986


TABLE OF CONTENTS

1ST SUNDAY IN ADVENT (1)   Romans 13:11-14      1      (1863)

1ST SUNDAY IN ADVENT (2) Romans 13, 11-14             7   (1848)

2ND SUNDAY IN ADVENT   Romans 15:4-13             13   (1877)

3RD SUNDAY IN ADVENT 1 Corinthians 4, 1-5 *             19   (1878)

4TH SUNDAY IN ADVENT Philippians 4, 4-7             25   (1881)

CHRISTMAS DAY   Titus 2, 11-14             31      (1880)

SECOND CHRISTMAS DAY    1 Timothy 1, 15             35   (1879)

SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS    Galatians 4:1-7             39   (1848)

SYLVESTER EVE    Genesis 32:10             45   (1878)

NEW YEAR'S DAY    Galatians 3:23-29             49   (1850)

EPIPHANY SUNDAY (1)   Isaiah 60:1-6             55   (1878)

EPIPHANY SUNDAY (2)     Isaiah 60:1-6             60   (1843)

1ST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY    Romans 12:1-6             67   (1850)

2ND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY    Romans 12:7-16             73   (1849)

3RD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY (1)    Romans 12:17-21             80   (1857)

3RD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY (2)     Romans 12:17-21             86   (1867)

4TH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY    Romans 13:8-11             92   (1854)

SEPTUAGESIMA  1 Corinthians 9:24 - 10:5             97   (1850)

SEXAGESIMA     2 Corinthians 11:19 - 12:9             103   (1849)

QUINQUEGESIMA    1 Corinthians 13             109   (1848)

1ST SUNDAY IN LENT    2 Corinthians 6:1-16             115   (1855)

2ND SUNDAY IN LENT (1)   1 Thessalonians 4:1-7             121   (1850)

2ND SUNDAY IN LENT (2)    1 Thessalonians 4:1-7             127   (1857)

2ND SUNDAY IN LENT (3)    1 Thessalonians 4:1-7             132   (1849)

3RD SUNDAY IN LENT (1)    Ephesians 5:1-9             138   (1849)

3RD SUNDAY IN LENT (2)   Εphesians 5:1-9             144   (1869)

3RD SUNDAY IN LENT (3)    Ephesians 5:1-9             151   (1853)

4TH SUNDAY IN LENT    Galatians 4:21-31             157   (1851)

5TH SUNDAY IN LENT    Hebrews  9:11-15             164   (1848)

PALM SUNDAY, CONFIRMATION    1 Peter 3:21             170   (1846)

MAUNDY THURSDAY (1)      1 Corinthians 11:23-26             177   (1874)

MAUNDY THURSDAY (2)    1 Corinthians 11:23-25             183   (1861)

GOOD FRIDAY (1)     Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47 f.             189   (1879)

GOOD FRIDAY (2)     Luke 23:27-48             193   (1846)

EASTER SUNDAY (1)     1 Corinthians 5:6-8             199   (1882)

EASTER SUNDAY (2)     1 Corinthians 15:55-57             204   (1852)

EASTER MONDAY (1)    Romans 4:25             211   (1844)

EASTER MONDAY (2)     Romans 8:31-34             216   (1844)

1ST SUNDAY AFTER EASTER    Revelation 1:18             220

2ND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER — CONFIRMATION     Psalm 100:1-5             226   (1845)

3RD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER (1)    1 Peter 2:11-20             234   (1845)

3RD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER (2)    1 Ρeter 2:11-20             239   (1854)

4TH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER    James 1:16-21             245   (1849)

5ΤH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER     James 1:22-27             251   (1849)

ASCENSION DAY    Acts 1:1-11             257   (1843)

SUNDAY AFTER ASCENSION 1 Peter 4:8-11             262   (1841)

PENTECOST (1)    Acts 2:1-13             268   (1852)

PENTECOST (2)     Acts 2:1-13             274   (1878)

TRINITY SUNDAY     Ephesians 1:3-6             280   (1881)


1ST SUNDAY IN ADVENT (1)   Romans 13:11-14    TOP     (German, Archive)

Lord Jesus, by Thy grace we today enter upon another church year; even now, oh Sun of grace, you arise in order to come to us again in your Word and Sacraments and begin anew a year bringing light and life, peace and joy also among us.  Alas, oh Lord, how many days of grace did you prepare for us and pour out your heavenly light in brilliant rays upon us in the past but we remained in our sins with the eyes of our soul tightly closed! In vain did you bathe us in light; our souls remained in darkness; we did not open our eyes to see the splendor of your grace? and take delight in it; we sleep on and rather take delight in the empty illusions of an imagined worldly happiness, yes in the sweet poison of sin. We sleep on the abyss of an eternal ruin. But behold! You do not cast us down in much deserved wrath; no, your protection still extends over us, holds us firmly with the hand of patience, and lengthens our time of grace; today you once again step before and cry to us, "The hour is here, you sleepers, the hour is here to arise from sin." Therefore shout these words with almighty power so that every soul hearing them will wake up, arise from spiritual sleep, put aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, yes, put you on, Lord Jesus, and when you will come again in flames to take vengeance upon those who did not obey your Gospel to enter with you into your glorious kingdom. Amen! Amen!

Dearly beloved friends in Christ Jesus!

Just as a sleeping person is not conscious of the rising sun casting its rays into his bedroom; just as he has no foreboding of any danger in which he might be and perceive neither the evil nor the good which may surround him; and on the other hand, just as he is sometimes delighted, sometimes frightened by mere empty dreams; just as he sometimes dreams of great fortune, riches, and glory, sometimes of grievous misfortune, even though neither the one nor the other has any reality; like unto it is the spiritual condition of all men before they have experienced the wonder of grace by which they are transformed through the Word and the Spirit.

Similarly, natural man lies in a deep spiritual sleep. He experiences nothing of the all-pervading light of the Gospel already shining on him. The greatest majority of them consider this heavenly light as darkness, divine wisdom which wants to save them as foolishness, yes, they rage against it as against the most fearsome obstacle to true human happiness. On the other hand, while others hear the Gospel with their ears, their heart remains untouched. They are like the dangerously ill which sleep with their eyes open. They let the Gospel rays shine upon them but their hearts and minds remain in darkness. All they have is merely a historical knowledge, or in other words, merely a dead head knowledge.

Consequently, they also do not come to know the danger in which their soul is by nature, namely, that it will be eternally lost. They never come to the knowledge of their natural corruption. They never realize that their nature


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is flesh born of flesh and therefore at enmity with God. They do not learn to differentiate rightly between good and evil, the important from the unimportant, their weal from their woe. They never experience what a benefit is theirs that Christ came into the world to save sinners; Jesus never becomes their all-sufficient comfort; never their one and all. The world and what it gives man -- that remains their highest good which they first seek and for which they take daily thought. To a decisive hatred of sin, even their pet sins, and to a real perception that the world and all that is in it and that what man can win and accomplish is nothing, or as Solomon says, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity," --that they never realize.

Their life is like a dream. They sleep and think they’re awake; they are dead and think they are alive. They are in the grips of a great delusion. If God blesses them materially, that he might bring them to repentance through his goodness, then they consider this blessing as a sign of their own goodness and become so much the more secure; if, on the other hand, God sends trials and tribulations in order to draw them away from the world to himself, then they begin to quarrel with God and hate him the more, accusing him of being unjust and not dealing with them as they deserve.

Beloved, how unfortunate that man is who does not now awaken from this natural, spiritual sleep. This spiritual sleep is nothing else than the certain forerunner of eternal death, or eternal damnation. Therefore, the trumpet of God's Word sounds in our ears, "Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead and Christ shall give thee light." Eph 5,14. This voice of God resounds also in today's epistle lesson. May God grant that today that sound will enter not only our ear but also our heart and banish the sleep of sin and awaken us to a new life in Christ! -- Before we give ear to this voice, let us in silent prayer call upon God for the grace of his Holy Spirit.

Quote the text here:  Romans 13, 11 - 14.

According to our text there is no doubt as to what the subject of our consideration must be. "That now it is high time to awake out of sleep," thus the holy Apostle addresses the Roman Christians already in his time. How much more so, therefore, does he address us today! Therefore, let us give our whole attention to the word of the apostle which is addressed also to us,

IT IS HIGH TIME TO AWAKE OUT OF SLEEP

1. Ponder Why it is High Time; and,

2. Seek to Learn in What the Awakening from Sleep Consists.

I.

We have already considered the sleep which the apostle has in mind from which we should awaken. It is not the physical but the spiritual sleep, the sleep of sin. It is not a sleep from which one must awaken only once in his life, but daily until his death, if he does not wish to sink into eternal ruin. Although only the unconverted lie in this sleep as in death, so that they see, hear, and understand nothing spiritual, still even awakened Christians are not entirely free from a certain spiritual drowsiness. If they, therefore, do not wish to fall back completely into the old spiritual sleep of death without realizing it they must ever and again allow themselves to be put on the alert. Therefore, whoever you may be, whether you are still an unbeliever, or already a Christian, this word of the apostle is meant for you, "It is high time to awake out of sleep."


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First of all, for what reasons does the apostle write this in our text? He gives two. The first one is contained in the words, "For now our salvation is nearer than when we believed." By salvation the apostle obviously does not mean God's grace and the forgiveness of sins. The Roman Christians already have these. Therefore, these did not first have to come nearer and nearer to them. He means, rather, the second coming of Christ on Judgment Day, when he will take his own into heaven and salvation. The apostle furthermore does not mean to say, that there never was a time, in which man did not have reason to arise from his spiritual sleep. He means this: as long as Christ had not appeared in the flesh, as long therefore as it was not possible that Christ would not come to judgment, to make an end to the time of grace for all men (this could be said by those who lived in the time of the Old Covenant), so long to be sure one could think that he could postpone the awakening from sleep for a while. But since our salvation is now nearer than when we believed, namely since Christ has come and can at any hour come again, now indeed it is high time to awaken from sleep, so that the day of the Lord does not come upon us and find us in sleep like the foolish virgins and the door to the heavenly wedding forever closed.

Now if the imminence of Judgment Day was grounds enough already in apostolic times for the Christians to snap awake, how much more for us! Not only have some 1900 years gone by since the apostle wrote these things, but also everything is fulfilled, yes, repeatedly fulfilled, what according to the prophecies of Christ, the apostles, and the prophets should precede Judgment Day. There is for example the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews over the entire world, wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, pestilence and famine, bloody persecutions, unusual signs in the sun, moon, and stars, the preaching of the Gospel in all the world as a witness to all people, the preaching of false christs and false prophets, the great apostasy, the Antichrist sitting in the temple of God, the revealing of the mystery of iniquity, the love of Christians themselves growing cold, the host of scoffers who walk after their own lusts and say, "Where is the promise of his coming?"

Now all this is already fulfilled, and therefore, nothing more remains except for the Lord himself to appear. Certainly this has happened contrary to the expectation of all Christians at all times that God in his incomprehensible patience has waited 1900 years for the repentance of the world. Which Christian will yet expect a longer period of grace for the world?

The signs of the last times, which we are now witnessing, have not now come for the first time, but are merely repetitions of signs which have been already fulfilled prior to this time. All tocsins of Judgment Day have already pealed their final sound and yet, as it were, cannot cease ringing. The- last hour has long since struck. The sands of time have run out. The last fearful resounding clang which will announce to all creatures the end of time and the beginning of eternity is on the point of pealing. The Judge is already at the door. God already stands outside with the firebrand of his wrath but it appears as if God's boundless patience is as it were still grappling with his justice, for his justice wants finally to set fire to the world which has become a great Sodom, melt its elements with fervent heat, and deliver it up to annihilation. The holy angels have already taken their battle stations and the archangel with the trumpet of judgment in his hand stands at their head awaiting the zero hour.

"It is high time to awake out of sleep;" thus the world in its death-throes calls to Christians and would-be-Christians. "It is high time to awake out of sleep," cry out the manifoldly fulfilled signs of the last day, lowering as a bank of thunderheads. "It is high time," shouts even the countless host of apostates which according to the prophecies of Scripture are the scum of the


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And is it not just to us here in America to whom God is especially clearly and distinctly calling, "It is high time to awake out of sleep"? What is it that the present great spiritual and temporal distress of our fatherland tells us — the tottering of all its foundations, the rivers of blood flowing on its battlefields, the heart-rending misery of countless thousands of wounded and mutilated in its hospitals, the grief and tears of its many widows and orphans, while over and above this unspeakable misery drunken lust lies, deceives, carouses, revels, dissipates, curses, jests, sports, and dances as though there were no God and no judgment and as though we lived at the dawn of all good fortune! All this also shrills in our ears, Oh, you Christians and would-be-Christians, "now it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is our salvation" as well as the damnation of all godless, the end of all misery as well as the end of all grace, blessed eternity and the judgment, heaven and hell, all this "is now nearer than when we believed."

Tell me, what would you say of a man who is sleeping in a straw hut and while we approach it with a burning torch shout to him, Get up quickly and run away! would want to sleep peacefully on until his hut would be actually in flames? You would call him insane. What else would it be but madness, not to want to awaken from the sleep of sin now that already the flames of divine wrath are approaching the straw hut that is the world, and heaven and earth and all creatures thunder, "It is high time to awake out of sleep!"?

It is true no man, no angel can calculate that day or that hour and with certainty predict when the entire visible creation will be in flames. For this reason it is the more frightful to give yourself up to the sleep of security for, as the Lord says, the day of the Lord will come as a snare upon all who live on the earth as the apostle writes, "For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape." 1 Thess 5,3.

For all that the apostle adduces yet another reason in our text, why the hour is here, to awake from sleep when he continues, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand." The apostle wishes to say: as long as it is night a man is not ashamed to be clothed in a night dress, but when the sun ushers in the new day, he is ashamed to appear in them publicly — so also it is in the spiritual life. As long as a person lies in the night of heathen ignorance, so long does he not feel ashamed of his sleep in sin and the night dress of his wicked works. However, what a disgrace it is if, after the sun of the Gospel has risen and the day of eternity which will reveal everything fully approaches, he still continues to sleep, and, but not aroused until the thunderclaps of Judgment Day, he must appear before the piercing eyes of the Judge of all the world in the clothes of sin!

Oh my friends, may we also think upon this! Behold, also for us the night of ignorance is passed. Ue stand in the noon-day light of the Gospel.  Yes, the dawn of eternity is already breaking upon the earth and the day is here. Do we want to sleep on and let the day of separation find us clothed in sin? -- Then standing before God in the shame of our nakedness we would "begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us." But in vain! For the earth with its hills and mountains will then disappear and not one corner of the world will remain in which the unconverted sinner can hide himself. But standing revealed in the filthy rags of his sins, a horror to all creatures, sentenced by God, he will be cast into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, no rest day or night, but only the smoke of their torment will ascend to eternity. Therefore, wake, awake! "It is high time to awake out of sleep!"


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II.

Now, my friends, it is time that we in the second place seek to discover, wherein the awakening from sleep consists.

Our text explains, "Let us, therefore, cast off the works of darkness,  and let us put on the armor of light." First of all, these words tell us this much. It is not nearly enough for a person to awaken from his sleep of sin and to speak much of his being a poor sinner, and that he now no longer continues in carnal security but continues sinning with an uneasy conscience. There are only too many who are indeed startled out of their security but wish to show their Christianity through nothing but a continual lament over their sinfulness, yet in spite of it all they are in their former condition. The apostle wishes to know nothing of such a hypocritical Christianity. However, if a person really is awakened from his sleep of sin and has arisen, if he has really comprehended his former miserable damnable condition, because God's Word has pricked his heart, then he should also, if he does not wish to be eternally lost, do two things. As one who has awakened and arisen from temporal sleep takes off his night clothes and dons his work-a-day suit, so also should he take something Off and put something on.

What should he according to our text "cast off?" Everything which belongs to the "works of darkness". To that belongs all that because of which man seeks darkness, those things about which he wishes that no one, above all that the holy God may not see, know, and learn about, the evil intentions, thoughts, lusts, and desires of the heart, or sinful words, thoughts or attitudes, or hypocritical or openly godless works, in short, everything which God's Wbrd and Spirit rebukes in man. Whoever is not in earnest not only to recognize all this more and more, but also to cast it off; whoever does not honestly work toward becoming more and more free from all these works of darkness, in vain does he comfort himself with the thought, that God's Word has awakened him, that he no longer lives as does the world in carnal security without a care of his salvation. Such a person who is not intent upon casting off all the works of darkness, but still purposely lives in this and that sin which God's Word reproves is in all his religious awakening, yes, for that very reason, nothing but a twofold child of hell. Of him the Lord says, "And that servant, which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." Lk 12,47.

According to our text it is not enough that the awakened one cast off the works of darkness; there is something he must also "put on," namely, as the apostle says in our text, "the armor of light." As on the one hand under the works of darkness the apostle includes everything that a person would gladly see covered with darkness, so on the other hand, under the armor of light he

includes everything by which a man gladly comes to the light, which gives him a free conscience before God and man, which he need not hide nor feel ashamed of, and about which he the more rejoices, because he knows that his God knows of it. Thus the Lord himself speaks, "For everyone that does evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." Jn 3,20.21.

The apostle calls that which an awakened one should put on, not simply works but "armor", because it not only adorns but also arms him for the battle over the crown. Wherein this armor consists, the apostle tells us in detail in Ephesians 6. Here we learn that the weapons of light first of all consist in loins girt about with truth, that is, in uprightness of his entire life before God and man; secondly, in the breastplate of righteousness over against


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everyone; thirdly, in feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace over against friend and foe; fourthly, in the shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; fifthly, in the helmet of salvation, that is, in a living comforting hope of eternal life; and lastly, in the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, which he daily wields for a winning battle against the flesh, world, and Satan. This, this is the armor of light which all those who are awakened from their sleep and have arisen must put on every morning.

In order to present the casting off of the works of darkness and the putting on of the armor of light still more clearly the apostle adds in our text, “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” Vv. 13.14. The intention of the apostle in these closing words is this: Perhaps you will say, we have already cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. But I pray you, warn and admonish you, do not deceive yourselves, for your salvation is at stake. That you have cast off the works of darkness you must also prove by a life unspotted from the world. He who says that he has cast off the works of darkness and still continues to associate with the godless world which lives in rioting and drunkenness, which lead, to lust and immorality and only too often to wrangling, envy, anger, strife, discord, yes, and not seldom ends in murder, he is a liar. To be sure, a Christian takes care of his body, but not to the end that he becomes lascivious but that he might become and remain fit to serve God and his neighbor. And still morel He alone has really awakened from sleep who not only keeps himself unspotted from the ungodly and wicked world and no longer acts like it, but who also has put on Christ, so that one does not see in him the old but the new man, the picture of the loving, gentle, humble, chaste, pure, heavenly-minded Savior.

And so in conclusion, appealing to your conscience, I ask you, who among us can say there was a time when I slept the sleep of sin and security even as the whole world; I went down the broad way and did not provide for the salvation of my soul. But praise God, his Word awakened me and I am awake! And you who can confess that with a free conscience, can you also add, I am not only awakened, I have arisen from sleep? I have cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light with which I now daily fight for that crown laid aside for me? I have put on Jesus Christ? He is not only my comfort, he is also my dress? He is not only my justification but also my sanctification?

Ah, are there not still many among us who have never experienced an awakening from sleep which terrorizes, the same as when a man awakens who has slept alongside a precipice? And are there also those among us who indeed once were awake but have again fallen asleep and become fond of the world and allowed themselves to become spotted with the ways of the world? Have they not perhaps cast off the armor of light and once more put on the works of darkness, frolic with the world, and hate the servants of Christ who tell them this? And finally, are there not also those who, to be sure, have not yet completely fallen asleep but have become drowsy, as the Lord himself foretold of the five wise virgins of the last times?

Now, may not several at this point say, Ah, how often have not I wanted to awaken from sleep, wanted to put off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, wanted to walk in the new life and fight against every ungodly conduct, but I did not succeed? Ever and again I fell back into that old sleep of sin. What should 1 do? -- I answer, Despair of saving yourself and believe on the Lord Jesus. In that way you will acquire not only righteousness but also strength.


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Nevertheless, today the apostle above all wishes that we recognize that the hour to awaken from sleep has come. Let me therefore once more deeply impress upon your heart the apostle's words, because it is the word of the Lord, "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand." Awake you sleepers! ON YOUR TOES! Cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light! Yes, put on the Lord Jesus Christ!

Soon, soon he will come in the clouds of the heavens and his reward with him. All the nations of the earth will howl, but all his faithful shall leap for joy.

1ST SUNDAY IN ADVENT (2) Romans 13, 11-14   TOP    (German, Archive)

Oh gracious God, you have mercifully permitted us to begin another new church year; with prayers and supplications we turn first of all to you, O Fount of all blessing and salvation. Yet for what shall we ask today, because you say in your Word, "Open thy mouth wide, and 1 will fill it?" Ps 81,10b.  What grace shall we ask of you, who are always ready to hear our prayers and give us what we desire? -- Lord, there is one thing which we ask of you: As you have given us your holy Word and Sacraments in their truth and purity in the past, preserve unto us these greatest gifts of your love in the new year as well use them to keep your believers in your grace and entice those among us who are on error's path to return; and if in the new church year you take someone from the church militant, let your Word be their light in the dark valley of death; receive them in that invisible temple where your perfected saints sing songs of triumph in your presence forever. Hear us for the sake of Jesus Christ your dear Son, our Savior. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

Today, the first day of the new church year, dawns again as a time of great joy for us Christians; it is the beautiful, glorious Advent season. Indeed, in these weeks Christians, as it were, once again go back in spirit to the time of the Old Testament, the period before Christ; the Advent season contains only the most beautiful aspect of the Old Testament, the time of rich promises and sweet yearnings and hope. Ahead of the believers of the Old Covenant lay the time of Christ's coming into the world with all its glory; in the weeks before us lies the holy gracious Christmas season; even now we feast our eyes on the dawn of Christmas. Nothing else buoys the Christian's spirit more. He is like the seafarer who is still on the tossing waves but in the hazy distance he can see the shores of that long-awaited land.

As the heart of the child, who has been separated a long time from his father, beats for joy, even though he does not see him but only hears his voice and says, "He's coming! he's coming!" -- in like manner the Christian's heart beats when in the advent season Christ's gracious advent, his coming into the world, is again told him. As our children even now are thinking of Christmas gifts with trembling anticipation, so Christians these days think with great joy about the joyful message of the heavenly hosts on the fields of Bethlehem and


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of the glance which their faith casts upon the lovely Child Jesus in the manger.

But are not Christians just imagining their Advent joy? -- Definitely not! How does the Advent announcement of all times read? We find it in Zechariah's prophecy, "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation." Zech 9,9.

What does that mean? Simply this: All of you who believe in Christ, you children of the true Zion, you children of spiritual Jerusalem, be happy and of good cheer, rejoice and shout for joy; see, through his Word and Sacrament Christ is always coming to you, and that means in the new year as well; not as a Hoses to preach the gloomy Law to you and tell you what difficult works God de

mands of you, not as a Hoses to pronounce upon you his threats and wrath and hell because of your transgressions of God's divine Law. No, Christ is always, and in the new year as well, coming to you as your King; and what sort of a King? -- as a just King, a King who helps.

That contains inexpressible comfort. Bear in mind, my dear believers, if a king deals justly his whole nation is then justified. Since Christ is a just King, he in the name of his people deals justly and thus justifies his whole nation; and since he is a King who helps, he helps his subjects from all their misery. If you Christians must confess today that you are still sinners and unable to stand before God in your own righteousness, then do not be worried any longer; you are not to come to God in your own righteousness but trusting in the righteousness of your King of Grace. Or, if you perceive that you can not help yourselves out of your sins and danger, do not despair; you are not to help yourselves; Christ wants to be your Helper from all your sins, from all your perils, in all your needs, and though your last hour may come today or tomorrow, this year or the next, he wants to help you cross into that other kingdom which he founded and adorned for his believers on the other side of the grave.

Oh, what blessed people Christians are! How joyfully they can begin every new year! What rest and security they enjoy! Their former sins are forgiven, their present state is a state of grace, and as far as the future is concerned they see nothing but new grace and help and at the end of their journey and open heaven, salvation, and blessedness!

Nevertheless, couldn't this doctrine be dangerous and harmful? couldn't it make Christians carnally secure and careless, indifferent and indolent in the battle against sin? Oh no, my dear friends; no one has more urgent reasons to arise from the sleep of sin and walk in a new, holy, divine life than the Christian. The apostle presents that to the Christians at Rome in our today's epistle. Let us hear what he has to say.

Quote the text here: Romans 13, 11 - 14.

In the verses preceding our text the Apostle Paul most earnestly admonished the Christians at Rome to live the Christian life. In our text he summarizes very briefly his admonition and shows that especially those who had become Christians had cogent reasons to leave all ungodliness and live a new, holy, and divine life. On the basis of our today's epistle permit me to speak to you on

HOW URGENT THE REASONS FOR CHRISTIANS TO AWAKEN FROM THE SLEEP OF SIN

The reasons are three in number.

1. The Right Time to Awaken from the Sleep of Sin is when One Becomes a Christian;


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2. Their Salvation is Constantly Drawing Nearer and it Would be Frightful if They Should Lose It; and finally,

3.  Christians no Longer Walk in Darkness but in the True Light.

I.

Many are suspicious of the Gospel teaching that God wants to save men alone by grace through faith in Christ without the merit of good works on their part. They think that it means that a Christian need not earnestly fight against sin and follow after sanctification. This, however, is a great, deceptive error. In our today's epistle the Apostle Paul shows us the very opposite. He really tells us that the Christian has the most urgent reasons to awaken from the sleep of sin; the first of these reasons he indicates in the words, "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when be believed." V. 11. What does the apostle wish to tell the Christians at Rome? Undoubtedly this, that the time to awaken from the sleep of sin has come because they have become Christians.

And so it is. In the spiritual realm things are the same as in the physical. As long as a person is still asleep, he can not get up from sleep and walk about and be busy. First of all, the person must be awakened from sleep; after that the time has come for him to leave his bed and get busy. Then first the person is able to work. As we said, so it is also in spiritual things.

By nature we men lie in the spiritual sleep of death; we all rest upon the soft pillow of our pet sins and our soul is captured by carnal security as though by a deep sleep. By nature we live in this world as though in a dream and chase the illusions and empty shadows of the goods, joys, and honor of this world. Although an unconverted person is told, You must leave sin and the world; you must go the narrow way, you must follow after sanctification, he does not understand at all what is said to him; still less does he have the power to get up and begin that new life which God demands. If this is to take place, the person must first awaken from his sleep of sin; he must become spiritually awake.

The moment a person has come to a living faith in Christ, that has taken place; he is then spiritually awake; God's Word like a loud voice from heaven has entered the ear of his spirit and chased away the spiritual sleep of his soul; it has not only caused his spirit to soar but it has: also given him another heart; it has filled him with a hatred and horror of sin and with love to God, his commands, and all good. He has become a dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit.

To anyone of us who does not have this awakened living faith all this sounds like strange, peculiar things. But those of us who can say from their hearts: I know in whom I believe, will say a yea and amen to all this and

declare, Yes, we have truly discovered that. Ever since we have come to faith in Christ, we are different persons; we have become spiritually awake and we are able to do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Now I ask them, Why has God awakened you from sleep? It is plain,not that you can fall asleep again, but that you can get up. Why has God filled you with hatred of sin and the power to resist it? Clearly, not that you should remain in sin but conquer it. Why has God poured love!toward him into your souls? Clearly not that you should despise him as the world does but walk in his love.

After you are told, "Awake thou that sleepest," and after this word


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like God's thunder has ended your natural sleep of security, the second call then concerns you, "And arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Eph 5, 14. Who should carry on the war against sin and serve the great God if you awakened Christians do not? The world sleeping in sin will not. You, you Christians are the ones of whom God demands it, of whom he expects it, for you he was equipped with the ability and skill to do it. If you do not do it, you deny Christ and his power; you deny that you are Christians; you deny your faith. Before you became Christians you could have said, How can I leave sin? I am its slave and prisoner! How can 1 serve God? I am his enemy! But now that God has shown mercy to you, awakened and renewed you, you have no more excuses. Arise, therefore, arise you Christians, arise from the sleep of sin; you have urgent reasons to arise; now, now is the right time for you to do that.

II.

There is yet another reason. The apostle adds in our text, "For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." V.11b. He mentions the second urgent reason why Christians should arise from the sleep of sin; salvation is continually drawing closer to the Christian.

As soon as one becomes a Christian, he sets foot on the way to heaven. This was is a narrow way; it has many obstacles and whoever traverses this way has much trouble. He must battle against sin in him and against the temptations of the world outside of him. He must deny much that his flesh and blood love. Not only must he refuse to run after the joys, goods, and honor of the world, he must also let himself be despised, mocked, and persecuted by the world.

If Christians have done that for a time, they often think: Must it always go on like that? Should the children of the world be able to live on unconcerned while we always have to wrestle with sin and the world? Should they enjoy all the good things of this world while we must always deny ourselves all that and look on? Should they have such an easy time of it in this life, while we must always carry the burden and heat of this life? Should they always become richer and richer, while we remain poor? Should they always be gay, happy, and of good cheer, while we sorrow, lament, and sigh? Should they always be honored, while we are insulted and despised? Should they always mock and rule over us, while we are their servants? Will the time of our promised salvation never come?

That is what many Christians at Rome may have thought and even said. That is why Paul says to them in our text, "Our salvation is nearer than when we believed." With these words the apostle gives not only all Christians at Rome but all Christians of all times and places an urgent reason, why they should arise from the sleep of sin, walk in a new life, and not become tired.

Christians must bear in mind that after they have been Christians for a time and may not have completely reached their "salvation", they nevertheless are "closer" to it. If one has been a Christian for only one day, even then he has drawn much nearer to his salvation; if a person has remained a Christian for a year, a great distance on the road to heaven lies behind him; if a person has been a Christian for perhaps ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years, there can be no doubt that the gates of heaven are open; he has already climbed the most and the steepest of mountains, fought the hottest battles, and endured the severest sufferings as a Christian. The crown of life and palm of victory are already beckoning to him; he need but go only a few steps to arrive at his goal, receive the reward of grace, rest, and see with joy what he believed and for what he hoped, and enjoy it forever and ever.


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Does not this contain an urgent summons for Christians not to return to sin and the world but to fight on courageously? Is not the salvation promised Christians worth continuing to the end until one has and enjoys it,seeing as how he has already pursued it and drawn closer to it? And on the other hand would it not be terrible to stand, as it were, at the very door of heaven and yet not be allowed to enter because one at the very end left the way of salvation?

You who are Christians and have already gone part of the way to heaven, be warned! Do not let your heart, the world, and Satan make you tired! Your salvation is much nearer than at the time when you began to believe. Your faithfulness to the present hour, be it a longer or a shorter time, is not in vain; you have already earned much; you have already gained glorious victories; inexpressibly great things are even now reserved in heaven for you; oh, therefore do not become tired of your warfare and in the end lose what you have worked so hard for. Continue to walk in the narrow way, resist sin, deny the world, and let your light shine before the people, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Use the new church year for that very purpose. Perhaps you may have to take but a few steps, fight only a few more battles, endure only a little more suffering, a few more temptations. You should be faithful until, not thereafter. If you depart in peace, you will not hear, "Be thou faithful!" but, "Receive the reward of your faithfulness!" The battle is then ended; the gates of suffering are then closed; your sighs are then stilled; your tears dried; and all your yearnings and all your most daring wishes granted. You will not anxiously cry out, "Lord, have mercy!" but throughout all the heavens you will only shout joyful hallelujahs forever and ever.

III.

The Christian has one more urgent reason for rising from the sleep of sin. It is because he no longer walks in darkness but has come to the true light; the apostle writes in our text, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand." V. 12a.

That most remain in their sins and seek their heaven on the earth and its glory is no wonder, for most lie in spiritual darkness. But alas! This is true not only of the poor blind heathen but even of most baptized, so-called Christians. In the first place, most do not know what a terrible thing sin is; they do not understand that every sin, and though it were apparently ever so small, merits eternal damnation. In the second place, most do not know how blessed those are who cling alone to God, have his grace, and are in the most intimate communion with him. As little as those are ashamed if they are concealed by darkness even if they wear the most tattered clothing, so little do they whose hearts are still filled with spiritual darkness shrink from sin.

It is different with Christians. Of them it is said, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand." That natural darkness has left the Christian's heart and the day of saving knowledge has dawned. Christ himself has risen in their hearts as the bright Morning Star. In the first place, Christians know what sin is and what it means. When they turned to Christ, they came to know that sin is a frightful insult to God; not only was their conscience aroused because of their sins; not only did their sins prepare the terrors of hell for them and lead them to the brink of despair. Christians have also perceived that sin separates one from God and arouses his anger, that no one can stone for his sins himself, that because of sin God's very own Son had to die on the cross. By experience Christians have also learned to perceive that the whole world with all its glory can make no one happy, give him no peace or rest, or comfort him


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in affliction; that God’s grace and fellowship alone is man’s highest good.

Does not also this give Christians an urgent reason for rising from the · sleep of sin and walking in a new life? Certainly! When the night is past and the day has come, no one can remain clothed in his sleeping apparel but dresses in his work-a-day clothes; neither can a Christian in whose heart the night gone and the day has dawned continue to wear the nightdress of sin; he will most certainly don the dress of good works and the Christian life. That is why the apostle adds, "Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying." Vv. 12.13. The apostle means to say: You Christians, bear in mind that these sins are the night dress which the children of darkness wear; take them off, for as far as you are concerned the night is passed.

The apostle concludes by saying, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." 14. The apostle means to say: Do you Christians, you children of light, want to know what dress you must wear? It is Jesus Christ himself. You must become so like Christ that one can see Christ on your souls just as we see the clothing on your body. Of course, you dare not forget that you are still on earth; you should not desire to go about in the spirituality and holiness of the angels; no, you should not make provision for the flesh to gratify its lusts; you should not cherish it nor fulfil its desires, so that you will be incited to lust rather than to crucify your flesh with its loves and desires.

Well then, all of you who wish to be Christians, do not forget these things this whole new church-year; 1st, never forget that the hour has come to awaken from sleep; secondly, never forget that your salvation is constantly drawing nearer; thirdly never forget that the night is gone and the day has come. Then you will not become secure, always bear our souls in our hands, and finally through Jesus' grace reach your beautiful goal.

But you, who have not even once awakened from the sleep of sin, in spite of the fact that God has so many times in the past year called to you through his servants, "Awake thou that sleepest!" — oh bear in mind that if even those Christians who are awakened from the sleep of sin will be lost, if they do not also wish to rise from this sleep, what can you expect if you do not even once awaken from sleep but wish to sleep peacefully on in your sins even in the new church-year? "If," says St. Peter, "the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" 1 Pet 4,18. I therefore ask you: Has not many a sermon stirred you a little bit from your sleep of sin? Have you not at times experienced what Felix the governor did when he hear Paul’s sermon, "Felix trembled"? Acts 24,25. Have not God's Word which you heard often been as though glowing sparks which burned in your soul and conscience? But what did you do every time? -- You tried to extinguish these sparks as quickly as possible.  Oh, you pitiable soul! Don't you know that if you continue thus you are constantly drawing closer to the greater danger of the judgment of obduracy?

But I want you to know that today a new church-year begins; in spite of your previous malicious resistance, God1s grace has once again come to you. Awake, thou sleeper, awake! The hour is here to awaken out of sleep. Open, oh open your eyes; yes, you will in terror see the host and the greatness of your sins, but you will also see your Savior, who has bom all your many and great sins, and who once again today want to admit even you to his grace as his lost but found son and daughter and bring you on the way to eternal salvation.

Oh, Lord Jesus, so bless the preaching of your Word today, that all


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of us who are still sleeping may awaken from sleep, that all already awake may joyfully arise, put you on, and walk in your light until they shall have reached their goal, the salvation of their souls. Help us do that alone for your own sake. Amen.

2ND SUNDAY IN ADVENT   Romans 15:4-13    TOP     (German, Archive)

Lord God, formerly you spoke to the fathers through the prophets; you caused your Word to be recorded for all ages to come. Ue thank you that despite the raging and storming of your foes you have mightily preserved that Word until this hour and given it graciously to us. Ah, grant that in this age of apostasy we may not fall away but experience its saving power in our hearts; keep us in the faith until we joyfully depart in hope to see you face to face in eternal

joy and blessed light. Yes, do that unto us all for the sake of Jesus Christ,

your beloved Son, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Quote the text here: Romans 15, 4-13.

Dear Friends in Christ Jesus.

In our day, in this time of fearful apostasy the contempt of the whole Scripture is general even among so-called baptized Christians; the contempt, however, of especially the Old Testament is even more general. A great host of so-called Christians, who do not wish to be counted as unbelievers, think and speak most contemptuously of the Old Testament. They say, that every Christian must accept the New Testament as God's Word; the Old, on the other hand, is the religious book of only the Jews and does not concern Christians; yes, we find many things in the Old Testament which Christ presented more clearly in the New.

This, however, is a grievous error. Both the Old and New Testaments are God's written, eternal, infallible Word; both are therefore of the same perfect purity, worth, and authority. Yes, whenever the New Testament speaks of God's written Word, it does not mean only the New Testament which had not yet been gathered but even more the Old. When Jesus says in Jn 5,39, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me"; when he says in the tenth chapter, "The scripture cannot be broken"; when Paul writes to Timothy, "And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," 2 Tim 3,15.16; when Peter writes, "We have also a more sure word of word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts," 2 Pet 1,19 — in short, in all such and similar passages they are not speaking only of the New Testament but even more of the Old. All the divine


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properties which these words ascribe to the Old Testament writings belong just as much to the New, because the apostles and evangelists were also holy men of God who spoke and wrote being "moved by the Holy Ghost" just as well as Moses and the prophets. St. Paul writes, "Which things we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." Cor 2,13.

Far be it that one can believe in the New Testament but reject and despise the Old. He is thereby rejecting or despising the New Testament. That is why Christ says in Jn 6,46.47, "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?"

The Old Testament Scriptures were not given only to the Jews at the time of the old covenant, but also to us Christians of the new. Our today's epistle gives a clear and glorious testimony of this when it begins, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." V. 4.

Let us stop at these important words of our text, which belong to the sedes doctrinae of the doctrine of the proper use of Holy Writ. On the basis of these words may I present to you:

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE WRITINGS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT FOR CHRISTIANS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT TIMES

According to our text there are two reasons why they are important:

1.  Because Everything Which was Written Aforetime was Written for Our Learning; and

2.  Because Through Patience and the Comfort of These Writings We Have A Firm Foundation for Our Hope.

I.

Our text begins with the words, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning." These words give us the first reason why the Old Testament writings are so important for Christians of the New Testament era. They were written for "our learning" also.

It is not difficult to see why this is true. It can be no other way since the writings of the Old Testament were not inspired by the will of man but by the Holy Ghost himself. It therefore is Gods Word. Since God is the All-knowing and All-wise, not only an entire book which he inspired a certain chosen man to write, but every sentence, yes, every word is a rich, inexhaustible source of doctrine.

Look at the world which God created. What wisdom we see when we examine not only the creation in its entirety, but also Aen we examine a single kernel of grain or a blade of grass! What human skill, be it every so ingenious, can contrive a product which compares with God's wisdom? How quickly and completely we see through and imitate anything made by man!

On the other hand, there is always something new to learn if one searches in God's book of nature for 1,000 years. Man has searched in this book for almost 6,000 years and yet no person has sounded the depths of wisdom revealed in it; he finds new evidences of God's wisdom daily; man will continue to find more new evidences until the end of time.


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What depths of riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God will one then find in a book in which God speaks and reveals what he thinks and wills in understandable human language and not merely through signs as in nature! Luther is correct in writing in the preface to the Old Testament, "I diligently pray and warn every pious Christian not to be offended at the simple language and stories which he often meets with (in the Old Testament); let him not doubt in the least that these are the words, works, judgments, and stories of divine majesty and wisdom, even though they appear to be so simple.M Oh my friends, if we think of this in the right way, we will learn that in the writings of the Old Testament we have a light in comparison to which all other books of profoundest human wisdom are darkness; we have a treasure in comparison to which the entire world with all its treasures is worthless trash.

That the Old Testament was also written for us Christians of the New Testament we see from the fact that it contains the same doctrine as the New Testament. Not only does Christ clearly and solemnly declare in his sermon on the mount, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy but to fulfill," Mt 5,17; but the apostles testify the same thing. So, for example, spoke Paul, standing bound with chains before King Agrippa, "I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come." Acts 26,22. After the first apostolic council at Jerusalem, Peter says, "We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they," that is, our Jewish forefathers. Acts 15, 11. The Old and New Testaments therefore do not contain different teachings of God and of man and of the way to salvation, in brief, no different religions.

The teachings of both testaments merely have a different outward form. While the New Testament teaches faith in the Christ who has come and fulfilled everything, the Old Testament teaches the one and the same faith in Christ, but faith in the Christ who was still to come and fulfil everything. Both testaments show one and the same thing; the Old Testament does it by promises, prophecies, and prototypes, the New in realities. As the New Testament was given us Christians for our learning, so was also the Old.

This will become even clearer if we ponder a third reason: All the teachings of the New Testament are based on the Old Testament. Without the Old Testament we would know nothing of the origin and purpose of the world and ourselves. It reveals to us how God called the world into existence out of nothing and preserves and rules it; how man was created holy in the image of God but was misled by the devil into sin, death, and damnation; how a Redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent was immediately promised him. What foundation would the New Testament have without this Old Testament revelation?

And since the whole New Testament is nothing else than the preaching that the promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled, what would the New Testament be without the Old? If we wanted to know whether it is true, that Jesus of Nazareth really is the Savior of the world, how could we prove without the Old Testament that Jesus actually is the person who had been promised in the Old Testament? that he really is the person whom the Old Testament had predicted he would be, actually a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and David? that he actually appeared at the designated time and place? that he actually did the works, taught the doctrine, and suffered the pains predicted of him? that he really was the Seed of the woman, the virgin's Son, and that Lord who is our Righteousness? Without the Old Testament the New would be a building without foundation, a tree without roots, a doctrine without proof.

That is why we read that Christ proved everything which pertained to his person, his work and his doctrine from Moses, the Psalms, and the prophets and always said, "It is written," or, "Have ye not read?" The apostles


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and evangelists also based what they reported and taught on the Old Testament.

They wrote and said, "That it might be fulfilled which was written," or, "As the Holy Ghost says," and the like. For that reason the Bereans were praised as being the most noble because they gladly received the preaching of Paul and Silas but at the same time "searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Acts 17,11.

Who cart now doubt that the Old Testament was given also to us Christians of the New Testament times "for our learning"?

But, many say, the Old Testament contains many stories of most frightful sins, narrations of wars and battles, most detailed descriptions of ceremonies, vessels, clothing, and buildings, and often very obscure passages.

Do you mean to say that even this is written for our learning?

I answer: Yes indeed, my dear hearers. To be sure, the Old Testament related frightful sins, but never in an indifferent or joking way, as in human books, but it shows with great earnestness how God was angered by them; how he visited these horrible sins most terribly upon children’s children; how these sins were forgiven only to those who truly, honestly, and sincerely repented of them and brought forth the fruits of repentance. Even these stories of such terrible sins are for our learning, yes, for our admonition, warning, and reprimand; we should learn from them, how great the corruption of fallen man is; how God hates sin; how necessary it is for us to watch, pray, and battle against them. Paul quoted a whole list of grievous sins from the Old Testament and the divine judgment which followed them; he then adds, "They are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." 1 Cor 10,11b.

The narration of destructive wars and bloody battles are proofs of human wickedness and divine judgments of wrath.

The detailed description of all kinds of ceremonies, clothing, and buildings are in part types of New Testament things; from them we can also learn the blessings we enjoy that we in the New Testament times are freed from all these burdensome laws by our Christian liberty.

The obscure passages of the Old Testament should move us to compare the Old Testament continually with the New; what lies concealed in the Old Testament is revealed in the New.

So you see, there can be no doubts everything, everything which is written in the Old Testament was written "for the learning" of also Christians.

II.

In our text the apostle says not only, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning," but he also adds, "That we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." Permit me in the second place to show you that the Old Testament is so important for us Christians of the New Testament times because through patience and the comfort of these Scriptures we have hope.

As the New Testament contains both, Law and Gospel, so does also the Old. Of course, it is true that the sweet Gospel of God's grace in Christ predominates in the New Testament, while the Law predominates in the Old. Yet Christ is the heart and center of the entire Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi,


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the last of the prophets. Immediately after the story of the fall into sin in the third chapter of Genesis there follows the promise of a Redeemer from sin, death, and hell. And this star of hope for all mankind not only never sinks in the writings of Moses and the prophets but shines on in increasing brightness, until finally the last prophet exclaims, "Behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts." Mai 3,1. Everything in the writings of the old covenant relating to doctrine, admonition, warning, reproof, and comfort; everything reported in them, even the genealogical tables; all the stories of great signs and wonders which happened; all the wonderful ways God’s chosen people were led; finally, all the holy offices, seasons, places, and ceremonies whose divine regulations and institutions it describes, all these things had as their final purpose keeping the hope for Christ’s coming aflame, pointing to and preparing for him, testifying of him and by means of symbols and types pointing tc his person, his work, his blessings, and his kingdom.

Or is the Old Testament so lacking in evangelical comfort that Christians who desire it must seek it alone in the New? No, indeed not! Yes, this comfort is often veiled in dark prophecies and types; but that comfort from the writings of Moses and the prophets gushes forth for the Christian who lives in the time of fulfilment and through the New Testament has the key to the Old. What inexhaustible founts of comfort are such passages as this one in Exodus, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." Ex 34,6.7a. Or the one in Isaiah, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Is 1,18. Or the one in Jeremiah, "Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever." Jer 3,12. Or the one in Ezekiel, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live."

Ezek 33,11.

Where in the whole New Testament can one find more comforting passages? What is the whole world with all its glory in comparison to one such passage from God's own mouth? Where is there a Christian frightened because of his sins who, hearing or reading these passages, was not overwhelmed with comfort? And what should I say of the Psalter, this prayer-book of all of God's children, inspired by the Holy Ghost, the very Spirit of grace and prayer? How many millions of Christians of all times and all countries have refreshed themselves by these comforting Psalms in their temporal and spiritual troubles and temptations and moistened these pages with tears of repentance and joy!

Yet our text speaks not only of the "comfort" but also of the "patience" of Scripture, that is, the patience which these writings of the Old Testament give and work in the hearts of its readers. Just remember that the believers of the old covenant,under the heavy burden of the Law and the sufferings of this age, had to wait 4,000 long years for the Redeemer promised in Paradise. But they did wait in patience, even though the fulfilment of the promise always dragged on from one generation, one century, one millennium to the next.

When Jacob saw that the hour of his departure had come and the promised Redeemer had not yet come, he did not doubt that the promise would be fulfilled; that had been his comfort throughout a life full of trouble; he left this world exclaiming, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." Gen 49,18.

And all the believers of the Old Testament did that; their faith was a continual yearning forward look and longing, waiting for the Sun of righteousness to arise. Luke says expressly that old Simeon, who was tired of life and happy at the thought of death, was "waiting for the consolation of Israel." We are told that the prophetess Anna spoke of the promised Savior "to all them


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that looked for redemption in Jerusalem/' Lk 2,38, when the Christ-child was presented in the temple.

You see from this how important the Old Testament is also for us Christians of the New Testament times. We read on all pages of the Old Testament how the believers waited in patience 4,000 long years for the coming of the Savior into the flesh, even though according to one’s reason it often seemed that it would be foolish to wait any longer; can not this example strengthen the Christians of the new covenant to wait in patience under the heavy burden of their cross for the return of the Savior in glory on judgment day? Of course, after 1900 years mockers might now cry out even more loudly than at the time of Peter, "Where is the promise of his coming?" — if we diligently read the Old Testament, we will also say with Jacob, "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." In your sight one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. But finally the blessed hour will strike, when you will come and open to us the doer to the kingdom of your eternal glory. Hallelujah!

One more point, my friends! In our text the apostle says that the Old Testament is so important for the Christians of the New, because they are such a rich source of "hope;"8 the apostle writes this way, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." V.4.

The New Testament contains the story of the life, suffering, and death of our Savior, but only a few fragments of the biography of the apostles and other believers; on the other hand, the Old Testament has a complete biography of many believers. And what do we find there?

Not that they sought Gad, but that God sought them. Not that they remained faithful to God, but that God always remained faithful to them. God comforted them in tribulation and delivered them from ail misery. When they cried to him, he heard them. When they stumbled, God raised them up again. When they erred from the way, God sought them out and led them back to the right way. When they fell into grievous sins, Sod punished them and let them feel his anger, but he did not reject them forever; remembering his covenant of grace, he went after them, enticed them to repent, and, when they returned in tears, graciously accepted them.

Think of Adam and Eve, of Noah, of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and his sons, of Job the man of patience, of Moses the mediator of the old covenant, of Aaron the first high priest, of David the royal prophet, the great sinner and yet, by grace, the great saint, the great hero and the great man of prayer, of faithful Daniel in exile and active confessor, and of all the prophets; God led them all on ways which can only be called wonderful until they finally fell asleep in faith in him who was to come.

In their lives we have real, living examples presented to us by the Holy Spirit himself of the promise of the Lord, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal - life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." Jn 10,27.28. There we have living examples of the words of the apostle, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." 1 Cor 10,13. There we have real living examples of that which the same apostle writes, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Phil 1,6.

Or my dear Christian, can you read the Old Testament without being strengthened in the "hope" of eternal life? Can you read the Old Testament and still doubt your salvation or despair completely? Why should God through his


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Holy Spirit have wanted to record all the many examples of those wonderful, gracious ways to salvation, some of whom were great horrible sinners, if he had not wanted to have the greatest sinner take "hope", weary and heavy laden turn to Christ, the Friend of sinners, and die confidently in this hope?

Well then, my friends, learn from this what an inexpressibly great treasure you have in also the Old Testament. Do not let yourselves be robbed of it by your own blind reason or the mockery of wicked scoffers. Read it diligently but with the heartfelt prayer for the enlightenment of the Holy Ghost, for by his own reason and strength no one can understand either the New or the Old Testament to his salvation. Continue to compare the Old Testament with the New; it was not until Christ opened the writings of Moses and the prophets to the Emmaus disciples that they understood it and their hearts then burned within them in heavenly joy. Above all seek Christ in it, for "to him," says Peter, "give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 10,43. Then from your own experience you will learn to say and sing, also with reference to the Old Testament,

Thy Word doth deeply move the heart,

Thy Word doth perfect health impart,

Thy Word my soul with joy doth bless,

Thy Word brings peace and happiness. Amen. (5,2)

3RD SUNDAY IN ADVENT   1 Corinthians 4, 1-5 *    TOP     (German, Archive)

Lord Jesus, we have joyfully gathered in your sanctuary today, for today you give us, your orphaned congregation, a shepherd again. But -- how can we hide it from you? — we rejoice with trembling. To what avail is all the labor of your servants if you do not qualify them? and of what help is our hearing and learning, if you do not open our hearts? We therefore beseech you to have mercy, Lord, have mercy upon us! Do not look upon our great guilt nor that we have deserved to have your Word and its blessings taken from us; look upon your own blood of reconciliation which flowed for us also, which speaks better than Abel's blood; in our behalf it cries, "Mercy! Mercy!" aloud to you. Oh, pour your Holy Spirit in rich measure upon your servant whom you have given use; equip him with your gifts; give him wisdom which comes from above; give him power from on high; give him that comfort and peace which the world cannot give, faithfulness and perseverance in doctrine and life, in word and deed until his death. Give us who are entrusted to him grace that whenever we hear your voice from his mouth, we will accept it as your Word in a good and honest heart

—————————

* Sermon at the installation of Pastor C. G. Stoeckhardt in Holy Cross Church, St. Louis, Missouri, 1878.


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and bring forth fruit with patience; may he carry out the duties of his office with joy and not with sorrow; then some day may we ail joyfully appear with him before your throne of glory and with one mouth praise your mercy from eternity to eternity. Amen.

Quote the text here: 1 Corinthians 4, 1-5.

Dear Friends in Christ Jesus, the Lord of the Church.

After our beloved former shepherd, who had grown gray in the service of our Lord and Master, had laid down his shepherd's staff, a man upon our call in the name of the Lord came to us over land and sea; today he has entered among us to take charge of the pastoral office; although he had lived in another part of the world, he has been inwardly united with us by faith; yes, he joyfully has borne the disgrace of our name and with difficulty he escaped Christ's enemies. A day of joy has dawned today for our congregation.

To be sure, the day a minister enters upon his office is not always a day of joy for the congregation.

If the one entering upon his office is a false prophet, then the day he takes up his office is a gloomy, dark day, an unfortunate day, a day when God visits the congregation in wrath, a day of deep sorrow for all of God's children. The Lord says, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves, Mt 7,15. What a frightful day for a congregation when, as now so frequently happens in our old fatherland, such a false prophet is forced upon it! An even more frightful day is the one when the congregation deliberately takes upon itself a false prophet after its own lusts. Sad to say this happens to frequently here in this land of complete religious liberty.

Though the person entering upon the office of the ministry is not a heretic but rather teaches all articles of the Christian faith correctly, denies none, purposely perverts none, but if he is a hireling, if he desires the dignity but not the drudgery of the "good work" of the office of bishop, if in his office he looks out for himself instead of caring for souls, seeking ease and good days, wealth, and the favor and honor of men, the day he enters upon his duties is no less a day of joy for the congregation, but it is likewise one of God's visitations in wrath and bitter sorrow for all of God's children. What an unfortunate congregation! Instead of getting a pious shepherd it receives a hireling! The Lord himself says, "The hireling seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth; and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. Jn 10,12.13.

Well now, on the basis of our text permit me to answer the question:

WHEN IS THE DAY A MINISTER TAKES UP HIS DUTIES A DAY OF JOY FOR THE CONGREGATION?

On the basis of our text I answer:

1.  When the Minister Comes as a Servant of Christ and a Steward of the Mysteries of God, and when,

2. His Congregation Asks no More of him than that he be Found Faithful.


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I.

When the apostle writes, "Let a man so account of us. as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God."(v.l)the apostle mentions - the only way a congregation should think of their pastor; in unmistakable language he indicates what attributes all ministers of Christ must have· For if according to God's Word a congregation is to think a certain thing of ministers, they are to be that also in every way.

And what is a true minister to be? The first thing the apostle mentions is that he must be "CHRIST'S minister." A true minister, at whose coming his congregation has reason to rejoice, has not forced himself into his holy office, nor sneaked in by devious ways, but has been installed into his office by Christ himself. The apostle indicates that clearly in other passages. He writes to the Ephesians, "And he, Christ, gave some,apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." Eph 4,11. God the Lord himself says of false prophets, "1 have not sent these prophets, yet they ran." Jer 23,21.

Two things are necessary before a preacher can say that he was sent by Christ himself. The preacher must first of all be inwardly called by Christ to this holy office; that is, he himself must be a sheep in Christ's flock, a Christian; he himself must be on that way to heaven which he should show others; he must yearn to bring to others this precious pearl which he himself has found with such blessed joy; in short, he must be able to say with David and Paul, "I believe, therefore have I spoken." Ps 116,10; 2 Cor 4,13. Or does Christ himself appoint a blind person as a leader of the blind or the seeing? Of course not! Christ says to an unconverted preacher, "What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant into thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee." Ps 50,16.17.

The true faith which a preacher himself has, and the compulsion to fill the holy office which fills his heart is only the inner call which he has received from Christ. A second call must come from Christians. Christ has given his believers the keys of the kingdom of heaven and in so doing invested them with the power to elect, call, ordain, and install his servants in his name and in his stead. Therefore only he is the "minister of Christ," or has been called and sent by Christ, who does not brag of having the "Spirit" as do the enthusiasts, but who also can produce the call of the congregation whose shepherd he claims to be.

In our text the apostle does not call the true preacher lords, nor rulers, nor masters, nor dictators of Christ, but "MINISTERS of Christ";; yes, in the original language the apostle uses a word which really means "Christ's rowers." Christ himself therefore wants to be and remain the captain in the ship of the church; he himself wants to be the rudder; but the ministers are to be his rowers. Therefore only he is a true preacher, at whose coming a congregation has reason to rejoice, who does not come to them to rule over them, but to serve them; he comes not as their master but as their brother.

That we do not err in this exposition of the words, "MINISTERS of Christ" we perceive from the many clear statements of Christ himself, as well as his holy apostles. Christ says to his disciples, "One is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren." Mt 23,8. "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you; but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant." Mt. 20,25-27. The Apostle Peter not only warns the preachers


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of his time, as though with upraised finger, “Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock«“ 1 Pat 5,3. All the humble apostle's also say of themselves, "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed." 1 Cor 3,5.  "Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy." 2 Cor 1,24. Yes, Paul testifies to the Corinthians, "For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake." 2 Cor 5,4. Oh, with what- joy a congregation can and should welcome, such a humble servant of Christ!

Not only does the apostle say in our text, "Let a roan so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ,11 but he also adds, "and stewards of the mysteries of God." That according to our text is the second thing which a true preacher must be: a "steward of the mysteries of God."

Two thoughts lie in also this portion; first of all, that a true preacher does not come with his own mysteries, nor with the. mysteries of his phantasy and science, nor with the mysteries of his heart and imagination, but only with the mysteries of the great God as revealed in the Scriptures; in short, he comes not with human words but only with God’s Word, The writings of the apostles and prophets must be the source from which must flow in their purity everything which he teaches. Not an arrogant master but a humble "minister of the word" must he be#as Luke writes in Luke 1,2. He must be able to say with Paul, "I say none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come." Acts 26,22b. What God says through Moses must be before him day and night, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you,.neither shall ye diminish ought from it." Dt 4,2. He must therefore be willing to suffer hunger, thirst, and nakedness, shame, disgrace, and persecution, yes, a painful death rather than depart from one letter of the written· Word of tod. Because in these last times God has rekindled, given, and placed upon a candlestick the light of his pure I ford for Christendom only through his chosen servant Luther, and sealed him before the whole world as his prophet, the watchword of a true preacher of these times must be, "God’s Word and Luther's doctrine pure, To all eternity shall endure." And the glorious, beautiful concessions of the Lutheran Church must also be his confession of faith, the banner, under which he teaches and defends his flock, struggles and suffers, is victorious and dies.

In our text the apostle does not call those faithful preachers who merely preach the mysteries of God but who are "stewards" of the same. This is a matter of great importance. A steward is neither an absolute lord nor merely a dispenser of benefits; no, he merely manages the property of another and has precise instructions to give only to those of his household and no more than what they need. The true preacher, at whose coming a congregation can and must rejoice, is not only he who not only preaches God’s Word, Law and Gospel, in their truth and purity in unabridged form, but who also shows himself a faithful "steward" over it; as the apostle says in another passage, he "rightly divides the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2,15; or as Christ says, who "gives them their portion of meat in due season" to the household of God’s house. Lk 12,42.

The moment a true preacher enters upon his holy office In the name of Jesus, he takes every soul entrusted to him into his heart, tries to learn to know each one, and then gives each one what he needs. If he meets a spiritually dead person who is living securely in his sins, he tries to awaken and startle him and therefore preaches to him  the Law. If he meets a spiritually blind person who is without the true faith and yet imagines that he has faith, he tries to open his eyes and bring him to the true knowledge of himself. If he meets someone who is ignorant of God’s Word, he painstakingly instructs him and teaches him the first principles of the wholesome Word, if he meets someone weak in the faith, he tries to strengthen him in the faith and therefore holds up to him


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the sweet promises of the Gospel. If he meets someone worried about his sins, he tries to comfort him and pictures to him Christ in all his grace and great love for sinners. If he meets someone in danger of soul he tries to convince him of the danger in which he is and warn him of it. If he meets someone guilty of mortal sin and therefore fallen from grace, he tries to raise him up from his fall and works unflaggingly with reprimand and comfort. If he meets someone tormented by doubts as to the truth, he tries to make him certain and shows him the immovable foundations of the Christian faith. If he meets someone who has gone astray in any way, he goes after him, hunts him up, entices him, and begs him with tears to turn about and does not rest until he has brought back the lost sheep to his Good Shepherd. The beginners or the children he gives milk, the older or the fathers and mothers in Christ strong food.

All this he does in evil as well as in good days, to adults as well as to children, to young men and young women, to the poor as well as to the rich, to the healthy as well as· ;th,e sick, to the living as well as to the dying; and this he does not as a stern law-giver and judge but as a loving brother, a true friend, yes, as a sympathetic, humble, fellow-redeemed sinner. Not only does he do that publicly but also privately, not only in the pulpit but wherever God brings him together with those entrusted to him, be it in his home or theirs, at sickbed or at the grave; everywhere he seeks to impart some spiritual gift to the soul. Thus the true preacher shows himself as a careful physician of souls, sometimes using bitter sometimes sweet medicine, sometimes biting wine sometimes soothing oil, and as a faithful shepherd of souls sometimes with the staff Beauty, sometimes with the staff Bands, as is necessary.

Of a truth, the day such a preacher enters his office is therefore a day of solemn joy for a congregation.

II.

When the apostle continues in our text, "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful," we see that something is necessary on the part of the congregation, if the day their pastor enters upon his duties should be a day of solemn joy for them; they dare ask no more of their pastor than that he "be found faithful." Permit me to speak to you of this. (Luther: "Ask no more of stewards, than that they be found faithful.")

The first thing, which a congregation has to take into consideration when a new minister comes, is brought out in the words, "no more". Even to ministers God has given his gifts differently. "For," says St. Paul, "to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith," that is, heroic faith, "by the same Spirit; to another prophecy," the special skill of explaining Scripture; "to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues." 1 Cor 12,8.9b. 10. No one minister, therefore, has all the gifts but only his modest portion.

Even the apostles and their assistants did not have the same measure. Thus, for example, Paul was granted the gift of a deep and rich knowledge, to John the gift of seeing into the future, to Apollos the gift of oratory. And so to this very day one minister has this gift, another that.

As a steward is not responsible for his own property but his master's, so also a congregation should not hold their pastor responsible for this or that gift but only those gifts given him by God, Not only is it unjust, yes, cruel to expect more, but then they themselves are at fault that their pastor did not joyfully administer his office among them; and that is not good; for then they do not receive the full blessings which God had intended them to receive.


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Yet when our text warns not to require more of a minister than that he "be found faithful," the apostles thereby desires that a congregation does not require less. While faithfulness in doctrine and life is important in a minister, it is just as important that the congregation demands that of him. Woe to a congregation, when their pastor wants to be faithful in teaching God's Word but the congregation demands that he preach publicly or privately something else than God's pure Word! Woe to a congregation, when their pastor wishes to refute faithfully all error which is dangerous to their souls, and they demand that he be silent because they want temporal peace! Woe to a congregation when their pastor wants to reprimand faithfully all ungodly life, and they demand that he "speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits" (Is 30,10) just as the Jews of Isaiah's times demanded that of the prophets! Woe to a congregation when their pastor wishes to administer that church discipline faithfully which Christ has prescribed, and they want to use only the key to loose but not to retain sins. Woe to a congregation when their pastor faithfully wants to make no difference among his hearers and they demand that he be a respecter of persons! Woe to a congregation when their faithful pastor wishes to live a Christian life and they demand either angelic perfection and will not even put up with any weakness in him, or if they on the other hand demand that he be a hail-fellow-well-met and serve the world and the flesh as they do!

Well, faithful members of Cross Congregation, today a servant of Christ and a steward of God's mysteries begins his work among you. Demand no more nor no less of him than that he be found faithful!

In a certain sense God's grace has given us the power to decide whether the office, which our new pastor wishes to hold among us, will be blessed or not. Our new pastor himself must as God's steward swear the fearful oath that he wishes to be faithful; he must pledge us, the whole church and his God, nothing less than his soul's salvation; let us therefore — I adjure you by your salva

tion -- let us not demand of him what God forbids him, or forbid him what God demands of him.

Bear in mind that God says to him, "Preach my Word without addition or subtraction, or some day I will say to you, 'I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity!" Mt 7,23. Oh, let us therefore demand of him only God's Word, yes, the entire Word, the whole counsel of God for our salvation!

Bear in mind that God says to him, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins." Is 58,1. "When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand," Ezek 3,18; —oh, let us therefore cheerfully receive our preacher of the Word even when he reprimands us.

Bear in mind that God says to him, "Be not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth," Rom 1,16; oh let us as poor sinners open our hearts and ears at all times for this joyful message and embrace it in faith!

The flesh, the world, and the devil will daily,tempt our pastor; oh let us all who can pray bear him daily in prayer! If his courage fails, let us try to console him so that he will take courage again! If he is weak in faith or in a necessary work, let us cheer him up! If sorrow comes upon him, let us comfort him! If he stumbles, let us with a gentle spirit help him to his feet again! If we see that he is faithful in God's house, let him be the more dear to us for his work's sake and hold him worthy of double honor! If he joyfully precedes us on the narrow, rough, and steep way to the heavenly Jerusalem, let us follow him gladly!


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Let us, and this in conclusion I beg you, let us all under the charge of our new shepherd return to our first love and cast behind us all satiety, lukewarmness, indolence, and all earthly and worldly ideas! When he today swears eternal faithfulness to his Lord, let us also swear with him to be faithful until death.

Thus my friends, thus today will not only be a day of solemn joy but the beginning of a time of new gracious visitation and boundless blessing for him and us all; our congregation will thrive like a garden and become richer in the golden fruits of faith and love, hope and patience. And then when the Chief Shepherd will appear not only our faithful under-shepherd but we all who were entrusted to him will receive the crown of glory which fadeth not away.

Hay Jesus Christ, true God and man in one undivided person and the eternal High Priest of the whole lost world, praised to all eternity, help him and us all. Amen.

4TH SUNDAY IN ADVENT Philippians 4, 4-7    TOP     (German, Archive)

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Quote the text here: Philippians 4,4-7.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus!

"The Lord is at hand!" is what the Apostle Paul exclaimed in the midst of the admonition of our today's epistle. What he means to say is not hard to determine. Since the apostle adds nothing, as e.g., Ps 145 does, where we read, "The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth," Ps 145,18; rather since the apostle without any addition speaks very generally, "The Lord is at hand!" beyond a doubt he means to say this: Christ's promised return is near, namely, his return on judgment day. Not only has Christ assured his disciples that he would leave the world to return and take them to himself, that they could be with him forever (Jn 14,3), but when Christ had ascended into heaven, the angels who were present also said to the apostles, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Act 1,11.

After this event all the apostles preached that the last times, or the eventide of the world, had come and that Christians should expect only Christ's visible return, his coming again in divine majesty and glory, and that this great was not far distant but "at hand". Thus for example says James, "The coming of the Lord draweth nigh. . . . Behold the judge standeth before the door." Jas 5,8b.9. Moreover Peter writes, "The end of all things is at hand.: 1 Pet 4,7.  Yes, John writes, "Little children, it is the last time." 1 Jn 2,18.

Nowadays many who do not earnestly consider the words of the apostles as God's Words believe that the apostles had the wrong idea about the nearness


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of Christ’s return. Since the times of the apostles·1900 years have gone by. They must have erred when they wrote, "The Lord is at hand!" "The Judge standeth before the door." "It is the last time."

But that is not true; this was no error but the absolute truth. Even though Paul wrote in our text, "The Lord is at hand!" he also wrote to his assistant, Timothy, "The time of my departure is at hand." 2 Tim 4,6b. Beyond a doubt, this means that Paul could not have meant that he would live to see Christ's return. Moreover Paul writes about the Christians of his time, "Upon whom the ends of the world are come." 1 Cor 10,11b. But when some in the congregation at Thessalonica let themselves be persuaded "that the day of Christ was (already) at hand," 2 Thess 2,2 Paul replied, "Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition," namely the antichrist. 2 Thess 2,3.

Yet why could the apostle say, "The Lord is at hand!"? Peter tells us when he writes, "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." 2 Pet 3,8. Since the time of the apostles, almost 2,000 years have flown by; yet these are no more than two days as far as the Lord is concerned. Hence, haven't the apostles spoken the truth when in the name of the Lord they said, "The Lord is as hand!"?

Perhaps you will now say, Why have the apostles spoken thus? I answer: Being moved by the Holy Ghost, they had to speak that way, because no person can know beforehand the day of judgment; all men are to keep themselves ready at all times, every day and hour of their lives, for this last day. Woe to him who says in his heart, "My Lord delays his coming!" Christ calls him a "wicked servant" whom he will cut asunder and whose reward will be the same as the hypocrites (Mt 24,40-51). On the other hand, blessed is he who is ready every day, yes every hour to receive the Lord joyfully! Christ will also receive him joyfully, set him at his right hand, and crown him with the crown of eternal glory.

Permit me therefore on the basis of our text to answer the question:

WHAT SHALL THE CHRISTIAN DO WHEN HE HEARS THE CRY: "THE LORD IS AT HAND!"?

I answer this cry should move him to do three things:

1.  To Rejoice Alway in the Lord,

2.  To Let his Forbearance be Known to All men, and finally,

3.  Not to Worry, but in Everything with Prayer and Thanksgiving Make His Requests Known unto God.

I.

"Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice!" V. 4. The apostle begins his admonitions in our text with these words. And what does he add? He cries out, "The Lord is at hand!" Hence Christians should always rejoice in the Lord because the Lord is at hand. Is not-that amazing? Is not the nearness of Christ's return for judgment really a reason for fear and trembling than rejoicing? ,

For the unbelieving world there can be no more dreadful words in all of Christian faith than the words of the Second Article, "From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." Woe to the world, when judgment day which it has mocked will come upon it asj unexpectedly as a snare! Woe to the world when


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it will see Christ, in whom it had not believed, but despised and rejected, coming as suddenly as lightning out of the blue in the clouds of his glory and all the holy angels with him, and see him sitting on the throne of his, glory! Then all the .Rations of the earth will howl and say to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" Rev 6,16.17.

Accordingly, can not the apostle exclaim in our text, "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say. Rejoice!" and add, "The Lord is at hand!"? Yes, indeed my friends! The apostle does not write these words to the unbelieving world but to Christians. Learn from this, therefore, what blessed people Christians are. The coming of the Lord for the last judgment, this most terrible event for the unbelieving world, is the most comforting and happy time for Christians.

Though unbelievers may tremble when the last trumpet will sound throughout all lands, Christians will hear this as the happy resounding of a trumpet of victory. Though the unbelieving world may be terrified when it will see Christ come in the clouds of heaven clothed with divine majesty, for alas! it was his enemy on earth, and now he comes as their enemy, Christians will see him as their friend, in whom they believed and whom they loved and confessed before the world, at whose majesty they will rejoice as a bride rejoices to see her bridegroom. Though the unbelieving children of the world may be filled with dread when they will see Christ sitting on his throne of judgment and their account book open, for all their countless sins will then arise against them as countless accusers, the Christians will rejoice at Christ's verdict, for they know that their sins are forgiven; yes, their account book will also be opened, but behold! the guilt of all their sins is recorded as being already paid and canceled by the blood of reconciliation.

The unbelieving children of this world may become frightened when they see the Searcher of the hearts, whose eyes are like flames of fire which see into their sinful hearts; they will feel that the sins which ruled in them on earth now also live in them there before God’s throne; the believers however will discover with heavenly delight, that not only all the sins which they committed are hurled into the depths of the sea, but that also the very last roots of sin are erased from their hearts; they are awakened according to God's image, whether their bodies were awakened from the dead on judgment day, or were changed and glorified in a moment while still alive.

Though the unbelieving children of this world will become frightened when they glance behind them and see the world which they loved so much disappear with all its glory and then look ahead and see hell opening its jaws for them to swallow them forever, the Christians will with rejoicing see the world with all its woes being destroyed by fire and see the heaven of eternal glory open its doors wide and hear Christ's friendly voice, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Mt 25,34.

You see, that is why Christ himself, after he had described the terrible signs of his return, said to his disciples, "And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." Lk 21,28. Then the apostle can also write in our text, "Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again 1 say, Rejoice! The Lord is at hand!" In view of his nearness nothing else can more urgently demand that the Christian always rejoice.


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II.

And yet, my friends, the apostle adds also this admonition, "Let your moderation be known unto all men." V. 5a. The cry, "The Lord is at hand!" should also move Christians to let their forbearance be known to all men. Permit me to speak to you of this.

The forbearance to which the apostle admonishes us in our text is not flying in the face of truth and righteousness, to make light out of darkness, sweet out of sour. No; the forbearance is that which is worked by the Holy Ghost. It is the characteristic of a true Christian which flows from faith, according to which he first of all does not lovelessly judge his neighbor in his

'heart, but with forbearance; secondly, he is not cold in words and deeds but is gracious; he especially greets the fallen with comforting words who has confessed his fa11; and in the third place he does not insist on his rights in his dealing with his neighbor, but would rather give up some of his rights than tear the bond of love and peace.

We see this virtue shining perfectly only in Christ. Isaiah had long ago predicted of him, "He will not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench." Is. 42.2.3a. He alone could say of himself, "Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart." Mt 11,29.

The apostles followed his footsteps. Paul could say of himself, "For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more....I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." 1 Cor 9,19.22. Paul's great forbearance we see when he writes to Timothy, "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me; I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge." 2 Tim 4,16.

If all true Christians have made a beginning in this forbearance, in most it is very imperfect. Many even suppose they show their progress in Christianity by judging their neighbor strictly, weighing his words, desires, and works; they demand of the weak the works of the strong, overlook no weakness, accept no excuses; they explain something suspicious in an evil way and judge

most

A Christian has reasons enough which should move him to let his forbearance be known to all men. First of all, there is the command to love everybody; Christ says, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets." Mt 7,12. What strictly according to the letter of the law. person does not wish that his fellowmen would show him forbearance in thoughts, words, and deeds? Moreover, the express command of the Lord should move Christians to show forbearance to everyone, "Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful." Lk 6,36. Finally, Christians should be moved by their own weaknesses, failings, and lapses, knowing that they live only by mercy; the apostle therefore cries to all Christians, "The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation." 2 Pet 3,15a.

However, the strongest of all inducements to practise forbearance is without a doubt that one which the apostle in our text presents to Christians in the words, "The Lord is at hand!" Tell me, what kind of a verdict do all Christians desire from the Lord on the day of his return? Is it a stem one according to the law, or a lenient one? Must not Christians confess that if the Lord would not judge by mercy he would have to condemn them, as David sighs, "Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified"? Ps 143,2. "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" Ps 130,3.


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Who can expect a mild sentence from the Lord on the day of judgment, if he has been hard and strict over against his neighbor? Does not Christ command his Christians to pray every day and every hour, "Forgive us our trespasses, las we forgive those who trespass against us"? Does not Christ call him and Unfaithful servant" who, after the Lord had forgiven him his debt of 10,000 talents, took his fellow servant who owed him 100 pence by the throat and threw him into prison?

My friends, let the word of the apostle, "The Lord is at hand!" enter deeply into your hearts. Bear that in mind whenever you are tempted by your corrupt heart to be loveless over against your neighbor and then pray that God would have a mild heart toward you. If you insisted on the letter of the law here on this world and had been loveless over against your neighbor·, could you really hold the outrageous hope that God would pass a mild sentence upon you, a loveless judge? Must you not really expect that God will do to you what he once said, "For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again"? Lk 6,38b.

Yes, he who is in the true faith does not enter into judgment because "there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." Rom 8,1. But bear in mind, that on judgment day Christ will not recognize you as true believers because you said, "We believe," but Christ will call your works as witnesses as to whether your faith was a true or a make-believe faith. If you showed no J forbearance over against your neighbor, that will testify that your faith was on \your lips but not in your heart, and you will then experience what James writes, "He shall have judgment without mercy, that showed no mercy," Jas 2,13; and Christ will say to you, "I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Mt 7,23.

My dear Christian friends, "The Lord is at hand." not to judge you but to absolve you and that is it above all which should move you to let your forbearance be known to all men. Think of that day and night; it will make; your heart ever softer, friendlier, sweeter, milder over against your neighbor, be he friend or foe; Christ will recognize you as his own and joyfully lead you into his kingdom of eternal love.

III.

My friends, there is one more thing to which the cry of the apostle, "The Lord is at hand!" should move Christians; it is to be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known unto God. In the third place this it is which I want to present unto you.

Christians seem to have the greatest reasons for giving in to great worry; they live in the last times and the cry, "The Lord is at hand!" continually resounds in their ears. According to the prophecies of Christ and the apostles the last times in which the Christian Church lives since the days of the apostles are most trying times, times of severest temptations, sometimes to unbelief, sometimes to a false belief, sometimes to fall from Christ through security and worldliness, sometimes to fall through fear of persecution and despair . Christ says of the last times, "There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Mt 24,24. Paul writes, "Know this also that in the last days perilous times shall come." 2 Tim 3,1.


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But far be it that the cry, "The Lord is at hand!" that is, these are the last times! should cause Christians to become anxiously worried; the apostle writes in our text, "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests, be made known unto God." V.6. "The Lord is at hand!"

Christians should consider themselves people who find themselves in a fortress surrounded by countless mighty and well-equipped foes, continually under seige, but who are certain that the Lord is near with this angel host in order to bring relief to beleaguered Christendom when his hour is come, to conquer all her foes, and to celebrate with her the triumphant festival of eternal life. Instead of anxious care the Christians should let themselves be moved at the thought of the nearness of the Lord to cast all their care upon the Lord, make their requests known unto him, cry to him day and night, praying him to give them everything good as well as averting all evil, and thanking God for all the benefits they have already experienced and praise and glorify him for them.

Oh my friends, let us then, when we experience in the days of our tribulation that we live in the last times and that the Lord is at hand, not be so foolish as to give in to worry. Let us rather recognize that next to God's Word we have an invincible, yes, an almighty weapon in prayer; if we use this weapon every day and every hour our victory is assured. With these three weapons, the Word, prayer, and tears, the Church has conquered in all ages. Lot us think of- that word of that poet of heroic faith and experience,

By anxious sighs and grieving

And self-tormenting care

God is not moved to giving;

All must be gained by prayer. (520,2)

Above all, whenever misery appears to be about to pour itself over our souls like a flood, remind ourselves in faith of the saying of the Lord, "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily." Lk 18,7.8a.

That Christians might let themselves be moved to do this by the cry, "The Lord is at hand!" the apostle in our text adds as the concluding admonition a most comforting wish, "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your heart and minds through Christ Jesus." V.7. If we will rejoice at the certainty of the nearness of the Lord, let our forbearance be known to all men, and casting all our care upon the Lord appear before him praying in all our great and small requests, "the peace of God which passeth all understanding" shall and will enter our hearts; for that is a peace in the midst of a warfare which will guard our heart and mind, our will and understanding, like a wall which reached to heaven, so that neither the flesh, nor the world, nor the devil can rob us of our treasure, and we will not fall from our fortress.

May Jesus Christ, "which is, and which was, and which is to come," praised to all eternity, grant that to us. Amen.


31

CHRISTMAS DAY   Titus 2, 11-14    TOP     (German, Archive)

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Amen.

Quote the text here: Titus 2, 11 - 14.

Why, my friends, why is all Christendom so gay and excited these days? and why does it seem as if even the world is carried along by this powerful joyful stream, which rushes through the hearts and homes of all Christians? You know it is the birth of a little child 1958 years ago in Bethlehem of Judea; today hundreds of thousands of bells from city to city, from nation to nation are pealing loudly; today from hundreds of thousands of pulpits that birth is being praised; and millions of voices in all parts the earth are today raised in hymns of joy and praise over that birth.

And who is that Child whose coming into this world all Christians greet with joy? You know; he was a real child, a child like our children, made in the likeness of a man, but -- oh wonder of wonders! -- a child in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, God incarnate himself, the God-man, God and man in one person! He was born in a dark stall, wrapped in wretched swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger upon hay and straw; yet outside on the fields of Bethlehem the angel of the Lord shining with divine glory said that this Child is God the Lord himself; thereupon the frightened and amazed shepherds heard a multitude of the heavenly host celebrate this event in heavenly harmonies. "God was made man" briefly related the mysterious story of our today’s festival.

We have gathered here in the sanctuary of the Lord to celebrate that greatest of all divine mysteries in heaven and on earth; what shall we do? Shall we delve into the great mystery, "God was manifest in the flesh," in order to sound its very depths? Alas, human language is unable to explain it fully; human reason cannot grasp nor think it out; even the angels who desired to look into it can only wonder at and praise it. It is a mystery which is to be seized alone in childlike faith and worshiped with holy awe.

Yet we can be happy! From the dark, fathomless depths of this mystery there streams forth a bright and gentle light in which even the blindest person can take delight; it is that blessed Christmas light which Paul, enlightened by the Holy Ghost, has kindled for us in our today's text, when he shouts for joy, "For the GRACE of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men."  And oh, what a message! An entire sea of Christmas joy pours forth from its sweet words. These words are the heavenly key to the incomprehensible Christmas miracle, which took place on earth today; it shows us that once in Bethlehem all the gates of grace, heaven, and salvation were opened wide, wide to all men for all times and into all eternity, Well now, may our hearts take some delight in St. Paul's blessed Christmas sermon:

"THE GRACE OF GOD THAT BRINGETH SALVATION HATH APPEARED TO ALL MEN"

We will direct our devotion chiefly to two things:

1.  The Word, "The Grace of God That Bringeth Salvation Hath Appeared," and,

2.  The Words, "To All Men."


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I.

In our text we see the apostle standing, as it were, in a high pulpit before the stall at Bethlehem, from which he preaches to the whole world. And how does he begin? — Does he perhaps say, The stern righteousness of God hath appeared? or does he merely say, The eternal love of God hath appeared? No! He says, "The GRACE of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared."

Had the apostle said, The stern righteousness of God hath appeared, this would not be have been a joyous but rather a frightening sermon for mankind. For are we not all sinners and is not God’s righteousness that attribute by which God hates all sins and must punish the sinner? Didn't all Israel become frightened and flee when God's stern righteousness really appeared upon Sinai? If we today would hear, The stern righteousness of God hath appeared, would not all of us in terror have to say to one another, Woe to us sinners! Come on, fellow sinners, the great righteous God has appeared on earth to visit our sins upon us; let us flee; oh, let us flee in haste!? But we can be happy! The apostle's Christmas sermon is not; The stern righteousness of God hath appeared.

Nor does the apostle say: The eternal love of God hath appeared. Of course, this would not be a frightening but really a most endearing call. What can sound more lovely than: Love, eternal love!? But since we all are sinners, of what help would it be if only the love of God had come to us and appeared among us? Do not diligent parents chastise their disobedient children the more earnestly the more dearly they love them? And if only God's love had appeared, would we not have to fear that it has come with the rod in order to punish us disobedient children?

Of course, the whole world comforts itself with God's universal, fatherly love while it continues to live without him. But oh deceived world! It comforts itself in vain with God's love; what does it avail the world that God's eternal love wants to save them, but God's righteousness without a reconciler can not save but must rather condemn it?

But how happy we can be! How really happy! The apostle's Christmas sermon is not: The stern righteousness of God hath appeared; nor: The eternal love of God hath appeared; but rather: "The GRACE of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared." "Grace! Grace!" In one word that expresses the theme, the whole content of Paul's Christmas sermon. And that, yes, that is the sermon which we need.

To be sure, it would have been enough for the holy angels, if only God's love and not his grace had appeared among them; they are holy and God finds no guilt in them; they need no grace; divine love not only wants their salvation but it also can save them and already has done so. And there was a time when God's love would have been enough for us men; that was while mankind was in that state in which God had created him, the state of innocence. However, we have transgressed all of God's commands; we have all fallen from God into sin; we have thereby all become the foe of the righteous and holy God; and as the result, before God we are all burdened with a debt which we can never pay off by ourselves in all eternity. Nothing in heaven and on earth but grace, free undeserved grace could deliver us; and grace can save us because it deals with sinners, and with not one else but sinners; this grace it is which today appeared in the world.

Perhaps you will say: Must not grace itself become silent, when righteousness confronts it? For example, how is the debtor helped who can not pay his debt if his judge is gracious? If even a gracious judge does not want to


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deal unjustly, can he not absolve a debtor from his debt only if he has paid his debt to the last penny, or if he has given bail for the payment? 1 answer: Yes to be sure! But hear, oh hear what the apostle preaches in our text. He does not say merely, "The grace of God hath appeared.” but, "The grace of God THAT BRINGETH SALVATION hath appeared." What does the apostle mean to say? Nothing else than this: In Christ there has appeared a grace which brings with it the payment of man's debt of sin and at the same time salvation.

How can that be? you ask. Come with me to Bethlehem; there you will see the wonder of the "grace of God THAT BRINGETH SALVATION" with your own eyes. For who is the little child who lies there in the manger in deepest misery? Is he not, as the angel of God told us, God the Lord himself, the Lord of glory, "God manifest in the flesh?” What does it mean that this great God became a wretched man, that this Lord of dll lords became a servant of all servants? It means nothing else than this: God had to humble himself that deeply in order to pay our great debt of sin. Of course, in the manger he just began to pay for them, but he did not rest until after unmentionable suffering he hung on the cross, bleeding, thirsting, yes, forsaken by God and could, after he had paid our debt to the last penny, triumphantly cry out: "It is finished!" The great of sin is paid; the sinful world is pardoned; man who had become God's enemy is reconciled with God; heaven was opened to him! You see, that is why the apostle could, as it were, triumphantly shout in our text, "The GRACE of God THAT BRINGETH SALVATION hath appeared."

Oh, come then; let us all go in spirit to Bethlehem, and although we are sinners, enter the stall fearlessly, yes, joyfully, and in adoration fall on our knees before the manger; see, there the most beautiful drama in heaven and earth is offered to us: Here lies God's grace, yes — oh joy! — even more; here lies the very "grace of God" which "brings salvation." Hallelujah!

II.

But now let us direct our devotion to the second part of the apostle's Christmas sermon. Briefly it reads, "To all men."

Only three little words make up the entire second part of Paul's Christmas sermon; but what little words they are!

Tell me, what would it avail us if today all the angels flew throughout the whole world and in great joy sang in every place: "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared," if they did not say right away or if they could not say to whom this grace appeared? What person would dare or could joyfully exclaim: Praised be God! God's saving grace has appeared also to me! So you see, the three little words, "To all men," which the apostle adds to his Christmas sermon, are really its heart and center; they give his sermon its great sweetness; they make his comforting sermon truly comforting to us.

In this connection remember also; The apostle does not say: To all pious men, nor even: To all the penitent or to all believers. Then this Christmas sermon would not concern many millions! And then, would not many of you have to think that this sermon does not in the least concern them? Verily, my friends, if I today would have to say that some, or even only one, of you is excluded from the grace of Christmas, it would have been better that I would not have entered this pulpit today.

But, praise God! What does the apostle say in our text? He rejoices: "The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared TO ALL MEN!" There is


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person, not even one, in the whole wide world, from Adam the first person created to the last one to be born, who is excluded from God's saving grace. The heathen is not excluded because he is a heathen; the Jew is not because he is a Jew; the poor man is not because he is poor; the rich man is not because he is rich; you children are not because you are still unwise children; you young men and women are not because you are still so young; man and wife are not because you have not yet finished your lives; you elderly men and women are not because you are already so old and the grave is so near at hand; you respectable sinner not because you are respectable; nor you coarse sinner because you have sinned too greatly; yes, nor you who have fallen because you have fallen and have already received so much grace in vain. No, no; no one is excluded; only he who excludes himself. When God's grace appeared here on earth, the whole world became a dwelling place of grace for all dwellers of the world, and when God's grace suffered in this world for 33 years the whole span of your life on this world is a period of grace.

If God's grace, when it wanted to become a man, had brought a new human nature from heaven, we could rightly think that it does not concern us; but as certainly as Christ's human nature also stems from Adam, so certainly do all the children of Adam share in this grace. If. the grace of God had been born in the home of any person, we could think: It came for you alone, for grace began to dwell in your home! But since it was born where animals live, we know that this grace does not concern only one person but all, all people alike, and therefore every human being should accept it and rejoice in it.

Oh my dear friends, what a day of grace this day is! Oh do not be captured by earthly gifts and joys so that you despise God's saving grace because of them. Nor should you let your sins and unworthiness depress you that because of them you forget this saving grace which today is preached to all men and therefore also to you.

Nor should you say, "I feel no grace." Simply bear in mind, that God's saving grace did not appear in your hearts; it appeared outside of them, in God's heart; it lay there in the manger in Bethlehem, and today it reigns everywhere at the right hand of God the Father. You therefore need not first seek it; it has sought you out. Oh, just accept it with joy.

Nor should you say: Yes, if my name were expressly added to the divine Christmas sermon, I would believe that God's grace which brings salvation has appeared to me as well. What a foolish thought! Supposing your name would be in the Bible, would you not have to fear anyhow that another, who had the same name was meant, but not you? Be happy therefore, that the apostle says, "TO ALL MEN." See then, you are called by name after all. Are you not also a man? Therefore this grace which has appeared is also yours as certainly as you are a man.

In conclusion pray with me: Oh grace of God which brings salvation! we can not come to you; you must come to us. Even after you have come to us we still can not grasp you; you must seize us. Oh draw us all to your heart; hold us fast; let nothing pluck us from your hand until we finally see you face to face and in safety praise you in your have of grace forever and ever. Amen, in Jesus' name. Amen!


35

SECOND CHRISTMAS DAY    1 Timothy 1, 15    TOP     (German, Archive)

Welcome, welcome to earth, Thou noble Guest,

Through whom the sinful world is blest!

Thou com'st to share my misery;

What thanks shall I return to Thee? (85,8)

Oh Lord Jesus, when you came to earth long ago, you found no room in the inn. Behold, our hearts are open; oh, enter in and live and remain in them until we are with you in your Father's house. Amen.

Quote the text here: 1 Timothy 1, 15.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus!

If man has heard and seen the same thing very often, it is his way no longer to be surprised at the most amazing thing, but calmly to consider it as something familiar and commonplace. What a miracle the birth of every child is! But who is still amazed at that? What a miracle that out of a little kernel of wheat should grow a stalk,from the stalk a head, and in this head nourishing flour! But who is still amazed at that? And alas — I must add today — what a miracle God performed on the first Christmas Day of the world! But today who wonders greatly at that?

Oh, the incomprehensible indifference of the human heart! God becomes a man in order to save man; that is the Christmas message. This miracle surpasses all the miracles which have ever occurred. Though it took place on earth, it even outdoes all those miracles which took place in heaven so far that Peter says, the angels desire to look into it.

Bear in mind, my dear friends, God is in all people; "in him," says Paul, "we live, and move, and have our being." Acts 17,28. Yes, God lives in grace in the hearts of all pious Christians; that is why Paul calls them God's temple. Now although one can say of such Christians that God lives in them, one cannot say that they are God. On the other hand, God was united with the Christchild in such a way that one must not only say: God lives in this child, but also: This Child is God. In him God became a man so that God united with the human nature to form one person. Oh, what an incomprehensible, unsearchable miracle! The eternal, almighty God who made, sustains, and rules heaven and earth and everything which is in them, becomes a mortal weak infant who has a human mothers, who must clothe and feed him, lift and carry him, cherish and protect him!

And yet more! The most amazing of all is that God did not become a man because man had been such a lovable, pious, holy, and glorious creature that God desired to enter the holy family of man. No; man had fallen from God, became his enemy, and thereby became inexpressibly miserable, and that is why, yes, that is the very reason why God became a man. He wanted to deliver man from the misery into which he had hurled himself by his fall from God.

Oh the miracle of God's love! When the pious church father Ambrose ponder this miracle of God becoming a man, he was inspired to exclaim boldly, "Oh blessed guilty sins, which earned such a Redeemer!" Luther testifies in one of his Advent sermons, "If we could grasp and measure in our heart the greatness of this blessing, we would die for very joy."


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Well then, on the basis of our text, let us In this hour ponder with one another:

HOW GLORIOUS THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS IS

1. How Worthy of Our Faith, and

2. How Worthy of Our Acceptance.

I.

My friends, before God does something, no human being can be his counselor and tell him what is proper for him to do as God; but after God has done it and revealed it to men, then we human beings can by God's grace in a measure recognize how glorious, how worthy of God it was. That this is so God himself has indicated, when he said to Moses, "Thou canst not see my face;...thou shalt see my back parts." Ex 33,20.23.

The same thing is alo true in what God has done when man had fallen into sin and thus into temporal and eternal misery. No man, no angel, no creature could have given God the answer to the question: What shall I do with fallen man? But after God revealed to men what he did, every person can with joy and amazement recognize how glorious, how worthy of God this deed was.

Paul indicates that in our text when he says, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." What is said with the words: "This is a, faithful saying," means according to the original text; "It is ABSOLUTELY WORTHY OF BEING RELIED ON."  The apostle means to say; it true that the Son of God came into the world and became a man in order to save sinners; this seems, to be absolutely unbelievable. But ponder this miracle and you will soon become convinced of how worthy of our faith it is.

And is that not actually true, my friends? Bear in mind: God has two opposite attributes which belong to his essence. On the one hand, he is inviolably holy, righteous, and true, and on the other, full of infinite love, grace, and mercy. What should he do, when man had transgressed his holy law? Could he without further ado forgive man his sins and take him into heaven? No, absolutely not; if God would have done that, he would have ceased being a holy and righteous God. Is not he an unjust judge who frees or pardons all criminals? Does not God himself say in his Word: "He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord"? Prov 17,15. And should God himself do that? Never!

God had not only written his law in man’s heart at his creation, but he had also threatened man with the punishment of temporal and eternal death, if he would transgress his law. Had God without further ado pardoned fallen man, he would have declared before all creatures with this deed that he was not true. He would be like a weak old father, who utters all manner of threats and commands to his children but carries neither out. No my friends, as certainly as God is holy, righteous, and true, so certainly could he not retract his law nor fail to carry out his threats; so certainly must every letter of his law be fulfilled. Christ had expressly sworn the solemn oath: "Verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or tittle shell in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Mt 5,18.

Now as we mentioned above, God is also full of infinite love, grace, and mercy, yes, a moving, eternally overflowing ocean of love, with which he surrounds his creatures. According to this love he could want to do nothing else than


2nd Christmas Day        37

rescue mankind who had become so miserable through his own fault, could only have wanted to save him.

And what did (God do to save sinners and yet have his holiness, righteousness, and truth triumph as well as his love, grace, and mercy? He himself became a man and in man's place paid the immeasurable guilt by his life and death. Even as a new-born Child we see him today in deepest humility, clothed in miserable swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; holiness and love, righteousness and grace, truth and mercy now reconciled extend their hand in benediction over him.

Yes, this miracle is so great that the mind neither of men nor of angels can grasp it. Tell me: could God have done a deed more worthy of our

faith than such a one in which all the perfections of God are mirrored as you see here, which shine as clearly as the rays of the noonday sun? Can there be a miracle which would be more worthy of faith than this miracle of miracles?

Oh my dear hearers, do not become bewildered that today so many no longer want to believe in this miracle of their redemption. This happens not because this miracle is not worthy of our faith, but because, as the apostle writes: "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the. light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." 2 Cor 4,4. But you, my dear friends, plunge in faith only the deeper into this, as St. Paul writes, "great mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh." ; Tim 3,16. This miracle will then seem ever more worthy of faith and become more and more glorious until finally with All the angels and elect you will see it there unveiled full of heavenly delight in inexpressible joy and blessedness from eternity to eternity.

II.

My friends, the apostle not only says in our text: "This is a faithful saying", or what is the same, that is absolutely worthy of being believed, but he also adds, "And worthy of all acceptation." that is according to the original text, a word most WORTHY OF BEING ACCEPTED BY ALL, "that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." And let us ponder this.

My friends, if the miracle of Christmas were not true, therefore not worthy of our faith, if we dared not accept it, this would work only a passing astonishment, but would not bring us salvation, nor work joy in us. But praise God! The miracle of Christmas is also one worthy of our acceptance, for it took place to save all men. That is why St. Paul immediately adds, "Of whom I am chief," in order to show that even he appropriated the miracle of Christmas. That is why the prophet Isaiah rejoices: "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given." Is 9,6. And the angel at Christmas Eve cried to all men in those shepherds, and also to all of us: "Unto you is born this day a Savior."

You see that every person can not only in faith say: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners," but he should also say he came to save me, me a sinner. He who can not triumphantly exclaim at the end of the Christmas festival: Christ Jesus came into the world also for me, saved me, is bom also for me, was given also to me, is also mine, has celebrated the Christmas festival in vain, and all he has from Christmas is an amazement which will quickly vanish away.


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Therefore accept this glorious miracle of Christmas joyfully! I do not speak to those who do not want to accept it because they wish to live on in sin. With the exception of these, there are four main reasons why so many men do not accept the blessed miracle of Christmas. The first, because their hearts are bewitched by the joys and wealth of this world; the second, because their heart is burdened by the cares of this life; the third, because their heart is so cold, dead, and sated; the fourth, because their heart is oppressed by so many and such great sins.

Ah my dear hearers, who let the joys and wealth of this world restrain you from joyfully receiving the miracle of Christmas in your heart, bear in mind: the things of this world are nothing but empty soap bubbles, which shimmer a few moments in beautiful color and burst asunder at death. Though you. may be very wealthy, in death you are as poor as the poorest beggar; even if you build your grave out of marble, your soul will step before God's judgment throne naked and then everything will depend on bringing Christ with you; otherwise you are eternally lost. True fortune and joy does not live in the pompous world and its palaces but there in Bethlehem's stall, not in your gold and silver coffers lies the true treasure but there in the manger.

My dear hearers, do not let the cares of this life restrain you from joyfully receiving the miracle of Christmas in your heart. How can your worry about your present poverty or misery help you or your dreary prospect for the future? You merely double your misery. Cast all your care on the Lord Jesus, accept him joyfully, and you will even in deepest tribulation be "exceeding joyful" with Paul and learn to sing with our Paul Gerhardt:

Why should cross and trial grieve me?

Christ is near With His cheer; .

Never will He leave me!

Who can rob me of the heaven

That God's Son For my own

To my faith hath given?

Nor my dear hearers, should the fact that you feel so cold, dead, and sated restrain you from accepting the blessed miracle of Christmas with your whole heart. Bear in mind, Christ Jesus is such miraculous food which not only satisfies but also makes the sated hungry when they eat, and such miraculous drink which not only quenches thirst but makes him thirsty who drinks. Yes, Christ is such bread which not only nourishes the living but also gives life to the dead. Christ himself say: "I am that bread of life, which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world." Jn 6,48.23.

Finally my friends, do not let your sins restrain you from joyfully accepting the blessed miracle of Christmas, even if your sins are ever so great and ever so many, even if you have turned your back to God for ever so long and dedicated yourself to serve the world, even though you may have fallen ever so often. Bear in mind "Christ Jesus," according to our text, "came into the world," not to save the righteous, the upright, the saints, and the faithful, not even to save the small sinner but, as our text says, to save "SINNERS", that is, all sinners, the great as well as the small, the old as well as the young, the poor as well as the rich, yes, to save even those who like Paul before his conversion, had been a fearful persecutor of the Church of God and thereby of Christ himself. The sicker,the more miserable, emaciated, and ugly a child is, the more his mother' heart breaks' when he cries; the more miserable a sinner you are, the more your Savior's heart breaks over you if you came to his manger in tears.


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Well then, my dear hearers, go home joyfully and when you enter your room, imagine that your little room has become Bethlehem's manger in which Jesus lies, and let him be and remain your guest from today until your death. Whenever you run an errand, imagine that you are walking the fields of Bethlehem, where the heavenly host praised God and where the angel of the Lord says to you: Unto you is born the Savior of sinners. Yes, may Jesus from today on be the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, the One and the All, until he no longer lives with you in the vale of tears, but you with him in his heavenly mansions, where you will drink deeply from the sea of his love forever and ever. Oh, that we were there! Amen.

SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS    Galatians 4:1-7    TOP     (German, Archive)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus!

This, the last day of the old year, is an important day in our lives. Today we, as it were, stand at the border of two great areas, through which the way of our life, the way to salvation, leads us; today we leave the one forever because we have traversed it and we cannot return to it; what's gone is gone;and almost expectantly we enter into the other as into a completely unknown land.

Can we let this day pass, can we take this important step and enter into the new year without casting a glance back into the past? Impossible; to do that we would deny that we are Christians, yes, that we are thinking human beings.

If we today do cast a glance back, what do we see? If we cast a glance at what God has done for us, we see nothing but evidences of his goodness, his love, his mercy, his forbearance, his patience, and we must recognize that we owe him thanks, praise, and glory. Recall how much we and our needed during the past year in the way of food, clothing, and shelter! And behold! the Lord saw to it that we did not lack these necessities; yes, he has led us into this beautiful, blessed land and most of us can say that he has thrown a surplus our way. With Paul we must say: "Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." Acts 14,17.

Recall the many dangers to which we were exposed the whole year! How many different kinds of danger could have befallen all the members of our body and all the powers of our soul! But behold! He bore us away from all danger as on wings of an eagle; he was at our side when we were awake, and he watched when we slept; his eye was continually open upon us; he showed that he was the Keeper of Israel. Yes, with pious David we must exclaim: "Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.  For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favor is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." Ps 30,4.5.


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And when we think of the many millions who did not hear the Word of grace in the past, but how richly God permitted it to be preached to us; in how friendly a way he offered his grace to us anew, showed us the way to heaven« and invited us into his blessed kingdom, must we not exclaim: Lord how can we repay you for all the mercy and truth which you have shown us?

Dear Father, endless praise I render For- soul and body strangely joined;

I praise Thee, Guardian kind and tender,

For all the noble joys I find So richly spread on ev’ry side And freely for my use supplied. (243,2)

My dear hearers, what do we see when we glance back to see what we have done? Which commandment have we kept perfectly? Which day did we not sin? For which gift did we thank God perfectly and then used it as the heavenly Giver wanted us to use it? For which deliverance from trouble have we perfectly praised God? Which oath did we keep perfectly? Which sermon,or admonition to repent, or enticement to believe, or encouragement to sanctification did we comply with perfectly? Where is the love with which we should have perfectly loved him who first loved us?

Alas, in the face of all these questions do we not have to lower our eyes in shame before the most holy God, smite our breast, and say with the publican : "God be merciful to me a sinner!" and sigh with David: "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand"? Ps 130,3. "Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified" Ps 143,2. "O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces"? Dan 7,9. Yes, my friends, the most ardent thanks and the deepest humility, these are the two things to which a backward glance over the past year calls us. Let no one exclude himself from doing this; it applies to you and to me; it means us all.

If only we would all do that; if only we would all close this year as reconciled children of the heavenly Father; only he who can do that can end the year in a truly blessed and happy way. Today's Epistle reminds us of that.

Quote the text here: Galatians 4,1-7.

In this Epistle the Apostle Paul reminds the Galatians of the great grace shown them when they became God's children through Christ. Let-;me· take this occasion to show you:

HOW BLESSED THEY ARE WHO TODAY CAN CLOSE THE OLD YEAR AS GOD'S CHILDREN

Let me show you two things:

1.  What Makes One a Child of God, and

2.  How Blessed He is Who Today Can End the Old Year as God's Child.

Oh God, what love you have shown us, that we should be called your children! Let us rightly recognize your love; recognize the inexpressibly great honor to which you want to raise us, recognize the unending blessedness which you which to give us! May we forsake and forget the world's illusory honor and joy and be satisfied in being and remaining your children. To that end bless also today's preaching of your holy Word for the sake of your eternal Fatherly love. Amen.


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I.

Of the many different kinds of false doctrine preached and taught for a half a hundred years in the churches and schools of Germany, one of the most ruinous is this: in the time before Christ people always thought of God as an angry Being; then Christ finally came and taught people that God is the Father of all men and all men are his dear children.

A double error lies in this teaching.

It is not true that Christ was the first to picture God as a loving Father, and that in the books of the Old Testament God is described only as an angry Being. Moses spoke this way to the Israelites: "Is he (namely God) not thy Father?" Dt 32,6; and Isaiah says.: "Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not; thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer; thy name is from everlasting." Is 63,16. David: "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." Ps 103,13. And God himself says in Malachi: "A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master; if then I be a Father, where is mine honor? and if I be a Master, where is my fear?" Mai 1,6.

Though it is wrong to say that in the Old Testament God is not described as a father, it is just as wrong to claim that according to the Old Testament no person was a child of God, whereas according to Christ's teaching God is the Father of all men and all men are his children.

What the true teaching really is we learn from our today's Epistle. It begins: "Now I say, that the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world." Vv. 1-3. According to our text, the believers of the Old Covenant were children of God, but, as it were, still minors. Although minors by the last will of their father are his heirs, they are not yet free to dispose of their inheritance, but are under the control of a guardian, who does not treat them as though they were children but servants; so also the believers of the Old Covenant were children and heirs of the promise given to their father Abraham, but the Law of Moses, which God had laid upon them was, as it were, a guardian placed over them, which stopped them from making free use of their inheritance. What happened in the New Testament times? Our text says something of this also, when it continues: "But when the

fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." Vv. 4.5.

We see from this that Christ did not, as the rationalists of our day teach, come into the world to reveal to men that they are God's children; on the contrary, he came first of all to earn for them the right of divine adoption, and also secondly, to redeem them from the former guardianship of the Law.

Indeed, according to God's Word there was a time when all men were God's children; all shared the divine nature; they bore the image of their heavenly Father in themselves, had God's mind, and were filled with the Holy Spirit. This was when men were still in paradise in the state of innocence.

But man fell into sin, lost God's image, the divine nature, the divine mind, the Spirit of God, his implanted holiness and righteousness. No person is now born as God's child, but is a child of sin, a child of darkness, or, as Paul


Sunday after Christmas        42

writes, a child of wrath, death, hell, and damnation.

In unfathomable mercy God had decreed from eternity to make us fallen degenerated creatures his children again. If this was to take place, sin had to be·erased, and we would have to share again not only in divine grace, but also in the divine nature. God therefore sent his only begotten Son into the world, had him become a man, through him erased our sins, and now makes all who believe on his Son share in his divine nature, gives them his Holy Spirit, and renews them to his image.

You see from this that while the number of the children of men in this world is great, the number of God1s children is proportionately small. For who is a child of God?

Only he is a child of God who has experienced a double birth, not only the physical birth but also a spiritual one. Christ therefore says: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." John 3,5.

Only he is a child of God whom God has not only created as other men are, but also begotten. James therefore writes: "Of his own will begat he us with the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures James 1,18.

Only he is a child of God, who not only has the light of natural reason but also another, a higher, divine, heavenly light, which has entered into his soul from above. St. Paul therefore says of the children of God: "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." Ephesians 5,8.

Moreover, only he is God's child who has a twofold life, a natural and a supernatural life; according .to his natural life he lives on earth, according to his supernatural life his walk, is in heaven; according to his natural life he is related to men, father and mother, but according to his supernatural life he is related to Jesus Christ. In the name of all of God's children Paul therefore

writes: "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." Galatians 2,20.

Moreover, a child of God is one who is nourished by two kinds of food; his physical nourishment is food and drink, and his spiritual nourishment is God’s Word and the Sacraments. Peter writes: "Desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby." 1. Peter 2,2.

Only he is God's child who has a double spirit, the spirit implanted in him and the Holy Spirit. The apostle therefore writes: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" L Cor 3,16.

Finally, only he is a child of God who can no longer deliberately and knowingly sin as long as hp is God’s child; John therefore writes: "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin·; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” 1 John 3,9.

Whoever is God’s child is called that not only in a figurative sense, nor because/God loves him as a father and he loves God as a child; no, then he would only seem to be God’s child and God only seem to be his Father; but God’s children are really what their name expresses.

God’s children are amazing! They are a riddle, a mystery to the world. The world looks only at external things, does not know them, knows still less how


Sunday after Christmas        43

to value them, despises them even more as people about whom God is the least concerned. But in the eyes of the angels, God’s children are an object of great amazement.

II.

Let us therefore in the second place ponder, how blessed they are who today can close the old year as a child of God.

Our text closes with the following words: "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ." Vv. 6.7.

With these words the Apostle Paul indicates only two important points, which point out the extremely blessed state of God's children. One concerns this life, the other the life to come. Their great joy is this world consists chiefly in the fact that, free of all slavish fear of God, they possess childlike confidence in God as their gracious God and loving heavenly Father. In the world to come their great joy consists in the fact that they will be endowed with the perfect enjoyment of their inheritance which their great, glorious God has provided, namely eternal life.

In order that the lot of God's child in his glory be seen in the right perspective, let us compare his lot with one who today closes the year without being God's child.

Whoever is not God's child today is a most miserable person; the good things of the past are gone whereas the evil of the past has remained with him. With a child of God the very opposite is true today; the evil has gone and the good remains.

If anyone is not God's child he does not have a gracious God. God does not love him as a father; God has no pleasure in him; yes, God must hate him as his foe. Therefore if he does not wish to begin the new year under God's wrath, he must repent. On the other hand, if you are God's child, you need not seek God's grace; God is highly pleased with you; what the heavenly Father said about Christ applies in a certain sense also to you: Behold, you are my dear son, you are my dear daughter, in whom I am well pleased.

If anyone is not God's child, he does not have the forgiveness of his sins; they still lie upon his conscience like a heavy burden; they exclude him from heaven; they condemn him. On the other hand, if anyone is God's child, he need not seek forgiveness; he has it. He balances accounts with God, and behold! he finds that everything which he owed God has been paid for by Christ, his Savior.

If anyone is not God's child, the entire past year is a year lost forever ; he knows for certain that he will never again find this period in eternity. On the other hand, if anyone is God’s child today, the past year was a time of sowing for which God has promised an eternal harvest in the world to come.

If anyone is not God's child, all the experiences of the past year, all the sorrows, all the joys have been in vain; in vain has God knocked; his heart has not become softer but harder, not more open but more tightly closed. On the other hand, if anyone is God's child, he takes a great treasure of experiences into the new year.


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If anyone is not God's child, he must become terrified when he thinks that he has again come considerably closer to eternity; for with eternity the judgment, the sentence of damnation, the final eternal rejection from God has come closer. But whoever is God's child can only rejoice that he has drawn closer to eternity; for when eternity draws closer the final complete redemption from all evil, yes heaven with all its blessedness also approaches. Yes who is able to describe the blessedness of those who are God's heirs? What kind of glory does the inheritance of the rich Father in heaven comprise?

What does it therefore matter to God’s child if he lives in the lowest station of life? He is nevertheless in the highest a man can attain. What does it matter to God's child, if he possesses little of this world's goods? He is nevertheless so rich, that no one can reckon up nor imagine his wealth. What does it matter to God's child if even his father and mother have died? He can say with David: "When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." Ps 27,10. Even if God's child seems to be forsaken, rejected, all

heaven, the holy angels, and the Holy Trinity have their eyes on him.

If anyone today is not God's child, this is true of him: "All's evil that ends evil." Though the past year may have brought him the richest blessings, they will be turned into a curse because he did not end the year in God's grace. On the other hand, if anyone is God's child, this is true of him: "All's well that ends well." He may have had many evil days in the past year, but because he ends the year in God's grace, it means: The world thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good for me.

So, then, rejoice, you who are closing this year today as God's children! See what blessed people you are! Erect a memorial today in your heart; on the one side write: "The Lord hath helped us hitherto. Hallelujah!" and on the other: "He will continue to help. This is most certainly true."

But you, whose conscience says, that you are not God's reborn children, do not close this year in your tragic condition' A few precious hours still remain; use the few remaining hours of the old year for that very purpose; do not squander the remainder of this year of grace, which you have so far wasted, with the world which forgets about God. Look back over it with shame and bitter regret; happy will you then bei As the Lord in the parable of the vineyard hired even in the eleventh hour those who were idle in the market-place the whole day, and as he called them in to give them their pay, so God is still ready out of grace for Christ's sake to give you even in the last remaining hours of this year that very blessing which he had offered you before in vain.

Oh may we all end this year as God's children; may we awaken in the morning as God's children and thereafter walk as God's children until the Lord will call us home; we will then also come to the full enjoyment of our imperishable and unspotted and unfading inheritance which is kept for us in heaven above, through Jesus Christ. Amen.


SYLVESTER EVE    Genesis 32:10    TOP                45     (German, Archive)

Eternal God, another year of our time here upon earth is drawing to a close. You have given us this year also as a field from which we are to reap an eternal harvest. If we have used it to sow for the heavenly harvest, happy are we! If we have neglected it, then alas! woe is us! No tears of regret can recall the year lying behind us. What's done is done. The year is lost.

But not! the year is not yet completely gone; there is still one hour left. Oh gracious, patient, long-suffering God grant that none of us will lose this last, precious hour; let it become an hour of grace which engulfs all the sins of the past year and turns it into a blessed year of salvation. You did not reject even the malefactor on the cross, who turned to your grace in the last hour of his life but you accepted him. Oh then do not reject us, who flee to your grace in the last hour of this year, and accept us also. We will thank you for it throughout the new year, live a different life, and give our hearts completely to you until we are finally in heaven with you, where time ceases, but where there is fullness of joy and pleasures at your right hand for evermore. Amen.

Quote the text here: Genesis 32,10.

Beloved in the Lord.

To arrange for an earnest preparatory service before celebrating a festival of joy is an old Christian custom. Whenever a festival neared, the old Church was accustomed to gather the evening before, and fasting, praying, and singing, watch throughout the whole night. Before one of the so-called high festivals they even set aside several weeks in order to prepare for the festival . Our Advent and Lenten services originate from that custom. The old Church was of the opinion that one could reap the full blessings of such a festival only if it was preceded by a period of earnest penitential exercises.

Undoubtedly they were perfectly correct in this opinion. As the true living faith proceeds only from true repentance, so spiritual joy arises only from spiritual sorrow. "The full soul," says Solomon, "loatheth an honeycomb." Prov 27,7a. It is therefore not surprising that our most glorious festivals so seldom leave behind a lasting impression. Filled with joy in the empty things of this world, or burdened with earthly cares, or with a soul already filled, they appear at divine services and hence they remain cold to the preaching of the great deeds of God, or they experience a joy which after they leave God's house quickly dies out like a fire of straw. On the other hand, when the Christians of olden times in the period of their first love sighed and wept with crushed heart throughout the night in a service during which they prepared themselves, and on bended knee had humbly and ardently sung the Kyrie Eleison, the Christmas message the next morning: "Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy," or the Easter message: "The Lord is risen! Hallelujah!"

made an entirely different impression. It filled the heart with heavenly joy.

Well, then, since a new year of grace opens its gates tomorrow, and since it is at the same time a festival of joy, permit me during this blessed evening hour as our preparation for it to present to you on the basis of the text just read:

THE GOD-PLEASING WAY TO END THE YEAR

It consists of two parts:


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1.  In a Person's Earnest Repentant Judging of Himself, and

2.  In a Confident Fleeing for Refuge to Gods Mercy and Faithfulness.

I.

When Jacob had finally come to the borders of his homeland, after a twenty-year absence in a foreign country, he suddenly stopped, and, before he crossed the boundary line, he in spirit looked back; and after everything which he had done and experienced in the last twenty years had passed by in review, his heart deeply moved, he exclaimed: "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant.11 The first thing which he did at the end of his journey home was to take an earnest, repentant accounting of himself. Since he wished to know only the "mercy and truth" which he had experienced, he confessed that he had nothing of which to boast before God, Really all the blessings which had come to him were completely undeserved. When at the same time he testified that he was unworthy of the least of all mercies and truth, he also confessed that he deserved only God1s wrath and curse rather than grace and blessing; if God wanted to enter into judgment with him, he would be right in rejecting him for time and eternity.

My friends, there you see the first part of ending the year in a God- pleasing way! That is done by earnestly, repentantly judgment oneself.

Of course, only a few believe that this is true. After most have spent the whole year "as a tale that is· told," as Psalm 90 says, either they close it in dumb indifference, without even thinking of the important change in their time of grace, or they deem a Sylvester Eve spent in intoxicating the sensed as the only way to end the year; in the last hours of the old year they think Only of once more emptying the foaming cup of joy to the very last drop. The Book of Wisdom introduces such as saying: "Come on, let us have a high old time, as long as it is here, and use our body while it is still young. We will drink the best wines and use the best ointments; let us not miss the blossoms of May; let us wear the wreaths of fresh roses, before they wither. Let us all be sparkling gay that men everywhere may see, that we are happy. This is all we'll get out of life." Thus the children of this world; drunk with joy, playing, dancing, laughing, and joking, stagger from the old year into the new.

Undoubtedly you yourselves will say that this is not the God-pleasing way to close the year; your very presence in the house of the Lord in this last hour proves that. You will all admit: if God ever did, then in this hour he calls in warning to all children of the world: Stop a moment and think who you are; remember that your will, which loves the world's vanities, which clings to the world, will mislead you at last.

When in their life's journey they have come to the beginning of a new year, not only those who obviously are children of this world, but also those who are not and wish to pass for Christians, have compelling reasons for pausing with Jacob and joining in his confession: "I am not worthy of the least of all

the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant."

Those who do not belong to the out-and-out children of the world fall into two classes; either they are not yet true Christians in spite of appearances, or they actually are.


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What must you do in these last hours of the year who in the past year associated with and passed for Christians, but still remained unchanged and unconverted? Oh, do not think that you keep the end of the year in a God-pleasing way because you take part in our Sylvester Eve service and join in Jacob's confession with your mouth: "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant." That does not dispose of the matter.

Only he can say these words without hypocrisy who earnestly, repentantly judges himself. You should above all bear in mind what a fearful debt you have placed upon your conscience in again passing an entire year in your unconverted state; in the year gone by God had knocked countless times upon your heart and called you to repent but you did not open your heart to him. Today you should think of that fire which according to Scripture is not quenched and of that worm which does not die. This thought should practically frighten you to death.

Or, do you wish to let even this closing hour of the year, which God has still given you,expire without quickly repenting? Would it not be frightful to slip into the new year with your unforgiven sins and awaken tomorrow burdened with God's wrath? Would it not be blasphemy to want to wait until that hour when God will say: I am tired of showing you mercy? Oh, be not deceived, God is not mocked. Oh, "today, today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." Heb. 3,7.8 . "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Eph 5,14.

However, not only hypocrites but also true Christians close the year in a God-pleasing way only if they have with Jacob earnestly, repentantly judged themselves.

Shouldn't a baptized Christian live in daily repentance? Shouldn't he end each day with true repentance and humility before God? When does a Christian have a greater reason to open his account book, balance his accounts with God, and truly repent than when he comes to the end of the year?

Or is it that you Christians do not know of what you should repent? Well, then, permit me in this last hour of the old year now quickly drawing to its close to remind you of only one thing. One's Christianity does not stand still. If one has not gone ahead, one has gone backwards. And what do you find if you examine yourself?

I ask you: Is your faith more mature and more active in love in this past year than in the previous year? Has your love to God become more ardent and your love to your neighbor and your brethren purer and more unselfish? Has your humility over against God and men and your submission to God's providence become more sincere? Have you become better acquainted with your sinful failings in the past year? do you more bitterly regret and deplore them, more earnestly battle against them, and are you more often the victor than formerly?  Have you become more zealous in the use of the means of grace and prayer in the house of the Lord as well as in your family circle and in the quiet of your chamber? Have you learned in the past year to guard your heart and mouth better, think or speak no evil of your brother? Have you in the past year freed yourself more from the love of earthly things and become more heavenly minded? In your earthly calling, in your business and business deals have you become more faithful, honest and honorable? Have you become more concerned not to sin against your conscience, not to act like the world, and give none offense?

If you must answer no to these questions, you have gone backwards in your Christianity; you are on the downgrade; if you do not arouse yourself it will threaten you with apostasy.


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Alas, my brethren, who of us can answer yes to all these question? I fear only one — a blinded hypocrite. What are Christians to do, in order that they can end the year in a God-pleasing way? Repent, heartily repent.

II.

When in his journey the patriarch Jacob came to the borders of his homeland, he not only sat in earnest judgment upon himself, but he also took refuge in God' s mercy and faithfulness. Therefore taking refuge in firm faith in God's mercy and faithfulness which is in Christ Jesus is also a most important part of closing the year in a God-pleasing way. Permit me in the second place to add a few words about this.

Yes, my friends, it is true that an honest penitent is not satisfied with a fleeting emotion; but it is just as true that without faith the most earnest regret is in vain, as another hymn says, it helps the unbelieving sinner not as all

"E’en though in his great grief He shed a sea of tears."

When God in his Word commands us to perceive the host, greatness, and abominableness of our sins, he does not do that to have us despair, or have us' struggle with and wait for God for a long time until he is gracious; it is our God's intention that the moment we are frightened over our sins we should in firm faith flee for refuge to his grace, mercy, and faithfulness in Christ Jesus, which has already been won for us. The moment fallen David said with a crushed heart to Nathan: "I have sinned against the Lord," the prophet in turn said to him: "The Lord hath also put away thy sin; thou shalt not die." 2 Sam 12,13.  The moment the sinful woman drew near to Christ, wet his feet with her tears of repentance, and dried them with her hair, Christ immediately uttered the sweet words: "Thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace." Lk 7,48.50. The moment the trembling jailer, who wanted to commit suicide, replied to Paul's warning call: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" he received the answer: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Acts 16,30.31.

If someone here, who has lived through the old year as a manifest child of the world, or as a hypocrite and is now heartily terrified, let him not think that the year 1877 must be eternally lost to him, that he must today go to bed with unforgiven sins and begin the new year tomorrow burdened with God's wrath. No, no my dear hearer; if you have spent this year in sins and vanities, if, you have even gone so far as to ridicule Christianity, repentance, and conversion]] or, if you only acted like a Christian but secretly served this or that sin, or if you were not serious about your Christianity, then know this: Your Savior is here at the end of the year and says to you: Soon the bell, which announces the end of the old year, will strike; oh, come quickly to me before it strikes; only come as a poor sinner and I will have mercy on you; for "him that cometh unto: me",no matter who he may be, and if he were the greatest of all sinners, "I will in no wise cast out." Oh, my dear hearer, accept this friendly invitation of your God and Savior! Flee, my poor sinner, flee confidently to God's mercy and faithfulness in Christ Jesus, and God will remove the burden of your sins; and today there will be joy over you in heaven among the angels of God; and though you may have squandered all the rest of the year 1877, it will still be the most blessed year of your whole life; it will be the year of your spiritual birth; and when the next dawn opens the go1den gates of the new year, you will greet it joyfully as a pardoned child of God.


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But you, my dear Christians, who can say to Christ with Simon Peter: "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee," Jn 21,17 but who must complain in looking back over the past year with tears in your eyes: This is my pain, this vexes me, that I can not love you the way I want to love you, oh, do not be satisfied with this complaint with this complaint of your unfaithfulness. See, now that you have in this hour come to the close of the old year, your Jesus has come once again to you in his Word, as he came to Jacob when he had come to the borders of his father's country. Do as Jacob did; fall on your knees; seize the Lord with the arms of faith; hold him fast and say to him: "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me: with grace and the forgiveness of my sins. Gen 32,26. He will then bless you and this church will this night become your Peniel and your soul will be the mend. What a blessed, what a God-pleasing way to end the year!

Now my friends, only a few minutes remain; when these are gone, the sun according to God's promise will once again travel its orbit around the earth and our bells will loudly announce the coming of new year of grace. May then every member of our congregation, when he hears their sound, honestly say with Jacob from the depths of his heart: "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant." Amen.

NEW YEAR'S DAY    Galatians 3:23-29    TOP     (German, Archive)

Oh God of grace, by your faithful guidance we today begin another year of grace. If we look back over the past year, lo and behold, our eyes see nothing but changes; we see changes in the kingdom of the world, changes in the thoughts of nations, changes in our country and city, changes in the aspect of your Church, changes in our congregation, changes in the destiny of our life, changes in the disposition of our heart; you alone, oh God, have not changed as all things did; even in the past year you alone have remained as you are and as you were from eternity, God from of old, a God who with almighty hands has preserved a world in convulsions, an all-wise God who turns everything to our good and carries out everything gloriously, a righteous God who has carried out his threats against the transgressors, a good God who has daily and richly provided for all his creatures who looked to him, a gracious God who searched for the sinner and bore him patiently, a faithful God who has kept all his promises, a merciful God who has heard the cries of the distressed, took care of their misery like a father, dried their tears, and delivered them from the pains of death.

Oh God, what shall we do today? What are to do after we have come here in your sanctuary? In Spirit we cast ourselves down before your throne and, deeply moved, cry: Praise, thanks, glory, and honor be to you, oh Most High! Heaven and earth must praise you; all the world must praise you; all nations must praise you; city and state must praise you; your whole Church must praise you; our congregation, its preacher and elders, its teachers and pupils, its parents and children, its young men and women, its poor and rich, its wretched and fortunate, our churches and schools, our homes and families must praise you. Today and always our heart and mouth must be full of your praise, the entire year a year of praise to you, and every day and hour of this new year a day and hour of glory to you. Oh Lord, help us, yes, help us to do that and may all


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things prosper. Amen! In Jesus' name, amen!

Dear friends in Christ Jesus!

If it were my task to get your hearts to sigh, your eyes to weep, and your lips to utter words of lamentation, today, the first day of the new year, would be the easiest day for me to do that. What sort of a year was the last year which with the sound of the last gong silently and quickly departed from us yesterday? Alas, we will never forget the year 1849, the year of misery and tears. As a sad reminder it has built entire rows of graves beneath which our dear ones sleep, thus wounding us it has chiseled its remembrance into our hearts. Here are parents from whom the past year has torn dear children; here are husbands from whom it tore their dear wife like a crown snatched from one’s head; here are widows who lie prostrate like the vine, from whom it robbed their dear husband who was their support; here are lonesome forsaken orphans, for father and mother have left them; here a brother mourns over a sister, there a sister over a brother; everywhere friends mourn over friends.

Even a year ago the outlook was gloomy. We saw then the severe storm of God’s wrath gather over the secure world and over our heads as well. Soon the forerunners of universal misery arrived in our new fatherland also. A deadly epidemic, God's angel of vengeance, with a bloody sword had already landed on our shores. Oh, how anxious we were because of the baptism of suffering with which we were to be baptized until it had run its course! Oh, how we then needed the comforting words: "Be not afraid!" in order that we might not despair!

And what happened? That of which we were afraid came to pass. Scarcely had the first buds of spring opened when deaths the king of terrors, entered our city. No one had seen him enter but alas, he soon made us and all inhabitants of the city only too aware of his arrival. In short order we saw along all streets and alleys silent funeral processions going slowing toward the cemeteries; from now on each new day brought us new reports of affliction. Today we would greet a friend and brother who was the picture of health, and the next we would follow his coffin to God's acre. No matter where we went, we heard the cry of pain and the groans and death rattle of those wrestling with death. Soon the entire city was a huge mortuary and our congregation had become one large sorrowing family.

And it was not enough that death was striking right and left; scarcely had he begun to cut down the inhabitants of our city and congregation when fire took up the battle against our city, made a great number of poor and rich homeless in a few hours, destroyed all their earthly possessions, and sent an uncounted number to a fearful grave, some in the very flames, some amid the smoking ruins of collapsing buildings.

Well my friends, what should we do at the close of a year of sorrow and terror, and at the beginning of a new one during which the scenes of trouble through which we lived could very well be repeated? Shall we appear before God with an offering of tears and sighs?

If a year ago at the approach of the misery which now, came I said to you: "Be not afraid!" I today, now that this misery lies behind us, call to you: "Praise, oh praise God!" If only I could today turn your hearts into altars upon which you today and the entire year before us would day and night bring the sacrifice of praise to God! Let us pray for this in silent prayer as we, etc.

Quote the text here: Galatians 3, 23 - 29.

The last festival of the past year was a festival of praise and rightly so; and it is reasonable that the first one of the new year should also be a


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festival of praise. Of course, I can turn only to you who are Christians, for only you can praise God from your hearts; but perhaps God may graciously grant that, when all of you break forth in ardent prayer and praise to God, those who today still have a cold heart might also be incited to join you in praise. Permit me therefore to answer this question:

WHY CAN AND SHOULD CHRISTIANS BEGIN ALSO THE NEW YEAR WITH PRAISE TO GOD?

I answer:

1. Because in Looking Back Over the Past Year They Find Only Reasons to Praise God, and,

2.  Because in Looking Forward to the Coming Year They Find Only Subjects to.Praise God.

I.

That those of us who do not have faith can not praise God for the past year, yes, that some of them certainly do not want to praise God even once, that dare not surprise us. The temporal blessings which they enjoyed every day they consider things which God owed them and which there therefore not worthy of

thanks. The spiritual blessings, which God would have given them gladly, they did not accept. They experienced only pain from the trouble which befell them, but of the blessings which God intended to give them through their troubles they know nothing.

Therefore many will today say in their hearts: I can not praise God for the past year; I went through a hard, difficult year, which brought me more suffering than joy, more tears than laughter. How can I praise God since my dear wife died? The joy of my life lies buried with her! How can I praise God since my dear husband died? I lost my provider. I can just manage to live as a poor forsaken widow! How can I praise God since my dearest child died? My hopes for this life have faded forever!

And now? Do you Christians also suppose that you have no cause for praising God, when you glance back over the past year? Oh, that is impossible! In retrospect you find only reasons for praising God.

You, of course, know that even you were not worthy of the smallest blessing. Do you therefore know where you should begin your praise and where to end, when you think only of the temporal blessings you have received? For every hour of health you enjoyed; for every bite of bread with which you satisfied your hunger; for every breath you have drawn; for every beat of your heart; for each garment you wear; for every sound member of your body which God has preserved for you; for every night's sleep which refreshed you; for every step you took without accident; for every ray of sunshine; for every sound; for every bit of strength to do your work; for every joy you experienced; for all the protection which your shelter afforded; for averting every evil which could have befallen you; for every deliverance from danger and distress — for all these blessings do you not owe God an eternal hymn of praise? But can you count up the blessings you enjoyed during only this past year? Oh, every day they were so many that they can not be reckoned, and at the end of the year they have been more than the hairs of your head, yes, more than the stars of the sky. Does it not therefore stand to reason that at the end of a year your heart should be full of praise to God?


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However my dear Christians, though these blessings which you have enjoyed in the past year are worthy subjects of praise, they are still the very least for which you have reason to praise God. The apostle Paul has written down the greatest in our today's Epistle. Listen to what he writes: "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There Is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Vv. 24-29.

In these words the apostle describes the Christians as having a glory at which even the angels must be amazed. To mention only one of them, he says that they no longer are under the discipline of the Law but under the Gospel of faith, that they are righteous before God, that they are God's children, that they have put on Christ, yes, that they are even God's heirs. And how can you thank God enough today that he permitted you to live through the past year as such a blessed person?

Think of the fact that in the past year millions have known of nothing but the doctrine of the Law. It plainly tells a man how he must be, but gives him no comfort when he sees that he is a sinner; it fills him with dread of God, the judgment, and eternity rather than hope for salvation.

You, on the other hand, have lived the past year not under the taskmaster of the Law but under the sound of the sweet Gospel of Christ, faith, and grace; daily have you drawn light, comfort, joy, power, rest, and peace from it; when the feeling of your misery oppressed you, it always cheered you; when the doubt of God's grace alarmed you, it always made you certain again; when you fell into error, it always called you back; every time God's loving heart was opened to you anew, every time heaven was opened anew, and every time your feeble, sick heart was refreshed anew with a foretaste of the heavenly eternal life. Tell me, can you praise God enough in eternity for that?

Bear in mind, also, that millions during the past year died burdened with unforgiven sins, God1s wrath, and displeasure; but you were righteous before God; your sins were forgiven daily and richly; your unfaithfulness God has covered. Oh what a host, what an army of sins were forgiven you!

Bear in mind, also, that in the past year millions took delight in the shadow of honor which they enjoyed among men because they knew of no greater honor; but you have enjoyed the greatest of all honor: You have lived as children of the Most High God; you could call him your Father who created heaven and earth and still preserves them; you were of a divine race; you were of heavenly nobility. Tell me, can you praise God enough in all eternity for that?

Bear in mind again that millions had only the wretched clothing which this world gave them for their body while their soul was naked in God's eyes; you, on the other hand, were clothed with the garment of the righteousness of God's Son, the drama of heaven, the amazement of angels, the pleasure of the heavenly Father. Oh, how will you praise God in eternity enough for that?

Finally, remember that during the past year millions have had no other goods but the wretched, perishable things of this world, which can fill no heart with peace, but which makes the poor yearning heart only the more empty the more a person wants to fill it with such things; but in the past year you have been God's heirs, heirs of his eternal riches, heirs of his incorruptible treasures,


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heirs of his salvation, heirs of his heaven. You lived as true kings and princes, and in comparison with you an unbelieving earthly king with all his purple, with all his glittering gold and silver, with all his sparkling jewels, with all his lands and kingdoms and thrones and crowns is a wretched beggar. Oh blessed the year during which a person lived as a pious Christian! It was a year of heavenly glory. Therefore praise God, praise him today you pious Christian, for he has done great things to you!

Yes, it is true that few of you have in the past year escaped receiving deep wounds through the loss of someone with whom you were related by the bonds of tender love. Though you may be moved today to lament the loss of your loved ones, dare these tears smother the praise which you today owe God?

When your loved ones died, has not death become an object of ridicule? Have they not left this arena in triumph? Did they not with dying lips confess and praise their Savior? Do we not therefore know that our loved ones, who have fallen asleep, have in the past year begun the eternal jubilee year in heaven?

Do we not know that with the choir of angels they are praising that eternal love which elected, redeemed, called, and finally took them up early into the kingdom of eternal glory?

Now they praise God in the church triumphant, and we, we want to bewail them in the church militant? Now they shout for joy and we want to grieve and lament? They sing "Hallelujah!"to the Lamb that he called them so soon to the heavenly wedding, to seeing God face to face, to perfect light, to full enjoyment, to complete glory, to perfect joy, to complete security, and we want to complain that they no longer live with us in the land of imperfection, sin, danger, misery, and distress?

No, no, that is the very reason why God fulfilled the promise in us, that thousands could fall at our side and ten thousand at our right hand, yet the arrows of the noisome pestilence would not strike us, in order that as living witnesses' of his faithfulness, as miracles of his preservation we might praise and glorify him in the vale of sorrow and tears. Come, then! Come! You pious Christians, stand still today and look back; survey once more the way you have traveled during the past year, and you will find only reasons to praise God. So then, do not remain silent, but praise, praise God with hearts and hands. Yes, say with me:

Praise, the Almighty, my soul, adore Him!

Yes, I will laud Him until death.

With songs and anthems I'll come before Him

As long as He doth give me breath.

From him my life and all things came;

Bless, O my soul, His holy name.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! (26,1)

II.

My friends, today faithful Christians can and should begin the new year with praising God, because looking into the coming year they again can find nothing but reasons to praise God.

The godless are amazed when they are told to praise God for a year already gone by, since they are happy that they have conquered it with its cares and disappointed hopes; but they are amazed even more, yes, they consider it foolishness, when asked to praise God in advance for a year that is still to come. They say: How can I praise God, since I can not know what I am going to meet up with? Who knows whether in the new year I will be more sick or more


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healthy, whether I will become richer or poorer, whether I will experience more good or more evil, whether I will have more pain or more joy, whether I will live or die.

That shows you how unhappy that man is who has no faith. Amid hie outward well-being he is like that man who sat at a banquet table, but over whose head hung a naked sword suspended by a single hair. He goes through this world like a blindfolded man and never knows from one second to the next whether his next step will plunge him into a pit of temporal or eternal misery. During the new year he is happy to enjoy the moment he has,for his heart tells him that the next is not his. The creed of such an unhappy person goes as follows:

I live and know not how long,

I die and know not when,

I depart and know not whither:

'I'm amazed I'm as glad as I am.

On the other hand, how blessed you faithful Christians are! You can reverse this motto and say:

I live and know well how long,

I die and know well when,

I depart and, praise God, I know well whither:

I'm amazed that I'm as sad as I am.

For all the wonderful things which our new year’s text promises pious Christians, and what you have already experienced in the old year as divine truth, all that is the precious unshakable foundation of your hope for the new year as well.

Yes, you faithful Christians can look into the future as little as the children of this world; but look into God's Word and with this telescope you look into the heart of your heavenly Father; there you also read your future. And what do you read? Nothing but things which invite you to praise God.

Yes, you do not know whether in the new year you will become poorer or richer; but this you know, that you will not lack the necessitates of life; for God says in his Word: "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek;) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." Mt 6,31-33.

Moreover, you do not know whether in the new year you will experience more suffering than joy; yet you know that you have a God, who is your Father, without whose will nothing can happen; even from eternity he has carefully considered all your suffering and joy; he is the Leader who holds you in his right hand and will lead you according to his counsel; he is the Keeper of faithful Israel, who does not slumber nor sleep when you sleep and whose eyes remain open when you have closed your; and the best thing is that your God is at the same time your merciful Savior, who wants to save you.

No matter what you will therefore experience in the new year, God will have thoughts of peace toward you in everything; God will never intend to do you evil; everything will be a way upon which God wants to lead you to salvation; everything, health or sickness, honor or disgrace, pain or joy, everything, everything will work together for your good, and though the burden which God will lay upon you will be great, he will help you bear it.

Nor do you know what temptations and tests of faith await you; but


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this you do know, that although your faith is weak, God will not extinguish the smoking flax nor break the bruised reed. Although your heart is fickle, God's covenant of grace stands eternally firm, for he has said: "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my. kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed." Is 54,10.

Yes, although looking to yourself you must completely despair of your perseverance, you nevertheless know that God will complete the good work in you, which he has begun until that day; and your Savior says; "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." Jn 10,27.28.

And finally, you do not know whether you will through the new year as you did the past one, or whether you will die; but you do know: "None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord; whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord's" Rom 14,7.8. If you live, you will live in faith and see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living; if you die, you will die reconciled with God and your death will be the end of all misery and the beginning of eternal glory.

Now my dear Christians, can you say: How can we praise God when we look into the future, because who will tell us what it will bring? Oh no! You do not face the future as you would an unknown world, about which you do not know whether you will find good or evil in it. You know which way God will lead you; whether it be. uphill or down, strewn with flowers or thorns, smooth or stony, through darkness or light, long or short, the kingdom through which he leads you is the kingdom of grace; its end is salvation.

So, confidently begin the journey with hymns of praise; and may those songs never cease until you finally with pure hearts and glorified lips praise, extol, and glorify your God and Savior with all the angels and elect from eternity to eternity. Amen.

EPIPHANY SUNDAY (1)   Isaiah 60:1-6.    TOP     (German, Archive)

Lord Jesus, it is your will that all men be helped and that all come to the knowledge of the truth. Therefore you not only graciously and enticingly call out: "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest....And ye shall find rest unto your souls," Mt 11,28.29c; not only have you given the precious promise: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me," Jn 12,32 but you also proved all this by your deeds. In order to redeem all men, you even became a man yourself, offered yourself on the cross for all, and after completing the redemption of all, you commanded your disciples: "Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." Mk 16,15. By your command you reveal that through men, your disciples, through believers, you want to call the lost world sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death; and that means through us. He therefore beseech you, give us a heart which ardently longs for the salvation of all men. Remove all indifference toward the spiritual distress in which unnumbered millions lie without knowing it, and kindle in us the fire of your Savior's love which seeks all


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sinners. To that end bless your Word in this hour for the sake of your eternal Savior's love. Amen.

Quote the text here: Isaiah 60, 1-6.

Mission work has always experienced much opposition.

As you know, the first and most bitter foes of mission work were the Jews. We see from the Book of Acts, that whenever the apostles wanted to preach the Gospel of Christ crucified to the heathen of any city, it was mostly the Jews who not only opposed it but who even tried to stir up bloody persecutions against the apostles. For that reason Paul writes to the Thessalonians: "For bidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway." 1 Thess 2,16.

Sad to say, even great numbers of heathen have shown themselves bitter foes of missions. Rather than opening wide their doors to the messengers of peace, many of the heathen rather received them as intruders. There always was only a small group which received in faith the Gospel preached to them. Either the majority of the heathen listeners spoke just like those Athenians after Paul's sermon: "What will this babbler say? He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods," Acts 17,18; or, they did not rest until they had removed those from the earth who had come to bring them salvation. And not only the apostles and the disciples of the apostles but also great numbers of those missionaries who later on followed in their footsteps had to seal their preaching of the blood of the reconciliation with their own blood. 1100 years ago even our German ancestors in East Frisia basely thanked the English missionary Winifred, also called Boniface, by clubbing him to death for the love with which he sought them out.

If only the last of the foes of missions had died centuries ago! If only they were found only among the Jews and heathen! Would to God that we did not have enemies of mission work today and, of all things, have them even among Christians! When the fallen Christians of our day see how much is gathered for this cause, they cry out loudly, I say, they cry loudly: "What folly! Would this money not be used more wisely if it were given to the poor? But like Judas they say this hypocritically; rather than giving to the poor what they withhold from missions, these fallen Christians use this money to satisfy the lusts of their flesh. It is not pity to the poor which makes them foes of missions but their hatred toward Christ, against whom they cry out: "We don't want him to rule over us!"

So to be a Christian and not be a friend of missions, yes, even be an enemy of missions, is impossible. Our text for today shows us this. Since we today celebrate our yearly mission festival, permit me on the basis of our text to speak to you on

THE JOY TRUE BELIEVERS GET FROM MISSION WORK

We will ponder two points:

1.  How This Joy in the Work of Missions Lives in the Heart of Every Believer, and

2.  How This Joy Shows Itself in Deeds.


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I.

"Arise, shine! With these words Isaiah in our text speaks to believing Zion of his time. He calls upon them to rejoice. For by the cry, "Arise, shine!" he wants to say this: Come, Zion, rejoice! For as darkness is a picture of sorrow, so light is a picture of joy.

At the time of Isaiah the Church of the Old Covenant had a most miserable prospect for the future. We see this from Isaiah's first chapter, where the prophet even says: "The daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." Is 1,8.9.

How does Isaiah try to kindle the light of joy in the hearts of the smitten believers of his times? It is the prophecy that a time would soon come in which great numbers of heathen would be converted; in brief, the work of missions.

So according to our text, joy in mission work lives in every true believer.

At the same time, Isaiah also indicates the basis of this joy of the believer when he continues in our text; "For thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." Vv. 1b.2. The reason why true believers rejoice in the work of missions is according to our text the fact that they have experienced in themselves the enlightening and saving power of the Gospel.

And that is the way it is. A person who still does not have true faith is selfish; he rejoices only over the good things which he himself experiences. He asks nothing about his neighbor, least of all about his neighbor's salvation. At the most, a godless person is happy that he himself will be saved; he is indifferent as to whether others will be saved. An ' unbeliever speaks like Cain: "Am I my brother's keeper?"

But the moment a person comes to the true faith, a great change comes over him. From that moment on the rule of selfishness is broken and love for his neighbor is kindled in him; he wishes that all people might become as blessed as he is through faith.

For example, when David in true faith had come to the certainty of the forgiveness of his sins, he said to God: "Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee." Ps 51,13. In the first chapter of John's Gospel we read that when Andrew had found the Savior and had accepted him in’ faith, he immediately sought to bring to Christ his brother Simon, Peter; and when Philipp had known Jesus as the Messiah, he immediately led his friend Nathanael to him.

Whoever has come to the true faith faith can not possibly keep to himself the great treasure which he has found but must think: Oh, if only all other people would know how friendly Jesus is and how blessed the true Christian is! If a true believer must associate with one who is not in the faith, he is compelled to strike up a religious conversation with him, to awaken a concern for his soul in him, and to entice him to come to Christ; or, if he feels inadequate for that, he seeks to come him to go to church with him in order that he may learn how blessed he can be. He tries to give the unbeliever a Bible or other Christian literature. Above all, he who has come to faith tries to bring his own family to the faith, the believing man his unbelieving wife, and


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visa versa, the believing parents their children, the brothers their sisters, relatives their relatives, friends their friends, heads of a household their hired help, the teachers their pupils, one living in a home all the rest who live under the same roof, neighbors their neighbors.

But one who has come to faith does not stop with his neighbors; he wishes that his whole city, his entire country, yes, the whole world would be brought to Christ. He therefore gladly reads such periodicals from which he learns the times in God's kingdom, for whatever happens in God's kingdom he takes to heart. Those who have come to the true faith find it so difficult to be indifferent toward those who are still without God and die without their Savior; the newly converted can so very easily become obsessed with seeking the conversion of others that they forget about their own salvation. In short, the entire Christian Church is not only a congregation of people who have become happy people by true faith, but it is also a great mission institution founded by God himself; one might say that every congregation is a branch mission society instituted by God himself and every believer in its circle a missionary. Thus Peter says of all Christians: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that he should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." 1 Pet 2,9. We see that when the Church is in its prime, it zealously carries on mission work, and when the Church is on the decline its zeal for this holy work grows cold; then private mission societies arise among the few Christians remaining, as for example in Germany in our days.

What are the friends of missions so happy about? Isaiah indicates this in our text in the words: "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising. Lift up thines eyes round about, and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to thee; thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see. and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah." Vv. 3-6a. That mentions the subject of the great joy of believers in the work of missions; through this work so many lost souls who were created by God to eternal life and dearly redeemed by Christ are delivered from damnation and become just as blessed as they are; they rejoice that Christ's kingdom is constantly growing and all lands are more and more full of his glory.

Well my dear hearers, how do you rate? Does it leave you cold when you hear that countless millions still sit in darkness and in the shadow of death? Are you undisturbed that even in our adopted land thousands upon thousands are still dying in heathen blindness without God, Without their Savior, and without hope? Does your heart remain unmoved, when you hear that hundreds of thousands of poor negroes in our country have been freed from bodily slavery but that the greatest portion of them live in a much more terrible slavery, the slavery of the devil? Are you unconcerned that many of our religion who have emigrated here are going to spiritual ruin without a church and without a school? that they with their children become the prey of enthusiastic sects or sink back into out and out heathenism?

If you are still indifferent, you yourselves are spiritually dead; you do not have the true faith; selfishness still rules you. Then you are still like those who calmly watch how the flames destroy their brothers who cry for help in a burning house, or like those who do not move a hand to rescue their brethren wrestling with death in the torrents of a river but joyfully continue their feasting and heartlessly watch how the deep swallows up those unfortunates. Woe to you in all eternity, if you continue in such terrible lovelessness!


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The joy in mission work which lives in the hearts of true believers shows itself also in deeds. And permit me to speak to you about that.

II.

Our text concludes with the words: "All they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord." V. 6b. According to these words there are two deeds by which believers show their joy in the work of missions: first, by offering the necessary means to do that work, and second, by prayer and intercession.

In an amazing way God has arranged that certain earthly means are necessary to preserve and spread the spiritual kingdom of the Church, this kingdom of heaven on earth. As in the realm of nature God could preserve mankind without means, so he could also preserve and spread the Church without means; but as God wisely and lovingly preserves mankind only by means of food and drink, so he also wants to preserve and extend his Church on earth by certain earthly means, which men must offer. If an individual congregation wants to continue, it must at much expense train preachers and teachers, employ and support them, help erect seminaries, and build churches and schools; and if the Church as a whole wants to carry on mission work, it must likewise train missionaries and support them, often at great expense. Even this God has so ordered in great wisdom and love; not as though God needs man or his gold and silver (God says: "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine," Hag 2,9) but because God wants to let believers share in the glorious work of saving the sinful world; nor does he want to lay a heavy burden upon the believers but in order to make them his co-workers, to show them the greatest and highest honor which can be shown a poor mortal and sinful human being.

When all true believers are asked to sacrifice what our text~ "gold and incense" for the holy work of missions they do not therefore consider it a burden, which is being laid upon them, but an honor which is being shown them and not shown unbelievers. And because they can not go out as missionaries themselves in order to call the lost sheep to Christ, they bring their offerings of money with even greater joy that others are able to carry out the glorious work in their place.

We must also add that God wants to repay this sacrifice with a reward of grace in eternity. For all the heathen converted by the work of missions will on the day of recompense step before God's judgment throne and testify of all those who have sacrificed something for the work of their conversion and salvation. Then most gloriously will the word of the Lord be fulfilled: "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." Lk 16,9. There even the smallest gift brought in faith will become shining pearls and gems in the crown of eternal life, which the generous friends of missions will wear.

Though earthly means are ever so important and necessary in order to push mission work forward, they are not the chief thing by which believers prove their joy in missions by their deeds. The chief thing is and remains prayer. An unbeliever who has no heart for missions can also cast gold into the mission treasury; but he can not pray for it. Only a true believer can do that, and this he also does. Every time he prays the Lord's Prayer he in saying the second and Third Petition: "Hallowed by thy name," and, "Thy kingdom come," is praying that God's pure Word and his blessed kingdom would come to the heathen as well. Whenever he gives an offering for missions, he prays: Lord, bless


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this gift. He bears missionaries and all the affairs of missions on a praying heart and at times, especially in the quiet of his chamber, is moved by the Holy Ghost to kneel for this work also, call upon God, and "show forth his praises."

Now, my friends, how is your giving to missions and above all your intercessions for missions? If it has never occurred to you to pray for the conversion of others, your soul is in a sorry state; your first need is for a missionary for yourself.

But if you have done that a few times, if you must reproach your indolence, then be encouraged to do that. "Arise, shine!" applies not only to the believers of the Old Covenant but also for us New Testament Christians. In these last times God is opening ever more doors to his pure Word, The Lord has already done great things and has blessed our small amount of mission word above our prayers and understanding. Let us today rejoice over that and praise and glorify the name of the lord And may God continue to establish the work of our hands; yes, the work of our hands establish thou it. Amen.

EPIPHANY SUNDAY (2)     Isaiah 60:1-6.    TOP     (German, Archive)

Praised be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for you have come, a Light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of your people Israel; praised by to you, the Dayspring from on high; you have visited us, so that you have appeared to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death and direct our feet on the way of peace Arise over us also as the Sun of truth and grace through your Holy Gospel, so that we may learn to know you, believe in you, persevere in you until death, and some day see your glory in heaven in eternal joy. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

As we all know, today we celebrate the Christmas of the heathen. Without a doubt this festival should have a twofold character among us, a festival of thanks and a festival of prayer.

First of all, it should be a festival of the most sincere and purest thanks. For how can we, most of whom have descended from the heathen, ever thank God enough that he called us through the Gospel into his kingdom of grace and through Holy Baptism received us into his covenant of grace? Our German ancestors lived at one time in the most abominable idolatry; they prayed to the sun as the mother of all gods; that is why they called the first day of the week Sunday; they, as St, Paul says of the heathen, turned the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image and honored and served the creature more than the Creator, who is praised into all eternity. They stifled the voice of their conscience and made gods for themselves after the evil tendency of their heart. Of their own free will our ancestors left God’s people, had become a wild olive tree, and did not want to grow upon God’s field.

Our fathers and we with them therefore were aliens and outside the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenant of promise (Eph 2,12).  God had given the German people no promise which he had to keep, as he gave the Israelites. It was therefore God's unutterable, free grace and mercy, when Boniface appeared in the oak forests of Germany in the eighth century and preached


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about the Son of God who became a man also for them. But even more amazing is the grace which God permitted the Germans to experience later in the 16th Century, when he chose our fatherland to be the cradle of the Reformation. At that time God let the light of the Gospel shine among our father with such a brightness as had not been seen since the times of the apostles.

My friends, if German blood flows in our veins, should not every heartbeat today be a thanks for the incomparable grace which we Germans have received from God? that we wild olive branches were grafted into the good olive tree of the Jewish Church and cultivated as his dearest of all plants? Why did not God choose those millions in Asia and the wilds of Africa who still sit in heathen darkness and in the shadow of death instead of us? Why did God choose us who were in between and made us, strangers and foreigners, citizens with the saints and of God's household? We must exclaim with Paul: "God hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." 2 Tim 1,9. Oh, thank, thank the Lord, for he is good and his mercy endureth forever.

But, my friends, if we today on the Christmas of the heathen look about us in the inhabited world, might not our hearts weep bitterly, when we see the countless numbers for whom Christ's coming into the world still has been in vain, who according to an incomprehensible decree are either out and out idolaters or are captive of the lies of Mohammed? and when we also see that so many of God's chosen people in unaccountable blindness still are waiting for him who has already come?

That certainly should make this day truly a day of prayer, in which we most earnestly pray.; Lord, let thy kingdom come! Let it come to those who do not yet know your salvation; let the light of the Gospel arise upon them. See, the harvest is great, but the laborers are few; oh send faithful workers into your great harvest; send great hosts of faithful evangelists; heavenly Father, give the heathen as your Son's inheritance and the ends of the earth as his possession. "Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow at thy presence, as when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries." Is 64,1.2a.

Such an earnest prayer for the poor heathen should live continually, and most especially today, in the heart of a Christian.

And my friends, since a true concern for the deliverance of the heathen through the Gospel can in our hearts only when we ourselves have known and experienced the glory of the Gospel and its saving power, let the consideration of this glory be the subject of our today's devotion.

Quote the text here: Isaiah 60, 1 - 6.

The Jewish Church at the time of the prophet Isaiah was in sad circumstances. The number of believers had melted away to such an extent that Isaiah says in the first chapter: "And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom and we should have been like unto Gomorrah." Is 1,8.9. In the 6th chapter he compares Israel to an oak and a linden tree which have cast their leaves with only the trunk standing. And to this that the prophet had predicted that the people would be led captive into Babylon. All this had crushed the spirit of the few believers very much. In concern they asked: Is the promise of the


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blessing of all nations at an end? Do we hope in vain for its fulfilment? Out text contains a faith-strengthening answer. On its basis I present to you:

THE GLORIFICATION OF GOD THROUGH THE WORLD-WIDE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL

1. Through the Glorious Nature of This Preaching, and,

2. By Its Miraculous Spread Into All the Word.

I.

That God accepted fallen man and had his dear Son become man for them, that, my friends, is a doctrine which became known in heaven and on earth, a doctrine which no created spirit could have discovered; the teaching that all sinners who believe in the incarnate Son of God should be righteous and be eternally blessed; and this doctrine is called the Gospel, the good news.

Of course, this good news was preached in the time of the Old Covenant, yet the Law still prevailed; for by it hearts should be prepared to long for the coming of God's Son and then to hear the sweet Gospel in still greater clarity.

Isaiah prophecies of this New Testament time in our text says to the faithful little flock of the Old Covenant: "Arise, shine!" In the Old Testament the sitting in darkness signified the state of sorrow. Isaiah therefore means to say: You believers, why do you sit in care and sorrow? "Arise!" Get up you who lie in the dust, and leap and jump; why do you remain in the night of little faith and doubt? Why do you let your souls be darkened by the clouds of tribulation? "Shine!" that is, stop sorrowing and become joyful.

Isaiah now mentions the basis for his encouragement: "For thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." V. 1. See what a glorious description of the doctrine of the Gospel. Isaiah first of all compares it with the Law, which in the Old Testament times had been richly and clearly revealed. He wants to say: Yes, the Law is also a light, but only a light of the Lord; in the Gospel, however, your light comes, oh men, in which you can be joyful; yes, the Law is also full of the glory of the Lord; it reveals God's holiness and righteousness, but in the Gospel the glory of the Lord is risen upon you, that is, God will be glorious also in you, because he gives you in the Gospel his glorious treasures, righteousness, life, and salvation.

Therefore, if we want to rejoice in God's glory, we are not see it in the Law, but we must look for it in the Gospel. The Law does not proclaim joy but eternal sorrow; it does not show us how we can become righteous before God, but how unrighteous we are; the Law does not show us the way to salvation, but reveals to us that we are lost.

To be sure, the Law is necessary. We must first learn from it that we are sinners, otherwise we would not esteem the Savior; from its pages we must come to perceive the sickness of our soül, otherwise we would not ask for the heavenly Physician; from it we must learn to know God's earnestness and wrath over our sins and the greatness of our guilt, otherwise we would not seek our

refuge in Christ's reconciliation and payment.

But unhappy is he who remains with the Law, and seeks his righteousness in fulfilling the Law; unhappy is he who wants to appease the holy God with his imperfect good works and purchase salvation by himself. Such a person either just does not recognize how much the Law demands, for the Law demands infinitely more than we poor human beings can accomplish; or, when he learns to see into it, he must despair.


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When man was still in the state of innocence, he should and could be righteous before God and be saved by obeying the Law; but now that we all have fallen, it is impossible for us to come to God this way; now we are merely to be brought to the knowledge of our fall.

God has revealed a new doctrine, and this is the Gospel; it does not say: Do this, keep that, suffer that; but: Oh man, know that you have fallen and can not help yourself; what you could not do God has done; he sent his dear Son into the world for you; accept him as your Savior, you Mediator, your Intercessor; believe in him and your sins will be forgiven; in this way God will be your gracious God and you will be saved.

Oh "Arise!"; do not remain in your sins but confess them; do not despair, "shine," be happy, "for your light is come;" your Savior, who is the light of your joy, comes to you, "and the glory of the Lord," his grace, his righteousness, his heaven, "is risen upon thee." Accept Christ just as you are, in all your unworthiness, and he will give himself to you, as he is in all his grace and righteousness.

Oh glorious Gospel! Oh pardoned world, oh sinful world where this sermon dare resound! How gloriously are you visited! The Gospel is a doctrine which does not demand something from poor weak men, as does the Law, but offers all of them help for time and for eternity. The Gospel does not accuse men of being sinners, but immediately gives them Christ's righteousness in return. It does not impose a new burden but takes away the load. The Gospel does not demand that man be someone else, but only that he despair of his own power and accept the grace which makes him someone else. The Gospel makes the vale of tears on this world an annex of heaven, which it opens to us wherever we are. In short, the Gospel is the very teaching which we sinful and helpless men need.  Oh, blessed is he who has experienced it in his heart and still experiences it daily!

Isaiah continues in our text: "For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." V. 2. That is a powerful assertion. With these words the prophet declares that the Jews are the ones from whom all other nations must get light and wisdom. How could the prophet do that? In culture, in the arts and sciences, were not the Jews are behind many other nations? The Egyptians, Arabians, and Persians far excelled the Jews in science and astronomy; the Phoenicians surpassed them in business and shipbuilding, the Greeks and Romans in all the branches of worldly wisdom.

The prophet lets all this stand as learning for this world; he speaks of a wisdom which says what a person is, what his destiny is, how he stands with God, and how he can come to God; none of the worldly wise could answer these questions. When it comes right down to it, the greatest philosophers surmise that there is one God and that man also lives on after death, but even about that they could produce only a few weak convictions; the people stayed in their gross idolatry. The philosophers themselves did not know that man was created holy and good for salvation and communion with God, but that man fell; still less could they surmise how to return to God.

If the wisest man of antiquity could now hear one school child who has been given a Christian education speak about God, the destiny of man, and eternal life, he would be astounded; and if he would not resist it, he would joyfully find in it the answer to all his questions, at whose investigation he at one time fell into ever deeper darkness. In our text the prophet therefore calls everything night which is not Gospel;, he calls the time of the Old Testament the dawn, and the time of the New the time of the full day and says: "Be hold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee."


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Oh, what a glorious Gospel! Though it is always ridiculed by many, who wish to be the wisest, as darkness and enthusiasm, it still remains the only light of all people. Isaiah therefore continues: "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." V. 3. If the scoffers still have one truth, they have borrowed it from the Gospel; those who contemptuously look down on the revelation of the Bible will even now, as the learned Egyptians and people of the East, worship animals and the fire, or as the learned Greeks and Romans kneel and sacrifice before images of wood or marble, had not the light of Gospel, which they ridicule, risen upon them. You see, that is the way the moon mocks the sun for being so dark, the moon which receives its light only from something else.

Oh that God would open the eyes of all to see the wondrous glory of the gracious Gospel of Christ! They would recognize that even kings walk in its light, that all earthly glory is infinitely far outshone by the glory of the Gospel.

II.

My friends, Isaiah also proves that God is glorified through the Gospel by the quick way it spreads into all the world. And that is the second point to which we will direct our attention.

Our text is more of a living, prophetic picture than a talk; in all Holy Writ there is scarcely its equal. Isaiah lived 800 years before Christ, working in a time of one of the greatest declines of Jacob's family; and yet so little does he doubt the coming of the Promised One that he does not say: "Thy light will come," but he cries, as though he saw it dawning: "Thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee."

But even more! Before the prophetic eyes of this truly wise man the unknown future centuries open up, the curtain is drawn aside, and with clear eyes he looks beyond the birth of the Savior, yes, beyond his resurrection and ascension and calls to the little flock of believers: "Lift up thine eyes round about, and see; all they gather themselves together, they come to thee." V. 4. He means to say: I see the apostles of the Lord going out into all the world and millions of heathen are gathering themselves into the Church of Jesus Christ. He therefore continues: "Thy sons," the spiritual sons of the Church, "shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. The multitudes of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord." Vv. 4b-6.

And all this has been fulfilled in the most wonderful way. On the very first Pentecost thousands from all the regions of the world were won for Christ by Peter's sermon. However, among those who are converted Isaiah mentions first the hosts of the sea; if in the Old Testament only the sea is mentioned without further designation, it means the Mediterranean Sea, which borders not only on Palestine but which also washes the shores of three continents, Asia, Africa, and Europe. The Gospel also had won its first and greatest victories among the hosts of this sea; there worked St. Paul who filled all Asia Minor, Greece with its islands, and Italy with the Gospel, and as it seems also Spain, while Mark founded the African congregation, especially those in Egypt, by his sermons.

Now Isaiah adds; "The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromdaries of Midian and Ephah." He means to say: Also those who live where the


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camels live will accept the Gospel. They are especially the countries of the east and south, Persia and Arabia up to India in the east and Ethiopia in the south. Of the beginning of the Gospel in the eastern countries not only the wise men from the east bear witness who today in Bethlehem swore allegiance to the new-born King of heaven, and not only does the treasurer of Queen Candace of Ethiopia from the south, whom Philipp brought to faith and baptized, but church history reports that the Apostle Thomas preached Christ Crucified most to the Medes and Persians, and Bartholomew sealed his witness of Christ in India with his blood. It is also known that Matthias was the herald of the Gospel in southern Ethiopia, and that the great nation of Russia recognizes Andrew as their apostle in the northernmost country; he likewise confirmed his Evangelical preaching with a martyr's death on the cross at Patras in Achaea.

Thus at the death of the apostles they could point to what Isaiah once many centuries before had prophesied as being fulfilled before their very eyes: "Lift up thine eyes round about." on Church of the living God, "and see; all they" from the four corners of the earth "gather themselves together, they come to thee." v.4a, and fall before the Son of God who became a man.

Yes, that has happened. Where today are the boundaries of the kingdom of Jesus Christ? Which earthly ruler can point to as wide a kingdom upon earth as he who died a shameful death upon the cross? Which country does not have subjects who have sworn allegiance in Holy Baptism to the bloody flag of their Redeemer? Yes, the voice of the Gospel has gone out with power into all lands, and its sound to the ends of the world! It has penetrated the jungles of Africa; it has gone as far as the icy reaches of the dark northland; it has re-echoed throughout the isles of the Pacific Ocean; it has made its way through the gates of the Americas which Satan had kept barred for a long time by the powerful bolt of the ocean; Jesus Christ is the only King, who, as the Scriptures predicted, rules in the midst of his enemies.

There is no language or speech in which the name of Jesus is not named; all differences of country, nation, and color have fallen; everywhere men confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord to the glory of God the Father. Many emperors, kings, rulers, and lords have laid down their scepters, crowns, and purple before the shepherd's staff of the Good Shepherd, and have humbly worshipped at the foot of the cross.

Oh, how magnificently God glorified himself by his miraculous spreading of the Gospel! If in view of this great speed on the part of those who spread the Gospel we would look at the lowliness and poverty of the messengers of the Gospel, or upon the contemptuousness of their weapons, or upon the number or power of the foe, or upon the countless host of those who became believers, or upon the rivers of blood which it has cost these defenseless messengers, and upon the unprecedented steadfastness of millions of martyrs, we would only be amazed. If anyone can not see God glorified here, where will he see God's honor?

Must not that Gospel be from God, which without the least glimmer of human wisdom and display of human might subjects the whole world to itself? The more the confessors of the Gospel were persecuted, the more blood they shed, the more gloriously the field of the Church blossomed. The persecutions were like a hurricane which instead of extinguishing the holy fire of faith and confession fanned it the more into a raging flame, so that it spread farther and farther and continually kindled more hearts. Oh that was a greater miracle than the fall of the walls of Jericho when the priests blew the trumpets; for when the trumpet blast sounded from the lips of the twelve apostolic heralds, the walls of the Jericho of the entire world fell and we see the victory banner of Jesus Christ lifted high everywhere.


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Of course, the Christian Church did not reckon among its members during the first three centuries a single emperor, yet that very fact proves that it was not the power of the sword but the power of the Gospel itself, which laid men in the dust before Him who took pity on them.

So then, my dear hearers, feed your souls by pondering this fact and let it strengthen your faith, even though the mocking world wants to turn the Gospel into something contemptible. Though the blind may always deny the brightness of the sun of the Gospel, it nevertheless continues to shine before the open eyes of all believers and brings with it light, life, true joy, and heavenly peace.

But above ail, I ask everyone of you: Has the glorious Gospel been able to prove itself in your? Of what profit is it to you if you are amazed at the great speed with which the Gospel spread through the world and conquered it, if it has not conquered your heart?

If you wish to know whether you belong among those who believe in Christ, then listen to the last word of our text. There Isaiah says: "All they from Sheba shall come; they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord." V.6b. This describes those who accept the Gospel. They bring gold, and that is the gold of faith. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is truly your Savior also? We read, that they also bring incense and that is the incense of prayer. Do you talk with God every day in prayer? A Christian who does not pray is not a Christian.

Finally we read: They will show forth the praises of the Lord. Do you do that? Do you no longer seek your own praise but only the praise of your Lord Jesus Christ? do you confess from your heart that you are a poor miserable sinner and that you comfort yourself in his grace alone? Are you endeavoring to live so that God is glorified by your life? I ask you, if you do that, are you really and truly in earnest? Believe me, he who tastes the grace of the Gospel can be nothing else but thankful.

Now, you who detect that you lack something, know that God has kept you until this very hour and caused the glory of the Gospel to be expounded to you again today so that you can accept it from your heart. In conclusion I therefore say to you: Wake up thou that sleepest and rise from the dead and Christ will give you light. Perceive how in the past you have not glorified God but by your words and deeds robbed him of it, and accept Christ as your righteousness and he will give you grace to show forth his praise quite soon by a new life.

Once again I say to you: "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." To him be honor in the congregation which is in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.


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1ST SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY    Romans 12:1-6    TOP     (German, Archive)

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. Amen.

In our Savior, dear Christian friends!

There is a great difference between God's children during the Old Testament times and those of the New. During the Old Covenant God's children, as St, Paul expresses it, were still under the care of a guardian. They were not permitted to deal directly with God in all matters; the mediators between them and God were the priests. They were the ones who in the name of the people conducted the public services, in the name of the people brought all kinds of sacrifices to God, and especially in the Holy Place of the Temple drew near to God. It was the duty of the priest to expound God's Law, judge between clean and unclean, bestow the Lord's blessings upon the people, and with their prayers intercede with God for the people. Therefore, whenever an Israelite wished to be reconciled or purified, bring God an expiatory, burnt, praise, or thank offering, or turn to God with a question on his mind, he was directed to the priests.

This did not happen because the believers of the Old Testament were not on terms of grace with God, but as a testimony that the promised and expected Messiah would first reconcile men with God and open free access to God for them.

Therefore, when the New Testament was established through Christ's death, the veil, which had hidden the Holy of Holies from the people of the Old Testament, was torn in two to show that the Levitical priesthood with its privileges was now abolished and a new holy priestly covenant people was created, among whom there was no longer any special priestly station, but in which all were to be priests of the Most High God.

And so it is. According to the testimony of the apostles all Christians are born priests and the whole Christian Church is the temple, the house of God, in which day and night they worship God under their own High Priest, Jesus Christ, who through his own blood once entered into the Holy of Holies of heaven and wrought an eternal redemption. St. Peter therefore says to all the Christians to whom he is writing: "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ....(For) ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." 1 Pet 2,5.9.

This tells us: The moment a person becomes a Christian through Holy Baptism and has received the Holy Spirit, he is also anointed to be a spiritual priest; and as long as a person keeps his baptismal grace, or, after he has lost it through unbelief and receives it again by true repentance, he is and remains clothed with the holy privileges of a priest of God. A Christian therefore needs no mediator if he wishes to deal with God; day and night he has free access to God and his throne of grace and draws grace upon grace for himself from the fulness of Christ.

Of course, even in the New Testament, God has made the rule that certain person are to administer his means of grace publicly, preach his Word publicly, administer his holy sacraments, and have the office of ruler and watchman among the Christians; but ministers do not constitute a special station in addition to the Christians to whom alone were entrusted certain spiritual gifts


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and rights, as was to the priests of the Old Testament. In the entire New Testament, therefore, the servants of the Church were never called priests but elders, teachers, servants, stewards. What they have is derived from the rights and gifts of the spiritual priesthood of Christians whom they serve; they are not lords, or the exclusive possessors of certain treasures which Christians or the lay people, as the are called, do not have, but they are merely stewards of the privileges and gifts which the Christians have in public offices; they are the officials appointed by the Church as their stewards. Of course, no lay person should take over the duties of a called minister except in cases of necessity, not because a layman as such is not capable of doing that and his acts would be invalid, but only that the order ordained by God in his Church might not be thrown into confusion.

By their faith Christians therefore are free lords over all and only through love are they the servants of all. In reality, no one but they act in the service of the New Testament Church. In passing judgment upon spiritual things they are subject to no person but alone to the Word of the Lord; yes, God himself has appointed them the watchmen and judges of those who teach them.

However, as spiritual priests Christians have not only a glorious, high privilege, but also many, great, holy duties. The apostle speaks of that in our today's Epistle.

Quote the text here: Romans 12, 1-6.

In the first eleven chapters of his Letter to the Romans Paul had shown how a person becomes a Christian and what rights and privileges he has; with the twelfth chapter, from which our text is taken, he begins to show the duties of the highly favored Christian. And above all, he shows them to what they are in duty bound as spiritual priests. On the basis of our Epistle permit me to show you

SEVERAL IMPORTANT DUTIES WHICH CHRISTIANS HAVE AS SPIRITUAL PRIESTS

Our text mentions three especially.

1.  They Offer Themselves to God;

2.  They Separate Themselves from the World, and

3.  They Show Love and Humility Over Against Their Brethren.

Lord Jesus Christ, eternal High Priest, holy, innocent, unspotted, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens, we thank you that you have not only lifted us sinners out of the bottomless pit of our sins, but even earned for us priestly dress and honor and a royal crown. We also ask you to guard us that we do not trifle away the honor which is intended for us; give us a priestly heart and a royal spirit to follow you in sacrificing ourselves to you, separating ourselves from the world, and showing humility and love to our brethren. To that end bless also today's devotion and grant your high priestly intercession in our behalf. Hear us! Amen.

I.

To be a priest of the Most High God is the greatest honor and blessedness which can befall any creature. Even the saints in heaven, yes, the angels and archangels do not hold a greater office.


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Whoever is a priest of God has the office, the call, the privilege of standing continually before:God, being on intimate terms with him, and serving him as a V. I. P. in his great kingdom.

In order that sinful and fallen men could obtain this highest honor, God himself had to become a man, take our sins upon him, sacrifice himself on the altar of the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and appear before God as the eternal High Priest of the sinful world with the blood of the reconciliation which poured from his wounds.

In the new song, which the blessed and the saints sing before the throne of God, they, as John writes in Revelation 5, celebrate this greatest of all favors in song and say to the Lamb: "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood . . . and hast made us unto our God kings and priests." Rev 5,9.10.

If the honor and privilege of being a priest of God are great, the duties of God's priest are just as great.

The chief duty of a priest is to offer sacrifices. A priest without a sacrifice is an absurdity, a contradiction; for a priest and one who sacrifices are one and the same. The bringing of a sacrifice is as inseparable from the office of a priest as preaching is from the office of a preacher and teaching from the office of a teacher.

What is the sacrifice which a Christian as a spiritual priest is in duty bound to bring to God? The apostle shows us in our today's Epistle in the opening words: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." V. 1. We see that Christians do not as the priests of the Old Testament have to sacrifice bullocks, rams, lambs, turtle doves, not the first fruits of the fields, nor oil, nor incense, and the like; all these were only typical sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood which itself was only typical. The spiritual priests of the New Testament should offer God their "bodies", that is, themselves, body and soul with all which they are and have.

There all of you, who wish to be Christians and therefore spiritual priests, see your great duty toward God. Either carry this duty out, or lay aside the honorable title of a Christian, a spiritual priest.

But, you say, how can a Christian offer himself? I answer: A Christian does that when by the power of the Holy Spirit he every day and hour crucifies all evil which is in or clinging to him, battling against and suppressing it; and when he lays everything good in him at God's feet.

If you try to free yourself from the lust of the eyes, the attachment and love of earthly things, greed, and avarice, whenever you detect them in yourself; if you strive to root out the lust of the flesh, debauchery, pleasure hunting, and love of a fleshly comfortable life whenever you notice them in yourself; if you diligently seek to tear out of your heart the pride of life, the desire for honor, lust for self-praise, pride, haughtiness, self-satisfaction whenever you detect them in yourself; in short, if you are intent every day to become free of all your sins no matter how dear and pleasant they are; if you aim to become free of all your sinful desires, incitements, and thoughts, then, and only then are you a spiritual priest who offers himself to God.


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It is not enough for a Christian to seek to kill only the evil in him; he must also lay at God’s feet the good which he has; When you seek to serve God's honor with everything which you are and have; if you live as though your body and soul were not yours but God's; when you live as though your members, your reason, and the powers of your body and soul were not yours to use but given you to use for God; when you live so that you consider all your wealth as God's, which you must use for his glory; when you are ready to give up everything, your honor and good name, your joy and rest, your friends and relatives, your knowledge and skill, yes, your very life itself, in short everything which you hold near and dear so that it can serve for God's honor; when your one and only purpose, your one and only goal, your one and only desire in your entire living and thinking, speaking, and doing is to contribute something to the praise of God; when as St. Augustine says you desire to be a light which spends itself shining in the service of God, behold! then you have sacrificed yourself to God.

Yes, you will say: Alas, who can do that in this life! Who is not often conquered by his evil heart! I reply: True, in this life a Christian is never perfect; he never sacrifices himself completely to God. He has to struggle with his flesh and blood until his death. But the very fact that he yearns to be that; that he pursues it without ceasing is a sign that a person is a Christian, a spiritual priest; therefore by prayer and God's Word he wrestles daily to sacrifice himself more and more completely to his God. Although such a Christian is not perfect he is not dead; the sacrifice which he offers God is a living, holy, and pleasing one to God for Christ's sake. Such a Christian has the earnest sincere desire to give himself completely to God; God therefore takes his wish in Christ as the deed.

II.

However, Christians by virtue of their spiritual priesthood have a duty not only to God but in the second place also to the world; for the apostle continues thus in our text: "And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and more perfect, will of God." V. 2.

So what is the duty of a spiritual priest as far as the world is concerned? He must separate himself from the world, if not outwardly then inwardly at all times.

Sad to say, there are only too many who call themselves Christians, who suppose that it is not befitting a preacher to be worldly-minded; who admit that it does not become a preacher, e.g., to enter places of public amusement, frequent taverns and theaters where all kinds of people assemble and all manner of sins, godless jokes, tomfoolery, buffoonery, and blasphemies of holy things are uttered in boldest shamelessness; that it does not become a preacher to gamble and dance; that it does not become a preacher to make a show of his dress and squander his money; in short, a clergyman must make a difference between himself and the worldling.

But if one is a layman, one can not set such narrow limitations upon and demand equal earnestness from him; if he wants to act like a minister, he becomes the target of ridicule; he is called a hypocrite, a "screwball"; he gives himself the appearance of being a hypocrite

As universal as these thoughts are just so wrong are they also. Of course, it is true that if a minister shows that he is worldly-minded, if he imitates the world, it is a twofold sins for him because he should be an example


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to his flock; but what is sin for a minister is also sin for every Christian. It is against God's Word to divide Christians into worldly and spiritual Christians. A worldly Christian, not the spiritual one, is a person without a soul, in a word, a non-christian.

Every Christian should be a spiritual Christian, that is, anointed with the Holy Spirit; every Christian should be one who is .effectually called and elected by God, that is, called out of sin and the world and chosen from among sinful, lost mankind; every Christian should be a preacher; that is, in his station and calling, with his words and with his deeds he should show forth the praises of him who has called him out of darkness into his marvelous light; in short, every Christian should be a spiritual priest, a saint, an elect of God, a servant of God, and a disciple of Christ; and if anyone does not want to be that or still is not that, he is also not a Christian.

Not only to preachers, but to all Christians the apostle says in our text: "Be not conformed to this world." My dear hearer, if you want to be a Christian, a spiritual priest, you dare not imitate the world but must sever connections with it; you must go a different way than the world goes; you dare not be intimate friends with the world; you dare not chase around with it in a wild, disorderly life; you dare not partake of its vain lusts; you dare not go to places where the world gathers to serve its god, in the dance halls and in the taverns, in the gambling places, and theaters; you dare not for your relaxation and pleasure sit down where the scornful sit; you dare not be joined with them in secret societies; you dare not dress in the latest styles; in your rooms, at your table you dare not follow the ostentation and lickerishness of the world; in all your outward associations you dare not act like a child of the world, that is, so free, so impudent, so proud, or so foolish and childish; in all your dealings with others you must reveal that you do not belong to the world, that you are in the world but not of the world.

If you will do that, I admit that the world will ridicule you; at all events it will call you a "character," yes, a pretender, a sanctimonious hypocrite; it will also despise you as a dumbbell and hate and persecute you as its most vicious enemy. But that is the way it has gone at all times; the Apostle Paul says: "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." 2 Tim 3,12. And the Savior says to his disciples and thus to all Christians: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." Jn 15,18-20.

If you now perhaps say: I will not be so narrow-minded. I will never decide to pine away my youth and in addition make everyone else my enemy, then know this: You will not be compelled to forsake the world, if you do not force yourself to do it; but you will also not be forced into heaven. For this is and remains certain: Those you associate with here are the ones you will associate with in eternity; if you associate now with the world, and only seem to associate with Christ and his Christians, you will also be lost with the world and never see the kingdom of Christ. While God's children sing praises with the angels in heaven, you will howl with the world in hell; while God's children eat and drink at the heavenly banquet, you will languish, hunger, and thirst in hell. For "the friendship of the world is enmity with God; whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." Jas 4,4.

The apostle says not only: "Be not conformed to this world," but he also adds: "But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." This tells


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us: If a person wants to be a Christian, a spiritual priest, it is not enough that he is not conformed to the world, that he outwardly severs connections with it. Even in spite of the most secluded life, a life far removed from all associations with the world, an outwardly pious life, a person can nevertheless be a false Christian.

A true Christian, a true spiritual priest must above all be different from the world, and more and more be removed from it by another mind. What pleases the world must displease him more and more; what the world seeks he must flee more and more; what the world deems precious he must deem contemptible; what the world takes delight in must more and more disgust him. If the world seeks wealth, he must be satisfied with his poverty; if the world seeks good days, he on the other hand must consider his suffering precious in Christ; if the world thirsts after honor, he must be pleased with contempt for Christ's sake; if the world desires long life, he must yearn for a blessed departure. And thus for the Christian God's will, which the world hates when it is directed against its flesh and blood, must always seem good, satisfactory, and perfect.

There, you Christians, that, that is your duty as spiritual priests; that the goal toward which you must hasten if you wish to receive the crown.

III.

However, the apostle reminds us in our today's Epistle of a duty which is incumbent upon Christians as spiritual priests toward their brethren; they are to practise humility and love toward them. Permit me to add a few words in conclusion about that.

The apostle concludes our Epistle thus: "For I say, through the grace given unto me. to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly that he ought to think but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we being many, are one body In Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us." Vv. 3-6.

The apostle wants to say this with these words: The gifts which were given you as Christians are different indeed; the one can heal the sick miraculously; another can speak in foreign languages; the third has the gift of prophecy and explaining Scripture; the fourth has the gift of ruling the church, and the like; the one has a greater gift, the other has a lesser, the one a brilliant one, the other not; but the gifted dare not exalt themselves over the less gifted because of his gifts and the latter are not to envy the more gifted; for the only true measure according to which you have to judge is faith.

According to your faith you are all one in Christ, and over against each other the one is the member of the other. Even if one has ever so great gifts, he is still not more righteous than the other before God through his faith in Christ; which strong Christian therefore dare exalt himself over another? And even if someone has very insignificant gifts, so that it seems as if he is the least member in Christ's body, the most important members must nevertheless serve him; hence dare he envy the rest? is not the eye, this most precious member of the body, a member, a servant of the foot? does not the head serve the hand? the heart every member of the body?

You who want to be Christians and spiritual priests see from this: Humility and love is the duty which you must above all practice toward your brethren.


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You who perhaps have more knowledge,or a stronger faith, or an honorable office, and the like, you dare not exalt yourself over your brother; for before God he is your equal; he has the same grace, the same Christ, the same righteousness, the same salvation, the same heaven. The moment you exalt yourself, you exclude yourself from the number of Christians and from a first become a last.

But also you, who are less gifted than others, you dare not envy them; for see, since you are a member of Christ's body, the glorious gifts of your brother are for you to use, as the light of the eye serves the foot; the gifts of your brethren are also yours. If instead of brotherly love you permit envy to rule in your heart, you have ceased being a member of Christ's body, a Christian, a spiritual priest.

Well, then, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we who through faith are spiritual priests, let us not, as many proud enthusiasts do, brag of this privilege, but also remember what high and holy duties this privilege lays upon us. Let us, I repeat it, as far as God is concerned, offer ourselves to God with all that we are and have; let us as far as the world is concerned, sever connections with it outwardly by our entire life, inwardly by a renewed holy mind; and finally, let us as far as our brother is concerned, in humility regard the other higher than we ourselves and in love consider him our equal.

Thus will we wear the true priestly garment, and when our last day will come, then the veil before the Holy of Holies of heaven will be tom from our eyes, and we will enter with joy and stand forever as priests and kings before God and bring him the eternal sacrifice of praise. May Jesus Christ grant that to us all! Amen.

2ND SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY    Romans 12:7-16    TOP     (German, Archive)

Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

To preach God’s Word or the true Christian faith and yet please the world, be on good terms with it, and be praised by it is impossible. Luther writes: "It is not well with a preacher if he has peace and is not troubled by someone. It is a sign that he does not have the true doctrine. For it is the way of this doctrine that it must be assailed. God preserve us from preachers who please all people." This opinion is confirmed by Christ, the Son of God, himself, for he says: "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you’, for so did their fathers to the false prophets." Lk 6,26.

This, however, applies not only to those who are in the public ministry but to all Christians in general; for every Christian must confess a faith at which the world shudders.

A Christian must confess before the world that that despised Bible is God's Word and the only source of eternal truth and true wisdom, and that, on the other hand, all the wisdom of this world is only folly when it passes


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judgment upon God and divine things, its alleged light of reason only darkness, its pretended enlightenment only blindness. A Christian must confess before the world that there is only one God and yet that there are three Divine Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, who are equally eternal, great, and glorious. A Christian must confess that Jesus who was born in deepest humility in Bethlehem, despised, persecuted, and rejected throughout his entire life, and finally sentenced to the cross as a criminal, is the Son of God and Savior of the world. A Christian must confess that through the fall of man into sin the entire human race became a sinful and lost race, and that now every person is by nature a child of wrath, and can be saved only by grace through faith in the crucified Son of God, and that all who do not believe are lost forever, A Christian must confess to all the world that all seeking after wealth and one's own honor is sinful and damnable, yes, that everything which is not done in faith is sin, that therefore even the virtues and shining deeds of the unbelievers are nothing but sin and vice in God's eyes. A Christian must confess that there is only one truth, only one saving religion, only one way to heaven, that therefore most are eternally lost and that the small, despised, reviled, and persecuted flock of believers are the flock of the beloved and chosen of God. A Christian must confess that if the most honorable people do not repent and become sinners in their hearts, they will go to hell, and that if the most godless sinners repent and believe they will go to heaven. A Christian must confess that there is a devil sends all the evil in the world and that even godless governments are from God. A Christian must confess that a man is bom again by the water of Holy Baptism and that the Son of God gives all who come to his Holy Supper to eat and drink of his body and blood. Finally, a Christian must confess that the bodies of all men which have moldered away will rise again on Judgment Day, the bodies of the unbelievers to shame and dishonor, the glorified bodies of believers to glory.

As we have said, all this Christians must confess before the world. So nothing else is possible but that Christians will be considered fools by the world, and that they with their faith are a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. A Christian dare pay no attention to this. He must think: If the holy prophets and apostles and Christ himself had to let themselves be reviled as fools by the world because of their confession, why should I want to have it better.

My friends, as necessary and important as it is that every Christian confess without fear of men the doctrines of the Bible which are so offensive to the world for only he who believes from his heart is righteous, and he who confesses with his mouth is saved -- yet the Christian also has the holy duty of doing every possible thing that he is not guilty that the world takes offense at its offensive teaching and faith, that the world is convinced by the truth and divinity of his faith and also be brought to faith; in brief, a Christian has the duty not only to confess his faith to the world but also to vindicate it before the world.

We are invited to do that in our today's Epistle.

Quote the text here: Romans 12, 6b - 16b.

In the first portion of his Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul presented to the Christians of Rome the wonder of their faith; in the last part he shows them how they are to show their wonderful faith through its glorious fruits, namely through a new life, and thus be vindicated before the world. Our today's Epistle is also taken from this last portion of this letter. On the basis of this text permit me to answer the question:


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HOW ARE CHRISTIANS TO VINDICATE THEIR FAITH BEFORE THE WORLD?

On the basis of our text I answer:

1. Through Scrupulous Faithfulness in Their Office and Calling,

2. Through Holy Love Toward Everyone, Especially Their Brethren,

3. Through Pious Resignation to God's Will in Evil Times, and finally,

4.  Through Mutual Harmony in Humility.

I.

"If we have the gift of prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness." Vv. 6b-8. This is the way the apostle begins in our text. In order to understand these words correctly, we must know that during apostolic times, when God had distributed so many different, wonderful gifts among Christians, he also gave, especially in the larger congregations where the minister could not take care of everything, different offices to the Church which were based on these various gifts. There was a special office for the prophet, that is, for those who had the gift of expounding Scripture; a special office for the almoners, who especially had charge of this office or service; moreover, a special office for those who had to teach and for those who had to admonish; also a special office for those who gave, namely who managed the common treasury; also for those who ruled or supervised, and finally for those who showed mercy, that is, had to care for the sick and prisoners.

The apostle now gives an admonition for every one of these offices. He says that the prophets should prophesy according to the proportion of faith, that is, he should expound Scripture in such a way that it harmonizes with the entire doctrine of Christian faith. He says that almoners, teachers, and admonishers should wait on their office, that is, faithfully administer their duties. He says that treasurers should give’ simply, that is, they are not to look at the person nor have favorites but give with simplicity and purity of heart. He demands that rulers should be diligent, that is, in supervising all the offices they should not wink at evils out of fear of men but prove themselves to be vigilant watchmen. And finally he says that nurses should practise mercy not because they are forced to, although it may be particularly difficult for the flesh, but with pleasure.

Here, my friends, we have the first way by which Christians should vindicate their faith before the world, chiefly by scrupulous faithfulness in their office and calling.

Sad to say, there are not a few who prove to be zealous Christians as far as piety is concerned, but are dilatory, negligent, and unfaithful in their worldly calling. They suppose that the essence of Christianity is praying reading, going to church diligently, keeping oneself away from the vanities of the world, pious conversation, and works of a pious nature.

But such err greatly. The papacy with its false spirituality, with its worship and devotions it dreamed up itself, with its living in monasteries, it orders, oaths, and pilgrimages, and similar things has arisen through this error. If the world sees that those who boast of the faith are Indeed zealous in such seemingly holy exercises but unfaithful in their day to day work, are bad fathers and mothers, bad husbands and wives, poor workers, unfaithful servants, and the like, the world thinks that the faith of the Christian is an idle


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speculation, which makes the person useless for this life, and that Christians are either poor, deceived people or hypocritical deceivers. Therefore we cannot express what fearful guilt they load upon themselves who confess the Christian faith and are unfaithful in their station, office, and calling!

So be earnestly admonished and warned, my friends. If you want to be Christians, then vindicate your faith before the world by the most conscientious faithfulness in your calling. If you are husband and father, then also show that your faith impels you to provide for the temporal and eternal welfare of your family, not only to be the one who supports them but also their bishop; love your wife as Christ loved the Church; bring up your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, reprimand their sins, preserve them from being seduced, prepare and let them become skilled in serving their neighbor and provide for their souls.

If you are a wife and mother, then also show that your faith drives you to be subject to your spouse in all humility and be at his side as a true companion, and take care of and cherish your children with motherly tenderness and holy prudence; teach them the first principles of the saving knowledge.

If you have a trade also show that your faith impels you to give your customers such work with which they are satisfied; if you let people work for you, then show that your faith does not permit you to become rich through the sweat of the poor, but impels you to provide more for your poor workers than for yourself.

If you are in business, also show that your faith impels you to be scrupulous in your business; give your customers good wares and correct measure and weight without cheating; do not besmirch yourself with usury and dangerous speculation.

If you are a servant or a worker and laborer also show that your faith impels you to serve and to work, not for the sake of pay nor alone while people are present but to serve men as if they were Jesus Christ himself.

If you hold an office in the Church, school, state, or social organization also show that your faith impels you to be faithful to your Savior out of love and not to ask: What will I get for that? In short, let us show that faith makes the best fathers and mothers, the best husband and wives, the best merchants and professional people, the best domestic servants and workers, the best servants in every office, calling, and station: Then we vindicate our faith before the world.

II.

Yet my friends, not, seldom are even the children of the world so zealous and conscientious in their earthly calling, that no fault can be found in them. Therefore in our Epistle the apostle demands more of Christians. He continues: "Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another; net slothful in business; fervent in spirit. Vv. 9-11b. In these words the apostle indicates the second point whereby Christians should vindicate their faith before the world, namely by pious, ardent love toward everyone, especially toward one's brother.

According to God's Word Christians must reject and condemn the wisdom and works of the world when they intend to step before God with them; that is why the world considers them loveless, enemies of mankind, persons in whom a blind faith has wiped out even natural love from their hearts. The more just this verdict of the world upon Christians seems to be, so much the more must Christians ponder ways of disproving this opinion by the revelation of love


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dwelling within them.

Christians confess that God loved the whole world, loved it to such a degree that he have his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life; how is the world to consider this faith as true, if Christians who confess this faith show no love toward the world, not even toward the greatest sinner? Christians confess that they have all become brothers and sisters and children of one Father in heaven by the new birth in the Holy Spirit; how is the world to believe this when Christians are unbrotherly and disrespectful, cold and contemptuous toward one another? He who does that disgraces his confession of faith, he gives an inexcusable offence, and becomes a hindrance to God's kingdom.

Therefore you who confess the Christian faith to the world, listen to the apostle's admonition: "Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good." V. 9. That is the way you vindicate your faith before the world. Prove to the world that you have love in your heart toward it, and not merely a false, fictitious but a true, sincere love; a love which loves not only with the tongue and with the mien and bearing but which flows from the heart and shows itself in action; a love which includes not only those who love you but also your enemies. Prove to the world that when you reprimand it, you do not reprimand it out of hatred of their person but out of mercy, out of sympathy for it; that you do that only because you "abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good." Prove to the world that it can expect something of your love and count upon you; that you are ready with your help in every distress and that you never become tired of showing love.

But also prove to the world that as you are surrounded by the bond of one faith, so also the bond of one love surrounds you; that you love one another as brothers and sisters; but that you also honor one another, honor each other highly as the children of the Most High, as the temple of the Holy Spirit, and as brothers and sisters of God's Son. Prove to the world that this is not pretence, that you "are not slothful, but fervent in spirit," ardent in love.

Oh my dear friends, if we all would vindicate our faith in this way before the world, what enormous results we would then seel How many who still belong to the world would observe us with amazement and say: Behold, what love these despised Christians have1 Their faith must really come from God! Let us seek their fellowship and learn the mysteries of their heavenly faith! That is why in apostolic times large numbers were converted. Through their love the Christians preached louder and more urgently to the world than the bishops with their words. So, come on . you Christians, let your light shine before the people that they see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

III.

The apostle lays still more upon Christians. He continues: "Serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not." Vv. 11c-14. We see from this: the third way whereby Christians are to vindicate their faith before the world is by pious resignation in evil times.

Christians believe that they are not in the power of men, that no man can touch them nor hurt a hair of their head without God's will, that all their tribulations come from God, that they are merely the blows of a father, the blows of love, and that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be


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compared, with the glory which shall be revealed in them. If in trouble Christians show that they are discouraged, without hope, and impatient; if they murmur against their fate; if they forsake their brethren in the time of their trouble; if they repay their persecutors evil with evil; if they try to avenge themselves or oppose persecution with force, do they not bring disgrace .upon the faith which they confess with their mouth? Do they not in that way plainly give the world a weapon by which they can attack their faith and call it a deception?

Therefore, my dear friends, you who confess the Christian faith before the world, bear in mind: The time of trouble is the right time to let one's faith shine before the whole world; that is the very time for it to reveal its world-conquering power; that is the very time for you to vindicate your faith by a pious resignation in evil times..

So the apostle writes: “Rejoicing in hope," that is, prove to the world that during times of trouble it is indeed without hope, but that your faith will not let you despair; that you know that suffering leads you to glory, death to life.

Again the apostle says: “Patient in tribulation.” that is, prove to the world that your faith gives you power to bear all things patiently, as a burden which eternal love has placed upon you.

Again the apostle says: “Continuing instant in prayer.” that is, prove to the world that your faith .does not waver when the storms rage, and that it does not doubt that its prayer will be heard even if help delays; therefore that as the distress continues you also continue in prayer.

Again we read: “Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality." That is, prove that your faith does not pledge you only in good days, that it rather is a bond which becomes the firmer through trouble, disgrace, and the persecution of the brethren; that you are not ashamed of those who are reviled, but for the sake of the disgrace which they suffer for Christ esteem them the more highly; that your goods are the property of your poor brethren, that your home is the place of refuge and the home of the persecuted.

Finally we read: “Bless them which persecute you; bless, and curse not." The apostle means to say: Show that your faith not only restrains you from taking vengeance on your enemies but that it also can not. hate, yes, that you love them, that, you repay their evil with good, their cursing with blessing, their slander with intercession before God, as Christ interceded for those who crucified him, Stephen for those who stoned him.

Oh my dear friends, let us do that; then we shall so adorn the despised and offensive Gospel that it will become something lovely, a precious Word also to many children of the world, so that they also will accept it and be saved.

IV.

There is only one. more thing which the apostle demands of Christians in our text; he closes with the words: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate." Vv. 15.16. Here the apostle teaches us that in the fourth place Christians should vindicate their faith by mutual harmony in humility.


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Nothing offends the world more than when they see discord and pride rule among those who confess the Christian faith. And the world is in no way wrong in doing that. We Christians confess with the apostle: "For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body and (in Holy Communion) have been all made to drink into one Spirit," 1 Cor 12, 13 and that we have deserved nothing from God but wrath, that we have received nothing by ourselves, but everything by grace. What a challenge to unity and to the deepest humility that is!

So what do we do when we keep up quarrels, discord, divisions, strife, envy, irreconcilableness, and the like among ourselves? What do we do when we are haughty, seek honor because of our gifts, our knowledge, and the like, and scorn our despised brethren? Then we recall by our deeds what we confess with our mouth and ourselves call our faith a tissue of lies; then we do not entice the world to our faith but arouse the world's suspicions; yes, then our life is a public admonition against it so that others do not believe as we do.

Therefore my friends, wherever you may be, be mindful of your calling not only to confess the Christian faith before the world, but also to vindicate it by mutual harmony in humility, Yes, never forget that we must prove to the world by our deeds that we are members of one body and that one Spirit dwells in our hearts. Therefore "rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep;" show that you rejoice at the good fortune of your brethren as over your own, and that you are sad at their misfortune as if you yourself experienced it.

"Be of the same mind one toward another;" let no discord arise among your and let no bitter root of secret hatred and subtle enmity grow up in you; pray God that your hearts be united and then show the world that you are one in faith, one in love, one in hope, yes one heart and one soul.

Finally, remember that this unity can not remain without humility and self-denial; for pride is the mother of all discord, for it will not give way, wants to carry its point, will not forgive. Therefore, "mind not high things," do not ponder how you might become exalted and greater and more respected but how you might become smaller, more insignificant, yes nothing in your own eyes; and that this may happen, "condescend to men of low estate;" do not seek the friendship of the respected and the proud but let your dearest associations be with the humble, those spiritually the most poor, those who consider themselves as nothing.

Oh my dear friends, if we fo1low this admonition, then our congregation will become first of all paradise itself and then in the eyes of the world the life of every one of us an epistle of the Gospel and our faith. Then you hearers would preach more, louder, more urgently, and with more blessing than we your weak teacher. Then though the foes of our faith may constantly revile our faith with the mouth, they would carry a sting in their heart, which lets them feel something else; their conscience will tell them that our faith is irrefutably and gloriously vindicated by our life. Then the Gospel will grow here like a woodland torrent in spring, which climbs higher and higher, carries everything before it, and finally covers mountain and valley. Oh God, grant us your grace to do that; let us be a blessing here, and in eternity let us inherit that and see in light what we believe here through a glass darkly.  Amen.


80

3RD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY (1)    Romans 12:17-21    TOP     (German, Archive)

Grace be with you,, mercy, and peace,, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

Since 1817 there has arisen in Germany a new Church, which has taken the beautiful name: "The Evangelical Church". This Church which has also been transplanted here in America and to which several congregations in our city belong is founded upon the principle: If there is agreement in certain of the chief teachings of Christianity, as for example, that the Bible is God's Word, that man has fallen and is in need of redemption, that Christ is God1s Son and the Reconciler of the elect, and that one is saved through faith in him, then there should be no dispute over the other articles of faith; let everyone believe what he thinks Is right . They say: Since the days of the Reformation the Protestant Church has been split into the Lutheran and Reformed groups; for a long enough time there has been loveless wrangling over a few important points; the time has finally come when this wrangling should cease and the hand of  brotherhood should be extended as long as there is unity in the chief points. The time has come to be in earnest about the song of the angel over the manger of the Savior: "Peace on earth." It must become true.

It surely is true: It can not be deplored enough that shortly after so many thousands of congregations were led out of the Babylonian Captivity of the papacy by the Reformation 300 .years ago, they divided into two opposite, warring camps, and that this dreadful rift has not been healed. Not only did that certainly offend countless of the so-called Protestants so that they for that reason lost their faith, their soul, and their salvation; but that also strengthened the papacy anew so that in our days it has risen with new power and threatens to swallow everything up again.

It is also true: In God's Word Christians are urgently admonished to be peaceable and united. In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord expressly says: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God," Mt 5,9; in the Epistle to the Ephesians Paul cries out to Christians: "Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," Eph 4,3 and again he expressly admonishes Timothy that he charge the preachers "before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit." 2 Tim 2,14. Yes, the author of Hebrews point-blank denies salvation to the quarrelsome when he writes: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Heb 12,14.

But my friends, does it follow that it is right, yes, that it is commanded not to struggle against those, to be at peace and on friendly terms with those, yes, to unite in one church as brethren in the faith with those who clearly deny the truth revealed in God's Word for our salvation and pervert and falsify Holy Writ in many places? Far be it!

As sinful and godless as it is to quarrel over words when there is agreement about the meaning, or to quarrel over uncertain, indifferent, profitless questions, just so sinful and godless is it to be indifferent and not to struggle for precious, certain, divine truths. About such people indifferent in religion the Lord says in Revelation: "I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Rev 3,15.16. Such lukewarm people are more opposed to Christ


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than the known enemies of the truth.

And, tell me, was not the whole life of the prophets and apostles and the Lord himself a continual battle against the falsifications and falsifiers of God1s Word? Do not most of the talks of Christ contain warnings against the leaven of the false doctrine of the Pharisees, the Saducees, and the scribes, and reprimands of their falsifications of the true doctrine? Moreover, does not David exclaim in Psalm 94: "Lord, shall the throne of iniquity have fellow ship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?" Ps 94,20.

When false brethren had attacked only the doctrine of Christian liberty, did not Paul write: "To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you"? Gal 2,5. And does not the same apostle write to Titus about a true bishop: "He must be blameless ...holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers"? Tit 1,9. Does he not write to Timothy: "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to whole some words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud....From such withdraw thyself"? 1 Tim, 6,3.4.5.

In order that absolutely no false doctrine, no seeming small departure from God’s Word be considered insignificant, does not Paul warn: "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump"? Gal 5,9 and does he not in the same letter pronounce a curse upon the falsifiers of doctrine: "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you that than which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed"? 1,8.

And finally, does not God's Word warn us just as earnestly against false peace as it exhorts us to true peace? Does not the Prophet Ezekiel reprimand the peacemakers without the truth and say: "Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit!  . . . Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered mortar." Ezek 13,2.10. Therefore, does not even Isaiah cry out: "Woe unto them that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" Is 5,20.

You see from this: A church which wants to make peace by yielding part of the truth and declaring that false doctrine is just as permissible in the church as the true doctrine, according to God’s Word such a church is a house which consists of whitewashed walls which are neither built of stone nor erected upon a firm foundation; any wind can blow it down, any rain wash it away. Such a church is more dangerous than the most deceitful sect; for at least they recognize it as true that only pure doctrine should be preached in a church; but such a united church rests upon the quicksand that one absolutely can not find and have the truth, to say nothing of having to struggle for it. May God therefore preserve every pious Christian from such a false peace; it is a peace with men -- against God.

Yet my friends, do not suppose that it is not the Christian's holy duty as much as lies in him to live in peace with all men. Our today's Epistle says that this is one of the Christian's duties. Permit me therefore to present that to you now.

Quote the text here: Romans 12, 17 - 21.

Undoubtedly the words: "If it is possible« as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men," compose the central point of the admonition which this text contains. "If it is possible," says the apostle in our text and thus shows that it is not always possible to live in peace with all men, when peace can be bought only at the expense of the truth. Since we have already heard


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something of this in the introductions permit me to answer the question:

HOW IS THE CHRISTIAN TO LIVE IN PEACE WITH ALL MEN?

On the basis of our text I answer:

1. By Not Considering Himself Wise,

2. By Not Repaying Evil with Evil, and

3. By Providing Things Honest in the Sight of All Men.

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, you have come into the world to establish peace between heaven and earth, between God and man; you founded a kingdom of peace on earth in which only the children of peace may dwell. You have caused the Gospel of peace through your message of peace to be told to us. Take the spirit of dissension from our hearts and replace it with the spirit of peace, that we may walk together as your disciples in blessed harmony and finally be received into the mansions of eternal peace« Amen! Amen!

I.

My friends, being peaceably inclined is absolutely necessary as a sign of being a true Christian. Not only can he not be a true Christian who delights in strife and discord, but also he who does not earnestly long to live in peace and friendship with all men, yes, if the opportunity is offered him to establish peace and friendship again, declines it; his faith is hypocrisy, nothing more than the empty show of a pious life whose power he denies. The moment he is really converted and has come to know the grace of the rebirth in his heart, he will also be filled with the holy desire to act toward his neighbor, and especially his brothers and sisters, as God acted toward him.

Of course, true Christians can not at: times prevent the peace between them and others from being disturbed. David says: "I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.” Ps 120,7. Nevertheless, they do everything they can to preserve or to re-establish it again. That is why the apostle says in our text: "If it be possible, AS MUCH AS LIETH IN YOU, live peaceably with all men."

What is at least the Christian to do so as to live in peace with all men? The apostle indicates that/ in our Epistle with the words: “Be not wise in your own conceits.“ V. 16b.

And that is true; the greatest and most powerful foes, the disturbers of peace and harmony among people is pride in one's wisdom, pride, arrogance, self-conceit, just as wise Solomon writes: "Only by pride cometh contention.” Prov 13,10. If someone imagines that he is especially wise because perhaps many things have turned out well for him, he always is dogmatic and obstinate. Such a person not only likes to hear himself talk, but when he speaks he wants all others, whom he despises as little lights, to be silent; everything should go as he wishes. An example of such people are the false friends who visited and quarreled with Job. Job had to tell them: "No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you." Job 12,2.

Everyone should follow the opinion of such a conceited person; everyone should heed his advice which he considers the best beyond a shadow of doubt, Everyone should yield to him but he will yield to none. Not to consider him right he deems as nothing else but despising and insulting him. If one does not do things as he thinks it should be done, he washes his hands of the affair, or takes part in it only with an inner resentment. Even the entire congregation


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should give in to his conceit; if it does not,, he quits or his heart is no longer with it and its undertakings. Even when he is convinced that he has erred, he will not retract but stubbornly insist upon his opinion.

Wherever such self-conceited people are found, peace and harmony is impossible; their self-will and obstinacy is usually the stone upon which the execution of all joint endeavors are wrecked; either the matter breaks out into an open quarrel or disunion, or the harmony is only on the surface, whilst underneath discord divides the people.

That is why the apostle, even before he admonishes them to live in peace, says to the Christians: "Be not wise in your own conceits." As pride is the real father of all discord, so. humility is the true mother of peace. Whoever in sincere humility does not consider himself wise will not deviate one letter or one hair from that which God's Word says. A person who does not trust his own wisdom, firmly believes that God is the only Wise person and that his Word is divine Wisdom.

But if the business at hand is about affairs which men have to decide and adjust, he will always be ready to hear the opinions of others. He will let himself be easily convinced that he is making a mistake, that another can see farther, and give up his wrong notion. Yes, one who is really humble will gladly admit that he could err even if he can not see that he has and will be glad to sacrifice his most beautiful pet opinions for peace and harmony.

Of a truth, if this word of the apostle: "Be not wise in your own conceits," would always resound in the hearts of Christians, most of the quarrels and strife would be put aside, and peace and harmony would reign in their midst.

II.

Something else is a part of a Christian's living in peace with all men. He must repay no man evil for evil, for the apostle continues in our text: "Recompense to no man evil for evil."

Sad to say, there are only too many who suppose when the first occasion for discord was not given by them but by another party, and especially when the one who insulted them does not take the first step to seek a reconciliation, it is not their fault if they can not live in peace with him. And if they are taken to task, they tell how it is not through their own but their adversary's sins that the unfriendliness, the hostility has arisen between them; thus they suppose they have also justified their unfriendly disposition, their ill-will, their spiteful speech, and their hostile bearing and deeds.

If they are not Christians, they feel happy when the affairs of their offender do not prosper; they watch for a suitable opportunity when they can repay him the injustice he did them. If they are the kind of Christians who do not watch over themselves, they often, especially if they are again insulted by a Christian, allow the root of bitterness against them to grow up in their hearts from which enough bitter fruits come to light. For the offender, who can hardly discover the reason, things go as they did for Jacob, of whom we read: "And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as before." Gen 31,2.

It happens only too often that such careless Christians can no longer pray for their offender and his temporal and spiritual welfare from their hearts; he can no longer honestly rejoice when his offender prospers, nor speak in a friendly manner to him, and do good to him with an honest heart; and this he can do even less if the offender happens to be a Christian. And yet such Christians think that only their offender is at fault for the existing discord.


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But what does the apostle say in our text? "IF IT BE POSSIBLE, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Recompense," therefore, "to no man evil for evil." Learn from this: Even if a person has not given the first occasion for discord, but if he uses the offence which he has suffered at the hands of his neighbor as the excuse for not loving him as before, nor for being friendly in deeds and words as before, yes, even for doing to him again as that person had done to him, that person does NOT do "as much as is possible" to live in peace with all men.

In this connection we must also mention two other thoughts brought out in our text. First ©£ all the apostle says: "Dearly beloved, avenge not your selves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." V« 19.· If a Christian wants to pass for a man of peace in God's eyes, he dare not repay his offender with the least evil, even if the offence was ever so great «ad grievous. Either the offence is not worth the strife, not even worth talking about, or else it merits God's punishment and wrath. In the event that the neighbor’s evil deed deserves God's wrath and punishment, one must give way to God’s wrath, that is, one dare not usurp God's office by taking the least vengeance and thus hinder God, fill his office of punishing, and take vengeance or the evil by himself. A Christian must value peace and harmony so highly that he will suffer considerable harm if he can thereby purchase peace and harmony.

Yet even that Is not enough; the apostle demands still more. He also says: "Therefore in thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head, Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." V.20.21. If a Christian wishes to pass for a man of peace in God’s eyes, not only dare he not recompense his offender evil for evil, but he must also recompense the evil with good. Not only dare he not seek for an opportunity to do to his offender as he did to him, but he must also look for a chance to show his offender, that he is not angry with him, as Jacob sought to reconcile Esau by gifts sad actually did so.

The more the offender hates him, the more ardently must the Christian love him. The more morose and sullen the offender is toward him, the friendlier he must show himself toward him. The more that person speaks evil of him, the more he must speak good. And he dare not become tired of heaping coals of fire on the head of his offender, that is, so to overwhelm him with love and benefits that finally he is conquered by the love of the insulted person, moved to give up his wrath, melt his heart, and ia turn come to love the person he offended.

Finally, the Christian must become accustomed to the thought that even Christians, even his Christian friends, are not angels, just as he is no angel. He must overlook the wrong which even Christians have done him, allow not even the least ill-will to arise against them, readily pardon them, not doubt their sincere Christianity and friendship, not allow himself to be moved from his brotherly love toward them, but do even more good to them, not become ashamed of them (for that turns all kindness into poison and gall and an abomination in God's eyes), but inspire them to newer and even greater love.

Oh my friends, if all people would do that, yes, if only all Christians would do what they possibly could to live in peace with all men, how peace in all hearts, in the home and families, in cities, in congregations, and particularly in the world would bloom!


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III.

There is one more thing in living in peace with all men, if that is at all possible. The apostle expresses it in the words: "Provide things honest in the sight of all men." V. 17b„ Permit me in the third place to add a few words about this.

From the original text we see that with these last words the apostle wishes to say, that one should take pains to act in such a way that all men must consider your actions honorable, good, praiseworthy.

Not a few, who want to be thoroughly good Christians, suppose that if their conduct is not wrong in itself they do not have to worry what people say and think about it. They think that if they can justify their acts before the judgment seat of their own conscience, they can be completely indifferent as to how men view and judge them. Yes, they believe that of all people a Christian must not ask whether people consider him faithful or unfaithful, zealous or lazy, proud or humble, honest or a hypocrite, Christian or non-Christian, pious or godless. They think that even Paul had the same idea because he said: "If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Gal 1,10.

This principle drawn from this exposition is as sinful, unchristian, harmful, and ruinous as it is wrong. All that the apostle means to say is that he will not swerve from God's Word to please men. That otherwise he regulated all his words and deeds according to opinions of people, he himself states when he says: "Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more....To the weak became 1 as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." 1 Cor 9,19.22. We need not say how wicked especially that lack of consideration on the part of many Christians is which disturbs peace and harmony among Christians. How then can there be peace and unity of heart if one is unconcerned that others take offense at us?

Therefore if a Christian wants to live in peace with all men at least as far as he is able to, it is absolutely necessary that, as the apostle says in our text, he be zealous in being honorable in the sight of everyone. He dare not be concerned only that the matter is right in itself, but he must also be diligent in dealing in such a way that everyone else considers it proper. He must avoid not only everything evil but even the appearance of evil. He must not only preserve his Christian liberty in his conscience, but where necessary limit and even renounce it in his daily life for the sake of the weak. In order to please God in his walk of life, he must with Paul in ardent love to his neighbor "please all men in all things," and as he says in another passage: "please his neighbor for his good to edification." In a word, he must in his attitude, expressions, words, and deeds not seek his own but what is his neighbor's. So how do you think it would be if we all as much as lies in us would seek peace with all men and especially among ourselves? That would bring heaven to earth. Well then, let us remember that such peaceableness is not only a beautiful virtue but also a necessary sign of a justified Christian. If anyone does not seek it, I will be silent of his having attained it; whoever is peaceable as long as his flesh is not attacked but gives up peace wherever it can not stand the strain, let him know that he is still a child of God's wrath, and that all unclean spirits still dwell in his heart; wherever just one sin rules, there all sins rule; let him hurry to rescue his unhappy soul, repent, be converted, and become a child of peace; let anyone who is slow in peaceableness become zealous in it; let every zealous Christian allow his light to shine


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brighter before men so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Amen.

3RD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY (2)     Romans 12:17-21    TOP    (German, Archive)

Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love„ Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

Christ came into the world not only to obtain peace for men with God, but also to establish peace among men themselves. When the Prophet Micah wants to describe the disposition, and condition of Christians in the times of the New Testament, he writes: "They," those who became Christians, "shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Micah 4,3. And the moment Christ had been born in Bethlehem, the heavenly hosts filled the air with the song: "Peace on earth!"

Paul also mentions that one of the chief purposes of Christ's coming into the world and his death on the cross was the establishing of peace between the Jews and heathen and all nations who hated each other. He writes: "He," namely Christ, "is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, ... and came' and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were, nigh." Eph 2,14.15.17. That is why in Scripture the preachers of the Gospel are called the messengers of peace, and those who accept the Gospel in faith are called the children of peace. Paul writes that Isaiah says of the preachers of the Gospel; "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" Rom 10,15. And Christ says to the 70 disciples as he sent them out: "Into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it; if not, it shall turn to you again." Lk 10,5.6.

Therefore all those who devote themselves to peace are called blessed in God's Word and all Christians are urgently exhorted to do that. Thus, for example, Christ exclaims in his Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Mt 5,9. In the Epistle to the Hebrews the holy writer exhorts: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, with out which no man shall see the Lord." Heb 12,14, First of all, we are told that a Christian should pursue after peace toward every man as earnestly as a hunter pursues a wild animal; he lets no swamp, no thicket, no mountain no matter how steep, and no ravine no matter how deep hold him back from following the animal until he has caught it. Secondly, in the passage the pursuing after peace with all men is placed ahead of pursuing sanctification; evidently that is to indicate that a true sanctification without earnestly seeking peace with all men just is not possible nor thinkable, and that as the Lord can not be seen without sanctification, so also not without love of peace.

Since in our today's Epistle we are urgently exhorted to live in peace with all men, let us today during this time which is without peace ponder our holy and important Christian duty more closely and really try to know it. May God give


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us all his Holy Spirit, which is a Spirit of peace and joy.

Quote the text here: Romans 12, 17 - 21.

The sum of all the exhortation contained in this section is that we should do nothing whereby peace between us and others can be disturbed and that we should leave nothing undone whereby it is established, preserved, and promoted. Let therefore the subject of our present devotion be:

THE ADMONITION OF THE APOSTLE, "IF IT IS POSSIBLE, AS MUCH AS LIETH IN YOU,

LIVE PEACEABLY WITH ALL MEN!”

We ponder:

1. What the Apostle Demands with the Admonition: "Live in Peace with

All Men," and,

2. Why the Apostle Adds the Words: "As Much as Lieth in You.11

Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, through your Word fill our hearts with your peace which passes all understanding, which the world can not know nor give; and then help us to walk in sweet peace with our brethren and sisters and all other fellow redeemed. Oh restrain our flesh which is so easily inclined toward discord. When we have finally ended our journey, grant us a peaceful return home and receive us into the mansions of eternal peace. Hear us, Lord Jesus for your own sake. Amen.

I.

If we ask what the apostle demands of Christians with the admonition: "Live peaceably with all men," he himself gives us the most precise answer in the admonition preceding these words; he says: "Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men." Vv. 16c.17. The apostle demands three things; first, something which concerns the disposition of our heart; secondly, something which we should abstain from doing; and finally, something which we should do.

So what disposition is it which the apostle demands with the words: "Live peaceably with all men?" He says: "Be not wise in your own conceits.That humility which does not consider itself wise the apostle declares is the first and most necessary thing, if one wants to fulfil the command: "Live peaceably with all men."

And so it is. The greatest hindrance to peace and unity among men is pride, arrogance, intellectual conceit, the fancy that one knows everything best. For from that follows self-will and obstinacy. Psalm 12 tells us that the principle of such a self-wise person is: "With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own." Ps 12,4. The one wise in his own conceits wants everyone to be silent when he speaks, wants everything to go as he thinks, and his advice and his proposals be always considered the best; he will yield to no one, but all should yield to, him; he will not conform to the views of others, but all should conform to his views. A person wise in his own conceits thinks that all will fare well if it goes as he wishes; if something miscarries, then he thinks that the cause is that they did not listen to him.

Hence wherever there are such wise in their own conceits in a state, in a society, in a family, in & congregation, they are always the reason for the


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lack of peace and unify, "Only by pride cometh contention,” says Solomon. Prov 13,10. Even the proud, the wise in their own conceits very often lament over the fact that there is no peace and unity; but instead of perceiving that they are mainly at fault, they think that the reason is that their wise counsel is not accepted,

"Be not wise in your own conceits! is the way the apostle cries to Christians before he gives them the admonition: "Live peaceably with all men." He means to say: My dear Christians, if you want to live in peace with one another, the first and most necessary requisite is that you do not think that you alone are wise; on the contrary, you must be so humble as to believe that the judgment and advice of another can be better, or that it often is better if matters would proceed according to the decision and counsel of another and not your own.

Oh my friends, how much strife and discord would be avoided in our homes, societies, congregation meetings if we were all so minded! If you want to be children of peace, not only give good counsel but also learn to esteem the counsel of others; learn to yield whilst you also write the exhortation of the apostle deeply in your heart: "Be not wise in your own conceits!"

The apostle continues in our text: "Recompense to no man evil for evil," That is the second thing which Paul demands with the words: "Live peaceably with all men." There are many who live in peace with their friends who do good to them but want to put up with no wrong. If they notice that another intends evil, they immediately bear ill-will against hist in their heart;, if another attacks them with unfriendly, even biting, abusive words, they think they must repay with the same coin; and if someone really injures them, then they do to their opponent .as he did to them.

But my friends, those people do not obey the apostolic demand: "Live peaceably with ALL men," If peace is to be established and preserved among us, it is above all necessary to be able to tolerate and make the beat of even a wrong done us, remain kindly disposed even toward one' b enemy, repay evil words with words of love, and even do good to those who do evil to us. Many indeed think that if others have first injured them, all the guilt of the continuing discord falls upon the one who offended them. But how they deceive themselves! That is the very reason why God's Word cries out to us; "Live peaceably with ALL men!" To have peace in this world it is not enough to keep peace only with those who already live in peace with us, but it is also necessary not to nourish the fire of discord kindled by others by repaying evil with evil, but rather to extinguish it by bearing the wrong.

The children of the world indeed regard themselves. as peaceable if they themselves do not wilfully disturb the peace, although they repay evil with evil, but the children of God as children of peace have an entirely different, a much higher assignment, They are told in the Sermon on the Mount: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and. on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust, for if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye store than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Mt 5,44-48. You see, that, that is it which the apostle demands in the words: "Live peaceably with all men;" so to explain these words he preceded them with the admonition: "Recompense to no man evil for evil."


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When the apostle admonishes Christians in our text to live in peace with all' men, there is one more thing which he demands of them, namely; "Provide things honest in the sight of all men." The apostle means to say: If you Christians want to live in peace with all men, it is not only necessary that you walk honestly before God, but that you also walk honestly before men and before everyone; for it is not only necessary that whatever you do you can justify before your conscience, but that it also does not appear evil to men; briefly, it is necessary to let your light shine before men, that they also may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Therefore they are in great error who follow the principle: As long as I know that I act correctly I do not ask what men think, Whoever follows this principle, acts contrary to the admonition: "Live peaceably with all men."  If a person is indifferent as to what other people think of him; if a person is satisfied that he does no evil although others take offense; if, for example, Christians join a secret organization of which no one but the members know whether they plan evil or good, that is enough to prevent true peace, true unity of heart from existing among men. If there is to be peace, we must strive to have everything which we do, as the apostle says in another place, done honestly not only before God but also before men. Therefore the apostle cries out in our text not only: "Live peaceably with all men! but also: "Provide things honest in the sight of all men."

And my friends, do not think that it is merely a desirable thing if we all were to follow after peace toward everyone. No, anyone who does not do that is not a Christian, is not a child of God, has no faith and no love, is not under Gods grace, is not on the way to salvation, is excluded from God's kingdom; for true children of God are always children of peace as well. The moment a person receives peace with God through the forgiveness of his sins, he also has a heart which seeks peace with every one, with his spouse and brothers and sisters in his home, with his friends and relatives, with his fellow citizens, with his brethren and sisters in the faith, even with his enemies, in short, with all men. For when Christ uttered the friendly words: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God," Mt 5,9 they at the same time contain the terrible word: "Unhappy are the quarrelsome, for they shall be called the children of the devil." Not only should you note this you self-wise who are always wilfully disturbing the peace but also you irreconcilable who do not at all times earnestly seek peace with everyone. Ah, let the threefold admonition of the apostle always ring in your ear and heart: "Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men."

II.

My friends, it is certainly remarkable that, as is not the case in the other admonitions, the apostle does make reservation to his admonition to live in peace with everyone; he adds:·' "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you." V. 18, Therefore let us in the second place reflect upon why the apostle adds these words in this connection.

Undoubtedly this is what the apostle intends to indicate by the addition : "If jt be possible;" it is very true that it is not always possible for Christians to live in peace with all men as the example of all the saints in Scripture as well as of the Christians of all ages show. As earnestly as they strive to live in peace with all men, just so impossible has it been for them to attain this beautiful goal.


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Though Abel was peaceably inclined, he could not live in peace with Cain rather he died under his murdering band. Though Jacob was peaceable, it was not possible to live in peace with Esau; rather he had to leave his father's house and his homeland in order to elude his plans for vengeance. Though David was peaceable, it was impossible to live in peace with Saul; even though' 'he was already anointed king, he had to roam about like a hunted animal in woods, caves, and deserts to evade Saul. Though the apostles and all the martyrs (not to mention Christ the Lord himself) were peaceably inclined, it was not possible for them to live in peace with all men; rather though not at fault they lived their entire life in continual warfare and strife.

That is why David in Ps 120 expressly says: "I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war." v.7, And Christ foretold to his disciples: "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." Jn 15,19.20.

You see, that in the first place the apostle limits the admonition in our text: "Live peaceably with all men,” by the words: "If it be possible," because it very often is not possible.

However, that false, quarrelsome Christians do not misuse this, the apostle immediately adds: "As much as lieth in you," and then continues to explain this: "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath (that is, God's wrath); for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." V.19. The apostle means to say: You Christians dare not say, that it is impossible to live peaceably with others because they offend and persecute you. Though they may do this, there should "as much as lieth in you nevertheless be peace, and that happens when you do not avenge yourselves' but leave all vengeance to him who says: "Vengeance is mine."

Yes, it is not even enough not only not to avenge yourself; no, the apostle says: "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." Vv. 20,21. The apostle means to say: Only then, my dear Christian, have you done "as much as lieth in you" in living in peace with all men, when you do not repay your enemy evil for evil but rather good for evil. In so doing you heap coals of fire on his head, that is, thus you make him soften his hard attitude and blush for shame so that he becomes your friend and thus conquer the evil with good. So, for example, Jacob heaped coals of fire upon the head of his brother Esau who had hated and persecuted him so that Esau let him go in peace. So David heaped coals of fire upon the head of his bloodthirsty persecutor when in the cave he spared his enemy who sought even for his life; shamefacedly Saul cried out: "Thou art more righteous than I. The Lord reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day." 1 Sam 24,17.19.

Oh my friends, if every person would deal thus with his foe, how enmity and strife would gradually cease upon earth! how the fire would be extinguished if the fuel would be withdrawn. The entire world would soon be turned into half a paradise. That is why the apostle cries out at least to all Christians: "As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."

However , the addition: "As much as lieth in you,” also contains an important qualification. Obviously the apostle also means to say this: If in order to live peaceably with all men you must put up with much, if you must buy this peace with the loss of temporal goods, with injury to your honor, yes, under certain circumstances with your blood and life, you should gladly make the sacrifice,


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for that is what the words: "As much as lieth in you," mean; but if you cannot live peaceably with men unless you share in their sins or in their falsifications of God's Word  this is not a matter which is yours but which belongs to God, is God's command, God's honor — this is not something which you can surrender and sacrifice; this is not your property; this is not where you let God's Word and honor go to preserve and obtain peace, but give up peace to rescue God's Word and honor.

So note well, my dear friends, what the apostle means when he cries out to us: "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." You should not consider any of your own goods so precious that you should not be ready to sacrifice it for peace in the world, in the city, and in the home, peace in the church and in the congregation; for we read: "As much as lieth in you."

But if in order to live in peace you should besmirch yourself with sin, or be silent when you really ought to speak, or if in order to live in peace you swear allegiance to false doctrine or put up with it and not testify against it, then say: I do not agree with that. Peace is a costly possession, but infinitely more precious is God's command and Word; I can not leave it even though not only peace but, if it were possible, the whole world would go to wrack and ruin.

That is what all the prophets and apostles, that is what all the martyrs and faithful servants of God have done. They were truly peaceable and they were ready and willing at all times to sacrifice anything to keep peace; on the other hand, they looked at no sin as too small and no error against God's Word too insignificant but that they were ready and willing to sacrifice peace with men in order to remain free of it. For Christ indeed says: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God," Mt 5,9; but the same Christ also says: "I came not to send peace, but a sword." Mt 10,34b.

Well then, my dear friends, be not like those who immediately carry on a lawsuit, squabble, and bicker when their property, goods, and honor is at stake, but when God's commandment and Word is at stake know only how to talk of love, peace, and unity. Rather the principle on which you should operate is this: I will gladly forgive anyone who attacks my person; but anyone who attacks my God, his Word and honor, let him not hope for peace or unity from me. The first is mine and I can give it away; God's Word and honor, however, are not mine; I can give none of that away.

May God grant us all the grace so to seek peace with men in such a way that we do not lose peace with God because of it. Then let our entire life always be a life full of struggle and strife, full of disgrace and contention because of the godless world and false brethren, just as long as we can at last say with old Simeon and be recognized as children of peace by God: "Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace." Jesus Christ, King of grace and Prince of peace, grant that to us. Amen.


92

4TH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY    Romans 13:8-11    TOP    (German, Archive)

Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

Never has love been the subject of so much conversation as in our day. Love has now become the watchword of those who want to be Christians, as well as of those who do not want to be Christians.

Nowadays those who want to be Christians often say that the Christian Church must pass through three different eras named after the three chief apostles, Peter, Paul, and John, the Petrine, the Pauline, and the Johannine era. The first era, the Petrine, was the age of power and might; this existed under the control of the Roman Church.  The second era, the Pauline, was the age of faith; this began with the Lutheran Reformation. Finally, the third era, the Johannine, is the age of love; this has just dawned in our days.

What do such Christians understand by love? By this they understand above all that in matters of faith one must, as they express it, be tolerant, that is, indulgent, willing to stretch a point, and forbearing, no longer being so particular about purity of doctrine, nor reprimanding so sharply any deviation from God's Word as was done in times past, and recognising those also as dear brethren in the faith who do not want to bow in some points to Gods Word just as long as they accept certain important articles of faith.

Is that really the description of true, Christian love? On the contrary does not Holy Scripture say; "Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth?" 1 Cor 13,6. Such Christians seem to be like that person who was generous and kind toward the poor but who took his gifts not from his pocket but from anothers by secretly stealing from others and then publicly giving it to the poor. For what else are such Christians doing but robbing God of his Word, his truth, and his honor and giving themselves the appearance of having more love than others? The evilness of their love is revealed by the attitude they show others who take them to task for their disregard of the truth.

What do they, who do not want to be Christians, make of love which they praise so highly. They suppose not only that by doing works of charity is love, but that when one really seeks only his one advantage and pleasure, seeking it, however, in such a way that others also profit by it, that even then one has fulfilled the very demands of love.  So people go to the theater, the concert, public banquets, and take part in similar public amusements and then think that they have done a work of love, when the proceeds of such personal amusements flow into the hands of the needy. Or secret societies are founded; a tax is imposed for the support of their members, only on the condition, however, that where necessary they receive at the right time the same or rather a greater amount than they contributed; they are proud to be members of such a noble organization, of such a beautiful fraternity of brotherly love. They look contemptuously upon pious Christians and think to themselves; You boast of your faith, but we of love.

Now are those works really works of love? Poor, deceived people! Love has now so completely disappeared from man's heart, that the poor dare hope for the most necessary help only if with his help some advantage, some honor, some amusement can also be purchased! Love has now so completely died out of man's heart, that he who fears misfortune can hope for assistance only if he enters into an agreement with someone else to lend him a hand if he falls into the same misfortune! And yet they boast that our age is an age of love!

Yes, and more: What do those very same people do who know how to speak


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so wonderfully of love toward one's neighbor and of universal brotherly love?  Woe to him who offends them with only one word! Toward him they cherish a glowing, irreconcilable hatred. They can not rest until they have brilliantly avenged themselves on their supposed enemy. Yes, what do I say? I summon you who live amongst the world as witness: What else is the life of most of the children of this world but an eternal, mutual cheating and envying and hating? what else but a secret slandering and a selfish flattering or vengeful scolding?

Alas my friends, undoubtedly the very times of which the Lord once prophesied: "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold," Mt 24,12 these times are the ones which have finally come in our day. Not in the days of love, but in the days of lovelessness do we live.

Love, true love, is something entirely different than what is now usually sold under this glorious name. This is taught us in our today's Epistle lesson. Well, then, let us now seek to know the nature of true love.

Quote the text here: Romans 13, 8-11.

As you have heard the text just read deals with love; the apostle presents it as an obligation. Therefore may I present to you:

LOVE TOWARD ONE'S NEIGHBOR—AN OBLIGATION

Under the guidance of our text we ponder two points:

1. Love is Indeed an OBLIGATION, and a CONTINUAL Obligation, and

2. It is Also the WHOLE Obligation of Man.

Oh Lord God, you are eternal love. Therefore you surround not only all your creatures with perfect love, but you also created in us a heart which in imitation of yours was full of pure, blessed love to you and our brethren. Alas, we have fallen, and instead of ardent brotherly love there dwells now indifference, selfishness, envy; instead of intimate affection, hate and enmity dwell in our cold heart. Yes, we all must confess to you that by nature even we have such a degenerated, corrupt, loveless heart. Oh, let us come to know our heart aright, and through your Holy Spirit grant that we all may be filled with honest regret over our heart. And because you have sent your Eternal Son of Love into the world for the very purpose of rekindling through faith in him the extinguished fires of love in our hearts, grant that we all may come to faith in your dear Son, our Savior, and by faith have love, and in this love know and taste your blessedness. To that end bless the preaching of your Word also in this hour. Hear us! Amen.

I.

"To everyone his due;" nowadays most make this principle their entire religion. And it is not enough that they do this; how do most explain this principle? It is supposed that if one has practised a certain uprightness toward everyone and fulfilled his duties as citizens, if his taxes are päid, the workers their stipulated wage and if one has repaid the services received from others, then one has given everyone his due and fulfilled his duty toward everyone. It is supposed that if one has gotten his possessions honestly and therefore can not be sued in court for a debt, he is then free from all obligations. Either it is supposed that love is an entirely free thing of one's own heart, or


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that one does not have to love all man; they believe that one can select those to whom one wants to show love, yes, that some one can hate rather than love, and show evil instead of good. As men are free in other things, so he is ale© free to love these people and not to love those, as long as one does not offend and prejudice their lawful rights and possessions. Why, they think, 1 have given every what is his; what more can one want? Who is going to demand that I love him also?

So, when such do more than civil righteousness demands, if they feed one hungry parson, give water to one thirsty person, clothe one naked person, take one homeless person into their house, in short, if they do good to one person who has no legal claim upon them, then they think they have done something extra, an especially noble deed, and have shown a generosity which merits not only approbation, but praise, honor, and admiration, yes, if they still believe in a heaven, certainly heaven itself.

But what does the Word of our God have to say about this? What does the apostle say in our text? He says this: Owe no man any thing, but to LOVE one another; for HE that LOVETH another hath fulfilled the law." V. 8.

You see, the apostle entices no one to love his brother as though it were a matter of free choice, Λich depends upon the inclination of our heart; the apostle admonishes us to show love, not only as though it were merely a beautiful thing to Λich we should let ourselves be incited just because it is praiseworthy and lovely. Mo; he really commands love from us as something we owe. He also tells us why. Because God has commanded love in his law. Since God had created us in his image and given «8 a soul which can know him and join him in showing love, he can and must demand love from us also as something we owe.

So, my friends, this much is certain: It is not a matter of choice with us whether we want to love and whom we want to love; and if we love all men from our heart and love by our deeds, we are doing nothing special; love just happens to be something we owe. Every person is our creditor and we are debtor to every person. Even if otherwise we owe no man a thing, we still owe him love. Therefore we boast in vain that we have given every one his due if we have not loved everyone. In vain do we boast of our generosity and magnanimity even if we love our enemy and show him love; for then we are merely doing what we are obligated to do.

Indeed this is true; It will not be easy to evoke love toward everyone, least of all our enemy, as something we owe him; no human law demands love; if we do not love him, no one can bring action against us in court; no court of justice exacts the obligation to love, none punishes him who does not discharge this debt; if we give everyone his due or return what Is his, we count ourselves debt free before every human judge.

But in God’s court this is a different matter. There the account book of love will be examined, and though all our other debts may have been paid, if we have not paid the debt of love, the terrible sentence will nevertheless fall upon us; "The wicked borroweth and payeth not again.” Ps 37,21.

According to God’s Word love is not only a debt we owe, but it is a debt of a most special and amazing nature. And we see this when we add to the words of the apostle in our text those which immediately precede. There the apostle had written; “Render therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor." V.7. Is that not noteworthy when the apostle immediately continues in our text: "Owe not man any thing, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law? Yes, amazing! Whilst the apostle in the preceding said, we should owe no one a thing, he suddenly turns about and says; I want you to remain obligated for one thing -- love.


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You see my friends, according to God's Word love is not only an obligation, but also (no matter what we may do) a lasting, continual, unceasing obligation.  Every other becomes smaller as we pay it off and finally it is completely paid. Not so the obligation of love which we have toward our neighbor. As holy a duty as it is to try to pay off every other obligation, so little should we try to become free of our obligation of love. Yes, we should pay this debt every day but never suppose that we have paid it in full. And if we have shown a person, yes if it were possible, every person the greatest love, we are to know that our debt of love has not become smaller but is still the same, is still just as great. There is no day, no hour, no second during which we would not be obligated to love; if we have already loved our brother ardently and energetically for half a century, the very same amount is still written in the account book of the law and our conscience for every new day and for every new hour. Yes, whereas every other debt is ours only until death, the debt of love we take with us into the grave,over into eternity, and up into heaven; for there faith is indeed turned into seeing and hope into having, but love -- remains; it remains as long as there is a kingdom of God, a kingdom of eternal love, hence into all eternity.

II.

According to our text, love is indeed an obligation, yes, a constant obligation, and also man's entire obligation. That is the second point which we will not devoutly ponder.

When the apostle says in our text, that we should owe no man anything save love, this at first glance seems strange. For does not every commandment lay a special obligation upon us? Hence, do we not in addition to the obligation of love still have to discharge ten other great obligations toward God and our neighbor? Yes, so it seems. The apostle has also thought of this objection; so he answers it when he continues in our text: "For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely,Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Vv. 9.10.

Herewith the apostle gives two reasons why strictly speaking love is man's entire and only obligation; first of all, because no commandment can be fulfilled without love; actually, love is what God really has in mind with all his commandments. Secondly, because if it is perfect, it by itself leaves no commandment of God unfulfilled; hence the real fulfilment of the Law or all commandments is done out of love.

And so it is. There is really only one commandment; all others are contained and summarized in this one, namely: Love God above all things,and: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Actually, this love is the only thing which God demands of us by all his commandments. God did not give the Ten Commandments because man had exactly ten different obligations, but they are simply example of the commandment of love, unfoldings and developments of this commandment . The Ten Commandments are, as it were, the individual items of our obligation, while the commandment of love is the summary in which each one is again contained. The commandment of love is the tree, and each of the Ten Commandments are the separate branches of this tree. Love should be the fount and the works demanded in the Ten Commandments should be the streams which flow from this fount.


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He does ηot therefore fulfil the Ten Commandments who does and leaves undone only the works which are mentioned, commanded, or forbidden in them; but only then does a parson fulfil the Commandments by these works if all his works flow from love. If according to the 4th Commandment you honor your parents, if according to the 5th Commandment you do not kill, if according to the 6th Commandment you do not commit adultery by your works, if according to the 7th Commandment you do not take anyone's possession by force or cunning, if according to the 8th Commandment you do not speak falsely against your neighbor, yes, if according to the 9th and 10th Commandments you do not once consciously covet your neighbor's possessions, you still have not fulfilled the letter of the whole Law, if that true, pure, ardent love to God and your neighbor does not live within your heart, and if all which according to the Ten Commandments you have done and abstained from doing does not flow from this fount of true love which is in you. He who does not have this love, though he may live ever so honorably, ever so correctly, ever so blamelessly, he still is before tod a transgressor of all his commandments, an idolater, a profaner of his name, a violator of his sabbath, a despiser of his parents, teachers, and government, a murderer and killer, a fornicator and adulterer, s thief and robber, a false witness, and his heart a habitation for ungodly impulses and desires. For the summary of all our obligations is love; all commandments are “briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

And yet my friends, we dare not suppose that the apostle intends to say that it is enough if a person has love only in his heart; and though he constantly transgress the commandments with his works, he nevertheless has fulfilled the '' Law through his love I Oh, no; the apostle goes on to say; “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law."  V.10. The apostle means to say: Hot only is no commandment fulfilled by works without love, but if love is as it should be, it leaves no commandment unfulfilled and does the works of all commandments.

And how can it be otherwise! He who loves God above all things, which of the commandments of the first Table could he transgress without injuring and denying his love to God? and be who loves his neighbor as himself, which of the commandments of the Second Table could he transgress without injuring and denying his love to his neighbor? No, “love worketh no ill, to his neighbor," but only good; all evil comes from the lack of love to God and his neighbor.

If a person had perfect love in his heart, he needs no other commandment; without being .commanded he will do everything which can possibly be prescribed with commandments. Yes, in perfect love lies a yearning to do more good than can ever be enumerated in any catalogue of laws, and though this would contain a million. True love does not first ask; Whafe? I am to do .this also? I owe also this to God and my neighbor? But it considers itself in debt to God and his neighbor; it wishes merely to burst forth, overflow, open its heart, and be consumed in service to God and his neighbor. Its blessedness is not taking but giving, not being loved but loving, not being served but serving.

In conclusion my friends, I ask you: Is not love therefore man's obligation, his continual obligation, and his entire obligation?

Perhaps many will not know what they should say. They will not be able to contradict this but perhaps think in the depths of their heart: Well, it seems that way; but is not such a love merely a fantasy, an illusion? For where does this love dwell? and who can attain it? Therefore, how can God demand that of us?

I reply: It is indeed true, my friends, that we vainly seek such a love here upon earth; there was only one who had and exercised this love upon earth, Jesus Christ, who was God and man in one person, praised to all eternity.


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But do not think that for that reason God can not or actually does not demand such a perfect love of us. God gave us this perfect love at creation; that we no longer have it is the result of having fallen into sin, into selfishness. Though we may have lost the power to love perfectly, God’s command: "Thou shalt love God above all things, and thy neighbor as thyself," has not lost its power and validity. That we cannot pay our debt completely does not cancel It. This commandment still applies, still stands before us, still seizes us and threatens all transgressors with eternal woes.

You will say, what are we to do? Should we not despair? Is there no help and deliverance for us? Yes, my friends; there still is help for us. For though we have lost our love to God and our neighbor, God has not lost his love to us. "Herein is love," says John, "not that we loved God, but that he loves us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 1 Jn 4,10.

If we poor, loveless men want to be saved, this then is the way: We must above all honestly perceive with regret and pain, with deep humility and bowed heart the great, horrible lovelessness of our heart, and then as poor, wretched, lost, and condemned sinners go to Christ and beseech him to impute and give us his love. Then if we firmly and confidently build upon his love which loved us unto death, our lovelessness will not only be forgiven us for the sake of our Savior's love and Christ’s love will be imputed to us, but God’s love in Christ in whom we have found grace, will also work love in return in our hearts; then we will also begin to love God and our brethren from our heart and by our deeds. The sun of God's love, like the sun in spring, will then also arise within us, the iciness of our natural heart will melt, and the fire of an ardent love will be kindled within us. Of course, this newly kindled love will never become perfect in this life; it remains imperfect until death; but if through faith we remain in Christ's love, this imperfection within us will daily disappear, and finally when death frees us from the prison of the flesh, we will awaken there in the image of God with perfect love.

Come on, then, my dear hearers; let us go this way, the way of faith, love, and hope. Then all other Christian gifts will cease but these three will remain; but, oh let us never forget this! love is the greatest of them all! Amen

SEPTUAGESIMA  1 Corinthians 9:24 - 10:5    TOP     (German, Archive)

The grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God the heavenly Father, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

That those who live in Christendom have God's Word is a grace, whose greatness cannot be measured by any man, nor gained by thought, much less can it be completely described in words, nor can it be praised enough.

Those living in Christendom have in God's Word a brightly burning heavenly light. There is nothing which is necessary to know for the salvation of their souls concerning which they would not find clear information in God’s


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Word. In it they find a clear answer to all, important questions about God and man, about the past and the future, about time and eternity. Whilst the heathen world which does not have God's Word eternally asks; What is truth? and must forever be in doubt as to the answer and grope in darkness, Christiana on the other hand, have in God's Word the perfect solution to all their doubts.

Those living in Christendom also have in God's Word a treasure chamber in which lies the forgiveness of sins. God's Word not only announces that the sins of all men have been erased through Christ and not only indicates a way by which men can receive forgiveness, but it is at the same time God's hand which gives the precious treasure to men; the entire doctrine of the Gospel contained in God's Word is an absolution pronounced by God upon all men, which every one has the moment he believes.

Moreover, those living in Christendom have in God's Word an ever-flowing fount of comfort. Nothing can happen to them, be it the loss of goods and chattel, the loss of their honor or good name, the loss of their health, the loss of their freedom, the loss of their loved ones, the loss of their own life, they find in God's Word when misfortune strikes, be it ever so great and severe, a comfort which brings them complete ease of mind.· Yes, the very things which hurl those who do not have God's Word into despair appear to those who have it as something for which they can. praise and glorify God.

Moreover, those living in Christendom have in God's Word a sword with which they can defend them.; against all their foes and with which they can be victorious in every struggle. No matter now great the power and cunning may be with which the world and hell attack them, nothing can conquer, cast down, and hurl into hell those who have God's Word. When the world and hell think they have conquered those armed with God's Word and lift up their cry of triumph, then they themselves, lying in the dust, cry out, as once the Church of the Old Testament did: "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. 1 will bear the indignation of the Lord, because 1 have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me; he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness." Micah 7,8.9.

Finally, those living in Christendom have in God's Word the key to heaven. If death comes to them, if they must leave the world and enter eternity,, and if their conscience says to them: You can not be saved; your sins, your unworthiness, your entire reprehensible life closes heaven in your face, they have no reason to despair; they grasp God's Word which says to them: "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." 1 Tim 1,15. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Rom 5,20b. The moment they cling to this Word in faith, even though amid sighing and wrestling, heaven opens to them and the angels come and carry their departing soul into the dwelling place of perfection and eternal peace.

Oh, what great grace God therefore has given all those whom he has. permitted to be born in the midst of Christendom! Oh, that all would recognize how much grace has been shown them because they have God's Word! They would all confess with David that God's Word is .better than thousands of gold and silver, and with Jeremiah that it is the comfort and joy of their heart.

My friends, those who live in Christendom enjoy not only the inexpressible grace of having God's Word; God has added yet another fount of grace to his Word, namely, the Holy Sacraments. As we have said, they are additions to God's Word, but what additions! Permit me to speak to you on how wonderful they are.


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Quote the text here: 1 Corinthians 9,25 to 10,5.

This entire epistle is clearly an urgent summons to be earnest and zealous Christians. in order to make this summons very urgent, the apostle shows in the first section that Christianity is to be compared to a race for a treasure and a duel for a crown. In the second part the apostle shows that the fathers of the Old Testament times partook of all such proofs of grace which prefigured the sacraments of the New Testament, yet scarcely a single one of these highly blessed people reached heaven. Since 1 have at another occasion presented Christianity as a race and a duel, using today's Epistle as the text, permit me today on the basis of the second portion speak to you on

THE GRACE WHICH THOSE ENJOY WHO PARTAKE OF THE HOLY SACRAMENTS

I will show you:

1. How Great This Grace Is, and

2. That in spite of Participating in Them One Can Still Remain Shut out of Heaven.

I.

The apostle begins the second portion of the admonition contained in our text in the words: "However, brethren. I would not that ye should be ignorant. how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ." Vv. 1-4.

In order to understand these words correctly there are some things you must know. After the flood when the human race had again spread into all the world, it had again sunk almost as deeply into corruption as before. The knowledge of the true God, and faith in the promised Redeemer was for the second time almost completely lost. What did God do? He chose Abraham in Chaldea, revealed himself to him, led him away from his relatives and his homeland into the land of Canaan, and promised that this land would not only be his and his descendants, but he also promised that he would become a great nation, and that the Redeemer would be born from his descendants. God promised the same thing to Abraham's son, Isaac, and to his grandson, Jacob or Israel. Jacob had twelve sons i through Joseph, whom his brothers sold as a slave, Israel with his whole family came to Egypt. Here the twelve families of his twelve sons gradually grew to be twelve great tribes and finally a great nation of more than 600,000 men. At first the Israelites couldn't wish for anything better in Egypt; because they Egyptians were thankful to Joseph, they thought well of all of Joseph's relatives; but when Joseph had died and was no longer remembered, and the Israelites visibly increased, the Egyptians became jealous, oppressed the people ever more severely, and finally forced them into complete slavery.

Since the Israelites not only knew the true God from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but were also promised by God that Canaan was to be their possession, they cried to God for help and freedom. And see, God showed mercy on his chosen people. He elected a man named Moses who should lead the nation from Egypt to the promised land, Canaan. At first Pharaoh was absolutely against permitting them to leave; but God gave Moses the power to bring upon Egypt all kinds


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of fearful plagues, whereby Pharaoh was finally forced to let Israel go.

So finally this nation under the leadership of Moses marched out of Egypt to the promised land. The Lord himself was the people’s guide. In the form of a cloud, which gave shade by day and light by night, he preceded them and showed them the way. When after a short march the nation came to the Red Sea, behold! Pharaoh with an army suddenly appeared in the distance, pursuing them. The frightened people saw before them the sea and behind them the mighty foe. They supposed that now they were destined for inevitable destruction.

Moses, on the other hand, assured them of God’s help; and what happened? The cloud which formerly had led the way moved behind them and served as a protecting barrier between the Children of Israel and their foes. But even more happened:  Moses then stretched out his hand over the sea, and loi the deep waters suddenly parted; a dry highway appeared and thus the people walked upon the bottom of the sea to the other shore, while on the right hand and on the left the water towered high in the air.

Pharaoh and his array followed the people upon this miraculous road through the sea; scarcely had the entire army descended to the dry sea-bottom, when lightning and thunder suddenly crashed from the cloud. The whole army fell into confusion and wanted to flee, but when Israel arrived at the opposite shore, upon Moses' nod the boiling waters closed over every man and horse of Pharaoh's army. Israel now had to travel through a desert. They needed food. Scarcely had the nation cried for bread, when behold! God caused bread to rain from heaven; it was manna; and when in the burning sun they needed water, lo! Moses had to strike a rock with his staff and a fresh clear stream of living water quickly gushed forth from dry rock.

Great, yes, inexpressibly great was the grace which God once showed the people of Israel, the people of the Old. Covenant. It was not enough that tod spoke with them, gave them his Word, called them his people, and promised them his grace and help; he added visible signs to his gracious promises. He not only promised to lead the nation himself to Canaan, but he also sealed this promise by the pillars of cloud and fire and by miraculously opening the sea. He not only promised to care for the people,but he also confirmed this promise by raining bread from heaven and bringing water from dry rooks.

Yet why does the Apostle Paul say in our text that the Israelites were "baptized" in the cloud and in the sea, and ate the same "spiritual meat" and drank the same "spiritual drink"? He means to indicate that those signs of the cloud and the sea prefigured the New Testament baptism and the manna and the water from the rock the Lord"s Supper.

From this we see the great grace which those enjoy who partake of the Holy Sacraments. As God once not only gave his people his Word but also added visible signs to it to confirm and seal it, so he not only gave Christians his gracious Word in the Gospel, but in the Sacraments also added visible signs as seals of the Gospel. As once the pillars of cloud and fire were positive signs that God was graciously present to everyone to whom they gave light by night and shade by day, so Holy Baptism is a sign to all who receive it that God has graciously entered in with them. As once all those who went safely through the Red Sea, had a sign that God recognized them as the children of his covenant of grace, and wanted to bring them into the land he promised them, whereas Pharaoh with his entire army perished, so today Holy Baptism is a sign to all who receive it, that their sins are swallowed up by the sea of Christ’s blood, that God wants to receive them as his children, admit them into his covenant of grace, and most certainly bring them at last into the heavenly Canaan promised to them in the Gospel.

As once the Israelites spiritual partook of Christ, when they ate the manna from heaven and drank of the water from the rock, that is, when they were


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thereby strengthened in faith in him, the promised Redeemer, so also in his New Testament supper Christ gives himself spirituali to eat and to drink to all who in faith partake of it. Yes, in the New Testament times when figures have ended, the grace is even greater. In the signs of the Old Testament there was grace through the promise connected with them, yet no heavenly treasures but only the foreshadowing of them; on the other hand, heavenly treasures are connected with the signs of the New Testament. Whoever is baptized has at the same time the Holy Ghost richly poured out upon him; if he believes, he is born again through the water and renewed to eternal life. If anyone is given to eat of the consecrated bread in the Lord's Supper and given to drink of the consecrated blood, he will at the same time be given to eat of Christ's true body and given to drink of his true blood.

Yes, we can be astonished that God once appeared to his people in the cloud and divided the sea in order to lead them through it dry-shod and destroy his foes in it; yet every day we see inexpressibly greater things take place in Christendom whenever baptism is administered. Not only is God himself present in this water but all the sins of the baptized are drowned in it, and, if he has received this baptism in faith, he becomes a new, pardoned, holy, and pure person.

We can be truly astonished that God gave his people bread from heaven and water out of a rock; but every day we see inexpressibly greater things take place in Christendom whenever the Lord’s Supper is distributed. There the communicants eat the true Bread from heaven and drink the true Water of eternal life from the rock of salvation. There a heavenly table is set on earth; the amazed holy angels stand around this table of grace and praise God for the immeasurable grace by which he honors sinners on earth.

II.

This is enough to point out to you the great grace which those enjoy, who partake of the Holy Sacraments; let me show in the second place, that one can nevertheless be excluded from salvation.

After the apostle in our text reminded the Corinthians of the great grace which came to the fathers of the Old Covenant, he adds: "But with many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness." V.5.

When God led the Israelites out of Egypt with a strong hand after great wonders and signs which he did in Egypt through Hoses and whereby he had forced Pharaoh to let them go, when God himself led this nation in the pillar of cloud; when God miraculously made a pathway through the sea itself and in it sacrificed Pharaoh with his entire army; when God not only miraculously fed the nation with bread and water, but continually during the entire journey revealed his presence through thousands of miracles, some of which were pleasing, some frightening, it seemed as if God has passed by all other people, as if it were God's counsel to overwhelm only this nation with his grace, and as if this nation would most certainly have to reach the promised land, what happened, however? Of all the 600,000 men who had left Egypt and had seen, heard, and experienced all the countless miracles and revelations of God during the 40 year wandering, the Lord permitted no more than two, Joshua and Caleb, to enter the promised land. All the others died miserably in the wilderness, and even Moses could see Canaan only from a distance, because he had struck the rock with a doubting heart; he had to die on Mt. Nebo outside the borders of the promised land.


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As the signs of grace which the Israelites received from God were prototypes of the sacraments which Christendom has, so is also God's wrath upon that highly favored nation a picture of God's wrath from which even those, who partake of the sacraments of the New Testament, are not secure.

If you do not belong to those who scorn Holy Baptism, but if you believe and know that when you were baptised you were sprinkled with the water of grace and that God in his grace came to dwell in you when you were baptized, happy are you! But bear in mind that when you again drove God from your hearts by your sins, you have a vain comfort in the fact that when you were baptized God entered your heart.

If you believe and know that in your baptism all your sins were drowned, as Pharaoh and his army were in the Red Sea, happy are you! Bear in mind, however, that if you let sin rule you again after your baptism, if you again sin knowingly, wilfully, and gladly, you comfort yourself in vain with the fact that your sins were hurled into the depths of the sea in your baptism.

You believe and know that your baptism was a washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, who was richly poured out upon you; happy are you! Bear in mind, however, that if you no longer walk as a new person in a new life, with a new heart, in the power of the Holy Spirit; if you do not battle against sin; if you do not bring forth the fruits of the Spirit; if you do not pursue sanctification, you comfort yourself in vain with the thought that in your baptism you became a child of God and an heir of eternal life. You have broken your baptismal vow, lost your baptismal grace, torn your baptismal garment. You are a lost son who must again return to his father in true repentance and conversion; otherwise, you will never see the heavenly Canaan.

Moreover, happy are you if you are not one of those who scorn the Lord's Supper, considering it merely a meaningless ceremony and therefore seldom or never partake of it; happy are you if you diligently partake of it in the firm faith that you are given to eat of the heavenly food of the true body of Jesus Christ and given to drink of the heavenly drink of his true blood. Yet bear in mind! If you unite yourself with the Son of God in this sacrament but then tear yourself away from him by your friendship with the world and your unchristian life, you comfort yourself in vain with this most holy means of grace; yes, because you partake of it unworthily, it not only is worth nothing to you, but you also partake of it to your damnation; you become guilty of the body and blood of the Lord; what was intended to be for your life becomes your death; what was given for a blessing becomes a curse; what was meant for your salvation turns out to be your damnation. You will not be freed of your sins but only heap them up; it would have been better for you, if you had never partaken of it.

Oh, let us all see ourselves reflected in the frightening example of Israelites. As great as was the grace which they enjoyed above millions of others, so frightful was also the wrath which met them when they did not faithfully use the evidence of his grace, which they experienced, to grow in faith and love. Their damnation was the more terrible than even that of Pharaoh's. So also will the damnation of all Christians, who had God's Word and unadulterated sacraments and misused them to feel secure, refuse to turn to God from their hearts, or seek eternal life in good works, will be greater than the damnation of the heathen who knew nothing of God and his means of grace.

But you who gladly want to be faithful to your God and therefore walk in fear and trembling do not be frightened; you are the very ones whom God wants to and will bring into the heavenly Canaan; God will crown faithfulness even if it is imperfect. Joshua and Caleb were not perfect, but they did not let sin reign in them; daily they returned to God whose grace they had experienced and known.


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Therefore use the means of grace faithfully and in daily repentance seek daily cleansing from your stains; though hundreds of thousands might fall in the wilderness of this world, you will deliver your soul and finally enter the land of promise. May Jesus Christ, the uncreated, eternal Angel of the New Covenant help us all. Amen.

SEXAGESIMA     2 Corinthians 11:19 - 12:9    TOP     (German, Archive)

The grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the love of God the heavenly Father, and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

Boastfulness is certainly a most detestable vice. For that reason God has also strictly forbidden it very often in his Word. In Jeremiah we read: "Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exerciseth lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord." Jer 9,23.24. Again, Solomon says: "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger,and not thine own lips." Prov 27,2. Finally David says: "For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish (German: boastful) shall not stand in thy sight; thou hatest all workers of iniquity." Ps 5,4.5.

How disgusted even a natural man usually is, who otherwise has no aversion to sin, when he must hear another always ready to speak of himself, of his superiority, of his great deeds, of his great skill and wisdom, of his great riches, or even of his great piety. Everyone becomes suspicious of such boastfulness and self-praise; for, they think, either he does that' because he is not praised by others, since he deserves no praise, or it shows that in spite of all his superiority he still lacks the crown of all superiority, humility. He who is humble does not make much ado or speak much of himself, lives quietly, honors everyone, but seeks no honor for himself; as a rule he also receives much more sympathy if he suffers injury than he who wants to make a big show of himself.

Who would sympathize with proud Nebuchadnezzar when he was deeply humiliated shortly after he had cried out: "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?" Dan 4,30. Who does not feel happy to hear that that boastful Goliath, who challenged any Israelite to a duel and despised little David, was stretched out on the sand by David, not with a sword, spear, and shield, but with a stone from his sling. In whose heart does not that publican stand a thousand times higher, even though he was a man who had fallen deeply, when he humbly said: "God be merciful to me a sinner," than that Pharisee, full of the conceit of his holiness and piety, who said: "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican!"? Lk 18,11


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Of a truth, boastfulness is a vice which is severely reprimanded not only in God’s Word but which makes one seem ridiculous in the eyes of the world, as well as arousing one's suspicions.

From all this it is easy to conclude that true Christianity certainly can not be compatible with boastfulness, yes, that a true Christian certainly must be a very special foe of this vice. For how does one become a Christian? By the working of the Holy spirit one begins to feel his sinful corruption and to perceive that he is a sinner who has come short of the glory of God and is righteous before God by grace through faith in Christ without any merit. Therefore after Paul had explained the doctrine of the way to salvation he says: "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith." Rom 3:27.

So it is, my friends, that true Christians always have such a humble way of speaking, that they are silent of their good works and gladly confess that they are nothing but poor sinners upon whom God has shown mercy. If even Christ says: "If I honor myself, my honor is nothing; it is my Father that honoreth me, of whom ye say, that he is your God," Jn 8,54 what is a poor man, and if he be the best Christian, to say of himself? Should he boast of his wisdom? He is the one who perceives his blindness! Should he boast of his virtues, his good works, his good heart, his piety and uprightness? He is the one who perceives his sinfulness! Should he boast of his power, his skill, his wealth, and the like? He is the one who perceives his insignificance! He thinks of the word of the apostle who says: "What hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" 1 Cor 4,7. So, whoever lets people notice that he is still pleased with himself and that in one way or another he seeks his glory and honor, he certainly is not a true Christian.

And yet, my friends, there are times when even a Christian is compelled to bear witness of himself; there are situations in which a Christian is forced to boast, so to speak, of himself. An example of that we find in our today's Epistle. Let us now spend a little time pondering this important subject.

Quote the text here: 2 Corinthians 11:19 - 12:9.

We hear in this Epistle how St. Paul boasts of many things. He therefore teaches by his example that in certain circumstances even a Christian can, yes, must boast. Therefore let the subject of our today's meditation be:

CHRISTIAN BOASTING

We ponder:

1. In Which Situations One Can, Yes, Must Boast, and

2. The Nature of Those Who Wish to do That.

Great, omnipotent God, the proud have never pleased you but at all times the prayers of the wretched and humble have; you resist the proud but give grace to the humble. You say in your holy Word: "Talk no more so exceeding proudly," for you put down the mighty from their seats and exalt them of low degree; everything which men consider great is an abomination in your eyes. And yet, Lord, it is also your will that we do not deny your gifts. Oh therefore show us now how we are to be humble and yet dare also boast a bit to the praise of your great name and to the glory of your wonderful grace, yes, that we can and should joyfully boast of what great things you have done to our souls. And some


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day bring us to that place where our mouths will be forever full of laughter and our tongues of praise for the sake of your honor. Amen.

I.

Not seldom do we hear the axiom expressed, that every person must have a certain amount of noble pride. This however is a contradiction. There can be noble pride as little as there can be noble sin, for pride is sin. Thus there also seems to be a contradiction when one speaks of Christian boasting. But that is not so. Boasting and pride have no relation to each other. Pride is man's reprehensible disposition; this can never be noble, not even good; it remains sinful under all circumstances.

That is not the case with boasting; this is a deed which can be good or evil, depending upon the attitude from which it flows and the motives one has. For example, the one who boasts because of thirst for honor or because he does not want to endure disgrace which always is connected with the confession of and imitating the Crucified, his boasting is sin, yes, an abomination to God; he is not a Christian, for the Lord clearly says: "How can ye believe which receive honor one of another?" Jn 5,44. St. Paul writes: "Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise." 1 Cor 3,18.

When boasting is not sinful but a Christian work we see in the example of Paul in our text. What moved him to boast so much to his Corinthians? We learn the following things from the entire letter.

Paul had founded an important congregation in the heathen city of Corinth through his preaching; to his great joy he had engendered true faith and a godly life; after a year and a half stay there he went axray with the most beautiful hopes for the success and growth of the congregation. But not long thereafter he heard with sorrow that the wolf had forced his way into the flock and threatened to destroy it.

False teachers had sneaked into the congregation at Corinth; they had tried to confuse them and lead them from the true faith by being busy in every possible way belittling, casting suspicion upon, and estranging the hearts of those whom Paul had converted. The false teachers had acted as if they were the true apostles, but Paul a false apostle who misled them. With a great show they had boasted that they must first bring the Corinthians upon the true way and give them the true Spirit; on the other hand, Paul who had preached only of faith in Christ was a man spiritually dead, fleshly, unconverted. Saddest of all had been that the inexperienced Corinthians had for the greater part been deceived by the ridiculous boasting of these false apostles; they even let themselves be ruled by them, and be deceived in material things in which these belly servers were mainly interested. The apostle therefore says in the beginning of our Epistle: "For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face." Vv.19.20.

One can well imagine how it must have hurt Paul, when he heard of their tragic situation. That he had been debased in the eyes of the Corinthians and covered with abuse and disgrace did not worry him; that he could bear easily ; as a servant of God he was accustomed to that; he thought: If the world spit in the face of God's Son, his servant can expect no better from it; yes, he considered this disgrace his honor.

But that his beloved Corinthians had been misled to repudiate him, so that they might also fall from his doctrine, from the true faith, from Jesus


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Christ, that pierced his heart. Paul saw: If in false humility he would now be silent about the defamations of the false apostles, a large number of the Corinthian Christians would go astray not only in regard to him, but also in regard to Christ and his Gospel. Though he usually spoke humbly of himself, under these circumstances he must use another kind of language. His own honor was not at stake but the salvation of many immortal souls, God's honor whose servant he was, and the truth of the Word which he had preached. This then compelled him to open the eyes of the Corinthians and show them that he could boast of things of which those false apostles had no experience. He then began to contrast the empty boasts of the false apostles with what he himself could in truth boast of.

Here you see, my friends, in which situations boasting is a Christian and God-pleasing thing; if the honor of God's name and the salvation of our neighbor demand it; yes, then boasting is not only permissible but even commanded, not only a right but even a holy duty. Many indeed say: It is all the same to me what men think and say about me, whether they consider me an upright Christian or a hypocrite, a belly server or a servant of Christ, guilty of innocent; they think that a Christian dare not ask about such things just as long as God knows the purity of his heart. They therefore consider it proper to be silent in the face of all slanders of the foe and not to vindicate and defend themselves; much less that a Christian has something whereof to boast before his adversaries. The best would be to let them run on until they become tired and commend everything to God.

Though abandoning all self-defence and disregarding all the attacks of the foe seems to be best, a Christian can be as little indifferent to the opinions of people about him as was the Apostle Paul. Of course, a Christian must be unconcerned about whether the world honors or despises him insofar as his person is concerned; for Paul writes in another passage: "If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." Gal 1,10. But it is something else when, by evil rumors which are spread about a Christian, the honor of God's name and the salvation of his neighbor is endangered. If, for example, the failing of an upright and zealous Christian is spread through gossip, the world immediately believes it and draws the seemingly proper conclusion, that his faith can not be the true one; yes, since such a zealous Christian is exposed as a secret criminal, then surely all Christianity is only hypocrisy. Then the unbelievers harden themselves the more against the truth, and the weak in faith go astray. If in such cases the reviled does nothing in order to rid himself of the suspicion brought upon him, he would become guilty of all the blasphemies of the name and Word of God arising therefrom and of all the offence of the weak.

You see, that is the reason why a Christian must be earnestly concerned about a good reputation and a good name among those who are within and outside the Church. Of course, situations arise when a Christian either can not defend himself and had only God as the witness of his innocence, or where even the world perceives the falsehood of the rumor which has spread; then it is time to be silent; but if it is within the Christian's power to unmask the slanderer armed with a "good story", then he should do it and for the sake of God and his neighbor reveal and rescue his innocence.

Not only does our text furnish an example of this; the Old and New Testaments are full of such example. Acts 16 tells us how Paul and Silas had been flogged wrongly and thrown into prison like common thieves, and then on the next day they wanted to release them secretly; what did Paul do? For the sake of the honor of the Gospel he insisted that he be escorted out of the city not secretly but with a guard of honor. Job is another example. When great misfortune struck this pious servant of the Lord, his friends came and sought to make him confess that his misfortune was a punishment for his secret sins; but what did Job do? Perceiving that false humility would be leaving the way of piety which he had


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followed in the past, he defended himself with great earnestness, appealed to his upright life, yes, declared to the whole world with confident heart: "God forbid that I should justify you. ... My heart shall not reproach me as long as I live." Job 27,5a.6b.

II.

We have seen in which situations one can, yes, one should boast; let us hear in the second place, the nature of those who wish to do that.

No duty seems to be more easily fulfilled than this one. But it only seems so. I must rather say: This obligation is one of the most difficult of all which falls to a Christian's lot. Only a few people are capable of discharging it. We see in Paul what one must do. What kind of a mind do we find in him?

First, deep humility. He declares not only in our text that he acts foolishly, that he would be a fool, if he would boast of his own glory, since he would have nothing whereof to boast because all is grace; how does he write elsewhere? "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." 1 Tim 1,15.16. Again he writes: "And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me." 1 Cor 15,8-10. I could cite a great number of expressions from this apostle which show what deep humility lived in his heart; let these two suffice.

Nevertheless we dare not suppose that this humility came because the apostle was conscious of a half-hearted and sluggish Christianity. His Christianity was adorned with the most wonderful virtues and works. For of what things could he boast as far as the false teachers were concerned? He enumerates a long list of dangers and persecutions which he had courageously overcome upon his apostolic journeys, of sufferings which he endured for Christ’s sake, of insults which he bore for the Gospel’s sake, and of labors and worries and troubles which he took upon himself for the sake of the souls entrusted to him; and finally he discloses to the Corinthians that fourteen years before God honored him by a rapture into the third heaven, namely, beyond the clouds and stars into the heaven of the saints, into God's paradise while still in his body, but also so that he would not exalt himself because of the great revelation given him, God permitted a messenger of Satan to buffet him.

Now here, my friends, we have an example which shows us what kind of people they must be who want to join Paul in vindicating themselves over against those who are their revilers and adversaries and in a certain sense do some boasting. It is not necessary to attain just as high a degree of holiness nor have done and suffered as much for Christ's sake as Paul; for perhaps no person on earth will equal him; but this much is certain: Only a true, humble, zealous, and self-denying Christian is capable of joyfully censuring the lies of those who scold him.

Only he who considers himself unworthy of praise can praise himself before his foes without sinning; only he who gives all honor alone to God, does


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not seek his own honor but flees from honor amongst men, and above all fears the respect of the world and hates and suppresses all proud thoughts which arise in him, only he can praise himself without sinning, if God's honor demands it; only he who lives no longer to himself and constantly seeks the welfare of his neighbor and not his own, only he out of pure love to souls and out of concern that they might not be offended and misled can without sin appeal to his upright life and his good works; finally, only he who lives honorably and blamelessly not only before the world, but also conscious of pure purposes, holy zeal, and a completely pure, honest mind and heart, only he can step before his enemies and without committing sin rescue his good name from their slanderers.

You see from this: the teaching that in certain situations the Christian not only has the right and the freedom, but also the duty to appeal to his life and his works and with their help vindicate himself before men, this doctrine contains an urgent summons to examine oneself, whether he can also do this; for he who can not do that is not yet a true Christian but a blemish on Christendom, an offence and a stone of stumbling in the kingdom of God.

So my friends, examine yourselves. Have you, my dear hearers, by God's grace become a different person? has your naturally proud heart become humble through the living knowledge of your sinfulness and do you no longer seek your own honor, deem yourself rather unworthy of all praise? are you afraid of all respect and all distinction before men? if, when your foes slander you and God1s honor and the salvation of souls demand it, can you praise yourself without sinning?

When the world reproaches Christians as being hypocrites who outwardly appear to be pious but inwardly are full of rascality, can you boldly lift up your head and say: I am not a hypocrite; I am dead serious about my piety, my worship of God, and my association with true Christians? If the world says that Christians boast of faith in order to be able to live peacefully on in sin and not have to do good works, that Christians turn the merit of Christ into a cushion for their sins, can you then step before these foes and say: Examine my life; in spite of my trust in Christ, am I not diligent in good works and a pious life? If the world reproaches Christians saying that they wear their Christianity for a show for impure purposes, can you go up to them and say: Do not I patiently endure disgrace, persecution, and distress for the sake of my faith?

If enthusiasts reproach you with not being truly converted, with having only a dead orthodoxy, with being a fleshly person without the Holy Ghost, can you without blushing say with Paul: "By the grace of God I am what I am; and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain"? 1 Cor 15,10. My faith is truly the work of the Holy Spirit? God gives me the testimony that I am his child? my Christianity does not consist in words but in power? I know that even if I would die today I would die a blessed death? In short, if you are slandered and rejected by the world as a false Christian, a hypocrite, a godless person, can you appeal to your works, to your walk, to the testimony of your conscience, to the all-knowing Searcher of the heart, to the great witnesses in heaven?

Here my friends, you have the goal which has been fixed for you. Remember : Whoever either because of his secret or public sins and dishonesty dare not call himself a true Christian, or a pardoned, reborn child of God, a saint, or in false humility does not want to consider and declare himself that, and says: May God preserve me from such pride of wanting to praise myself that way! -- he also is not yet a Christian; nor is he a child of God; he still is a non-Christian, a child of sin and hell; he still is one of the godless and travels the broad way to eternal perdition, even if otherwise he walks ever so honorably.

So, come on! All of you who still have an evil, branded, spotted


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conscience which condemns you; be converted; perceive your wretchedness, and cleanse your conscience from dead works by the blood of Christ.

And you who are in Christ and therefore laugh and mock at the slander of the world because your conscience tells you that God is your friend, and that you are God's friend, remain in Christ, that "when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." Amen. 1 Pet 4,13b.

QUINQUEGESIMA    1 Corinthians 13    TOP     (German, Archive)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

Without a doubt Holy Scripture presents faith as the one thing necessary for salvation; it teaches that good works make no one righteous or godly in God's eyes, that no one can be saved by them, yes, that man's works do not contribute the least in receiving salvation. Why, in the Old Testament we read: "Abram believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness Gen 15,6. Habakuk testifies: "The just shall live by his faith." Hab 2,4.

But in the New Testament this teaching is found in even greater clarity; it stands there as clearly as if written with the rays of the sun: Not works but faith is the way to salvation. Every time a person turned to Christ for help, we hear that he looked only at his faith. "If thou canst believe," he cried to that father who sought help for his son from him after he had sought it in vain from the disciples. "Fear not, believe only, and she shall be made whole," Lk 8,50 Christ cried to another father, when he had lost all hope for help, because of the report that his daughter was already dead. "As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee," was the customary answer which the Lord gave in response to the prayers of the wretched directed to him.

In their epistles all the apostles speak exactly the same way: "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Rom 4,5. "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." Rom 3,28. "By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast," Eph 2,8.9. Yes, even more; in the 6th chapter of John's Gospel we are told that the Jews once put the question to Christ: "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God’" And how did Christ reply? Even to this question he pointed alone to faith and says: "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." Jn 6,28.29.

How important that is! If it were not so clearly revealed in Holy Scripture that not works but faith alone is the way ordained by God by which we can obtain salvation, who could ever be certain of salvation? Yes, who would dare even to hope that some day he could stand before God?

There are many indeed who are ashamed to seek salvation through faith in Christ, the Savior of sinners; they base their hope for eternity upon their upright life and yet are completely confident about eternity; but whence comes


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this repose? From this, that they thoughtlessly consider themselves good without having ever once made a strict accounting of their heart, their thoughts, their words, their works, and their entire life. If all men would do THAT, they would soon perceive, that no one could stand before God and be saved by his works but only by such a means as faith in Christ.

For no matter how uprightly a person lives, if he would only hear the voice of the judge of his thoughts, words, and deeds which lives within him, his conscience, he will always hear as it accuses him and daily pronounces the verdict of guilty upon him. If a man examines himself according to such commands as: "Ye shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," then if he does not catch sight of countless failing within him, a person must be completely blind and the eyes of his soul must be wilfully closed before the mirror held before us by God himself; for who can count how often he fails? Who can say: I am holy, I am as perfect as God?1.

So how important it is for us to know that God has revealed to us, who had trifled away the right to a blessed eternity through sin, the possibility of being blessed again by the offer of faith! Had God not shown us sinners this new ladder to heaven, then all who would come to a living knowledge of their sinfulness would have to surrender to hopeless despair.

Let no one think that this teaching is indeed salvation for those who, oppressed by the consciousness of their sins, yearn for freedom and salvation, but dangerous to those who are comfortable in the midst of their sin! That is not so; for although love with its good works saves no one, nevertheless both are necessary to prove whether a person actually has faith. Faith and love stand in the same relation to each other as do father and child, and are as inseparably united with each other as fire and light. He who says, that he is justified before God through faith, must at the same time vindicate himself before men by his love; otherwise he is a liar; for faith is active through love} yes, St. Paul shows in our today’s Epistle that love not only stands above all other gifts and works and virtues, but in many respects over faith itself. Therefore permit me to speak to you more on the excellencies of love.

Quote the text here: 1 Corinthians 13.

On the basis of this text I will speak to you on

THE INCOMPARABLE IMPORTANCE AND GLORY OF CHRISTIAN LOVE

1. The Most Glorious Talents and Deeds are Worthless if Love is Missing.

2. It Contains in Itself an Entire List of the Most Lovely Virtues of a True Christian, and finally.

3. Of All the Gifts and Characteristics of a Christian It Alone Lasts Forever.

Lord Jesus, you say: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Jn 13,35. Alas, Lord, if we think on these words, we must become frightened; for we must confess that little, alas! little brotherly love is to be noticed in us. We therefore ask you to bless your holy Word in this hour, so that the fire of your love may be enkindled within us; where it already burns, may it bum ever brighter, ever lovelier, ever stronger. Oh Eternal Fount of all love, pour yourself with your heavenly flames into out cold heart, that we may remain in love here on this world and some day be saved in love forever and ever. Amen.


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I.

My friends, our today's Epistle is not so much a composed dissertation as a thrilling, eloquent eulogy on love; yes, it is a New Testament song of degrees, an ardent Psalm of praise in which the apostle, elevated on the wings of true Christian inspiration, sings in noblest expressions of love in its heavenly beauty and incomparable glory. A Christian preacher might well fear that he would by his exposition weaken the impression which the mere reading makes on every mind. God grant that my sermon will at least become a hint which will point you to the excellence of love, so that you can ponder upon his words with even greater attention,

In order to understand our text, we must picture to ourselves the situation in the Corinthian congregation. From the whole letter we see that the congregation had great gifts. No sooner was the Gospel accepted in this great, important, cultured city of Greece than God granted to many the gift of speaking in foreign languages, explaining Scripture, great knowledge, and performing miracles to confirm the Gospel publicly.

But what happened? Some used those who had these gifts for their own honor, let themselves be reflected in these gifts, and bragged about them; others paid more attention to the gifts which they saw in their ministers than to the Gospel which they preached; the one therefore preferred Paul, another Apollos, a third Cephas, and in a sectarian manner said they belonged to Paul, to Apollos, or to Cephas.

The news of this situation in a congregation founded by him grieved Paul deeply. Referring to this, he shows in the words before our text that God has divided his gifts differently, but that they are all to be considered the same, for they were given by God for the common good; only if they are used in harmony with each other do they edify the whole church; then in our text Paul shows that without love even the most glorious gifts and deeds are worthless before God, because he looks at the heart.

He says: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." V.l. If a person could not only speak all the languages of the world but even speak the truth of the Gospel in the languages of angels, so that the whole world would listen and be awakened, moved, and converted to Christ, but if his heart lacked love; if he spoke ever so gloriously of God's Word, not from love to sinners, nor out of longing for the salvation of souls but in self-love, conceit, and egotism with the intention of causing others to be astonished at him and praise him, he is like sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal; it delights others with its beautiful tones but himself does not understand or perceive it; he awakens others to life but he himself is dead; he brings others to God's grace, and himself remains under God's wrath; he guides others to heaven and himself goes the way to hell.

The apostle therefore continues: "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." V. 2. The apostle means to say: If a person had the gift of prophecy, that is, explaining Scriptures and deciphering its hidden meaning; if he had such knowledge that he could judge everything which belongs to Christianity in doctrine and life in the best and truest possible way; if he had such a miraculous faith that he could not only do the,usual miracles but also remove mountains; but if, while he could do all these things, his heart was without love, if he did not view his gifts merely as a way of serving others, if he selfishly used


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them, sought his own praise and honor with them, men would consider him great because of his gifts, but in God's eyes he is and amounts to nothing.

Finally, the apostle says: "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." V.3. And if a person does even such great works which are called works of love; if a person gives everything he has to the poor and himself becomes poor; yes, if he lets himself be burned as a Christian by the enemies of the Gospel and becomes a martyr, but if he did all this without love in his heart; if he desires to build up his reputation by his alms, achieve the odor of sanctity by his voluntary poverty, and acquire a posthumous fame in the world by his martyr's death, he really does good to others with his works, but he himself has his reward in doing as he did.

Thus you see the incomparably importance of love. We have heard: though a person may speak as charmingly and powerfully as an angel; though his Christian words may be like apples of gold in pictures of silver; though he may know the entire Bible by heart, yes, set it off with apostolic knowledge and miracles ; though he may be rich in the most highly extolled works and everyone praise him as a noble benefactor of mankind or a zealous promoter of Christ's kingdom; and though he may even die the martyr's death at the stake, if all this does not flow from love, it is all the filthy discharge of a filthy spring. If he does not have love, he is not a Christian in spite of his gifts and apparent works of love. Love, therefore, is the true crown of all gifts, love is the true weight in the scales of all deeds; if love is missing, all one's works and life is only sinful, lost, and rejected by God; someday God will say to all who lack love: "I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Mt 7,23.

Oh, how necessary it therefore is for everyone to examine himself to see whether love is in his heart, and whether all his works, which seem to be Christian in nature, flow from this source.

II.

A glorious text of this we find in the next words of our text. St. Paul shows that love contains a great number of the most lovely virtues of a true Christian. Permit me in the second place to speak to you of this.

In our text Paul mentions fifteen virtues which attend true love. Love is completely different from any of the other Christian virtues; it does not,as others do,show itself only on this or that occasion. It permeates the Christian as the sap the tree; without being compelled to do so it produces in his life all kinds of sweet fruits of Christian virtues. Love is like a flower bed in which the fragrant flowers of beautiful Christian virtues grow up; as the rays of the sun go out in all directions, filling mountain and valley with its light, so virtues radiate from love, casting a heavenly sunshine on all the works of the Christian. If love dwells in one's heart, it is surrounded by a large family of virtues as a pious mother is by laughing infants.

Let us pause a moment at each virtue which Paul mentions.

He says: "Charity suffereth long." V.4. Whoever has love in his heart can calmly let another cause him all manner of evil for a long time without becoming angry, and wait a long time until he sees the wrong.

Paul says secondly: "Charity is kind." Whoever has love will not look


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sullen and sour but even by his bearing will show that he is filled with goodwill to all and finds his joy in making others happy and serving them.

Paul says in the third place: "Charity envieth not." Whoever has love is not jealous of another's property; he does not become envious if he has more earthly wealth or more spiritual gifts, more blessing, more honor and respect; he is as happy over what his neighbor has as though it were his own.

We read in the fourth place: "Charity vaunteth not itself." One filled with true love does not make jokes at the expense of another and inconsiderately makes someone the butt of his ridicule.

Fifthly: "Charity is not puffed up." One ruled by love is not inflated, does not look down with contempt on someone, but considers the gifts of another greater than his and his of lesser importance.

Sixthly: "Charity does not behave itself unseemly," V.5. If one's heart is filled with love, he is not rude and uncivil in attitude and words; he is not impolite, but is polite and modest in his behavior as well.

Seventhly: "Charity seeketh not her own." If one has true love, he will not seek his own advantage at the expense of his neighbor; he will not selfishly carry on the most praiseworthy work with the hope of being thanked or rewarded but moved only by the hope of furthering God's honor or serving his neighbor. He is more happy when he can dry someone·else’s tears and heal their wounds rather than his own.

Eighthly: "Charity is not easily provoked." Even if the Christian who Is filled with love Is aroused, he does not become angry but guards his peace in God by calmness and patience.

Ninthly: "Charity thinketh no evil." If one has love, he does not lie in wait for an opportunity to take revenge on his enemies. Yes, he does not wish them any evil and does not cry to God against them but wishes that they would be converted and wishes them well now and in eternity.

Tenthly and eleventhly: "Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth." V.6. Though he who has true love is gentle toward sinners and the erring, he is earnestly opposed to sin and error. True love is a holy love; anyone who is indifferent toward unrighteousness and truth claims falsely that this is done out of love; a love which does not hate Unrighteousness and does not rejoice in the truth is only an illusion of love.

Twelfthly to fifteenthly: "Charity beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." V.7. If one's heart is kindled by love, he will "bear" the failings of his neighbor as though they were his own; he will cover them, excuse and put the best construction on everything; he "believes" that the good which he sees in others really is something good; he does not cherish jealousy, mistrust, and suspicion, but wherever possible puts the best construction on everything. And even if the sins and malice of his neighbor becomes evident he at least "hopes" that the sinner will be converted, despairs of no one, and loves the godless, thinking: He who is God's enemy today can be God's friend tomorrow. Finally, if it seems impossible to hope, he will not let himself be moved to hatred and vindictiveness but "endure" all things humbly, not take vengeance himself, but wait until the Lord comes and brings his innocence to light.


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There, my friends, you see how glorious a thing love is; it is a heavenly diadem which the Christian wears in which a long row of virtues glitter as precious stones. If all who called themselves Christians were animated by true love, every church or congregation would be an annex to heaven and living in Christian communion a heaven on earth, a foretaste of eternal life.

III.

My friends, Paul mentions a third point which brings to light the incomparable glory of Christian love; it is: of all the gifts and characteristics of a Christian it alone lasts forever.

The apostle continues thus: "Charity never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophecy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child. I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

In these words the apostle not only places love above the gift of tongues, prophecy, and knowledge, but even over faith and hope; and this he does because all these, even faith and hope, cease but love remains. In eternity the angels and elect will speak only one language; therefore the gift of speaking various languages will not be needed but love will remain.

In eternity God's Word will be an unsealed book; therefore in heaven there will be no prophets; a perfect understanding of the Word which God will give all the saints will replace piecemeal prophecy or exposition of Scripture; therefore also prophecy will cease; nothing will replace love; it will remain unchanged.

In eternity the saints will see God face to face; therefore there will be no knowing in heaven as here upon earth; here even the greatest knowledge is only in part; through the Word that which should be known is presented to us like a picture reflected in a mirror; therefore even the greatest knowledge here on earth is like the knowledge of a child with its childish babbling; as childish babblings give way to the wisdom of the man and the picture gives way to reality, so in eternity knowledge will give way to seeing face to face; on the other hand, love will give way to no other characteristic. It will remain.

"Faith" and "hope", as the apostle says, will also abide "now", that is, during this time; they can not, as the other gifts of prophecy, miracles, and knowledge, be extinguished here in time; no, as long as there are Christians here upon earth so long will faith and hope be found on earth. But in eternity they will cease and only love will remain. Therefore "the greatest of these is charity."

True "faith" is great because it makes the sinner righteous before God, rescues many from hell, and open heaven to him; but in eternity it will cease, for then all the promises upon which faith is based are fulfilled, and thus faith is turned into sight.

Christian "hope" is also something great; it fills the sufferer with heavenly comfort and permits him in time to look into eternity to see his crown from a distance, but in eternity hope will also cease; for in heaven there is no future but everything is in the here and now; there the saints live in an eternal blessed Today.


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Whilst in eternity all this disappears, "love" on the other hand will remain; it lasts beyond the grave and accompanies the Christian into the world to come. Here it begins to glimmer in his heart like a hidden heavenly spark; it is not extinguished even in death, but then breaks forth mightily like a dampened flame and grows into an immense fire. Yes, as a spring discharges itself in a little brook, gradually becomes a river, and finally is lost in an ocean, so it is with the little brook of love; flowing forth from God, it constantly swells in the Christian life into a more powerful stream until it finally flows into the sea of eternity.

Oh, may no one deceive himself by the mere illusion of faith and Christianity, for without love faith is only a pretence, our Christianity only an illusion. If your heart still lacks the flame of love, oh, then repent, for then you still lack faith; but if there is no faith, there is no grace; if there is no grace, there is no salvation.

And you who can answer Christ's question: Do you love me and your brethren? with : Yes, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you and my brethren; oh, faithfully cherish this heavenly plant in your hearts through the use of the Word and the Sacraments and by daily, yes, ceaseless sighs for the Spirit of love. But above all, because your heart grows cold so easily, approach the eternal love of your God and Father in Christ every day and hour and there make it warm. Yes, if you remain in love you remain in God and God in you. For "now" during this time "abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity;" it remains forever Praised be God's love in his Son through the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

1ST SUNDAY IN LENT    2 Corinthians 6:1-16.    TOP    (German, Archive)

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ out Lord. Amen.

In this precious Savior, dearly beloved hearers.

"I have trodden the winepress alone,and of the people there was none with me; ... I looked, and there was none to help." Is 63,3.5. This is the way the Messiah speaks in the 63rd chapter of Isaiah. Here he testified that he alone would crush the serpent's head, he alone would carry out the work of redemption, he alone would win salvation for imprisoned and lost mankind; in this work he would have none in heaven and on earth to help him, nor could anyone assist him.

If we study the story of the reconciling and redeeming suffering of our Savior, we see that prophecy literally fulfilled. When the Lord entered upon his great suffering, he was immediately forsaken by all creature. In Gethsemane while he, as it were, turned into a writhing worm in the dust, sweat bloody sweat, and wrestled with death, all his disciples, even Peter who had wanted to die with him, were asleep and not a one wanted to watch with him for only one hour. After this when he was betrayed into the hands of sinners, Judas, one of


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his own disciples, had been the one to betray him. And another, Peter, in order not to have to share in the suffering which was beginning, denied him; all the other disciples fled. Then another prophecy, one from Zechariah, went into immediate fulfilment: "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of h03ts; smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." Zech 13,7.

True, later on we find Johanna, Mary, and other pious women, but not to suffer and die with Christ, but only to lament and weep over him. Forsaken by God and men, he had to cry out: "I have trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with me; ... I looked and there was none to help;" yes, at the end he even exclaimed: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

And my dear hearers, it could be no other way. God is righteous; he therefore had to punish sin, and he can crown only him with eternal life who has done his will his entire life and is perfectly righteous. Therefore the one who wanted to redeem us fallen men from the misery of our sins and bring back our lost salvation had to be a perfectly holy and pure person, in order to be able to suffer and die innocently in our place; he also had to be God himself, in order that he himself would not be under God's Law, fulfil it for us, conquer sin, death, and hell, and to be able to win a perfect righteousness, innocence, and blessedness for us.

Therefore no angel could execute this work, to say nothing then of sin-burdened man himself. Only Jesus Christ, God and man in one person, could do this. And as God could not have any helper in the work of creating the world out of nothing, so also at the second creation, the redemption of the world, the Son of God did and could not have any help from any creature. He trod the wine

press of God's wrath alone, and he alone could tread it.

Woe therefore to the man who wants to be saved and does not seek his salvation alone in Christ; who wants to merit something in God's eyes by himself, earn something by himself!

We therefore read in the hymn:

Christ says: "Come, all ye that labor,

And receive My grace and favor;

They who feel no want no ill

Need no physician's help nor skill.

"Useless were for thee My Passion,

If thy works thy weal could fashion.

This feast is not spread for thee.

If thine own Savior thou wilt be." (311,6.7.)

But my friends, as irrefutably true as it is that Christ alone has earned salvation, nevertheless it is just as true that, after we have received salvation by true faith, we must become God's helpers. The Apostle Paul testifies to this in our today's Epistle. Therefore let us today ponder this important, necessary, and refreshing truth with heartfelt devotion.

Quote the text here: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10.

My friends, the first verse of the text just read is quoted in our pub1ic confessions as proof of the fact that when a person is converted he must then also co-operate; and that is absolutely correct. When at the beginning of our text the apostle writes: "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain," he not only called himself a


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"worker together with God"; but he also sets himself up as an example to the Christians at Corinth whom they are to imitate and admonishes them that they also are to be God's assistants. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit permit me to present to you:

MAN'S CO-OPERATION AFTER HIS CONVERSION

I will show you:

1. That Before a Person is Converted He Cannot Co-operate with the Holy Ghost, and

2. That After His Conversion Man not Only Can Co-operate but, if He does not Want to Lose God's Grace Again. He Must Co-operate.

Faithful and merciful God, in order to save us sinners, you not only let your only begotten Son become a man and gave him up into suffering and death; but through your Holy Word you have also prescribed the way in which you intend to lead us to that salvation won for us. Oh then open our hearts and ears through the gracious entrance of your Holy Spirit now that we want to hear from your Holy Word what we are to do, so that we may receive eternal life. Take from us all our spiritual weakness and indifference, sleepiness and laziness; take from us all thoughts, worries, and desires of outside things; enlighten and sharpen our understanding; sanctify and strengthen our will; direct our entire soul upon the one thing needful, and make this hour an hour of awakening, so that its fruit will remain for eternal life. Hear us, oh God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, your dear Son, our only Savior. Amen! Amen!

I.

"We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain," is the way Paul begins in our text. Thus the apostle admonishes Christians to become God's assistants; but at the same time he gives an indication what they could have done before their conversion. He calls their conversion the receiving of God's grace. Thus he testifies that the awakening, the enlightening, the rebirth, in short, the conversion which they had already experienced was a work of pure divine grace to which they could not have contributed the least little thing.

And that is true; before a person is converted, he cannot co-operate with the Holy Ghost.

Sad to say, on this point there are many different errors even among so-called Christians. Some suppose that by nature man is good; he becomes corrupt and wicked through poor training and evil example. Others suppose that when man is bom he is not good but like an unmarked board upon which there is neither evil nor good; that by nature man has a free will to choose the good and reject the evil, and this even in spiritual things, even in matters which concern his soul and salvation; that by nature he has the power to decide to go the correct way just as well as the wrong; that man could want to do the good; that if he would firmly resolve to do it, he could carry out the good work.

On the other hand, others suppose that man could not finish the work of his conversion, but he could at least begin it; if he does that, then the Holy Spirit will help him along. Others think that man could and must at least prepare himself for grace; if he does that, then God will extend him a helping hand. Finally, still others suppose that man can indeed do nothing to begin


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his conversion, but when God has made the start, then the power of his will which lies dormant awakens and then he can carry on by himself and finish the work begun by God.

But all these suppositions concerning the free will of an unconverted man in spiritual matters are nothing but gross, harmful errors; they merely serve to make him proud and secure; they confirm his self-confidence and self- righteousness, by which he is flattered and God's grace is robbed of its honor.

It is indeed true that even after the fall man by nature has a free will in matters of this life and in works of civil righteousness. It is indeed true that even an unconverted person has a free will to build or not to build a house, to cultivate or not to cultivate a field, to learn and carry on or not to learn and carry on a trade or skill; yes, to read and hear or not to read and hear God's Word, to curse or not to curse, to become drunk or not to become drunk; to commit or not to commit adultery and fornication; to steal or not to steal; although even in these last named things a person can fall so deeply into the habits and snares of Satan that he is led from sin to sin like a sacrificial animal without being able to offer resistance.

But in spiritual things, in those works which please God, in the true fulfilment of the Law, in the knowledge and acceptance of the Gospel, in faith in Christ, in fear, love, and trust in God above all things, in short, in that which belongs to our salvation, which concerns true repentance and heartfelt conversion, man has no free will; he is not only weak but completely without power. In an unconverted person there is not even a spark of true goodness.

Hear yourself what Holy Writ teaches us on this point. Genesis says: "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." Gen 8,21. The same thing in Ps 53: "God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back; they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not onePs 53,2.3. Again we read: "Without me ye can do nothing." Jn 15,5. And: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Jn 3,6.

St. Paul writes: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Cor 2,14. And: "No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." 1 Cor 12,3. And again: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God." 2 Cor 3,5. We read: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Phil 2,13. Yes, in order that no one tries to find in man in his unconverted, natural state any power to do good, Paul writes: "Even when we were DEAD in sins, hath (he) quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved.)" Eph 2,5.

There you see, my friends, according to God's Word every person is by nature, that is, before his conversion, spiritually dead. Just as a corpse can not see, hear, receive, or do any of the usual things, yes, can not rouse and move himself, so a natural unconverted person can not rightly know and understand anything spiritual, nor anything which concerns the salvation of his soul, can not think properly of these things, resolve to do something, want to do it, and then does it. Yes, if natural man is correctly taught the way from God's Word, he would refuse to give his consent; rather, as long as he is not enlightened by the Holy Spirit, he considers everything folly and enthusiasm; and if he is exhorted to be converted and do truly good works, as long as the Holy Ghost does not work in him, he can do nothing but resist. In spiritual things man is therefore not only like a stick or a stone which neither wants to not can it act,


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but he is worse than a stick or stone, because he can oppose the operation of grace working in him.

Therefore just as fallen Adam had not returned to God, had God not first come to him in grace, sought him out, and led him back, so God must by his grace first come to all others with his Word and Spirit, otherwise not one person in the whole world would turn to God. Moreover, as man had nothing to do with the fact that he was created and begotten and born into the world, so also all fallen men could not do a thing so that they are created anew, have their stony heart changed, and are born again. As little as a corpse can assist in being made alive, so little can an unconverted, spiritually dead person assist in being made spiritually alive. Man can not convert himself or assist the least little bit in his conversion; only by permitting God's operation and allowing it to happen is he awakened, enlightened, brought to faith, and converted. Yes, even before man permits God's operation, God must first remove the resistance found in him before his conversion and free his will, which by nature is bound and enslaved.

And now, will many a one think: Is that not a dangerous doctrine? When men hear that they can not even assist in their conversion, but that God must do everything, will they not say: Well, if God must do everything, then I will wait, put my hands peacefully in my lap until God converts me!? I reply: It is true that there are people who use this doctrine in that way. But my friends, that is not the use of this doctrine but a shameful and harmful misuse. Far from being one which could make us secure and hinder our repentance, the teaching that God alone can convert us is really the most powerful awakener to repentance possible.

Tell me: When we hear from God's Word that we are dead in sin and can do nothing but resist, does that not bid us to despair completely of ourselves, be afraid of ourselves, cast ourselves down before God as wretched, lost, rejected, and condemned creatures, rely completely upon God, and cry to him for mercy and help?

Yes, you may even say: But if we can do nothing, we can not even do that! It is true that we can not do this by our own power. But every time God's Word is preached to us, every time we read God's Word, or are merely reminded of it, God comes to us with his grace, knocks at our door, and demands not only such despair of ourselves but also works this within us. That then is, as the apostle says in our text: "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." V.2b. Therefore he also cries to the Philippians: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." 2,12. And what does he adduce as the reason for doing that? lie adds: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."

Hence, just because God alone can convert us, fear and trembling should be in us that God's Word is not hindered in us by our own fault. The fact that we do not have the least bit of power to work or assist in our own conversion calls to us for the sake of our salvation not to resist him wilfully and stubbornly every time God works in us and wants to convert us. And the fact that we do not have any power to work our conversion also warns us not to postpone our conversion a single hour; it demands that we answer God immediately when he greets us, open to him right away when he knocks, arise promptly from the sleep of sin when he awakens us.

If we could convert ourselves when we wanted to, then we could possibly say: Not today, but tomorrow; not this year, but the next; not now in my youth and as long as I am healthy,but when I become old and sick. But just because we can do nothing toward' oui conversion, because God alone must do every


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thing, we should think the moment God begins to work in us: Now, now is the time; for behold! it could happen that if today God wants to convert us and we do not want that today but next year, the next year God may not want to but rather in our unconverted state suddenly and unexpectedly drag us out of this life before his stern judgment; then we will have waited too long and we must be lost forever. Here we also can say: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked." Gal 6,7. For no one can use his helplessness and weakness as an excuse. If we are unable to come to him, then he does not wish to draw us to himself; if we can not accept God in our heart, then God does not wish to open our heart as he did Lydia's; if we are unable to see what belongs to our peace, then he does not wish to enlighten us; if we are unable to receive a wholesome fright of hell, he does not wish to work this fright within us.

For he who still remains in his sins and impenitence, has hardened himself; let him then bemoan his lot when he is on the way to hell.

II.

My friends, if by God's grace a person is converted, comes to faith and so to grace and forgiveness of sins, then the time comes when he will also no longer permit the operation of the Holy Spirit but will and must assist him. And this is the second point upon which I want to add a few words.

While most unconverted people think that they can bring about their conversion themselves without the Holy Ghost, so on the other hand, not a few think that when they are converted then need not even then work along with him.

Yes, it is true: As God must make the start of our salvation in our conversion, so he must also produce its continuance and end. Paul says that God must work the willing and the completion within us. Peter says that God regenerates us, that he alone is the one through whose power we are preserved to salvation . It is therefore true that even after his conversion no person can by

his own powers preserve himself in the faith.

But far be it that this should exclude man’s assistance after his conversion; it rather includes it.

Conversion is simply the freeing of the will; before conversion it was bound to sin and torn away from God. Therefore, by conversion one has been placed into the situation where he is solemnly obliged not to serve sin but God; he has become God’s freed man; for "if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed," says the Lord himself. Jn 8,36. Through conversion man receives spiritual light, a new divine life, new divine desires and impulses, and new divine powers in his heart. All this is a treasure, a pound, capital with which the converted Christian is to make the most of his opportunities and from which he is to bring God liberal interest. If only by God's grace the unconverted person is not to resist wilfully so that he can be converted, the converted person, on the other hand, is to assist with all the divine powers given him so that he will not lose his conversion again.

It is indeed true: Even the converted person can work along only as long "as God rules, guides, and leads him with his Holy Spirit;" the moment God withdraws his hand and takes his Holy Spirit from him, even the converted person falls back again into his old spiritual death. God however forsakes no one who has not first forsaken him. The Spirit of God is never idly present where he dwells, but continually impels God’s converted children to follow after


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sanctification, without which no one will see the Lord. A Christian who does not ceaselessly wrestle against sins which always assail and cling to him, will not earnestly contend for those virtues which please God and are burdensome to his flesh and blood, will not faithfully watch over his heart and life, will not always acquire new power and grace through the diligent use of the means of grace and through daily ardent prayer, such a person will soon cease being a Christian. The word of the Lord is fulfilled in him: "He that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath." Mk 4,25. The oil in his lamp of faith, the living power of God, is gradually used up; the flame finally is completely extinguished, and lo! when the Bridegroom comes, he can not go to meet him.

It is true: most are lost because they want to become better by themselves even before they experience the operation of the Holy Spirit; for that reason they never show real improvement; but how many, are also lost because they do not want to work with the Holy Spirit after by God's grace they had been converted! They suppose that after they had fought the difficult battle of repentance they, as it were, had entered the harbor of rest. They permitted the thought that grace does everything, this thought which should fill them with the delight and zeal to live a pious life, to rock them into the sleep of security; they do not watch; they do not wrestle; they do not pray; they do not work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, and lot they are lost.

Oh my friends, let us then listen to the word of the apostle in our text: "He then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain." What more terrible thing can there be than to have received grace after having known wrath, and then, after having squandered God's grace to reap wrath again! What more terrible thing can there be than after being full of the hope of salvation and heaven suddenly to plunge into hell and damnation.

From this graciously preserve us, oh God, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

2ND SUNDAY IN LENT (1)   1 Thessalonians 4:1-7    TOP     (German, Archive)

I wish you, in all love and sincerity, grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Father's Son. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

Our age is happy to hear itself lauded as the age of progress. And it is undeniable that the world especially in the last 400 years has progressed more in certain areas than it had in the thousands of years preceding. Amazing is the progress of our age in the area of the natural sciences. Man has delved deeper and deeper into the secret workshops of nature, has searched out and put to use her secret, wonderful powers and properties. Through the application of certain principles one can now send a message in a few seconds thousands of miles. By the application of the power of steam huge machinery is set into motion which often does the work of a thousand human hands. Though the application of the same power we now traverse the most distant corners of land and sea


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as though we were flying. Just as wonderful is the progress made in our time in the area of linguistics, history, and archaeology. With the help of these sciences scholars often know more exactly what took place thousands of years ago than those who lived only a few centuries after the events happened. Practically every year brings to light new discoveries of the greatest influence upon the shape of human life. Add to all this that the nations are zealously striving not to be subject to the will of one ruler but to have a voice in their government.

All these are facts; it would therefore be folly to wish to contest the cry that our age is a progressive one. But this is quite another question: Is our age for that reason really to boast of being the happiest age?

Of course, there are many who could not cease praising our progressive times. Proudly they speak of the times of our pious ancestors as a time of darkness and superstition, or an age of childhood and minority, whereas they extol our age as the age of light, enlightenment, ripe adulthood, and the majority of man. With the high-flown words of ardent enthusiasm they speak of the golden age for which man vainly strove in the past, which is supposed to have dawned at last.

But let me ask you: Has our age actually become happier because of the many discoveries and the progress made in the many arts and sciences? Has progress actually removed the burdens of care by which mankind is oppressed? Finally, are mankind's tears dried, its sobs stilled, its wounds healed? Has peace come among the nations so that they can beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into sickles? Have happiness, blessings, and contentment come to spouses and families, so that it is now possible for every one to live without fear under his vine and fig tree?

Alas, no! If we consider the present generation we will find, that in spite of all its progress and in spite of the boasts of its age it hunts and pursues even more restlessly that happiness and peace which it can not find. The moment it hears the news of another distant land where more gold and silver is to be found, thousands pack their bags, gamble health and life, and in that distant country seek that happiness which escaped them at home. Things have progressed this far, that practically everyone presumes upon his alleged birthright of being free and happy, and the hunger and thirst for improving his earthly lot has indeed become more urgent, but that much desired happiness where is it?

Folly! It is a piece of folly to expect improvement in the conditions of the world, happiness, and peace from the progress made in the several arts and sciences. This progress is merely a necessary result in part of selfishness, in part of the needs which have constantly grown. If you ask which progress alone can make mankind happy, God1s Word replies: The strides made in sanctification. Our today's Epistle gives us this answer.

Quote the text here: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7.

There we hear what man's most important progress is, namely, that he is to "abound more and more" in sanctification. Therefore on the basis of this text permit me to show you in detail that

MAN'S MOST IMPORTANT PROGRESS IS PROGRESS IN SANCTIFICATION

and this for two important reasons:

1. Because This is the Most Necessary, and

2. Because This is the Most Beneficial Progress.


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Lord Jesus Christ, you have earnestly admonished us: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." Mt 7,21. Oh therefore help us that none of us carries his faith and love merely on his lips. Rather create new hearts within us by a living faith so that we follow after sanctification without which no one will see you, the Lord. We beseech you, to this end bless your holy Word and let it show itself in us as a heavenly seed which grows up in our hearts and bears the fruit of a new life. Hear us for your own sake. Amen.

I.

All who are capable of any reasonable judgment will agree that a man's most necessary progress is to go forward to his destiny. But the great difference of opinion is over the question: What is man's destiny? Of course the majority almost never reflect why they really are in the world and as the irrational beast of burden either drudge through their daily calling or else like the butterfly flit without a care from one earthly joy to another.

But among those who do reflect upon the question of why man really is upon earth, there are those who contend that man's destiny is to seek as many and as lasting pleasures and joys as possible and then return to oblivion. Others hold that man has a higher destiny; his task is to develop the powers and talents of his body and mind to the highest possible degree and expand the fields of the arts and sciences so that after his death he can pass on to a realm of high activity. Still others suppose that man's destiny here is to be virtuous and generally useful and then enjoy the reward of his good works in another world.

Now what does God's Word say about this? What does the apostle say of this in our text? He writes: "Furthermore, then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification." Vv. l-3a. That sanctification in which man is to abound more and more is therefore God's will in regard to man; that is the destiny which God has given man here on earth and perfect holiness is his ultimate goal.

Many who consider Holy Writ as God's Word and revelation do not honestly believe that. They think: Does not the Bible teach that man is righteous before God through faith alone without works and is he not saved alone by grace irrespective of his own merits, his worthiness, and holiness? How can sanctification be man's destiny and perfect holiness his ultimate goal?

They do not consider that God is and remains unchangeably a righteous and holy God, a zealous God who hates sin and into whose fellowship only holy and pure being can be received. Therefore they misunderstand the doctrine of the righteousness of faith and salvation by grace. When God decreed to save mankind by grace through the redemption of his Son, he in no way relaxed a little of his holiness and righteousness; he did not in the least give up his counsel according to which he had destined us to a perfect holiness and communion with him. On the contrary, God for that very reason decreed to forgive the sins of men for the sake of his Son and pardon them, so that he could make them fit again in this way to be renewed to the lost divine image and thus sanctified in body and soul.


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This is the will of God, even your sanctification"; thus at the beginning of our text St. Paul cries to the Thessalians who already are pardoned through faith and are righteous before God, and thus to all Christians, yes , to all men, and at the close: "For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." V.7. "Ye shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy"; this command therefore still stand today even after God's Son redeemed the world from its sins and reconciled it with God. Perfect holiness therefore is and remains the goal and destiny of all men, and progress in sanctification is the task of all Christians.

So in vain do they boast when progress is made in the earthly arts and sciences and in the knowledge of creatures but have retrogressed in the living knowledge of God himself, his Word and will; when one is at home in the mysterious workings of nature but is becoming more and more of a stranger in the realm of the invisible world -- in vain, I say, they boast that such an age is an age of light, enlightenment, and progress; such an age is the rather the darkest age of retrogression into heathenism which deifies nature. In vain do men brag when they have developed their reason but not improved their will, when they have freed themselves from the authority of man but retain their shackles by being slaves of wrath, pride, and vaulting ambition or other sins; in vain, I say, do such who are ruled by their sins brag of being men of freedom and progress; really, they have merely become farther removed from the goal of their true destiny and are men of the most disgraceful and deplorable retrogression.

In vain do even those who are Christians in name suppose to have progressed in their Christianity; they have increased their store of knowledge of the Christian truths, yet in their hearts sin is not crucified more and more, nor has it lost more and more of its power; they have not grown in love toward God and their brethren, in the denial of themselves and the world, in humility and in the heavenly mind, in gentleness and in patience, and in all the other points of sanctification.

That being the case, if you want to know whether you have made progress in your Christianity and have abounded more and more, ask yourself: Which are the sins which formerly showed their power within you and which by God1s grace you have conquered more and more? and which are the Christian characteristics and virtues which you lacked in the past and which you by God's grace have acquired?

If you have no answer, then you not only have not made progress in your Christianity, you have not only remained standing, but you have gone backwards; you have then become not stronger but weaker, not better but worse; then indeed it is to be feared that you have completely ceased being a Christian and have lost God1s grace. For in God's kingdom there is no standing still but either progress or retrogression, growth or decay, climbing or falling. It is and remains eternally true what St. Paul cries out to us in our text: "This is the will of God, even your sanctification;" and as we read in Hebrews: "Follow holiness without which no man shall see the Lord." Heb 12,14.

II.

This brings us to the second part of our meditation in which I will show you that man's most important strides forward are his strides in sanctification, because not only is this the most necessary, but also the most beneficial kind of progress.

The apostle shows that in our text when to the warning against an unholy life in uncleanness and deceit he adds: "Because that the Lord is the


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avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified." V. 6b.

Even at the time of the apostles there were nominal Christians who understood the doctrine of grace and faith to mean that if a person has a sham faith he can live on in all manner of sins, need not fear God's judgment and hell, but could still be saved by his sham faith. Oyer, against them the apostle declares that no one should entertain such a hope, for the Lord is the avenger of all sins which a person allows to rule him. If he does not want to follow after sanctification, his supposed faith will not help him; on the contrary, he will most certainly have to suffer what his deeds deserve.

Hence, let no one think: What does it profit and is it really necessary for a Christian to be especially concerned about a pious life? what does it profit a Christian to watch and pray earnestly? what does it profit a Christian to crucify his flesh with the affections and lusts? what does it profit a Christian to be so concerned about every sin? what does it profit a Christian to be rich in many good works? our strivings will avail us nothing; God is not concerned about our works but only about our faith; before God only Christ's merit and his grace will avail!

Ah, may no one think that way. It is indeed true what Luther writes: Help us, Lord Jesus Christ, for we A Mediator have in Thee;

Our works cannot salvation gain;

They merit but endless pain.

Have mercy, Lord! (287.12)

Even though we can merit nothing in God's sight by our works and sanctification, even though we cannot unlock heaven by them, we can by our evil works merit hell and lock heaven, if we do not follow after sanctification. Yes, woe to him who in a false, fleshly trust upon grace remains in his sins; some day he will see with terror that very much indeed depends upon whether Christians were lazy and unfruitful in their faith, or whether they revealed their faith by earnestly striving to become more and more holy, and, of course not by good works, but in good works have sought eternal life! The former will hear the verdict: You have been weighed upon the scales with your faith, and have been found wanting; depart from me, I never knew you, ye evildoers; and the latter will hear the voice: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord." Mt 25,21.

Then in spite of their imagined faith the godless will go into eternal torment, but the righteous into eternal life. Then will be seen, as the Prophet Malachi writes, the difference "between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not." Mal. 3,18. Then the hypocrites, the sham Christians, and the godless will no longer consider that Christian a fool who was particular about his Christianity; then they will cry cry out as it is written in the Wisdom of Solomon 5,4-7.

But progress in sanctification is the most beneficial kind of progress not only when compared with the manifest godless and non-Christian but also when compared with those Christians who followed after sanctification but were not as zealous and earnest as they should have been.

Holy Scripture teaches that all who die in the faith will be saved by grace, but it also teaches that there are degrees of glory, greater and less, and that these degrees will be determined according to the faithfulness and zeal which Christians showed in the battle of sanctification. For example, St. Paul writes: "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor."


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1 Cor 3,8b. Again: "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." 2 Cor 9,6. And finally: "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory. So is also the resurrection of the dead." 1 Cor 15,41.42

And so the Lord testifies not only to his disciples: "Verily I say unto you, That ye which followed me in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel," Mt 19,28; he also adds: "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." Mt 19,29. And in another passage he says: "In my Father's house are many mansions," by which he wants to say, that one will be more glorious than than the other.

So do not think that nothing depends upon the degree of zeal a Christian shows in sanctification just as long as he is a Christian! Oh no; even between Christians there will some day be an immense difference. Each added work of faith, each added work of love, each added trial in patience, each added faithful struggle, each added courageous confession of Christ, every added disgrace and persecution borne for the sake of Christ, in short, every added step in the sanctification of life will also result in a higher degree of blessedness. What God out of grace and mercy has promised as a reward, that he will also fulfil, and will fulfil more gloriously than we suspect. "For God," as we read in Hebrews, "is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name." Heb 6,10.

Oh therefore, how zealous we should all be in the work and struggle of sanctification! How earnestly we should therefore battle against the world, flesh, and Satan; how diligently and unflaggingly we should seek all that which is true, which is honest, which is just, which is pure, which is lovely, which is of good report, and if there by any virtue, and if there be any praise to follow after these things! For everything, everything is a seed which in heaven will bring an eternal harvest. Therefore:

Zion, rise, Zion, rise,

Zion, wake, arise, and shine!

Let thy lamp be brightly burning,

Never let thy love decline,

Forward still with hopeful yearning.

Zion, yonder waits the heavenly prize;

Zion, rise! Zion, rise!

Run thy race, run thy race,

Zion, swiftly run thy race!

Let no languor ever find thee Idle in the marketplace.

Look not to the things behind thee.

Zion, daily strengthened by His grace,

Run thy race, run thy race! (479,1.4) Amen.


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Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In our Savior, dearly beloved hearers.

Are good works necessary for salvation? This is a question which soon after Luther's death began a great controversy in our Church. All true Lutherans, not only then but always, have plainly and positively given a negative answer; only a few untrustworthy theologians because of other points of doctrine have confirmed it.

It is true: It seems most rash and risky, yes, absolutely dangerous and injurious to morality to say, that good works are not necessary for salvation. But what do we find, if we open the Bible, the infallible judge and rule and plumb-line in all questions and disputes of faith and doctrine? It completely excludes all the works of man from the work of justification and salvation, and ascribes both, justification and salvation, alone to God's grace, alone to Christ, and alone to faith in him.

We read in Romans 3,28: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." In the next chapter we read: "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works." 4,5.6. We find the same thing written in Ephesians 2: "By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast." 2,8.9. Finally, we read in Titus: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." Tit 3,5.

We dare not, however, think that the beginning is indeed not procured by man by his works but his being preserved in justification and salvation is. For Peter expressly says: "Ye are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." 1 Pet 1,5. Therefore Paul calls the salvation of souls the end of faith not the end of works.

This much then is clear: It is contrary to God's Word to say that works are necessary for salvation. For if we say that works are necessary, we overthrow the clearly revealed doctrine of salvation by grace, as St. Paul writes: Therefore it (righteousness) is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed," Rom 4,16; and again; "And if by grace, then it is no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace, otherwise work is no more work." Rom 11,6.

Happy may we be, my brethren, that this is so! For if God's Word would tell us that in addition to Christ, in addition to grace, in addition to faith works were also necessary for salvation, we could never be joyously certain of our state of grace and salvation. For we could never be certain which works would please God and how many good works would be necessary for our salvation. Then the Gospel would not be more comforting than the Law; Christ would not be the immovable rock of our hope and we would be forever cast into the hell of doubt.

But since we know that in connection with the work of our justification


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before God and our salvation all our own works are excluded; that our works can neither merit, nor work, nor in any way produce heaven and eternal life; that this is rather all the gift of the free grace and mercy of God which has been won for us Christians alone and offered, given, and sealed to us through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, and can be seized by us only by faith, we can become and remain certain every hour of our state of grace and our future salvation, even though we are and remain poor sinners.

If in addition to faith only one good work on our part were necessary to salvation, all comfort would be taken from us; whilst we are seated at the richly covered table of divine promises of grace, that one work would hover threateningly and frighteningly over our heads like a two-edged sword suspended by a hair. But since we read in God1s Word" "Ho, every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price," Is 55,1 that is the comfort for such wretched and helpless persons as we are; that is the kind of Gospel we poor sinners need. Now we can say, even though we can bring nothing to God but our sins and poverty:

By grace! On this I'll rest when dying;

In Jesus' promise I rejoice;

For though I know my heart's condition,

I also know my Savior's voice.

My heart is glad, all grief has flown,

Since I am saved by grace alone. (373,7)

My friends, though it is certain that good works are not necessary for salvation, it does not at all follow, that the works especially of those who should and want to be saved are not necessary. All Scripture testifies to the very opposite, al the Epistle of today. However, in which sense good works or sanctification is necessary for a believer, that is the subject which will now occupy us.

Quote the text here: 1 Thessalonians 4:1 - 7.

In this text the apostle not only admonishes Christians to sanctification but he also shows them why it is so necessary for them. Following his lead, permit me now to answer the question:

WHY IS SANCTIFICATION SO NECESSARY FOR THE CHRISTIAN?

With the aid of our text I answer:

1. Because Their Sanctification is and Remains God's Will, and

2. Because They are Called to Sanctification.

Oh all-knowing, righteous, and holy God, who with eyes of flame sees into the innermost part of our heart, who knows those among us who boast that they are Christians, that they are your children and yet do not follow after sanctification without which no one will see you, but secretly continue to serve those sins which you hate, oh give me the power to show such wretched people from your Word that they deceive themselves, alas, that they deceive themselves about their salvation. Give them the grace to make room for your Holy Spirit, smite their breast as lost sons and daughters, truly repent, and begin a new life in holiness and righteousness which is pleasing to you. Yes, bless your Word in us all. Send true fear into all our hearts; permit none to joke about repentance and true faith; let us stand in holy fear and preparedness so that we may


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joyfully enter your presence. Amen.

I.

After the apostle in the preceding verses had in part praised and comforted the Thessalonian Christians, in part encouraged them to remain in faith and love, he continues in our text: “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.

For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus." Vv. 1.2. The apostle admonishes them to sanctification; for sanctification is that "abounding more and more" of which the apostle here speaks; namely, an abounding more and more in love, in humility, in patience, in purity, in conscientiousness, in short, in all Christian virtues and good works.

In the following verse the apostle gives the reasons why sanctification is so necessary also for them as Christians. And what does he mention as the first reason? He says: "For this is the WILL OF GOD, even your sanctification." V. 3a.

It will appear unusual to many that the apostle gives this as the first reason for the necessity of Christians pursuing sanctification. Is it necessary to remind Christians of that? Who does not know that, even if he has merely grasped the first letters of Christianity?

Yes, so it seems. Sad to say, experiences us something entirely different . It is only too common that when Christians constantly hear of God's free grace in Christ, of the Saviors great love for sinners, of being righteous and saved alone through faith, of the willingness of the heavenly Father to forgive all sins to all sinners, even the greatest, for the sake of Christ's merit, of the tarnished character and lack of merit of all of man's works even of Christian's, and the like, when as I said Christians continually hear and read this but do not earnestly search the Scriptures, do not pay close attention to the impulses and reprimands of the Holy Spirit, do not diligently watch and pray, then only too easily the thought sneaks in that God is not so particular about sins, that God at the very least is a gracious, indulgent, loving Father who does not enquire too closely into the question whether his children still serve one or the other sin, or whether they are intent upon sanctifying body and soul.

Experience teaches: When the first terrors of repentance and conversion have passed, only to many gradually get the idea that after Christ has come into the world and since the Gospel is now being preached, God's Law is no longer valid; that without having to fear God's anger or punishment a Christian can permit himself to transgress God's Law by surrendering to one or the other sin, by omitting this or that good. If those who were true Christians but seldom consciously cherish this thought, it nevertheless slumbers in very many hearts without their knowing it,for they act accordingly.

Against such thoughts the apostle writes in our text: "We exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that ye would abound more and more. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification." Vv. 1.3.

So, far be it that after the completed reconciliation of the sinner through Christ God would not be minded otherwise toward sinners than before; far be it that he should become like a weak old father who makes allowances for the evil deeds of his children, is not highly displeased, and does not punish them; far be it that God's Law should have lost its universal power; God


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rather still is and remains unchangeably the same holy God that he always was; his will is perfect holiness in all beings created for communion with him, and that means man also; he continuously hates and hates into eternity all sinfulness; he cannot help but be the enemy of every sin; fire -could sooner cease burning than God surrender the holiness of his essence and cease burning in anger against sin wherever he finds it; every sin is an insult to his holy essence, an impudent rebellion of the creature against his unchangeable, stated will; he therefore still is and remains the strong, zealous God who visits the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation; he is and remains the God who will be a swift witness against all unholy deeds; his wrath still burns against every intentional,wilful sin to the lowest hell. Even for the sins of weakness in believers must God’s Son stand before God as their Intercessor until Judgment Day, in order to stop God's wrath so that he does not turn himself loose upon the sinners and destroy them.

Woe, woe therefore to those who after they have come to faith in Christ think they have received a charter for not having to pursue sanctification earnestly! Woe to those who think that because of their faith they can permit themselves some of those things which God punishes in unbelievers! who remain secretly in fornication or adultery, or even in shameful, unnatural self-defilement, or are addicted to impure lusts and desires and thus make their body, which should be a temple of the Holy Ghost, a cloak for the spirit of unchastity; or who in their business now and then try to profit from thievery and indulge in small or great amounts of fraud, or who indulge secretly in greed, avariciousness, miserliness, and love of riches; or who get drunk now and then and still want to be Christians ; or who lie in order to help themselves out of a predicament; or whose tongue secretly spits out the poison of slander; or who cool their embittered, raging, and angry heart by sweet vengeance on their offender, all these are not in God's grace; God is not their friend but their avowed enemy; in our text the apostle cries to all them: "This is the will of God, even your sanctification. that ye should abstain from fornication; that everyone of you should know how to possess his vessel," that is, his body which is the receptacle of the soul, "in sanctification and honor; not in the lust of concupiscence. even as the Gentiles, which know not God; that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter. because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified." Vv. 3-6. You see that the apostle says most clearly: All who serve any sin in their supposed faith are like the heathen "which know not God"; God is not their gracious, considerate Father but the fearful "Avenger of all such"; for God is and remains a righteous, holy God who hates sin, becomes angry against sin, and is strong and zealous to take vengeance upon it; his will is and remains our sanctification in body and soul, in all our powers and members, in all our thoughts, desires, wishes, gestures, words, and works.

II.

My friends, sanctification is necessary for all men, even for Christians, not only because their sanctification is and remains God's will, but also for the second reason: They are called to sanctification; this is the way the apostle closes his exhortation in our text: "For God hath not called us to uncleanness, but unto holiness V. 7.

Here the apostle means to say: Christians are not only not freed from the duty of sanctification which all men have, but this very call of grace which they have received has no other purpose and goal than their sanctification. If they are already obligated to sanctification as men created for communion with God, then they are twice obligated as Christians.


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Here again the apostle opposes certain false thoughts and ideas which many have of Christianity. Even if they do not always say it aloud, many think in their hearts: What's the use of Christ having come into the world, of God commanding the comforting Gospel of the forgiveness of sins to be preached, of faith being ordained as the way of salvation, if Christians still have to be so concerned about battling against every sin and strive after greater and greater sanctification? If this is so necessary, what then is the difference between Christ and Moses, between the Law and the Gospel, between the believer and the unbeliever? But how such people err!

If we were to be saved, it was most necessary for Christ to come into the world and win grace and a righteousness which avails before God for us; and it is indeed necessary for every person who is to be saved to seize and receive through faith in Christ that grace of God won for him and that righteousness which avails before God. But this is not the final goal of Christ's incarnation and our call into his kingdom of grace; it is only the means, only the way to our real goal. God did not send his Son into the world, reconcile mankind with himself, and pardon them so that mankind would be relieved of the worry that God is his enemy and that he has to expect his punishment after death. The final, the real goal of all of God's works of grace for and to man is nothing else but his sanctification.

Man was originally created after the image of God in righteousness and holiness. This image which he lost through sin, must be restored and man become holy again; for only if he is holy can he be saved. So that man may become holy he was redeemed; so that he may become holy the Gospel is preached to him; so that he may become holy righteousness is imputed to him by faith; so that he may become holy he is baptized; so that he may become holy his sins are forgiven; he is comforted; in the Lord's Supper he is given to eat of Christ's body and given to drink of Christ's blood, salvation is promised him, heaven is opened.

Does it not follow of itself how necessary sanctification is for the Christian already saved in hope through faith? It is true: No one can merit salvation by sanctification; rather man must first have seized salvation by faith before he can follow after sanctification; but just as impossible as it is to merit and procure salvation by sanctification, just so certainly can one again trifle away his salvation by omitting sanctification.

For tell me, what does he do who does not want to follow after sanctification? Since God offers him the means of grace and his grace by faith so that he can again become holy, he resists God, grieves and drives away the Holy Spirit from his heart who alone can preserve him in the faith; he must therefore of necessity suffer shipwreck of his faith and finally is most certainly lost.

Luther is correct in writing: "A Christ who died for sinners who will not forsake their sins after receiving forgiveness of sins and lead a new life means absolutely nothing. Christ is Christ for the reason that the Holy Ghost should make us into new men. ... He who does not stop sinning but remains in his former evil ways must have another Christ. The true Christ is not there, and if all the angels cry nothing but Christ! Christ! and he must be damned with his new Christ.

My friends, let him who wants to be saved first of all seek grace in true repentance; if he has grace, then let him also be in earnest in becoming holy, for that is the will of God, and for that reason Christians are called. Of course, we will never reach perfection here on earth, but woe is he who uses


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his weakness and imperfection as a pretext for excusing his service of sin and half-heartedness! He will receive his reward with the hypocrites.

But blessed are they who can say with Paul from their hearts: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." Phil 3,12. In such people is mirrored even here the Lord's glory with an unveiled countenance, and they will be glorified in the same image from one glory to the next until finally in heaven they will awake in perfection according to his image. May Jesus Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption grant that to us. Amen.

2ND SUNDAY IN LENT (3)    1 Thessalonians 4:1-7.    TOP     (German, Archive)

Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

In our days there are certain denominations who claim that even in this life a Christian can and should become perfect. So we hear and read not seldom of perfect love and sanctification. This teaching is one of those strong delusions of which Paul writes to the Thessalonians; there he says that in the last times they would arise after men would not have received the love of the truth. This error is so easily misleading because everyone thinks that a teaching which demands perfect sanctification of men must certainly be a good, holy doctrine; only a person who does not want to follow after sanctification and is a foe of zealous Christianity would contradict it.

And we must add that in many passage Scripture itself speaks of Christian perfection and perfect Christians. If an inexperienced Christian pursues the matter no further than the words "perfect" and "perfection", he very easily believes that according to Holy Writ a person can obtain perfect sanctification and love.

But my friends, a Christian not only has the duty to read but also to search the Scripture. Anyone who lets himself be caught immediately when false prophets adduce Bible passages for their claims is not safe from any error and seduction; for there is no doctrine, no matter how preposterous, for which one can not produce passages from Holy Scripture which seem to prove it. A Christian must therefore be cautious, examine the proof passages quoted, and carefully search the real meaning and the connection in which it is used.

This applies also to passages which speak of perfection. If one examines them more closely one will find: In a few passages Christian perfection simply means Christ's perfect righteousness which God graciously imputes to every believer.

After he had declared that he had preached only Christ and him crucified St. Paul writes: "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect." 1 Cor 2,6; he means among believers who have received the Crucified in faith and


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no longer are offended at him but find in him their greatest wisdom. In the Epistle to the Colossians he writes: "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him." Col 2,9.10. Here the apostle declares the extent to which Christians are perfect, not in themselves but in Christ, or by faith in him, that is, God graciously considers them perfect in Christ.

There are also passages in which certain Christians, when compared with others, are called perfect. But then they are speaking of those who are no longer novices in Christianity, who are not among the weak but who have already progressed somewhat further in knowledge, have become stronger in faith, more constant in love, and firmer in hope. At the close of the fifth chapter the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews writes: "For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, (perfect), even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Heb 5,12-14. There we see: When Holy Scripture speaks of perfect as opposed to imperfect Christians, it means those who no longer are children in Christianity but have attained a certain degree of virility in knowledge, experience, faith, love, and hope.

In all of Holy Writ, however, we find not a word about Christians who have become perfect in sanctification or love. John speaks of those who are perfect in love; if you study these passages, you will find that John is not speaking of the love of man toward God but of God's love toward man; he is speaking of those who build completely and entirely on God's love in Christ. I challenge you to make this investigation; the subject is well worth being considered most earnestly by a Christian.

Finally, there are countless passages in Scripture which declare beyond question that all men without exception are sinners and remain sinners until their death. Moses says of the Lord: "Before whom no one is guiltless" (Luther). Ex 34,7. Solomon says: "There is not a man upon earth that sinneth not." Eccl 7,21. In the Book of Job we read: "What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of woman, that he should be righteous? Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yes, the heavens are not clean in his sight." Job 15,14.15. David writes: "Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults." Ps 19,12. John writes: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." 1 Jn 1,8. James writes: "In many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man." Jas 3,2. Paul writes: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing; for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not." Rom 7,18. "For I know nothing by myself, yet I am not hereby justified." 1 Cor 4,4. And again: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. . . . Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded." Phil 3,12.15.

Well, what of perfect love and sanctification now? That is nothing but a pipe dream of deluded and self-blinded enthusiasts. According to St. Paul's plain teaching they, who are perfect through Christ, confess that as yet they have not apprehended it nor are they perfect. However my friends, should the teaching that in this life the Christian is never perfect cause him to, be lazy in sanctification? Far be it! Just


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because the goal of sanctification always remains so far away, we should pursue it the more zealously and relentlessly. In our today's Epistle we are urgently exhorted to do that.

Quote the text here: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7.

The Epistle to the Thessalonians from which our text is taken is the very first which Paul wrote. He exhorts the Christians at Thessalonica to become more and more perfect in sanctification. Let us therefore ponder:

WHAT DOES THE ADMONITION TO BECOME MORE AND MORE PERFECT IN SANCTIFICATION TEACH US?

It teaches us that only he:

1. Is a Christian Who has Already Made a Start in Sanctification, and,

2. Remains a Christian who Tries to Become More and More Perfect in Sanctification.

Oh God, you are holy; it therefore is your wish that we also be holy. Look in grace upon us sinful people; do not reject us as we have deserved, but give us your Holy Spirit so that we may begin and continue the work of sanctification within us and change us into the image of your dear Son from one step of purity to the next. Some day take us to be among the saints of heaven, and let us serve you before your throne without sin in perfect holiness forever and ever. Hear us for the sake of Jesus Christ, your dear Son, our Savior. Amen.

I.

In our text the apostle admonishes the Christians of Thessalonica not to begin to sanctify themselves after they had received the Gospel in faith, but to become more and more perfect in sanctification. He says: "Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more." V.l. We see from this: The apostle takes for granted that all Christians in Thessalonica must have already made a start in sanctification. And so it is: To be a Christian and yet not do good works is impossible.

Many picture Christians entirely different than they are presented in God's Word. Many think that Christ is only a Teacher of virtue; the summary of his teaching is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. They consider themselves good Christians if they live honorably, give to every man his due, and have the reputation of being honest.

Others think, that Christ has indeed founded a special religion and has therefore given special laws and rules; one must observe them if one wants to be called a Christian. They consider themselves good Christians, if they go diligently to church, Holy Communion, and the like.

Still others perceive that according to Scripture man is saved through faith and not through good works; so they consider themselves good Christians because they believe that Christ is God's Son and the Savior of the world, and the Bible with all its mysteries and stories of miracles the truth.

All of them err, my friends. Yes, he is right who thinks that faith in Christ makes a person a Christian; but that faith which does that is not merely regarding the Bible as God's Word and Christ as God's Son and the Savior of the world. Even the fallen spirits of hell have this faith; they can not deny that


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he who with almighty power destroyed their kingdom is God's Son and his Word the truth; but dare we think that that makes them Christians?

That faith which makes a person a Christian is, on the one hand, something so easy that a child can grasp and have it; on the other hand, it is something so mysterious that many thousands of learned and sounded its depths without reaching bottom, and many millions thought they have had faith without it ever coming into their heart.

That faith which makes a person a Christian is not described in such a way that every one who hears the description knows immediately what it is; it is something which must be experienced. Many have heard sermons on faith for years on end; they thought they knew what faith is; but then one word of God entered into his heart like lightning and he admitted: I always thought I knew what faith is but not until now has the light dawned; now I notice as though from a distance what a wonderful work it is.

If I were to state briefly the essence of true faith, it is this: A person relies upon Christ from his heart; he builds upon the fact that Christ is his Savior, his Redeemer, his Mediator, that Christ has atoned for his sins and borne his guilt. Such a heartfelt, living trust in Christ is not as easy as one might think. Such a trust arises in a man only when other things no longer satisfy him, when he is finished with the world, when he finds nothing more within himself upon which he dares build his salvation.

Using the words of the Bible, living faith arises in a man only when he is weary and heavy laden, when he looks around for a helper for his soul as a deathly sick person seeks a doctor, as the hungry and thirsty hunt for food and drink, as the wanderer in the dark of night searches for the correct way. Then, Christ says, the weary and heavy laden should come to him; he says that he is the physician for the sick and the weak but not for the healthy and the strong; he calls himself the Bread and the Fount of life; he calls all the hungry and thirsty to come to him and promises that he will forever satisfy their hunger and thirst for the asking; he calls himself the only Way to God and summons everyone to follow him, and promises him that he will not walk in darkness but have the light of life.

You see, if a person is really weary and heavy laden; if he feels that he is sick; if he discovers a hunger and thirst in his soul; if he sees that he is lost not knowing how he can find the true way to heaven; and if the teaching of Christ is then preach to him, this preaching makes a deep, wonderful impression upon him; the Gospel does not merely convince his understanding; it enters deep into his soul. It seems to him as though thick scales fell from his eyes and thousands of heavy burdens from his heart. Not till then does he begin to trust Christ from his heart and without at first wanting to do that. He feels drawn to Christ with an invisible, sweet, heavenly power. Yes, just as a ship which has taken water sinks under the sea, so the person now sinks completely in Christ when he has taken the water of life from the gracious fullness of Christ.

From that moment on Christ, yes, the Triune God enter into him and make him a temple of God. Everything in and about him becomes new. He receives new thoughts and desires. Another mind, another love, other wishes and hopes than which ruled in him formerly come into his heart. He now sees the whole world and his whole life in an entirely different light. Breaking off all friendship with sin and the world he cries:


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Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus

Can my heartfelt longing still.

Lo, I pledge myself to Jesus What He will alone to will.

For my heart, which He hath filled,

Ever cries, Lord, as Thou wilt. (348,1)

There, my friends, you have the reason why no one but he who has made a beginning in sanctification can be a Christian. The reason is not that a person becomes a Christian or is even saved by sanctification but because that faith which makes a person a Christian is something living and divine; something which causes him to be born anew by God, which brings the Holy Ghost into his heart, kindles the flame of love within it, and makes it heavenly minded.

Therefore let everyone examine himself carefully to see whether his faith is such a living and divine thing, which also has changed him and become immersed in Christ and his grace. If your faith is something dead, if it is perhaps only a feeble conviction of your reason, only the words of cold lips which does not give you the power to say farewell to your sins and the whole world and seek Jesus, then your faith is a pretense, a shadow without being, a phantom without life and cannot help you at all. As certainly as it did not sanctify you, so certainly will it not save you. First you must become weary, heavy-laden, sick, hungry, thirsty, and lost in your soul, then and not till then will your heart learn to believe and your faith become a power of God unto salvation.

II.

My friends, we continue and ponder in the second place, that only those remain Christians who try to make progress and become more perfect in sanctification.

The apostle writes thus in our Epistle: "For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God even your sanctification." V.2.3. Here the apostle indicates the first reason why Christians should strive to grow in sanctification: Man's sanctification is God's eternal will. It is true that God wants to take men into heaven out of grace; that is why he sent his Son into the world so that all who believe in him should not be lost but have eternal life.

But God pardons us so that he can make us holy again. Sanctification is the goal to which God wants to lead us. Since he himself is holy, he can have fellowship only with holy creatures. Through the Christians God wants to create a holy priestly people who serve him and offer themselves to him. So we read in Eph. 2: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Eph.2,8-10.

Would it be possible for him to remain a Christian who, after God has forgiven him all his 4ins, wanted to return immediately to his sins and again love the world more than God's grace? Certainly not! That person trifles with grace, calls Christ's blood an unholy thing, and turns Christ who wants to deliver from sin and who is a friend of sinners into a friend and servant of sin. That person forcibly forsakes Christ's arms which had embraced him, leaves the fellowship of God into which he had entered, casts aside God's grace, and angers him anew. We read in the Letter to the Hebrews: "For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." Heb. 10,26.27.


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You Christians be warned! Bear in mind what the apostle cries aloud in our text: "This is the will of God, even your sanctification." Since you rejoice at God's gracious will, never forget that this gracious will has your sanctification in body and soul as it ultimate object, as its blessed goal.

The apostle continues: "For God hath not called us unto uncleannessbut unto holiness." V.7. The apostle means to say: That a Christian tries to become more and more perfect in sanctification lies in the very essence and nature of Christianity. The moment a person is inwardly "called" by God's Word and Spirit, that is, the moment God works faith in him and makes him a Christian, he also immediately sanctifies him; he begins this holy work in him. Therefore Christianity should and can be nothing else but a continuation of this work.

The moment a person believes in Christ from his heart, he is born as a child of God. But at first he is a weak child. As a child dies which is not fed so that it can grow, so also a Christian soon ceases being a child of God when the new, holy nature created in him is not aided in its daily growth. The moment a person believes in Christ, he is grafted into Christ like a tree which draws its power from Christ. If as a weak twig he is not to wither, he must send his roots deeper and deeper into Christ, so that he may grow and bring forth fruit.

Many suppose that when they have become Christians, it is enough if they do not fall again into gross sins; if they remain free of them, they remain Christians. They make a serious mistake. Many more thousands fall from grace because of indolence and lukewarmness than open sins and vice.

It is true that sanctification preserves no one in grace; but it is just as true that he who. does not follow after sanctification, wanting to continue in his sins, casts away a good conscience, suffers shipwreck of faith, and loses grace, righteousness, and salvation. Therefore if you do not want to lose Christ, you must also try to become ever more free of your sins and cleanse your heart ever more from all impurity, evil desires, devotion to earthly things and all ungodly ways.

You must direct your struggle especially against those sins which in the past have held you captive and most seriously threaten you with the danger of losing God's grace. The apostle warns the converted heathen against fornication and deceit in business; for these sins were above all the chief sins in the great city of Thessalonica in Macedon. Therefore you must diligently examine yourselves to see what still generally clings to you; then you must earnestly and zealously struggle against what you discover in your self-examination as the most vicious foe of your soul, be it anger, or lust, or greed, or pride, and the like. You must not only trim off the leaves of the tree of sin but remove your sins by their roots.

You must also look at the good which you still lack. There must be no Christian virtue and nothing lovely must you see in your brother which you do not also follow after. "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things· are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Phil 4,8.

To that end diligently use God's Word and prayer; daily call upon God on your knees for his Holy Spirit; to help you make use of the fellowship of Christians; watch constantly over your heart and your every step, yes, your every thought, desire, and word.

He who does not want to show this zeal can not be helped. He forsakes


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the narrow way and steps upon the broad road. Though he may always be among Christians as far as his body is concerned -- with his heart he belongs to the world and is lost with the world. The Letter to the Hebrews says: "Follow holiness without which no man shall see the Lord." Heb 12,14.

However, blessed are they who strive to enter the narrow gate! Though here they may be imperfect and far from their goal, they nevertheless receive in death that for which they sought, for which they struggled, and for which they strove. For we read: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Rev 2,10. "He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." Mt 24,13. Amen.

3RD SUNDAY IN LENT (1)    Ephesians 5:1-9.    TOP     (German, Archive)

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In our Savior, dearly beloved hearers.

In a certain respect all sins are alike. Each is a transgression of the divine Law, resisting God's will; each is an insult to the eternal, great, holy God; each is a debt which merits God's temporal and eternal punishment. None are trifles, none excusable in themselves, none without tragic, ruinous results. Therefore Holy Writ tells us: "Whosoever shall keep the whole Law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." Jas 2,10. "The wages of sin is death," Rom 6,23 and "Sin is a reproach to any people." Prov 14,34. Therefore he who considers only a few sins great, but this or that sin small, insignificant, and meaningless, which is not of very great importance, which one can allow himself, which God overlooks, he does not yet know what sin is; his heart is still spiritually blind; he still lies buried in sin as though in the dark pit of death and corruption.

As it is important for a person to recognize that in a certain respect all sins are alike, so it is just as important to recognize that from another point of view sins are most dissimilar. They are dissimilar as to against what one sins; although all sins insult God, one can also sin particularly against his neighbor, or himself, or even against an irrational creature, even against an inanimate creature. Moreover, sins are dissimilar as regarding with what one sins; therefore they are classified as sins outside the body and to the body; as sins of the heart, the mouth, and the members; or as sins of thoughts, words, and deeds. Moreover, sins are dissimilar as touching the way, how, one sins; therefore, they are classified into sins of commission, omission, and partakers in the sins of others. Moreover, sins are dissimilar as to the reason why one sins; they are therefore classified as original and actual sins; as sins of malice and sins of weakness; as intentional or wilful and dominant sins, sins of weakness in rashness; as knowing and unknowing sins. Moreover, they are dissimilar as touching their seriousness and greatness; therefore they are classified as mistakes, passions, vices, crimes, and sins which cry to heaven. Besides, they are classified into a separate fall into sin and into dominant sins and habitual sins; into pet sins and sins of temperament; gross and fine or subtle; as inner and external; fleshly and spiritual; secret and known sins.


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But of all the distinctions which are made between sins, that one is the most important which is made in regard to the state of grace; for there are sins in spite of which a person can have God's grace, and others in connection with which a person necessarily loses God's grace; the first are called venial, the second mortal sins.

This distinction is necessary for this reason: We read in Holy Writ that all men, even the holiest, recognized that they were sinners and bemoaned their sins. If one did not know that there are venial sins, in spite of which the state of grace can exist, or mortal sins, in connection with which the state of grace can not exist, many a one who lives in mortal sins could fabricate this false comfort: All the saints lamented that they were still sinners; hence no matter in which sins one lives he is still in the state of grace.

Oh, how many have deceived themselves concerning their happiness and the salvation of their immortal, dearly bought souls by such thoughts! How many ignorantly suppose that they stood in God's grace, who had lost it long ago!

God's Word is not the fault of this. For we read there that all the pardoned are and remain sinners; and we read that there are sinners who are excluded from grace as well as from the kingdom of heaven. We are warned against two such mortal sins in our today's Epistle. Let us therefore hear this warning with open hearts.

Quote the text here: Ephesians 5:1 - 9.

My friends, even the Epistle of the previous Sunday had contained an earnest warning against the sins of impurity and greed; today we find the same warning. Last week I therefore purposely spoke of the necessity of sanctification. I have reserved the special warning against these two sins particularly mentioned. Today permit me to answer the question:

WHY SHOULD A CHRISTIAN MOST EARNESTLY GUARD HIMSELF AGAINST THE SINS OF IMPURITY AND GREED?

I answer:

1. Because True Christianity Can Not Exist with These Two Sins, and

2. Because These Sins Necessarily Exclude One from the Kingdom of Christ and of God.

Holy God! You are not a God who has pleasure in wickedness; the wicked do not stand before you; yes, you are a strong, zealous God who visits the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Oh then fill our hearts with a wholesome fear of all sins; turn those who still serve sin so that they will become holy; those who are sanctified by your Spirit preserve from apostasy; and lead us all into the kingdom of glory. Amen. Amen.

I.

My friends, as we mentioned in the introduction, even the best Christian remains a sinner until death. Hence, there are sins which a person can have and in spite of which he can be a Christian. These are sins of weakness and rashness. Yet those who still sin fulfilly and intentionally, or briefly


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stated, live in sins which rule them, can not be Christians; thus for example St. Paul writes: "For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the Law, but under grace." Rom 6,14. David expresses the same thought: "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." Ps 66,18.

Here, my friends, you have the first reason why a Christian should earnestly guard himself against the sins of impurity and greed. True Christianity can not co-exist with wilful, intentional, and dominant sins.

Of course, countless numbers continue to live in impurity and greed and still suppose they are Christians. They think: Have I not been baptized? do I not have the true Christian faith in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Do I not say my morning, evening, and table prayers every day? On the Lord's Day do I not go into his house to hear his Word? Do I not partake of the Heal of Reconciliation? Do I not confess my sins and am absolved? Do I not do much good to my neighbor? How can you say I'm not a Christian?

No matter how many think that way, all who live in the sin of impurity and greed are not Christians; their worship of God is not true, nor are their works good because, flowing from a poisoned source, a sinful heart, they are worthless, yes, an abomination to God. The moment a person wants to become a Christian through Holy Baptism, he must renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways and promise to believe in the Triune God, serve him alone as the only Lord and Covenant God, cling to him, and remain faithful to him until death. If he should serve any sin again, he breaks his baptismal covenant, forsakes the fellowship of God, and surrenders himself to the devil. He is no longer a Christian, and if he would be able to do miracles.

In our text the apostle gives us special reasons why Christianity cannot coexist with sins of "impurity." He says: "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children." V.l. The apostle means to say: Christians are God's children; the child of a human being is minded like a human being, and if an angel could have a child it would have the disposition of an angel; therefore a child of God will and must also have a divine disposition; it will follow God, imitate God, take after God. Does he follow God who lives in impurity, unchastity, adultery, or fornication? Does he have a divine disposition? Does he show that he takes after God? Is he like God? Anything but that; for God is a God to whom all impurity is an abomination; he is the most pure being; the spirit of impurity and all unchastity is the devil. Therefore he who lives in the sin of impurity is a child of the devil, a blemish, and not a child of God, hence — not a Christian.

The apostle continues: "And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet- smelling savor." V.2. The apostle means to say: Christians have the living faith that Christ, the Son of God sacrificed himself for them on the altar of the cross; through this sacrifice he has reconciled them with God and made them acceptable to God. Christians believe that God has loved them with a love no man or angel can comprehend; they marvel at it through all eternity. If Christians believe in this love with which God has loved them, nothing else is possible but to be filled and aroused by this love.

But whoever lives in "greed", whoever sets his heart on earthly things to such a degree that he gets more pleasure out of owning gold and silver and other worldly possessions than doing good with them, helping those who are in need with a loan, opening a gentle hand to the poor, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving the thirsty drink, refreshing the sick, bringing the homeless into his house, supplying lost souls with the message of the Gospel; whoever in his greed is so hard-hearted that he can enrich himself by the labor and sweat of


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the worker, do you mean to tell me that he has a living faith in the inexpressible love of God in Christ toward him and is set on fire by this love?

Indeed not! John writes: "But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" 1 Jn 3,17. James calls enriching oneself at the expense of the poor a sin which cries to heaven, a sin which cries to God for punishment because man does not punish it. Are such misers Christians? Indeed not!

The apostle continues and says: "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient; but rather giving of thanks." Vv. 3.4. Here the apostle points chiefly to the fact that Christians are "saints". Christians are saints in two respects; first, God considers them righteous by grace for Christ's sake, and secondly God himself has entered their heart through faith, their whole body has become a temple of the Holy Spirit, and they are now ever more holy in body and soul.

But do you mean to tell me that they are still temples of the Holy Ghost who live in fleshly impurity, in unchastity, play the fool, and crack unchaste, lascivious jokes? Indeed not! Those people have lost the Holy Spirit long ago; for the Holy Spirit, this pure dove, flees from the stinking pools of unchaste, lecherous, and adulterous hearts. In another passage St. Paul writes: "Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which we have of God, and ye are not your own?" 1 Cor 6,18.19. So can he be a Christian who lives in the sin of impurity? No; as certainly as that person is no longer a saint, and as certainly as his body is no more the temple of the Holy Ghost but of the unclean spirit, so certainly is he not a Christian.

We continue. In the following the apostle again attacks the greedy and says: "Who is an idolater." V.5. He means to say: He who is greedy relies more upon his mammon than upon the living God; is more afraid of losing his mammon that God's grace; and is more desirous of increasing and keeping his property than pleasing God. Even if he does not fall down before his lump of gold and say to it as do the heathen: My comfort, my treasure, my God in whom I trust, whom I love above all things, whom I serve night and day, nevertheless he does that in his heart. Even though a greedy person takes part in the public worship, he has fallen from God long ago. And such a person should be a Christian? Absolutely not; he is a so-called baptized heathen.

Finally, the apostle says: "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light." V.8. The apostle means to say: He who is a Christian walks as in the day, that is, in such a way that everyone can see his walk; he no longer has any need to hide himself with his works, for they are done in God. Yet what else is . the sin of unchastity but works of darkness? Are"they not mostly committed under the cover of night and in dark hiding places? Yes, are not the sins of unchastity so shameful that one must blush merely to speak of them? Do you mean to say that an unchaste, impure person can at the same time be a Christian? Far be it!

If I were to indicate briefly why according to our text Christianity cannot exist alongside sins of impurity and greed, it is this: A Christian is child of God, an unchaste person is a child of the devil; a Christian is kindled by divine love, a greedy person is cold; a Christian is a saint and a temple of the Holy Ghost, an unchaste person is a temple of the spirit of uncleanness; a Christian is a servant of the living God, a greedy person is an


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idolater; a Christian is a child of light, an unchaste person is a child of darkness.

II.

The apostle mentions even more reasons why a Christian should guard himself most earnestly against every sin; he continues: "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." V.5. The second reason for the warning is this: Because of necessity exclude one from the kingdom of Christ and of God. Permit me to mention a few things about this.

My friends, if we ask what most think of the sins of impurity and greed, we hear and see that they think they are of little consequence. Not only were the heathen so blinded, but in these last times even most within Christendom think that fornication and greed are merely improper but not sinful, godless, and criminal; Not only is "fornication" rampant everywhere, but it has even ceased being a disgrace; it is considered a pardonable weakness; it, and especially impure jokes, are called galantry, and the like.

And as far as "greed" is concerned, even if it is not revealed in sordid stinginess, the world never views it as weakness but strength, an enviable skill at making money. A miser who has become rich by the sweat of the poor or by all sorts of deceitful speculation and business tricks is honored and respected, a man whom all flatter as a man of honor in order to derive some advantage out of him.

If such blindness would be found only among those who knew nothing of God's Word and would not wish to be Christians! Sad to say, even upon the field of the Church this weed sown by the foe flourishes so fearfully, that a faithful servant of the Church could well despair. Make no mistake: Even among those who have joined a Christian group and want to be Christians, not a few secretly live in all manner of impurity and unchastity, in greed and unrighteousness and still imagine they have entered the kingdom of God. They suppose that since they prove in other ways that they are Christians, God will overlook the fact that they are not quite able to suppress one passion; and as far as greed is concerned, they do not even once perceive that they live in this sin. They call greed economy and clever business management, and think that a Christian must be faithful in earthly things, diligent in his calling, and the like; thus they always argue away again the unrest arising from the hearing of the preaching of God's Word.

It makes absolutely no difference how men might think, man is not his own judge; God is; and in his holy Word he already has judged. How does it read? "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." Paul adds the warning: "Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these (these sins) cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them." Vv. 5-7.

This tells us: Fornication and all uncleanness together with greed are not sins which are to be found among Christians, which he can wash away by his daily repentance, and for which he receives forgiveness every day; rather these are sins because of which a person has no part or inheritance either here in Christ's kingdom of grace nor there in God's kingdom of glory. The sentence has fallen, the staff is broken; he who lives in these sins is an abomination before God; here he is under his wrath and in eternity he will not see God but be cast our into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


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As truly as God is God and his Word the truth: The eternal fate of such a sinner will be damnation, his eternal dwelling will be in hell. For "blessed," says Christ, "are the pure in heart; for they shall see God. Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy." Mt 5,8.7.

Though the sinner may continue to comfort himself by thinking that God will not be as stern and angry as the parson preaches, God will someday prove that he was not joking with his threats but was terribly, fearfully in earnest. When it will be too late, then the unchaste and miserly will get faith. Then they will cry woe upon themselves and curse that sin which here was so sweet.

Hence, let us then be frightened of all sins, especially of the sins of impurity and greed,with our whole heart. And let him, whose conscience speaks and testifies that he has lived in the past in these sins, examine himself; for there is still time to escape the wrath to come.

My dear hearer, if you have lived in one of these sins, do not think: Never to do it is the best repentance. Sure you should stop sinning, but know: No longer committing fornication and adultery, nor being covetous, nor scraping and scratching is not yet that true repentance which God demands from you, if you want to be saved.

Rather you unchaste and greedy remember: Up to now you have fallen away from God completely and have been an abomination in his eyes with all, all your works. You have been a complete stranger to that life which is from God. Since one sin has openly ruled in you, all sins have ruled in you in secret. No true fear of God, nor yet true love of God, nor yet true trust in God, nor has love to your brethren dwelt within your heart. You have been a corrupt tree, which could produce only corrupt fruit.

Therefore if you do not want to deceive yourself about your soul’s salvation, for God1s sake do not be satisfied with a few sighs and good intentions; no, you must repent and turn to God with your whole heart so that you will become an entirely different person in heart, state of mind, disposition, and all powers. It just is not enough for you to trim only the twigs on the tree of sin; the roots, the roots of the tree, that is, heart and mind, must be better; in one word, you must be reborn and be renewed through the Holy Spirit.

If you want to know how you begin this, then read the penitential Psalms which David has written, after he had fallen deeply, perceived his sin and turned again to God. If you have sinned as David did, do not hope to be saved as David was, if you do not repent with David’s repentance. Humble yourself as David did, bemoan your guilt as he did, plead persistently and earnestly as he did for grace, for forgiveness of all your sins alone for the sake of Christ's blood, and then for a pure heart and a new, right spirit; that, that is the correct way; then you will also find grace; God will enter into you and will make your heart his temple again; you will find peace for your soul

and then you will also as a new person walk in a new life, be in Christ's kingdom here and in eternity in the kingdom of God the Father in eternal joy and glory.

Oh Jesus Christ, Savior of sinners, bring us all upon the way of repentance and faith. Amen! Amen!


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Oh God, you are a holy and righteous God; you are not a God who has pleasure in unrighteousness; the evil man does not remain in your presence. The boastful do not stand before you; you are the enemy of all evildoers. You destroy the liar; you abominate the bloodthirsty and the false. You are a zealous God who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate you. You are an upright Judge, a God who utters threats every day. If a person does not want to be converted, you have whetted your sword and strung your bow; you take aim with a deadly weapon; you have prepared your arrows to destroy.

Oh holy and righteous God, we confess that our hopelessly corrupt heart forgets your holiness and righteousness so often, despises your commands and threats, loves the sins which you hate, and wilfully abuses your grace, patience, and long-suffering.

Oh therefore enter not into judgment with us; do not cast us away from your presence; do not surrender us to the evil disposition of our heart; but awaken and enlighten us so that we may fully perceive the majesty of your holiness and righteousness, be frightened at it from the bottom of our hearts, seek and seize in faith your grace in true repentance, and thereafter walk piously in your fear.

To that end bless the preaching of your Word in this hour for the sake of your dear Son Jesus Christ, our Savior, Mediator, and Reconciler. Amen.

Quote the text here: Ephesians 5:1-9.

Dear friends in the Lord Jesus.

One of the chief reasons why unbelievers reject particularly the Old Testament is that God is so often presented on its pages as a wrathful God. They say that a religion which ascribes wrath and fury to God can not possibly be the true religion; for God is only love and overlooks the sins of men, his children, as human weaknesses.

If there is any error as terrible as it is fruitful, it is the one that God does not become angry at sin. That so many deny this in our day is proof of the fact, that baptized Christendom has fallen deeper than even the fallen heathen world. The heathen have always believed that there is a God who becomes angry at sin; that is why they have tried to reconcile him by sacrifices. Casting a glance upon the heathen world, Paul testifies: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth," that is, their natural better knowledge, "in unrighteousness." Rom 1,18.

That God becomes angry at sin is by nature written into every man's heart. For how does it happen that, when men have done evil, they are restless, even when no one else knows about it? Their own "conscience...and their thoughts ...accusing or else excusing one another" bear witness that they have angered an invisible, mighty, as well as zealous Judge who will punish them in time or in eternity.

Moreover, why is it that death rules in the whole world as the king of terrors, pitilessly take the child from the crib and from the breast of its mother,


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tearing spouse from spouse, fathers from children? Whence is it that from the beginning until this hour death as an avenging angel ceaselessly stalks all mankind, sparing neither palace nor hut, killing day and night, and so far has over looked no man? This is irrefutable proof that all men are by nature sinners and because of God1s righteous wrath children of death. That is why Moses exclaims is Ps 90: "For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath." Vv. 7.11.

Moreover, why is it that the whole world is a vale of tears, full of misery, füll of misfortune, full of anxiety, full of tears and sighs? Why is it that the wisdom and labors of men have not been able to change this? This is irrefutable evidence for the fact that the world has fallen from its Creator, is a world of sinners who because of their sins must groan under the curse, under the wrath and punishment of a holy God.

And finally, does not also the history of nations, kingdoms, states, and cities show that a God who is angry because of sin rules over and sits in judgment on them? Except for eight people what does the drowning of a world sunk in all sins and abominations proclaim? What does the destruction of the bestial, unchaste cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by a rain of fire and brimstone from heaven proclaim, cities which are still covered by the sulphurous and salty waves of the Dead Sea? What does the fearful destruction of the murderous city of Jerusalem predicted by Christ 40 years in advance proclaim? What does the destruction of all the mighty kingdoms of antiquity proclaim, which happened every time when they filled the measure of their sins?

Oh blind world! Everywhere the great God reveals a wrath against sin which burns to the lowest hell, and it wants to know only of a God who loves! A God who does not become angry also does not love; for only he can love the good who hates the evil. The god of the unbelieving world who does not become angry is therefore nothing but the fiction of their heart, which disregards, yes loves, its sins, a useless idol whose prototype is sinful man himself.

My friends, did not Christ tread "the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God"? Rev 19,15. After Christ atoned for the sins of all men and reconciled God through his bloody sacrifice upon the altar of the cross, did not God cease being a wrathful God? No, my friends; and it is this earnest truth which the Apostle Paul declares through the Holy Spirit in the Epistle of this Sunday, when he cries out even to Christians: "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience." Vv. 5.6. On the basis of these words permit me to present to you today:

THE TRUTH IMPORTANT ALSO FOR BELIEVERS, THAT GOD'S WRATH COMES UPON THE CHILDREN OF DISOBEDIENCE EVEN AFTER CHRIST'S RECONCILIATION

We ponder:

1. The Content of This Truth, and

2. Its Importance also for Believers.


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I.

After the apostle in our text specified a feu of the sins which exclude one from God's kingdom, he adds the noteworthy words: "Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience." V.6.

Let us learn mainly the content of the truth here expressed.

The first thing expressed is that even after Christ appeased God's wrath it still exists.

Though this is an earnest truth, my friends, it can be no other way. God is an eternal, perfect Being and therefore subject to no change whatever. "Thou art the same," David by the Holy Spirit says to God; James declares: "With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." Jas 1,17 . God's attributes can as little decrease as increase. Imperfect man can lose one of the other attribute and still be a man; however, this is impossible with God. God's attributes are not accidental qualities and virtues which God can have or not have, which he can keep or not keep without ceasing to be God; but what are called God's attributes is his very essence itself; it is he himself.

God's Word not only says that God has love but also that he is love, not only that God has power but also that he is power, not only that God has holiness and righteousness but also that he is holiness and righteousness. Therefore God's love is nothing else but the divine essence insofar as it is love, the loving God himself; God's might is nothing else but the divine essence insofar as it is might, the almighty God himself; God's holiness and righteousness is nothing else but the divine essence insofar as it is holiness and righteousness, the holy and righteous God himself. Therefore as little as it is possible that God can ever cease being God, or that he could lose his essence, so little can God cease having the attributes of love, might, holiness, and righteousness.

As it is with all of God1s attributes, so it is also with God's wrath. Among men anger is mostly a sinful passion which comes and goes. God's anger on the other hand is something entirely different. Though God becomes angry, he does not become stirred up as man does but remains the untroubled, perfect, blessed God. God's wrath is that invariable attribute inseparable from God by virtue of which God actually and truly is the enemy of sin, hates and abhors all sin, and is so minded against sin that he will and must punish it in time and eternity. Even this anger against sin is not an accidental condition which God could do without; rather divine wrath is his divine essence, in short, God himself .

Therefore as little as God can cease being God, so little can he ever, if only for one second, cease being a Person who is angry at sin. As long as light retains its nature it must shed light; as long as fire keeps its nature it must burn; likewise, as long as God keeps his divine essence he must become angry at sin, angry to all eternity.

And yet no change took place in God even though Christ died. As certainly as the word of the Holy Ghost is spoken by the mouth of David: "Thou art the same," so certain is it that to this very day God becomes angry at sin just as well as he did before Christ's reconciliation. Christ himself says: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the lav;, till all be fulfilled." Mt 5,17 .18.

As according to these words the Law with its threats has not been annulled through Christ’s reconciliation, neither has God's wrath which is mirrored in his Law; and we must add, that nothing else has revealed more that God is a


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holy Being who becomes angry at sin than the fact that he would and could forgive no man's sins had not his only begotten Son sacrificed himself for the reconciliation of sin, paid for man's guilt to the last penny, and drunk the very last drop of the cup of wrath; therefore through his reconciliation God has indeed become the friend of the sinner, but not a friend of sin; it reconciled him with the sinner but not with sin. Only the devil is a friend of sin; only the devil is eternally reconciled with sin.

Therefore whoever believes that after Christ's reconciliation is no longer angry at sin, is a friend of sin and reconciled with sin, turns this reconciled

God into a wicked God; yes, he turns God, it is terrible to say it, into a

devil; actually it is this God and no other which the world worships as its so-called "dear God" without even suspecting it.

This, then, is certain: Even after Christ's perfect sacrifice God's wrath still exists.

My friends, the truth which the apostle expresses in our text contains even more. He writes: "Let no man deceive you with vain words," namely because of the sins which have been mentioned, "for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience." V.6. Even after Christ's reconciliation God's wrath because of sin is not only present, but it really comes upon the children of disobedience; it strikes and consumes them. Through Christ's reconciliation it has not become a dulled sword which God carries in its scabbard, not the hollow thunder without the smashing lightning, not an illusory, frightening phantom; but because of their sins God's anger to this very day devours millions of sinners who have been reconciled by Christ and gives them up to eternal torment.

Will you perhaps say: Did Christ then really reconcile the sinful world? I reply: Far be it to deny this! Christ has indeed perfectly atoned for the sins of all men, even the greatest; but how can this help a person if he rejects this reconciliation? Christ has indeed opened the prison gates of sin which were closed by God’s anger; but how can that help a person if he wantonly remains in his prison of sin? Christ has indeed triumphantly brought out of his grave a receipt in full for the guilt of all men; but how can this help a person who tears up this receipt by his unbelief and tramples it underfoot? Christ has indeed perfectly satisfied and appeased God's wrath; but how can this help a person who will not even let himself be reconciled with God who is reconciled with him but wants to be and remain God's enemy?

Yes, after Christ's reconciliation the only sin which must condemn is unbelief; Christ says: "The Holy Ghost will reprove the world of sin," and immediately adds by way of explanation: "Of sin, because they believe not on me." Jn 16,8.9; but how can this help a sinner who remains in unbelief? By his unbelief the person, as it were, takes his sins which were mailed by Christ to the cross down from the cross and by his unbelief restores to his canceled sins their damning power. As a seriously wounded person who rejects the balm which could heal him dies not because of his wounds but because he refused the balm, so the sinful world dies which rejects Christ's atonement, not because of the wounds of sin, but because it rejects reconciliation as the way of salvation, and dies eternally anyhow because of the wounds of sin.

Though the unbelieving world may continue to comfort itself with the thought; Why should God be so inhuman as to become angry with us because we do not believe what we cannot comprehend and therefore can not believe? The poor, blind world does not remember: God's wrath does not come upon them because of their unbelief, for it already has come upon them as a result of their sin; because of their unbelief it merely remains upon them. For Christ clearly and


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solemnly: "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Jn 3,36.

So there can be no doubt: even after Christ's sacrifice, God's wrath is not only existent, but it also comes upon the children of disobedience because of their sins; some day even the Lamb of God who carried away the sins of the whole world will on the day of judgment appear to them in terror; then they will say to the hills and rocks : "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" Rev 6,16.17.

II.

How if we have learned to know the content of the truth that God's wrath comes upon the children of disobedience even after Christ's reconciliation, then let us in the second place seek to learn to know the importance of this truth for Christians.

When the apostle introduces this truth with the words: "Let no man deceive you with vain words," and when he concludes this truth in the words: "Be not ye therefore partakers with them," we see that these words contain a serious warning for believers as well. Even at the time of the apostle there were baptized people who considered themselves good Christians, even though they did not earnestly struggle against sin and lived after the manner of the world. They had heard that Christ had blotted out all sins, reconciled all men with God, and had won for all complete salvation; they learned that man is righteous before God and is saved by grace, without works, through faith alone; then they supposed that if they believed, it would not be so necessary for them to be so careful about every sin; where sin would abound, grace would much more abound; God would no longer become angry; he would be nothing but love, goodness, friendliness, grace, patience, and forbearance. The result was that these believers finally fell into manifest sins and shame and nevertheless supposed that they would be able to comfort themselves with Christ's reconciliation. For the sake of such blinded Christians and to warn all others Paul writes in our text: "Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things (sin) cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience." V.6.

The apostle means to say: I know very well that many say: Is not everything of grace, and are we not and do we not all remain poor sinners and weak men? What would be the value of grace if we would have to be so careful about sin? Has not Christ fought for us? Why else would Christ have fought for us, if we also would have to fight so scrupulously? Has not Christ gained salvation for us by his toil? Of what value would his labors be, if we also would have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling? Has not Christ appeased God's anger? Of what value would his appeasement be if we would still have to fear God's wrath? Who then would and could be saved?

But these are absolutely "vain words", that is, empty, twisted, ungodly words, words with which you vainly try to excuse yourselves; for I say unto you: The very sins which you Christians want to allow yourselves are the very ones for whose sake the wrath of God comes upon the children of disobedience; if you become "partakers with them" in these things, then in spite of your imagined faith the wrath of God will come upon you; as you have loved with the world, you will be condemned with the world.

Would to God that there were no such blinded Christians today! But sad to say! Even in our times, when believers have become so few, there are only too many even among those who seem to be Christians, and I fear, even our congregation is not free of them.


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Perhaps in no other church is the blessed doctrine of God’s reconciliation through Christ, of God's infinite love for sinners, of free grace preached so richly as in ours. But does it not seem that there are also those among us who suppose that they knew the secret of how to be saved so easily and comfortably? that they need but console themselves with God's grace and salvation would not escape them?

In thinking that, they live like the children of the world and disobedience and copy their vanities, yes, one secretly serves this and another that sin; the one serve greed and avariciousness, another eats and drinks to excess, one is proud and haughty, another is envious, one slanders, another sins by anger, thirst for vengeance, and irreconcilableness; another permits himself a little deceit, as he calls it, here and there, a little lie in his dealing and business; another loans his money at interest or borrows and does not repay; yes, God who sees the secret things, knows whether many do not live secretly even in impurity and unchastity, in gross fornication and adultery — and still these unhappy people suppose that because they convince themselves that they are in grace and because they also pray, go to church, and Holy Communion they are Christians who for Christ's sake are under God's grace; they do not have to fear God1s wrath. Though the preacher in addition to preaching the sweet Gospel earnestly reprimand even their sins, they suppose that this does not concern them; they are Christians who live in the house of faith which the lightning of God's anger could not strike. They consider the Gospel, which the ministers, who reprimand them, preached to them as booty which this minister can not take from them so easily. So they are not afraid of excommunication, for they think they know the secret of how they can render even excommunication harmless and be saved.

But what does the word of the great God in our text say to such an idea? "For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience." Vv. 5.6.

Here it is written and who will dare erase these words from God's book? Here it is written: Anyone who lives in any dominant sin, be it fornication, or uncleanness, or greed, or whatever it may be is excluded from the kingdom of God and of Christ; not God's grace but his wrath rests upon him. That person vainly imagines that his faith will help him into heaven anyhow; oh folly! His faith is nothing but a hallucination of the mind, for no one can in true faith call Jesus a Lord without the Holy Spirit; however the Holy Spirit does not dwell in a soul obedient to sin. If God's wrath comes upon the children of disobedience because of their sin, how much more will it come upon those who, living in these same sins, boast of having faith? "If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" Lk 23,31.

Oh my friends, be warned! Do not misuse the Gospel to dream up a God who does not become angry at sin; but know that God is and remains a holy God who cries also to the believers: "For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness; neither shall evil dwell with thee." Ps 5,4.

The truth that God's wrath comes upon the children of disobedience because of their sins contains not only an important, earnest warning for those who want to be Christians, but at the same time an important, urgent reminder and encouragement; for the apostle continues thus in our text: "For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light. (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.") Vv. 8.9.


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It is plain that the apostle means to say: If you want to escape the wrath of God which comes upon the world, it is your duty not only not to be partakers of their sins but also as children of light to walk and shine in this world in true holiness, in all kinds of good works toward God, in uprightness toward your neighbor, and all this in truth and honestly.

Of course, no one is righteous before God and is saved by sanctification; but if anyone does not earnestly seek after ever more perfect sanctification, he again falls back securely under the complete domination of sin. As anyone who no longer carries on the struggle will be conquered, so will also the Christian; as a light which no longer burns is finally extinguished altogether, so the Christian, once a child of light, becomes a child of darkness; because he casts aside a good conscience, he suffers shipwreck of his faith.

I must admit that the fear often steals upon me that,because of the many comforting sermons we hear, we will be drowned in the flood of the evangelical comfort because of the deceit of our flesh. Ah, never forget the great danger in which we still live, so that God's wrath does not come upon us even after we have truly repented; may we come to true faith, and be reborn and renewed!

I repeat one more, God does become angry to this very day over every sin; for he remains what he is: A consuming fire against sin. So my dear Christian, consider no, no sin, no loveless judgment, no impurity no matter how secret, no sinful thoughts, no evil desires, no useless word, no proud or angry mien as something insignificant; for every sin, even the one which seems to be the least can, when you consider it something insignificant, take faith away and hurl you under God's wrath and disfavor. Do not be lazy but zealous without tiring wherever you can serve God, his kingdom, and your neighbor; for without sanctification no one will see the Lord.

You who consider no sin as insignificant and therefore sit in severe judgment upon yourselves every day and often groan with Paul because of your sinful weakness: "The good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. O wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Rom 7,19.24 do not despair! Draw more and more upon the comfort of the Gospel and your hunger and thirst after the righteousness of life will be appeased. You will learn how to be better in carrying on the struggle and gain ever more glorious victories, until you will be able to say with Paul: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only,but unto all them also that love his appearing." 2 Tim 4,7.8. Amen.


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Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

Man is so created that he must love something. Man can not go indifferently through the world. In his inner being he has the ineradicable inclination not only to know all kinds of things, but also to find delight in something, take pleasure in something, have his heart cling to something, in a word, to love something. Man's heart can not remain empty of all love. If man does not love God, he loves the world; if he does not love the Creator, he loves the creature; if he does not love the Invisible One, he loves the visible creature, if not heavenly things then earthly, if not the holy and pure then the unholy and the impure.

When man came forth from God's hand, the right, the true, holy love dwelt in his heart. He loved God above all things as his God his highest good, the most lovely beauty, the epitome of sweetness, the source of all treasures, joy, and blessedness; he loved his fellow man who was created like him as the co-partner of his nature, his second "I" as himself. And in this holy love man was also most happy and blessed.

But when man fell into sin, a great tragic change took place in him. Love to God above all things as his highest good, and love to his neighbor as himself was extinguished. But since man had kept the heart given him at creation with its yearning, with its desires, with its inclinations, his heart was filled with another love, with the love of the creature, with the love of the transient things of this world, yes, with the love of vanity and sin itself.

Now all men are born into the world filled with this unholy love. By nature every person still has a heart which must love, a desire for joy and happiness which he must appease, a yearning for peace and rest which he must seek to satisfy; but as long as God does not change man's heart, he seeks his happiness not in the love of God and his neighbor, but one in riches, a second in lust, a third in honor.

Nevertheless, there has always been in the world a little flock known alone to God, who have had a heart changed by God; this little flock exists today. And how does the Holy Scripture describe them? The Epistle to the Hebrews describes them in the following words: "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." Heb 11,13. St. Paul sketches the following picture of them: "They that have wives be as though they had none; and they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; and they that use this world, as not abusing it." 1 Cor 7,29b-31a. Who are they? They are the reborn children of God or the true Christians, who are in the world but not of the world, whose body is upon earth, but whose heart is in heaven.

I do not doubt that there exists also among us such a little flock of true Christians. My dear friends, this is only too certain: As long as such Christians live in this world, so long are they also in great danger of losing again the heavenly, holy mind of love which God has planted in them. It there-


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fore is constantly necessary that they not only examine themselves whether they are still in that love but always encourage themselves anew.

Since our today's Epistle holds before all Christians such urgent reasons for walking in holy love, let us now hear these reasons. May he, the only Fount of all true love, grant us his grace, that the cold may be warmed and those already having this love may be enkindled by it more and more.

Quote the text here: Ephesians 5, 1-9.

As you have heard, this text deals with a double love, first, with the holy and pure love, and then, with an unholy and impure love; he exhorts us to walk in holy love; he warns us against a life in unholy love; and finally, he supports the admonition and warning with mighty and powerful arguments.

So let us now hear the apostle's answer to the question:

WHAT SHOULD INDUCE A CHRISTIAN TO KANT HOLY LOVE AND FRIGHTEN HIM AWAY FROM LOVE OF UNHOLY THINGS?

The apostle answers:

1. That as Christians They are God's Children. This Should Move Them to Love Holy Things, and,

2. That as God's Children They are Saints. This Should Frighten Them

Away from the Love of Unholy Things.

Oh Lord God, highest Good, to love you is our salvation; to forget and despise you means hell. But see, how blind and perverted man's heart is; it forsakes you, the living Fount, and hewes out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. Yet pour out upon us the living water of your Holy Spirit and his peace and joy, so that we may all taste and see how good it is to love you and be in communion with you; we may forsake the deserts of this world and its sinful and transient joys with which our heart can never quench its thirst, but cause it to languish eternally. Lord, turn this present hour into an hour of gracious coming upon us all, for the sake of your love which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

I.

It is true, my friends: At the beginning of our text the apostle makes a big demand of Christians in the words: "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor." Vv. 1.2. The apostle exhorts Christians to have only love, but who is to be the example after whom they should judge themselves? Who is the prototype whom they are to imitate? What is the original which they are to try to attain? It is to be God himself. "Be ye therefore followers of GOD." says the apostle.

How does God love? John expresses it briefly in the words: "God is love." Not only does God have love, God not only practises love; he is love itself; his whole essence is love; he is a love whose fire glows throughout heaven and earth; he is a sea of love which continually overflows everything which exists.

Particularly he revealed himself to men as a God who loves beyond the power of words to express. He loved us even before we existed; he loves us all


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from eternity, and from eternity decreed to pour out his love upon us all. He created us, and behold! when we fell and became his enemies, his love did not wane; then he truly revealed how ardently he loved us. After the eternal counsel in order to save us God not only offered us heaven and all his treasures; he did infinitely more; he gave us his very own Son, yes, gave him up to suffer, bleed, and die for us, and he, the Son, willingly gave himself for us; he went to the grave; he became a sacrifice upon the altar of the cross, a sweetsmelling sacrifice tb God, appeased his righteousness which was outraged by our sins, and we were acceptable to God in the Beloved in spite of our sins.

You see, that is the example of love which the Christian is to go by, the model of love which he is to imitate, the heavenly pattern which he is to seek to attain. That is why the apostle does not say: Have love or exercise love; but: "WALK in love." It is clear that the apostle means to say: You Christians, your entire life is to be one continual love, a love of God and man; this holy love should fill and move your whole heart; this holy love should reveal your words; this holy love should shine out of your countenance and your every bearing; this holy love should be the beat of your heart from which love proceeds into all the powers of your soul and all the members of your body. Your heart should hold no loveless thought, no indifference toward any person, not even against your foe and offender, so that you can always rejoice with everyone who rejoices and weep with everyone who weeps. God himself must dwell within you and along with God love, that holy universal love, that ardent love of God himself must also dwell within you which ever and always empties itself out.

I repeat, it is true: This is a huge demand which the apostle makes of Christians. However, as great as it is, just so powerful, so mighty, so urgent is also the reason which he adduces. What does the apostle add? He says: "As dear children." He means to say: I can not say to all men: "Be ye there fore followers of God, and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor." V.l.2. For how can that person, who still lies in the death of sin and vanity, who has not yet known God as his highest good, who wanders about like a blind person, still seeking his rest and peace in the things of this world, how can he follow God in love? If he hears the summons to have divine love, he thinks that this is foolishness; and if he even wanted to begin to love, he could not; his wretched heart would be drawn back to earth; it can not ascend to eternal love in order to pour itself out from above.

But; you Christians, have you not by faith known this love by which God as a father has loved his children from eternity? Were you not begotten by God through the experience of this love, reborn, become partakers of the divine nature and true children of God, children of eternal perfect love? Yes, as God's children you are therefore not only in duty bound to love as God your Father loves; as his true children you also have the power, the blessed power to receive love. Up! therefore, up! "Walk as dear children in the love" of your Father.

You children of God, is that not so? Must you not admit that the apostle's words are correct? Are you not as God's children in duty bound to walk in love? Should not a child be like his father? Should not a child bear the image of his father? Should not a child imitate his father? Would not a child be considered a bastard which is so unlike his father?

God whom you call your Father is nothing but pure love and goodness. Would you dare to call yourselves God's children if your heart is not full of holy love, if you do not love God above all things as your greatest good, If you do not love your fellow-redeemed brethren brethren and sisters as yourself? No, then you must leave aside the claim to be God's children: then you must


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confess that hitherto you have only called God your father, but that you have not been his children, that you are not begotten by him, and have not become partakers of his divine nature. Therefore, as dear as you hold the name of being a child of the Most High God, so zealously walk in love.

Or do you intend to say: How can I love God above all things and my neighbor as myself? My heart is too cold, too dead, too corrupt to do that? Do you not by these questions confess that you are still children of death and sin and not children of God? Is not a child of God differentiated from a child of the world by the fact that the child of God is reborn by God and has received a new, loving heart, whereas a child of the world still has the old, unchanged, dead, hardhearted, loveless heart?

It is true: Even God's children here on earth are not yet perfectly delivered from the bands of their natural corruption; the old loveless heart often makes itself felt in wicked thoughts; it even bursts forth in loveless words and deeds, and often unnoticed attaches its love to the creature. But he who is a true child of God can not have this lovelessness and false love of the creature dominating him. If he has fallen into that love, he immediately falls down before God and beseeches and begs with groans and tears for grace and forgiveness. God has no stillborn children. Therefore if someone is a true child of God he is not only in duty bound to walk in holy love; he also has the desire and power and grace to do it.

Oh, then, listen, you children of God, to the urgent admonition of the apostle in our text, which he directs not only to the Ephesians but to all Christians: "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor." Vv. 1.2. Oh, then, by the power of the Holy Spirit strive after the ability of being able to say in holy love to God with your whole heart every moment of your life, in joy and in tribulation, in honor and in dishonor, in riches and in poverty: "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Ps 73,25.26. "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God." Ps 42,2.

But also battle against every wicked thought against your neighbor; suppress every unloving impulse; keep a sweet heart toward everyone. Let your countenance be friendly and your speech show love; if you must reprimand for the sake of God's honor and your brother's salvation, then dip the bitter word of reprimand first into the honey of love.

Love like this will make your own life lovely; along with this love you will often taste the powers of the world to come; in the interest of others you will journey through this vale of tears as true merciful Samaritans, everywhere dry tears, still sobs, pour the wine and oil of consolation into wounds and bind them, and finally you will arrive in the heavenly resting place where faith will cease because it is turned into sight, and where hope disappears because it is fulfilled, but where love remains, and all, angels and men, are perfectly happy in the perfect fellowship of love among themselves and with God.

II.

Not only is there a holy and pure, but also an unholy and an impure love. Love is the hunger of the soul. As the physical hunger of man wants to be satisfied, so does also the hunger of the soul for love. But as the prodigal son, having spitefully forsaken the home of his rich father and the fellowship of his brother, greedily gulped the food of pigs, so also when man no longer loves


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God above all things and his neighbor as himself, he greedily gulps even sin, the food of impure spirits. A heart empty of the love of God and his neighbor is not completely empty; as a vessel which has been filled with costly wine is filled with air when its contents are emptied, so the heart of man is filled with the love of vanity, perishable things, when holy love is emptied out.

Therefore after the apostle has admonished Christians to have holy love, he continues in our text: "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you." V.3. The apostle means to say: If holy love is extinguished within you, nothing else is possible; unholy, impure love takes its place; if you lack joy in God and in spiritual, heavenly things, then the desire of fleshly things will become your joy; if you are no longer rich in God, you will seek to become rich in earthly things; your heart will cling to mammon.

Purposely the apostle adds: "Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting," to the gross sins of fornication and covetousness, for even those who no longer love God at times see that gross depravity leads to destruction; so they satisfy themselves with all kinds of tricks and buffoonery; they try to enjoy life by means of laughter and jests and thus appease their desires. If they do not live secretly in the vulgar lusts of unchastity or greed, they seek all the more the so-called social pleasures, the joys of fellowship and thus try to turn earth into heaven.

Now how does the apostle try to frighten Christians away from this love? He adds: "Let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints." He means to say: You Christians know that Christ became the Redeemer of the world in order to tear the world out of its sins and lead it back again into communion with God; you know that your sins are not forgiven so that you can continue peacefully in the service of sin but become free of them; God did not pronounce you righteous for Christ's sake in spite of your sins, so that you can be considered righteous in spite of a life of sin, but that you might receive power to follow after sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. You know that from the moment that God took pity upon your misery and pardoned you he has also given you his Holy Spirit who is continually to drive, renew, cleanse, and sanctify you. You are saints, sanctified through faith, and sanctified as temples of the Holy Ghost; your goal is perfect sanctification in eternal life. You are therefore in duty bound to flee all unholy love as hell itself. It you do not want to do this you cease being God's saints, and at the same time you also fall from the fellowship of God and Jesus Christ, lose your grace, and become a slave of death and ruin.

And is that not so, my dear Christians? Yoü who know what your have received forgiveness of all your sins, do you not know that with this forgiveness you have received the Holy Ghost who has begun to move you, rule in you, and sanctify you? What do you do when you again surrender yourselves to unholy love? What do you do when you surrender yourselves to the sin of uncleanness, greed, and the pleasures of the society of the world?

You do what does not become you as saints; you cease being God's saints; you destroy the gracious work of the Holy Spirit; you lose your faith; you deny Christ and his redemption; you travel again the road to ruin. As dearly as you love the claim of being God's saint, just so earnestly battle against all impure and unholy loves.

However, the apostle knew full well the fearful power of sin and the flesh, of Satan and the world. He knew how easily even a true Christian can be enticed from his fortress and be bound by the sweet cords of uncleanness, or greed, or worldly vanity. He knew how often the flesh, the world, and Satan


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join together in the hour of temptation in order to picture to the Christian that sin is something small and harmless and its enjoyment a heaven on earth. He therefore adds the threat: "For this ye know that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." V.5.

He wants to say: My dear Christians, do not think that God's love and grace is so great, Christ's merit so powerful, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost so constant, that a Christian can surrender to this or that sin and be saved anyhow. No, says the apostle, Christians are saints; they are not people who live in sin; whoever does that is not a Christian; his faith is a delusion, his love hypocrisy, his hope a dream; and if Christians will inherit the kingdom which has been prepared for them from the foundation of the world, such a servant of sin will be excluded from this inheritance and be cast out into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

There have always been preachers, who have made the way to heaven broad and, as the Prophet Ezekiel writes, sew pillows to all armholes and make kerchiefs upon the heed and have taught that it is not so necessary to tremble at every sin; grace will cover all sins; the sea of divine love would swallow the sins of all sinners. And the worst of these preachers is the one which all Christians still bear in themselves, the flesh and blood still clinging to them. Therefore the apostle adds in our text: "Let no man deceive you with vain words; for be cause of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be ye not therefore partakers with them." Vv. 6.7.

The apostle means to say: Christians, do not trust those who want to convince you with sweet talk and brilliant words that one could be a Christian and be saved without earnestly struggling against his sins; that one could be an unchaste, greedy, or lustful child of the woRld and still have God's grace and enter heaven. If they promise you freedom, they themselves are servants of ruin. Bear in mind: Why are the children of disobedience condemned? Is it not because of these very sins? How dare you hope that you will be saved if you imitate these children of disobedience by your life and works? Because you confess with your mouth, that you believe and are Christians? because you outwardly are still in the fellowship of Christians? What a fearful deception! This very thing will doubly condemn you, for you add to the sins of unbelief also this, that you hypocritically call yourselves Christians, believers, God's children, and saints. Some day when the Judge will separate the sheep from the goats, you will find yourself separated and placed at his left hand.

Oh my dear friends, you who are Christians or want to be Christians, let us bear in mind: Christians are to be saints, saints not only by imputation of grace but also saints in deed, saints through holy thoughts and desires, saints through holy words and bearing, saints through holy works and life, in a word, saints through holy love.

If we want to be and remain such saints, then the crown and salvation beckon us; if we do not want to be and remain such saints, then hell and death threaten us.

What must, what will we chose? God will not change his arrangement. To gratify our flesh, God will not become a God who has pleasure in wickedness. To be sure, he is and remains eternal love; but a holy, a pure, an unspotted love. Oh let us cast ourselves into the arms of this love so that it may fill us, that it may guide us, and that it may finally save us. Amen.


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4TH SUNDAY IN LENT    Galatians 4:21-31    TOP    (German, Archive)

Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

Of the many questions which now especially move the hearts of Christians, one of the most important is the question: Which is the true Church of Jesus Christ on earth? It can not be expressed how much depends upon the right or wrong answer to this question.

Christ has given his Church promises glorious beyond compare and promises which only she has. The Lord speaks of his Church when he says: "Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Mt 16,18. The Lord speaks of his Church when he says: "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Lk 12,  The Lord speaks of his Church when he says: "Lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world." Mt 28,20. "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Mt 18,18.

When the apostles speak of the Church of Christ, they sometimes call it the Church, the house,.the kingdom of God, sometimes the kingdom of heaven on earth, sometimes Christ's spiritual body, sometimes Christ's bride, sometimes the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the peculiar people, sometimes the pillar and ground of the truth. What can be more important than to know to whom these glorious promises are given? what is more important than to know whether one belongs to this glorious Church outside of which there is no salvation?

Since the Church of Jesus Christ has already stood 1900 years, are we really to suppose, that there still are Christians who do not know what the Church is? One would think that this is impossible. And yet it is true. Not only are there thousands in Christendom who are ignorant concerning what the Church is because they do not search the Scriptures; but nowadays even among those who deal with Holy Writ daily, even among learned Christians, the question: What is the Church, is considered a question for which the answer must still be found, or they answer it in very different, yes, contradictory ways.

I will not mention the fact that there are still the ignorant who under the word "Church" think only of the building in which Christians gather for public worship; permit me merely to ask: What do most of those who have a better knowledge understand by the Church?

Some suppose that the Church of Christ is the totality of all who call themselves Christians. They view the Church as a tree which Christ planted in Judea and which in the course of the centuries has spread farther and farther, of which the Christian sect is a special branch. The different faiths which the various denominations in Christendom now embrace and confess they consider the colorful iridescence which the one and the same sun of truth has brought forth.

Others, and they are the Roman Christians, believe that the Church of Christ is a state of priests, that is, the totality of all those who follow the Roman Bishop and are subject in unquestioning faith in everything which this alleged successor of Peter with all his bishops commands the people to believe and do; yes, the Roman Christians suppose that the real, the true Church is in


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fact the Roman Bishop with those very bishops, clerics, and priests who follow him and the lay people are only those who are to be saved by this church.

Still others, and they are those who have the best knowledge, suppose that the Church is a visible, external institution in which God's Word is preached in its purity and the Sacraments administered according to Christ's institution; in it, as the real nucleus of the Church, there is one holy, ordained priesthood to whom God has given the keys of the kingdom of heaven and other important powers for the benefit and comfort of the Church.

But, my friends, these are false ideas of the Church of Jesus Christ upon earth. It is indeed true: All upon earth who call themselves Christians are called the Church; it is also true: All those congregations in which God's Word is preached, whether in its purity or not, as long as they do not deny it, are called Christian Churches; if the name "Church" is given to such visible fellowships, this is not done in the real but only in a figurative sense. The most important question is this one: i/hat is really the Church? what in the true sense of the word is the Church? which is the Church to which those glorious promises were given which only she has?

This question is answered by our today's Epistle. Let us devoutly hear this Epistle as those desirous to learn.

Quote the text here: Galatians 4:21 - 31.

Upon the basis of this text permit me to present to you:

THE TRUE CHURCH

1. What It Is.

2. How It Can be Known, and finally,

3. To Which Goal She Presses.

We beseech you, oh Lord Jesus, that you not only teach us from your holy Word which your Church is where you dwell intimately in grace, but that you also embrace those of us with your mighty, gracious arms who do not yet belong to your holy Church, nor are members of your body, nor sheep of your flock, nor citizens of your heavenly kingdom. Today add those who will be saved. And all those whom you have rescued from the deserts of this world draw even more closely to your heart today, so that nothing will be able to tear them from your hands. Hear us for your own sake. Amen.

I.

In our text Paul answers the question: Which is the true Church? in the words: "Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." V.26. In order to understand this expression correctly we must consider it in its connection with the preceding.

The apostle had taken the Galatians to task because they had let themselves be led from the Gospel, from the doctrine of salvation by grace, back to the Law, to the doctrine of salvation by the merit of works. The Galatians could have thought: Did not God himself give the descendants of Abraham the Law upon Sinai and were not the descendants of Abraham God's people, that is, the Church outside of which there is no salvation? Meeting this objection, the apostle


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therefore begins in our text in the following manner: “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, :the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was bom after the flesh, but he of the freewoman was by pro mise ." Vv.21-23. The apostle means to say: You know, my dear Galatians,that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael from Hagar, Isaac from Sarah; although Ishmael was a son of Abraham, he was only a slave in the house, since he had been born of a slave according to the flesh; on the other hand, Isaac, Abraham's other son, was the only true son in that home; he was not born of a slave, but of a freewoman, Abraham's true wife, Sarah, and not in the course of nature but as the result of a divine promise given Abraham in his old age.

The apostle continues: "Which things are an allegory." He means to say: In the fact that Abraham had two such different sons lies a most significant mystery. And what this mystery is he himself tells us as he continues: "For these are the two covenants, the one from the Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. ... So then, brethren, we are not of children of the bondwoman, but of the free." Vv.24-26.  If I were to summarize what the apostle means to say it is this: By Ishmael and Isaac with their mothers two different testaments or churches are indicated. Ishmael with his mother, a slave, means the church of the earthly Jerusalem, the church of those who are still the slaves of the Law and therefore want to be righteous before God by the Law (that Ishmael signifies the church of the Law is allegorically indicated by the fact that Mount Sinai upon which the Law was given also has in Arabia the name Hagar); on the other hand, Isaac with his free mother signifies the true, spiritual Church of that Jerusalem which is above, the Church of those who cling alone to God's promises of grace, who therefore are no more subject to the Law but are free of it.

According to the statement of the apostle which is the real, the true Church which is the true mother of all Christians? First of all, the apostle says it is "the Jerusalem which is above;" it is not of this world; according to its essence it is not an earthly, physical, visible kingdom but an invisible, spiritual, heavenly kingdom. It is not an institution perceived by the senses; not a number of people who are united by certain laws, ordinances, ceremonies, customs, and usages; but it is a kingdom of hearts which is united by the bond of one mind, one Spirit, and kept together unseen by the eyes of men. It is not a host of people who can be recognized by their natural birth and earth ly fatherland, or whom one can find together in any one place; it is not tied to any land, any city, any nation of the world; it is a congregation which is scattered over the entire globe; it has members from all ages, from all stations, amongst all nations, in all states, countries, and islands from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof.

Moreover, the apostle says it is "free;" as the apostle himself explains, to it belongs no child of Hagar, no Ishmael, none who are only by their fleshly birth born slaves of the Law; it consists only of Sarah's children, only Isaacs, only children of promise who are born again by the promise of grace as free children of God.

Therefore the true Church is the whole number of those who have not sought and found their salvation upon Sinai but upon Golgotha who have not chosen Moses but Christ as their Mediator and Leader; who want to be saved not by the works which the Law demands but by that grace preached in the Gospel and offered to all men; who really perceive that they are poor, lost sinners


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and hungry for grace have therefore fled from the judgment throne of the righteous God to the mercy seat revealed in Christ to all sinners; who, although they are sinners in themselves, are God's saints and beloved in Christ through faith; who need not, trembling as a slave, be afraid of God, but who trust God as dear children trust their dear Father; who can therefore say with Paul: "If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Rom 8,31-34. Yes, they can defy all the foes before whom the whole world trembles and quakes, mock them, and challenging them say: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor 15,55-57.

You see, all of them compose the true Church; they are the Church to which all those wonderful promises and powers are given. They are the ones of whom the Lord speaks when he says, that the gates of hell shall not conquer his Church; they are the ones to whom the Lord has given the keys of the kingdom of heaven; they are the ones to whom he has promised that he would be with them unto the end of the world; they are the ones of whom he speaks when he says: "If he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." Mt 18,17. That is the Church of which the Lord speaks in the Song of Solomon: "There are virgins without number. My dove, my undefiled is but one." Song of Solomon 6,8.9. That is the true ark which alone floats in this world over the waters of destruction and which hides all those rescued and elect within herself. In brief, that is the mother of all believers.

My dear hearer, do you belong to this Church? Ah, remember, you can be a member of the visible church, yes, hold of office in it, and enjoy great respect, and yet not be a member of the true Church, the invisible congregation of believers who are scattered over the globe. For behold! by our physical birth we are the children of Hagar; we are born under the Law, slaves of the Law, who belong to the church of the Law. Only by baptism and the promise of grace attached to it have you become children of Sarah, children of grace and freedom; but have you also remained in this freedom of grace? remained in a childlike spirit toward God so that you can joyfully defy sin, the Law, death, and hell? Or if you had again lost your freedom of the Spirit -- and who should not have lost it again in our evil times? -- can you say: There was a time when by faith I  was turned from a slave of the Law into a child of promise, from a slave of sin and death into a free person in Christ? Ah, if you are not so exact in anything else, then be exact now in this; for if one does not have the Church as his mother, he also does not have God as his Father.

Oh, then, enter in, you blessed of the Lord, you redeemed souls! Why should you stand outside? Everywhere through Baptism and the Gospel the true Church opens its invisible doors. The moment a person has become weary in the service of the Law, the moment he comes to the point when he must exclaim: Alas, what shall I do? My efforts of the past are lost. Where can I find help? where comfort? where rest? where hope for my sinful soul? then the Church, the friendly mother calls: Come into my lap, my child; here is Jesus who has earned eternal peace for you; believe in him and you are his. Follow his voice, oh lost sinners; believe this promise and you are children of the promise, children of freedom; then you belong to the church.


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II.

We have heard not only of the wonderful fellowship of the true Church, but also that it is an invisible, heavenly kingdom; you will now say: Where

are we to find this Church? This leads me to the second question which must be answered, namely, how is the Church to be recognized?

I must answer thus: The true Church is never recognized in this way that one can say: See, these and these are the true Church. First of all, it is never gathered in one place, and then, one can never see one's faith which alone makes one a member of the Church. So when Christ was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God should come -- they meant the Church of the New Covenant which would be founded by Christ -- the Lord replied: "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you." Lk 17,20.21. Paul says: "The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power," 1 Cor 4,20; and again "The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his." 2 Tim 2,19.

As impossible as it is to be able to say, these persons or those are the true Church, there nevertheless are certain marks by which one can be certain beyond all doubt where the true Church must be, even though one cannot see nor pick out its members. The apostle says in our text, that all members of the Church are children of promise or that they were reborn through the Word of promise, that is, were turned from servants of the Law to free children of God through the Gospel. God has revealed still more to us; he says by the prophet Isaiah: "As the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Is 55,10.11. We see from this: God's Word, especially the Word of promise, or the Gospel, is not only the only seed from which children of promise or the Church are bora, but whenever God sends this Word to any place, it is also never a sterile seed; some will certainly be born through this Word, be brought to faith, hence become members of the Church.

Everyone can himself conclude how the Church can be recognized, even though its individual members can not be ascertained, or how one can with absolute certainty conclude that a part of the true Church is at any one place. One such sign is the preaching of the pure Word of God with its seals, the Sacraments. Wherever this heavenly seed is sown, there we can be certain that according to the assured promises of God it has sprouted at least in a few hearts, that there we do not find only weeds but also wheat, not merely the sons of Hagar but also the sons of Sarah, not merely servants of the Law but also children of promise, true children of God, true believers, true disciples and brethren, and members of Christ, in short, that in that place the true, invisible Church and also Christ himself, is present and the keys of the kingdom of heaven, grace, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, freedom, and an open heaven are found. The Augsburg Confession is correct in saying in Article 7: "Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered."

You see, my friends, where you find a congregation which has both, the pure Gospel and the unadulterated Sacraments, there, of course not visibly but beyond a doubt, you will find the true Church, not that it can be touched but


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known; not all members of the visible congregation are members of the invisible, true, real Church (yes, perhaps most are weeds), but a few members of the invisible Church are certainly among them; for their sake the entire congregation is called a Church just as because of the wheatj which also has weeds, is called a wheat field; these children of God are the ones who alone possess the powers given the Church by Christ and for whose sake and in whose name alone they are exercised in the congregation.

The apostle indicates another sign by which the true Church can be known, when he continues in our text: "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was bom after the Spirit, even so it is now." V. 29. We see from this: The true Church is always revealed by the fact that ic carries the cross. As Ishmael persecuted Isaac, so it happens at all times. The false church persecutes; the true Church jjs persecuted; the false church moves on in honor and respect, the true in disgrace and contempt; in a word, it is a suffering and struggling Church; it is the rose of heaven amid the thorns; it must go the same way upon which her Lord and Head Jesus Christ preceded her.

The moment therefore that you become a member of the true invisible Church, a citizen of Jerusalem which is above, an Isaac, you will not fail to have an Ishmael who mocks, hates, and persecutes you. Yes, you perhaps think: If I become a child of God, it must go well with me for then I have the richest, mightiest, most gracious Father. But on the contrary, at first it seems as if God has become your enemy. So, far be it that the true Church can be recognized by outward glory, earthly blessings, and freedom from misery and tribulation; it rather is recognized by persecution, by the contempt of the world, in short, by the cross. Oh, blessed, blessed are they to whom God has given this sign as well!

III.

The Church goes on and weeps, but that is not her goal. Let us briefly consider, thirdly, the goal toward which she is going.

It has often been supposed that the Church has already arrived at her goal. The world sees that there are so many religions which allege they rest upon divine revelation. But these religions have always won followers for only a time, have again disappeared, and given way to new religions. The world supposes that the same thing will undoubtedly happen to the Christian Church. This Church has also seen her best days, but finally even she will collapse as a building beaten down by the storms of time and upon its ruins will rise the temple of a more perfect religion. Now especially the foes of the Church use the kind of language which implies that the Church is already lying at their feet like a heap of rubbish. But those poor fools! If they do not want to believe the Scriptures which clearly predict that as long as there are worshipers of the Trinity, so long the sun and moon shall continue, that the Lord is and will remain with his Church always until the end of the world, they should have perceived from history, that the Church of Christ carries within herself something which time cannot destroy, a living gem which would break through the stone of her grave, even if the Church could be buried, and develop into a new, sprouting, blossoming, and fruitful tree.

Didn't the foe rejoice when they saw the Lord on the cross and his little flock frightened away? But behold, three days later he was alive again and soon he gathered hundreds of thousands who in adoration knelt before his cross. How the foe rejoiced when during the first three centuries the blood of Christians flowed in rivers and all the mighty of the world were united to wipe


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out this miserably beggarly mob of Christians from the face of earth! But behold! More and more Christians miraculously came forth from the blood of the Christians. How the foe rejoiced when in the last half of the fourth century almost the whole Christian Church was suddenly poisoned and destroyed by the heresy of Arianism and the few confessors of Christ's divinity had been driven away and killed! But behold! A few faithful witnesses arose who scattered the false doctrine like chaff before the wind and the old Christian faith again lifted its victorious head. How hell rejoiced when in the seventh century Mohammed, the prophet of lies, wiped out the Church in the east and the papacy placed a man upon the throne in Christ's place in the west. Then it appeared as if the Church was conquered by the gates of hell. From century to century a constantly growing darkness of the wretched doctrines of man settled upon the Church erf the east and west. But behold! Four hundred years ago God awakened a poor, defenseless monk who did nothing but preach again the old, seemingly outdated, weak Word of the Gospel to the nations and in a short time it arose again in all lands; the old apostolic building again stood there mighty and glorious; the victory song of hell became silent.

Therefore, though the world may even now rock itself to sleep with the sweet dream of having overthrown the Church, it is nothing but a dream. Though all the works of men may tower to the clouds ever so proudly, they must disappear with time whose works they are, or must fall by the hands of those who built them; but Christ's Church is not the work of man; it rests upon an eternal foundation, upon Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Whoever rebels against this foundation does nothing more than dash himself to pieces; the foundation and edifice resting upon it remains immovable. Sooner will men tear the stars from heaven, sooner will they force the rivers of the earth back to their sources, sooner will they stop the sun from rising in the morning before they will hurl Christ from the throne of his heavenly kingdom, before they will dam up the free course of his Word, before they will extinguish the light of divine revelation. Heaven and earth will disappear but the Word of Jesus Christ and his Church will not disappear; the world will not conquer the Church but the Church the world; for when God will have let the last person be bom upon earth who is to be a member of his Church, then the last hour of the world has also struck. When God has arrived at his goal with his Church, then he will show that this world was merely an overnight stopping place for the members of his Church; he will demolish this stopping place and lead his Church into a new earth with a new heaven in which dwells righteousness.

This is the way the apostle speaks at the close of our text; “Nevertheless what saith the Scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. V. 30. The apostle directs us to the eternal goal of the Church. He means to say: As after the mocker Ishmael had inflicted much sorrow upon Isaac, was finally cast out of the house with his slave-mother into the wilderness with a canteen of water and a little bread and the son of the freewoman became the sole heir of his father, so it will be with the false and the true Church.

And so it is, my friends; the Hagar church of the Law and the slaves of sin strut around; they pride themselves with their freedom and wisdom; they rule while the true Church is subject to them; they rejoice while the true Church weeps and groans; they revel in great honor while the true Church lies in disgrace, shame,:and contempt. But just have patience! The Church must not only suffer and struggle invincibly upon earth until the end; she has also the greater goal of triumphing at last forever.

The day will come when it will finally be said of the Hagar church: Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be


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heir with the son of the freewoman." This will be accomplished on judgment day. Then all who have rejected Christ will be cast into outer darkness, alas without Hagar's few crumbs of bread and canteen! On the other hand, the Church of promise will hear the word of her king: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Mt 25,34. Then the weeping Church will dry her tears, her poverty will be changed into riches, her disgrace into glory, her suffering into blessedness, her groans into rejoicing, her labors into blessed rest, her warfare into eternal triumph.

Oh that I could also conclude with St. Paul in the words of our text: "So, then, brethren« we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." V.31. Oh therefore all of you who do not want to hear the terrifying words; "The son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman," give up the slavish service of sin and the Law and perceive and accept our salvation and freedom in the promise of grace in Christ; then some day we will also be counted as heirs, receive the key to all the treasure chamber of God, take possession of the house of our heavenly Father, yes, take possession of the kingdom and in it rule with Christ forever and ever. Amen.

5TH SUNDAY IN LENT    Hebrews  9:11-15    TOP     (German, Archive)

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

In our Savior, dear Christian friends.

God is holy, and we are sinners who have transgressed his inviolable Law. By nature we all have a certain dread of drawing near to God. In Our heart we all bear the consciousness of our guilt and the necessity of first making reconciliation with God before we can confidently step before him. Our conscience tells us: You have offended and made him your enemy who has created you and in whose power you are. Therefore we are easily convinced of the necessity of having a mediator who can act for us with the holy God who has been offended, who would take charge of his affairs before God, through whom God would speak to him, and through whom he in turn would speak to God.

Luther writes: "The entire world tries to be reconciled with God; it therefore has always invented different ways of reconciliation." And Luther is right. There has hardly been one nation upon earth which did not have its institutions for the reconciliation of its gods, its temples, its altars, its sacrifices, and its priests by which it dealt with God in the name of the people, plead for it before God, and sacrifice and pray for it.

It is true: No person had hit upon the doctrine of a reconciliation with God by an offering of reconciliation through the light of his reason; undoubtedly the heathen knew something of this only from a report and as the result of their association with God’s people. It is also true: The priests of the idols of the heathen were deceivers; their secret mysteries were nothing but a web of lies and deceit fabricated by them, in order to procure riches and honor in this world at the expense of the ignorant mob. It is also true: The ways certain peoples tried and still try to appease the divinity was and often is most horrible; they not only imposed the severest torments upon themselves,


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even to hurling themselves under the wheels of the heavy wagons of the idols and being squashed; they placed their own children into the glowing arms of hollow iron idols as precious sacrifices of appeasement; they tore the heart from the body of their prisoners of war as quick as a flash in order;to offer it while still beating to their sun god or other gods. Finally it.is true: The god whom the heathen tried to appease was not the true God; for although they knew that there was a God, they did not know the true God, but as Paul writes, they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things; Rom 1, 23; yes, he writes to the Christians dwelling in the idolatrous city of Corinth: "I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God.” 1 Cor 10,2.

Though the ceremonies of the heathen for appeasing God have been and still are deceitful and horrible, they do not show that the teaching of the necessity of a reconciliation of man with God is a concoction of lies; really, they offer proof that all men at all times and in all lands and from all tongues and families felt the need of a reconciliation with God. For if this feeling did not lie by nature in the heart of man, if all men did not have the conscience "which accused or else excused one another,” it would have been impossible, for all people to have been moved by priests to make provisions for the reconciliation of a divinity, build temples, erect altars, bring sacrifices, and appoint priests who were to deal for them with God.

That we are not deceived by the inerasable feeling dwelling in our hearts of needing reconciliation with God, a mediator between us and God,and a priesthood, we see from the divine revelation contained in Holy Scripture. There we learn that there have been priests and sacrifices of reconciliation at all times. We read that Cain and Abel, the first sons of Adam and Eve, were priests in their homes and both brought an offering to the Lord; we read the same thing of Noah. We hear that the king of Salem, Melchizedek who lived at the time of Abraham, was a priest of the Most High God. Finally, we read that Job offered God burnt offerings every day for each of his sons. All these men lived before the Jews had arisen as a nation and before they received their distinctive laws. Sacrificing and the priesthood were therefore not a peculiarity of the Jews and its special religious laws; both are found among God’s people from the beginning of the world until God through Moses instituted a special priesthood with definite ordinances and detailed laws as to where, how, and what sort of an offering should be brought.

But my friends, even the priests of the Old Covenant with their high priests and their assistants, the Levites, were not the true priests which we men needed; all of them were merely shadows, prototypes of the only, true, correct High Priest, Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God. Our today's Epistle speaks of that; permit me to present that.

Quote the text here: Hebrews 9, 11 - 15.

On the basis of this Epistle let this be the subject of our devotion:

CHRIST, THE TRUE HIGH PRIEST OF ALL SINNERS

We ponder:

1. What Sort of a High Priest Christ Was, and

2. That Such a High Priest is the Right One for All Sinners.


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Lord, you have revealed yourself in your Holy Word as the true High Priest of all sinners; grant that we may truly know you also as our High Priest, so that our conscience will be free of all slavish fear and that your blessed peace may enter into our hearts. You have offered yourself for every one of us upon the altar of the cross; oh then intercede for every one of us with your Father, bless us, and at last draw us after you within the veil, into heaven. Amen.

I.

Before we can judge whether Christ is the High Priest which we poor sinners need, we naturally must know what sort of a high priest Christ really was and still is. Our today's Epistle shows us this clearly, distinctly, and in detail. Christ is compared to the high priests of the Old Testament; it shows that he is infinitely superior. Six points are mentioned.

First of all we read: "Christ being come an high priest." The apostle does not say: Christ was chosen by us as our High Priest, but he is come to be that. The apostle means to say: The high priests of the Old Testament were chosen, consecrated, and anointed for their office by men; Christ however is a different High Priest; he was not first ordained to be that by men but he came to earth for the very purpose of being a high priest. God himself, the apostle means to say, chose and anointed Christ as our high priest; in eternity he was chosen to be that and the moment he came into the world, he entered upon his high priestly office; he was not made and chosen a high priest in time but he was born to be a high priest who was anointed at birth, yes, at his conception.

The apostle adds: "An high priest of good things to come." Here the apostle indicates the second of Christ's advantages over the high priests of the Old Testament. By their office, by their sacrifice, and by their intercession, aside from that which was pictured by these acts, all they could do was to see to it that one who was deemed unclean before men was again considered clean by men; that he χΛιο before had been excluded from the external fellowship of Israel, God's people, again received his rights in this external fellowship; but Christ is an entirely different High Priest; he had nothing to do with such temporal rights and privileges; he was a High Priest of good things to come, that is, his office was directed to win eternal, heavenly, uncorruptible good things for us, namely, purity not before men but before God, not the outward but the inner,spiritual fellowship with the elect people of God, namely, grace, forgiveness of sins and righteousness, the Holy Spirit, peace with God, and eternal life. That, that it is with which Christ a§ High Priest concerned himself.

The apostle continues: "By a greater and more perfect tabernacle, pot made with hands, that is to say, not of this building." The apostle means to say: The high priest of the Old Testament attended to his duties in a very beautiful building, at first in the tabernacle, and later on in the temple at Jerusalem; both were built according to the pattern God showed Moses upon Mt. Sinai; it consisted of three parts, the annex where the people halted and where even the heathen could be, the holy place where the altar stood and where the priests sacrificed, and finally the holy of holies which was hidden by a curtain; here stood the ark of the covenant with its mercy seat and cherubim; only the high priest could enter in once a year on the great day of atonement. But Christ, the apostle means to say, had a much more glorious tabernacle, a much more glorious temple in which he carried out his high priestly office than the tabernacle of Moses and the temple at Jerusalem x;ere. Christ's tabernacle is his Church on earth, this invisible temple, this spiritual house, this heavenly kingdom, this kingdom of God and of grace upon earth. This tabernacle of Christ the High Priest is "a greater" one than the One of the Old Testament, for the


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Church of Christ is spread over the entire world and includes not only the Jews but also all gentile Christians; Christ's tabernacle is moreover "more perfect" than the one of the Old Testament, for it is not made of gold, silk, wood, lime, and stone, but of believers and of people sanctified by faith. Christ's tabernacle is "not made with hands" as the ones of the Old Testament but erected by the Holy Spirit by means of the Word and the Sacraments.

Now the apostle mentions the fourth advantage which Christ's high priestly office had over that of the Old Testament high priest; he says:"Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place." V. 12a. The apostle means to say: When the high priests of the Old Testament entered into the most holy place, they took merely the blood of an animal with them; to be sure, no person could really be cleaned by it, be reconciled with God, and be redeemed. But Christ is a different high priest; leaving his kingdom of grace in this world, he entered into the most holy place of heaven with his own blood and appeared with that before God.

In the following Paul mentions two more advantages of Christ's high priestly office when he says: "Christ through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God". V.14.

First he says that Christ "offered himself without spot to God," that is according to the original text, without sin, without blemish, in perfect holiness. The apostle means to say: The high priest of the Old Testament was himself a sinner; therefore when he wanted to sacrifice for the people, he first of all had to sacrifice for his own sins. Christ is an entirely different High Priest; he was the Priest and also the Sacrifice, and an absolutely sinless, innocent, unspotted, pure, holy sacrifice, for he was a true man as we are, "yet without sin."

Finally the apostle says that Christ offered himself "through the eternal Spirit"; this means Christ's eternal divine nature, Paul means to say: The sacrifice of the high priests of the Old Testament had no eternal power and validity, for it consisted of animals who, the moment they had shed their blood, could do no more. On the other hand, Christ offered himself, offered not merely a holy person but also an eternal Spirit, namely the eternal Son of God, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit is equally eternal, almighty, great, and glorious; thus his sacrifice has incomparable power, infinite weight, unending worth, and eternal validity.

We have heard what kind of a high priest Christ was. He was like the high priests of the Old Testament, but only as pictures and shadows are like the real person. As the person is incomparably more glorious than his picture or shadow, so Christ the high priest is incomparably more glorious than the high priests of the Old Testament and to repeat them once more briefly in six different ways: First, Christ was a High Priest who was chosen and born by God from eternity, the others were elected, made by men; Christ has to do with eternal good things to come, the others with present, temporal things; Christ administered his high priestly office in the invisible, spiritual temple of his Church, the others in the visible tabernacle or in the temple of stone; Christ shed his own blood and entered with it into the holy place of heaven and appeared before God, the others entered with the blood of animals into the holy of holies of the temple; Christ brought an offering without spot, without sin, pure and holy, the other high priests were themselves sinners; finally, Christ offered himself by the eternal Spirit, that is by virtue of his eternal, living divine nature and with this his divine nature, the others offered only dead animals.


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II.

Now that we have heard the kind of a high priest Christ was, let us in the second place ponder whether the kind of high priest Christ was and is, is the right high priest for all sinners, whether he really is the kind we need.

As far as the apostle is concerned, he answers this question with a decided yes; he maintains in our text: "Christ by his own blood entered in once into the holy place!' into heaven."having obtained eternal redemption for us."

The apostle not only maintains this; he also proves it; he adds: "For if the blood of bulls and goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Vv. 13.14. This argument is clearly directed to Christian Jews. The apostle means to say: You Jews will gladly admit that by the blood of animals which was shed by the Old Testament high priests at the sacrifices the person who had become unclean was sanctified and cleansed; should not Christ's blood have much greater power? was not Christ an innocent, pure, unspotted Lamb of God? yes, what is infinitely more, was not Christ the Son of God, the eternal, almighty, Host High God himself? What power must it have when he offered himself for men and shed his divine blood for their sins? Verily, he who takes part in this offering will be cleansed from all dead works, not only in his body as in the Old Testament, but beyond doubt also in his conscience, in his soul, that is, cleansed from all sins.

If anyone wanted to raise doubts that so many died in the times of the Old Testament even before Christ's sacrificial death took place; if anyone wanted to ask whether they were cleansed from their sins, the,apostle in conclusion gives us the explanation and says: "And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance V.15. The apostle means to say: The Old Covenant of the Law gave no for giveness of sins, but even in the Old Testament a new covenant of grace was promised, for. which the believers of the Old Covenant were to wait and hope, and for which they actually waited and hoped; in order that they also might receive grace and forgiveness, Christ not only became the true "high priest" but also by his sacrificial death "a mediator" of the promised New Testament of grace. Therefore though the believers of the Old Testament may never have found forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption and peace of conscience in themselves in the law or in the sacrifices of their high priests, they nevertheless found all this in the New Testament which was promised them, hoped for by them in faith, and finally instituted by Christ; yes, all who brought these typical sacrifices in faith in that offering which it depicted, received all the fruits of the future sacrifice of reconciliation which alone avails before God.

What Paul here presents to the Jews can and should be presented to all men. No matter what kind of a sinner a person may be, in Christ he finds the kind of high priest he needs. My dear hearer, can you confess that you no longer sin wilfully, but that your weakness still is great, that you must complain of your unfaithfulness? Oh, then know that in Christ you have a merciful High Priest who can sympathize with your weakness; for he was tempted in all points like as we are but without sin. Therefore cling to his strength which atones for your weakness; and cling to his faithfulness which atones for your unfaithfulness.

Has your conscience awakened perhaps for the first time? If you now perceive with terror that you are a damnable sinner who dare not appear before God; if you perceive that God is a consuming fire whom you cannot approach; and if you want


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to have someone who will go to God for you, pray for you, and plead your case before God; if you want to have a Mediator and a High Priest;of whom you can be certain that God hears him and that his intercession for you is accepted by God, oh then know that Christ is such a High Priest; him God himself has made as the High Priest of all sinners; yes, what do I say? he is his own Son, how can you doubt that he is heard by God? Therefore turn your case, your sins, all your misery over to this High Priest and there will be no trouble; Christ will take care of your affairs with God in a most wonderful manner, and you can confidently meet death and eternity with him as your High Priest.

Or you perhaps ask, whether even he who has committed very serious, great, horrible, and terrible sins and has made himself completely unclean can receive cleansing of conscience from his dead works; I must say to you: Though your sins may be ever so great, they are ever so small, insignificant, yes, as nothing in comparison to one drop of blood, which Christ the High Priest of all sinners has shed; for through the eternal Spirit he offered himself! Think of what that means! He who is God and man in one person has offered himself! Now tell me, how light even your greatest sins will be when they lie in the one side of the scales and when the divinity of Jesus Christ lies in the other! Oh therefore choose Christ as your High Priest and you will be helped.

Perhaps many of us say: What, can even I be helped? I have remained in sin so long; I have despised God's grace so often; I have let God knock at my heart in vain so often and never opened to him but resisted him! I reply: In Christ you will find the true High Priest who had found eternal redemption. Therefore wherever and whenever a sinner lived in the whole wide world, though he may have sinned much or little, for a long or short time, Christ has become his High Priest, for he has found an eternal, listen closely, an eternal redemption.

No matter who you may be, do not remain away from Christ! Rejoice that we poor sinners must not ourselves deal with God but can come to God through a divine High Priest who at the same time has become our brother. In firm faith rely upon his valid sacrifice, and you will be sprinkled, cleansed and sanctified in your heart and conscience with his blood. Hide yourself in his grace; some day you will leave this world and the saints of the Church militant to go into the holy place of heaven and there be presented to your heavenly Father as one reconciled. Grant that to us all. Amen! Amen!


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PALM SUNDAY, CONFIRMATION    1 Peter 3:21    TOP   (German, Archive)

Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yes, the work of our hands establish thou it. Amen.

In Christ dearly beloved children.

The day has finally come when you will publicly renew the covenant which once as infants you made with the Triune God at your Baptism, before all the world call the true God your covenant God, and promise to remain faithful in faith, word, and deed until death. Oh what a wonderful day this is for you! God looks down in a friendly and gracious manner; for nothing pleases God more than when one boasts of him before the world. We read in Jeremiah: "Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord." Jer. 9,23.24. Jesus Christ, the Son of God testifies to the same thing when he says: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." Mt.10,32. How joyfully you can therefore open your mouth today to boast that the Lord is your God, and confess that Christ is your Savior, since you know for certain that your God and Savior himself rejoices over this act!

But still more; what pleases God, pleases also his holy angels. It is their continual duty and their highest joy to praise and extol God and sing the thrice holy to him throughout heaven. Certainly, these good spirits are invisibly present among you today. From the day of your birth they have carried you on their hands and protected you that you could appear here in order to boast before the whole   world with your own mouth that God has done great things for you, and confess that you want to be his servants in time and eternity. Oh, how the holy angels will rejoice in this hour to hear such a confession from your mouth! "Amen! Amen!" they will joyfully add to your confession and cry to one another: These children who have publicly confessed that they also want to serve the Lord of heaven and earth as we do we will continue to guide and accompany and guard and protect until they finally come to us in heaven and join us in seeing God face to face in eternal joy and blessed light.

These however are the invisible witnesses who today look down with pleasure  upon you; see what a great host of people have also gathered here. Joyfully they wait to hear from your own mouth that you want to keep what you once promised God through your sponsors, that you want to renounce the devil, the world, and sin and surrender yourselves body and soul to him, the Triune God, in his service and as his possession. In particular, your parents are looking upon you with tears of joy. Certainly they are saying to God in their hearts: "Lord, what are we and what is our house that you have done such great things to our child and brought him to this occasion? Praised be your faithfulness to all eternity! Be and remain our child's gracious God and Father, preserve him in your grace and truth, help him in the battle and grant him victory, and finally lead him into your kingdom of glory!"

Not only does joy radiate today from the countenances of your parents, sponsors, brothers, sisters, friends, and relatives who are present; behold, joy radiates from the faces of all gathered here that you want to lift up your hands to the great God of heaven and publicly swear eternal faithfulness to him. Only Satan and his evil angels, as well as all who belong to his party hate this beautiful day and will wrathfully see and hear how you even as children publicly step up, renounce all the enemies of God and his Word, and declare war upon them, but that you lay


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yourselves at the feet of the Lord of lords.

But are you not still too weak for such a great work? Will God be pleased with your confession and oath since you are still unlearned children, most inexperienced boys and girls? It is true, dear children: In this world you are still minors; you lack the maturity of understanding and the firmness of spirit in order to witness and struggle there; but in the kingdom of grace, where God’s Spirit must do everything, it is different.

Have you not read that when Jesus was twelve years old he went into the temple and confessed God's Word? In so doing he left us an example that you should follow in his footsteps. Have you not read that when King Josiah (2 Chron 22) was eight years old he began to seek the God of his father David and in his twelfth year began to cleanse the Church of his country of all idolatrous worship? Have you not read of the reputation of young Timothy: "And that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation"? 2 Tim 3,15. Have you not read that many thousands of children have joyfully shed their blood because they confessed Christ and became martyrs? So, can not even a child publicly confess his faith?

Here we must add: God clearly says: "Unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have 1 righteousness and strength." Is 45,23.24. Therefore also the knees of children shall bow to the Lord, also their tongues shall swear. According to Solomon’s testimony God says also to children in the kingdom of grace: "My son, my daughter, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways." Prov 23,26. Yes, David says expressly to God: "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger." Ps 8,2.

The prayers of children are so powerful that all of God's foes must tremble. Hence we read in Matthew: When on Palm Sunday Christ solemnly entered Jerusalem for the last time, not only did the disciples and a great host of people greet him with their joyous hosannas, but even the children in the temple cried loudly: "Hosanna, hosanna to the Son of David!"  The chief priests and scribes became very angry at that and they thought that even Jesus would be against the idea that unwise, small children would want to confess him; they said to him, “Hearest thou what these say?" Jesus replied: "Yea, have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?" Mt 21,16. You see, my dear children, the cries of hosanna of the children of Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday pleased Christ greatly; so be certain: When to day in the simplicity of your heart you publicly promise to be faithful to the Lord, though men may be offended that you are still unwise children and though others may despise your confession, Christ, our gracious Savior, will listen and bless you.

But before you make your oath, let me direct a few questions to you; the way you answer them before this Christian congregation should show that you have grasped the fundamentals of the Christian doctrine, that you do not confess blindly, nor by force, nor by persuasion, but of your own free conviction worked by God himself you today confess the Christian faith.

EXAMINATION     CHORAL NUMBER    SERMON

In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

My dear children.

The Apostle Peter writes in 1 Pet 3,21: "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of


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Jesus Christ." In the words the apostle not only briefly states what Holy Baptism works, namely, salvation, but also what it really is, namely a covenant: "The answer of a good conscience toward God." You have also made this covenant with the Most High God when shortly after your birth you were baptized. You could then not of yourself confess that you would acknowledge and keep this covenant, for you were placed, as it were, while sleeping into the arms of God your Father; now you have been instructed, not only in what God has promised you in this covenant, but also what you have promised God; therefore you should first publicly renew your baptismal covenant since you want to go to the Lord’s Table and confess in the presence of this congregation, what you believe and how you are minded, whether you intend to keep your covenant or renounce the Triune God and join the world.

In order that you may ponder what you should do, permit me first to present to you from God's Word:

WHAT MUST YOU DO SINCE YOU INTEND TO RENEW YOUR BAPTISMAL COVENANT PUBLICLY?

I reply:

1. You Should Confess What Great Things God has Done to You in Holy Baptism, and

2. You Should with Upright Heart Promise Anew to Remain Faithful to God in Faith and Life Until Death.

I.

My dear children, everything which man does by his own powers does not count in God's eyes, no matter how gloriously it shines, for every man is a sinner; even if a person could do and actually would have done what was his duty to do, he would still have to confess that with all his efforts he was an unprofitable servant. Though all of men's works are vain, everything which God does, though it may seem to reason to be ever so insignificant and contemptible, is on the other hand great, glorious, mighty, powerful, and rich in grace and salvation.

If Baptism were something which we were to do, then those would be right who despise Baptism and say: What can a few hands full of water profit a person? How dare a person place his trust upon such a miserable work which even the godless can do? But Baptism is a work which not man but God does. Though it may seem to be something very insignificant, it nevertheless is so great and so full of grace and salvation that no tongue can ever finish speaking of it. God gave his only begotten Son for the whole world, through him reconciled all sinners with himself, removed damnation from them, earned righteousness and salvation for them, and so reopened heaven again; and H0ly Baptism is the means by which God offers, appropriates, and seals all that Christ has won for men; it is the open door by which man enters into the kingdom of grace founded by Christ.

That is why Peter calls Baptism "the answer of a good conscience toward God." In the covenant of grace God promises man that he wants to give him what his Savior has done and suffered for him; he wants to forgive him his sins and accept him as his child and heir of eternal life; in Baptism man receives a good conscience; for in this way he is freed from the slavish fear of God and receives the Spirit of adoption so that with childlike confidence he can step before God and cry to him: "Abba, dear Father!"


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I repeat, if Baptism were a work which we were to do as other works of the Law, we would have to cry out in despair: "How can water do such great things?" But since God’s Son out of inexpressible love has won the infinite treasures of grace and salvation for the entire fallen world, Baptism is now God's hand by which and with which he hands and gives us those treasures of grace and salvation; thus we are given a good conscience which otherwise we could!not receive in any other way in heaven and on earth.

But that Baptism actually has such blessed power we see not only from the fact that Peter expressly says in our text: "Baptism doth also now save us;" but we also see this from many other clear words of God. Christ says: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Mk 16,16. Again: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Jn 3,5?: Ananias says to Paul: "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins." Acts 22,16. St. Paul says: "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ," Gal 3,27; and in another passage: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost," Tit 3,5; and finally: "Christ also loved the Church and gave himself for it that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word." Eph 5,25.26.

You see from this what great treasures are offered, presented, and appropriated to him who is baptized in the name of the Triune God! His sins are washed away; his soul is cleansed; Christ is put on like a garment; he is born again a child of God's grace; he is received into the kingdom of grace and salvation, and all the gates of heaven are opened to him; all this happens not under the condition that he has been pious and has done good works, but alone for Christ's sake; not for any merit which man must have, but out of pure grace and mercy.

Something just as great is what God has done to you when you were baptized! How highly blessed, how rich in the treasures of heaven, how inexpressibly blessed you became! See that, that above all is what you today want to praise and what you are to confess in faith before the whole world since you intend to renew your baptismal covenant publicly.

But you will say: Dare we also believe that the grace offered, given, and sealed to us in Holy Baptism still concerns us because we are poor, wretched sinners who have not kept what they promised God? I reply: Yes, my dear children; you not only dare believe it; you should believe it. For we indeed can break the covenant which we made with God, but God does not break his covenant; as far as he is concerned it stands firmly; he will keep what he has promised; he is and remains faithful even if we become unfaithful; God never regrets his gifts and call. We read in Isaiah: "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee." Is 54,10.

Therefore, if after your Baptism you have again loved sin and the world and have lost the Spirit of grace from your heart who was poured out upon you in your Baptism, you are in a sad way; as far as you are concerned you have faithlessly broken your baptismal covenant. But God does not regret that he has promised to be your Father and save yöü:; if you have lost your childlike heart toward him, he has never lost his Father's heart toward you. We read in Jeremiah: "Return, thou blacksliding Israel , saith I the Lord!, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you, for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God." Jer 3,12.13a.

But now you should return, confess your iniquity with remorse and


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sorrow, and fly back again into the arms which your heavenly Father has opened to you in Baptism. If you do that, you can also this very hour confidently praise God for the great things he has done to you in Holy Baptism. For everything depends on faith. Christ clearly says: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Man's faith should therefore come to God's Baptism; then the person has what Baptism offers and hands him. So your greatest sin would be if after you have broken your baptismal covenant you would not contritely in faith return to your baptism but in unbelief would want to despise your Baptism as does the godless world.

Therefore confess today with confident heart before this assembly: "The Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad." We are baptized! Oh, what inexpressible grace! There God has cast all our sins into the depths of the sea; there God has assured us that we also are to share in the redemption won by his Son; there God has assured us, that he has loved us from eternity and chosen us to salvation before the foundation of the world was laid; there God has assured us, that he is our Father and that we are his children; there God has opened heaven to us and it remains open to us forever. If in ourselves we are impure and full of sin, our Baptism is our cleansing; if the garment of our own righteousness is a torn, filthy garment, in our Baptism we have put on Christ with his holiness, righteousness, and innocence; we are poor, weak, wretched people who easily stumble and fall, our Baptism stands firm; there God has begun the good work in us and he has promised that he will continue it until that day.

Oh blessed are we! God himself has established a covenant of grace with us; no world, no sin, no devil, no hell can overthrow our salvation. God can do nothing else: whenever we come to him in faith because he has awakened us, he must accept us; and if we remind God in the hour of death of his covenant, he cannot reject us; he will keep his covenant and receive us into his heavenly kingdom. Therefore say: Oh bless, yes "bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits" in your Baptism. "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases," Ps 103,1-3. Hallelujah!

II.

My dear children, although the first and most important thing when you renew your baptismal covenant is that you give honor to God, praise his faithfulness, grace, and mercy, and in faith confess what great things God has done to you in Baptism, a second thing necessarily is that you once again honestly vow to remain faithful to God in faith and life until death.

When you were baptized, everyone of you were asked: Do you renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways? and, do you believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Your sponsors answered these questions for you with a serious, decided, and holy yes! You pledged God that you wanted to renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways.

What is that? Nothing else than this: You promised that you did not intend to follow Satan when he wants to tempt you to sin or error; you promised that you did not want to place yourself into the same class with the world whose god and lord is Satan; you promised to sever connections with the godless, unbelieving world, and not join it in its vanities and sinful pleasures; you promised that you wanted to be irreconcilable foes of sin and all ungodly ways; that you intended to struggle against them until death; you wanted to reprimand sin in words and deeds and testify against it; you would rather die than consent to one sin and go against God's commandments. With that renunciation you also


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promised that you were going to hate, avoid, challenge, and have no part in any error, any lies, any false doctrine, any heresy, and any distortion and falsification of God's Word. You would not join a false church or sect which clings firmly to error and battles against the truth, but renounce and testify against such false, heretical communions with heart and mouth, by word and deed.

At the same time you declared that you believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; you promised that you wanted to persevere in the true faith until the end, recognize the Triune God as your God and Lord, trust him alone, and serve him as his obedient servant until death. You also promised that you wanted to remain in God's pure Word, in the unadulterated Gospel, in the pure truth, in the pure doctrine, and in the true Church, openly confess the truth to the world, struggle for it as much as you are able, and permit neither love nor grief, neither enticements nor threats, neither pleasure nor fear to dissuade you from the pure Gospel, but rather suffer all the pains and torments which the enemies of the truth can use against you than fall away.

You have also promised to give God your whole heart, reserve all the room in it for his Holy Spirit, walk in continual repentance, watch and pray unceasingly, not stop reading, speaking, and believing God's Word; you promised to use and study it day and night, follow after sanctification earnestly and whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise to think of these things, let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven; in short, you have promised to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, you want to flee the broad way, merry way of the great majority of the world which leads to damnation and choose the narrow way of the cross upon which few go but which leads to eternal life.

This oath made at your Baptism you are to renew publicly today. Not only this great assembly but also the holy angels, yes the Triune God himself will be your witnesses. Ah, dear children, ponder carefully what you are about to do. Recall how you will be tempted every day from now on by Satan, the world, and your own flesh and blood to break your oath. Remember that in your hour of death your conscience will ask: Have you done what you promised? Alas, how unhappy you would then be if you would have to confess that you have broken this holy covenant again!

But more. Even on judgment day when you will stand before God's throne you will be reminded of this day and the holy vow which you today renew. Does your heart not pound when you think of this great, terrible day? Must you then not groan in your heart: Oh Lord, my God, have mercy upon me, for I am weak; alas, how easily I fall, how quickly I stumble!

Oh, blessed are you, blessed are you if you know your helplessness! Blessed are you if you despair of yourself! Blessed are you if you discover that you have no power to keep your vow! if you with fear and trembling and with sighs for God's help make your vow! For whoever despairs of himself and seeks his refuge in God is not lost. For God "hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord, pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." Ps 103,10-14.

Therefore cast yourself down today in spirit before this gracious, good and merciful God with all your weakness, with all your wretchedness, with all your sins and cling to his grace ,in Christ Jesus until death; you will also


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at all times be victorious by his grace; if you have been wounded you will be healed, and if you have been made to stumble you will be stood upright again. For he says: "Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Is 41,10.

SONG OF THE CHILDREN    RITE OF CONFIRMATION    CONCLUSION

My dear congregation; these children have renewed their baptismal covenant in your presence and again publicly swore allegiance to God; now they come to you in order to come to the Lord's Table with you and join you in going to the heavenly Jerusalem. Receive them with brotherly and sisterly love. But bear in mind: They are God's possession; do not therefore steal their souls from him; do not offend them; do not become the fault that they return to the ways of the world, that their blood will not cry against you to him who has so dearly bought them. Precede them on the narrow way; if they err, instruct them; if they sin, reprimand them; if they are in danger, warn them; if they are in anguish, comfort them; if they are in distress, stand by them. Entice them by word and example to remain with Jesus so that when he will appear in his glory we will rejoice with them and not have to be ashamed at his coming.

But let us turn to him from whom alone all help comes; let us kneel before our God, carry the needs of these children to him, and pray:

Oh most holy Triune God! These children have again vowed that they want to remain faithful to you in faith, word, and deed until death, and that nothing, neither joy nor suffering, honor nor disgrace, life nor death shall separate them from your love. But alas, oh Lord, when we recall how corrupt, how deceitful, how weak the heart of man is, when we remember how cunning and powerful Satan, this sworn enemy of their souls, is, when we remember how alluring the world is, how full of offences and thousands of temptations, and how dreadful these last times are, then we become anxious; then we ask with trembling: Will they keep what they have promised? Will they persevere to the end?

Whither shall we go with our cares but to you, oh faithful, merciful, and gracious God? Yes, we turn to you and beseech you: Take, oh take these children under your protection. Take them as your little chicks under your wings; take them as your lambs under your Shepherd's staff; take them as your children into your lap. Lord, they are yours, therefore never let them become the prey of Satan, nor the possession of the world. When the riches and honor and lusts of the world want to blind them, then open their eyes that they may know how fleeting all earthly things are and that you alone can satisfy the heart, that you are the only, true, and greatest Good. When the seducer draws near and entices them sweetly upon the way of sin, open their eyes so that they may know how sin the ruin of a people; may they see the abyss into which they are to be enticed, and draw them back with your almighty hand. When sin closes in upon them, support them in the struggle and do not let them he defeated. Or when distress and tribulation plunges them into worry and fear, and when in the evil hour Satan attempts to hurl them into despair, appear to them with your comfort, do not extinguish the smoking flax nor break the bruised reed.

Oh, Lord, this also we beseech you; if they should wander about as lost sons and daughters, forgetting you and your Word, do you not forget them; do not send your judgment upon them; do not tear them away suddenly in their sins by a sudden and evil death; do not let the seed sown in them be completely lost; let it finally grow up again; let them find no rest until they have again found rest in you; knock at their hearts with your Word, with your Spirit, and if necessary with cross and tribulation, with poverty or disgrace, with sickness


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or pain until they repentantly smite their breast and are converted and seek and find grace.

Oh Lord, we collect all our prayers for them and ardently beseech you: Do not let them, oh, let not a single soul be lost; grant them a blessed death. When they stand at the gates of eternity, oh Lord, then do not hide yourself from them but open to them the gates of your grace. Oh Father, remind them that from eternity you have chosen them in Christ from the flames of hell; oh God the Son, Lord Jesus Christ, appear to them and show their breaking heart the tree on which you were smitten and let them find in it comfort for their souls; oh Lord God, Holy Spirit, comfort their trembling heart with your comfort and let their spirit find your testimony of their adoption.

Oh Father, who created them and made an eternal covenant with them, have mercy upon them for the sake of your faithfulness and truth and save them! Oh God the Son, who redeemed them, have mercy upon them for the sake of your suffering and death, for the sake of your bloody sweat, your death and resurrection and save them! Oh Lord God, Holy Ghost, who has dedicated them to be your temple, have mercy upon them for the sake of your friendliness; do not forsake the wretched house that is their heart, and save them!

Oh Most Holy Triune God, hear us, hear us; we lie before you not in our righteousness, but in your great mercy; in mercy continually remember these children now and at all times, in the hour of death and on the day of judgment. Kyrie eleison. Amen! Amen!

MAUNDY THURSDAY (1)      1 Corinthians 11:23-26    TOP   (German, Archive)

Lord Jesus, in order to save sinners, you did not think it enough to reconcile us to your Father by sacrificing your body and blood upon the altar of the cross; you have also instituted a memorial of your wonder in which you give us to eat and to drink of that body and blood which you sacrificed for us so that no one can doubt that he also shares in your reconciliation. Oh gracious and merciful Lord, grant that we may observe this day on which you instituted your heavenly meal on earth to your praise and honor and to our salvation and blessing. So today convert all dead information of this day into a living knowledge; turn all indifference into a holy hungering and thirsting; may we at all times appear at your Table of Grace as acceptable guests, partake worthily of your body and blood; thus may our faith be strengthened, our love kindled, our hopes strengthened, our body and soul filled with joy, and we be refreshed and equipped for a blessed ascension. In heaven let us partake of your heavenly marriage feast where there shall be fullness of joy and pleasures at thy right hand forever more. Amen.

Quote the text here: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

Dear friends in the Lord Jesus.

The day has returned in which Christ instituted the Holy Supper. Oh,


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what an important, holy blessed day Thursday is! What a day of grace! This day is truly worthy of being commemorated by the entire Christian Church on earth in deepest devotion, in holy quiet and contemplation of heart.

Sad to say, there are in our days only too many who do not consider this day as a specially important one; they find it hard to interrupt their earthly calling for one hour to observe it. Even among Lutherans, to whom God has graciously given the pure knowledge of the Holy Supper, even among us we find among many too great a contempt for this day. For tell me, why is the Lord's house not filled today just as it will be Easter Sunday? Without a doubt because the institution of the Lord's Supper, which today is being celebrated, is considered as a matter of not too great importance.

Oh, what great blindness! Oh, what lamentable thanklessness!

Yes, it is true that the institution of the Lord's Supper is not one of the great deeds of God for the redemption of the sinful world, as the birth of Jesus Christ, his suffering and death, and his resurrection from the dead; but that does not make the institution of the Holy Supper less important. For bear in mind: what would it profit us that Christ earned God's grace for the entire sinful world by his life, suffering, death, and resurrection, if there were no means of grace by which the grace of God which has been earned for us would be offered, appropriated, given, and sealed? What would a Savior who ascended to heaven and seated himself at the right hand of God profit us, if there would be nothing whereby he would hand down to us his gifts of grace? Without the divine means of giving us these gifts, how could any person be certain that Christ's universal reconciliation and redemption is his?

Perhaps you will say: But could not a man become just as certain of it by his prayer through the Holy Spirit? I answer: No. For then would not a person constantly have to fear that he could deceive himself and mistake the deceitful feelings of his heart for the witness of the Holy Spirit? Or, whenever he no longer feels grace in his heart must not a person believe that he has lost God's grace?

Therefore happy can we be! Christ has not only won God's grace for the whole world but has also instituted three precious means of grace by which he offers, gives, appropriates, and seals to men the grace he won; and these three means of grace are: The Gospel, Holy Baptism, and the Lord's Supper. They are three treasure chambers in which Christ has stored all the treasures of his grace; they are three rungs on the ladder of heaven upon which this grace descends to us; they are three overflowing fountains of grace dug and filled by Christ from which all who thirst can draw and quench the thirst of their souls; they are three hands of the Triune God with which he hands us Christ's dearly bought grace; they are three divine witnesses upon earth which audibly and visibly testify to what the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit inaudibly and invisibly testify concerning the salvation of sinners; they are three golden keys of heaven which unlock the heaven of eternal blessedness and glory prepared for us by Christ; they are the path upon which grace comes to men and the man to grace; the Word is the divine letter of grace, Baptism and Communion his inviolable, eternally valid divine seal. We have sung the truth when we sang:

Thy Supper in this vale of tears Refreshes me and stills my fears

And is my priceless Treasure. (306.6)

Hence is not this a blessed day on which that means of grace, the Lord's Supper, was instituted? Of a truth, yes; today is also a day which the


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Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

If in the past on Maundy Thursday we have occupied ourselves mostly with what Christ gives and does for us in this Supper, today let us direct our devotion to what we according to our text must do in respect to this Holy Sacrament. I therefore present to you:

THE DOUBLE DEMAND MADE OF ALL PARTAKERS OF CHRIST'S BODY AND BLOOD

IN THE HOLY SUPPER

1. Christ's Demand: "This Do in Remembrance of Me," and

2. The Demand of the Apostle: "As Often as Ye Eat This Bread and

Drink This Cup Ye do Show the Lord's Death till He Come."

I.

At the institution of the Lord's Supper, when he gave his disciples to eat of his body and gave them to drink of his blood, Christ said twice: "This do in remembrance of me;" we see that to partake of this holy Sacrament properly we are not to go through the motions; rather everything depends upon the purpose and the disposition of heart. So we see: He who goes to Holy Communion merely because it has been his custom from his youth, because he sees all good Christians do so, and because he considers this a good custom which all good Christians should observe; he who is moved to go once again to the Lord's Table only because he has made it a rule to do this at least two, three, or four times a year; he who is not reminded by his heart but alone by the passing of several months that it is again time to do this holy work, he does not comply with the demand which Christ has made of his guests; their partaking of the Holy Supper is not only not a profitable but even a harmful, yes, a damnable work.

When Christ says: "This do in remembrance of me." he demands not only that his guests not partake of his Holy Supper thoughtlessly, but with holy devotion of heart; he also tells them wherein this devotion must consist, namely, in "remembrance" of him. This tells us: The chief thing is not that the guests at communion picture to themselves Christ's whole suffering in all its details, in order to be moved to sympathize with Christ, and if possible even be moved to tears; no, Christ's own person is to be the subject, the real center around which all their devotion, all their thoughts and feelings should revolve, as they partake of his holy body and blood.

Christ's religion is entirely different from all other religions. All other religious founders have directed their followers only to their doctrine and not;to their person; the more earnest they were about their doctrine, the more they; pointed them away from their person. All other founders of religion have impressed upon their followers, that it does not depend upon who teaches them but rather upon what is taught them. They have boasted that one proof of the truth of their religion is that they themselves would gladly be forgotten just as long as their teachings, their religion would remain and be observed.

Not so Christ. He constantly pointed to himself, to his person, as the chief thing in his religion. He not only says, that his doctrine brings light and truth, shows the way, and gives life, but he says point-blank: "I am the Light of the world. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." Jn 14,6. "I am the Resurrection, and the Life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." Jn 11,25. "I am the door. I am the bread come from heaven." "Come unto me, all ye that


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labor and are heavy laden, and 1 will give you rest." Mt 11,28. "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." Jn 8,24b. And in the night that Christ was betrayed, in that night before his last suffering and death, when he instituted his Holy Supper, made his testament, and fixed his last will, he again said: "This do in remembrance of ME." As Christ's person therefore is the heart and center of the whole Christian religion, so it should also be the real center every time we celebrate the Lord's Supper.

The guest that Christ wants at Communion is only he who feels himself drawn not only by Christ's doctrine, but above all, by his very person; who not only considers Christ's doctrine as true but who clings to Christ as truth personified; who not only busies himself daily with Christ's doctrine, but who stands in a continual private relation with Christ himself; who is not only a friend of Christ's teaching but, so to say, is a personal friend of Christ himself. While his body goes to the Lord's Table his spirit is on Golgatha, kneels there before Christ's cross, embraces his feet, and drinks there his blood streaming from the five wounds.

A true guest should regard it something terrible that an entire church denomination teaches that only a sign, a symbol, of Christ's body and blood is in Communion. That is robbing this heavenly Meal of the kernel which the guest is seeking and leaving behind an empty shell. He should not want to know anything of Christ's Supper without Christ himself; on the contrary, Christ's very own person should shine brightly as the true star of heaven; Christ's body should be the manna in the wilderness which he desires to eat; Christ;s blood the water from the rock of salvation which he wants to drink. That person can say with the hymn:

Jesus, the very thought of Thee With sweetness fills the breast;

But sweeter far Thy face to see

And in Thy presence rest. (350,1)

Is it not amazing, my friends, that this humble Savior who says of himself: "I seek not mine own honor," nevertheless at the institution of his Holy Supper demands of all guests: "This do in remembrance of me"? When Jesus had his whole life full of disgrace and contempt behind him, did he want to provide for his posthumous fame? Since his contemporaries had dishonored him, was Jesus intent upon receiving the honor of posterity? Was Jesus in his last hours busy seeing to it that even if he would die a disgraceful death, he would not be forgotten but that after his death his name would live on among men?

My friends, these are the most foolish thoughts ever. How could Christ have wished for the honor of the world which disappears like a vapor? he who dwells amid the praise of all the angels? to whom the cherubim and seraphim, reverentially covering their countenance before him, sing the Thrice holy? he to whom God the Father has "given a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father"? Phil 2,9b-11.

No, no, not for his sake but the sake of his guests Christ demands: "This do in remembrance of me." As the true God of the Christian wants to be honored by all creatures in heaven and on earth, not from the desire of honor, as the unbelievers blasphemously claim, nor because God wants to have his glory increased, but alone from love to his creatures, because they can be saved only if they know their Creator in his glory and give him all honor, so also Christ demands that all guests partake of his meal in remembrance of him, in honor to his name, not for his sake but because only then will they share in the treasures of grace which he has placed, offers, imparts, gives, and seals to them in this mea1.


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Finally, what does the Lord really intend to say with the words: "This do in remembrance of me"? Christ himself clearly indicates this when he says: "Take eat; this is my body, which is broken for you;" and secondly: "Drink ye all of it; this is my blood of the new testament which is shed for you for the remission of sins;" and when he adds to both the remark: "This do in remembrance of me." He wants to say: When you partake of my body and blood, you are not to think of yourself, nor of your works, but of me and my works; do not think of me coming on judgment day as a stern Judge on the clouds of heaven, but as I hung on the cross as your Redeemer and Savior, as I suffered, died, and shed my blood, and doing that not for myself or as a martyr for my doctrine but "for you," that is, "for the remission of your sins."

You see, the communicant really does what Christ demands in the words: "This do in  remembrance of me," when he remembers Christ's suffering as he receives his body, and blood not only as a fact but when he thinks: Oh, that is the body which was given for me! That is the blood which was shed for me! I am a blessed person! 'Now I need not fear my sins nor God's wrath, neither death nor hell; for now I have that precious, valid ransom itself, by which Christ paid for the guilt of the whole sinful world and also my guilt, reconciled me with God, and won for me, grace, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, life, and salvation! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! All doubt as to my state of grace and salvation are now taken from me! You see, to receive Christ's body and blood in his remembrance means briefly this: It is received not only with the mouth but at the same time spiritually; in brief: it is received in faith.

Oh what a gracious and friendly Savior! His last will was to institute a meal for us in which not only he himself is food and drink, but in which he demands nothing from us, no gift in return, no work, no worthiness; we are only to believe in that grace which he offers, reaches out, appropriates, and seals to us, as the sweet voice of our heavenly Bridegroom sounded a 1,000 years before in the Son of Solomon: "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." Song of Solomon 5,1.

II.

My friends, by the enlightenment and impulse of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul adds this to Christ's words: "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come." And thus the apostle points out a second demand which concerns all who partake of Christ's body and blood in the Holy Supper. May I in the second place speak briefly to you about this.

If the apostle demands that all communicants "show" the Lord's death when they go to communion, it is plain he demands that, although they celebrate communion mainly for their own sakes, they do so also for the sake of their neighbor, their brethren, and the world; thus they are to preach and strongly recommend the reconciling death of the Lord. The altar at which the Holy Supper is celebrated should, as it were, be the chancel of the laity to announce the praises of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous light. When the minister has finished his sermon, the believers should come forward; by publicly partaking of communion they should by their actions preach the crucified Christ to the world, who was preached to them in words, and thus demonstrate that they are Christ's Church. If Christ had instituted only the office of the ministry and not the holy sacraments, no one could know, where the Church of believers which he should join is to be found; for the sermon is heard by many who do not want to be believers, to whom Christ crucified is still foolishness and an offence. Therefore, as they who have come to faith in Christ


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through the preaching of the Gospel have publicly left the world through baptism, entered the Church of believers, and sworn eternal faithfulness to Christ, So also should they repeatedly appear at the altar of the Lord, and thus testify that they still remember their covenant and are faithful disciples of the Crucified, that his Church is here.

Therefore, how gladly we should be to be diligent in going to Holy Communion! How this very age of unbelief should drive us to come to the Lord's Table often, preach the Lord's death not only to our brethren but also to the unbelieving world, and let them know that the Church of the Crucified has not yet disappeared, nor died out, nor gone under, but that there still are those who believe in him, find their salvation in him, and love him as their highest good!

When the apostle writes in our text: "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord's death till he come," when he calls partaking of communion a common act of faith and an actual common confession of faith, he demands that we should celebrate Holy Communion only with those who confess the faith we do. If Holy Communion were instituted only for the purpose of eating Christ's true body and drinking his true blood with our mouth, then we could and should partake of it wherever it is rightly celebrated according to Christ's institution. But when Paul says, that thus we "do show the Lord's death," it is against Christ's will to celebrate it where our confession of faith would be contradicted.

No matter where Holy Communion is celebrated it is the banner of the faith of the church or congregation in whose midst one partakes of it. As one publicly joins the army of those to whose flag one clings and around whose banner of peace and war one assembles, so every Christian joins that congregation in whose midst and fellowship he likewise partakes of Holy Communion; if the congregation confesses the true faith, the communicant confesses the same faith; if the congregation confesses a false faith, the communicant also confesses this false faith with them; he publicly denies the true faith.

Well then, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, let us in this age in which so many no longer believe in the blessed mystery of Holy Communion, viewing it as nothing more than a meaningful ceremony, cling firmly to the words of the almighty and truthful Savior against all objections of our reason: "This IS my body which is broken for you; this IS my blood which is shed for you;" but let us on this day of the institution of this Holy Meal also write the double demand, which goes forth to all who partake of Christ's true body and blood in this meal, deeply upon our hearts. Whenever we go to the Lord's Table may we recall the word of the Lord: "This do in remembrance of me;" let us not view partaking of this sacrament as a work which pleases God, if we merely go through the motions but remember Christ and remember him in faith!

May we at all times also remember the word of the apostle: "As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord's death till he come;" whenever we approach the altar, let us appear confessing the Crucified to the world, being true spiritual priests, who show forth the praises of him who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. But at all times let us not assemble around this banner of faith in the false church but only there where the true Christ, that is, his whole Gospel, is confessed and preached in its purity, without mutilation and fancy trimmings.

Our faithful God has hitherto preserved unto us his precious Supper in its purity; oh let us perceive what a great, heavenly treasure we possess, faithfully esteem it more than all the gold and wealth of the world, use it correctly at all times, and unceasingly pray:


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Lord Jesus Christ, with us abide,

For round us falls the eventide;

Nor let Thy Word, that heavenly Light,

For us be ever veiled in night.

In these last days of sore distress

Grant us, dear Lord, true steadfastness

That pure we keep, till life is spent,

Thy holy Word and Sacrament. (292,1.2.)

Amen.

MAUNDY THURSDAY (2)    1 Corinthians 11:23-25.    TOP   (German, Archive)

Lord Jesus, after you completed the work of redemption, you left the world, withdrawing your visible presence from your disciples. You did this that by the faith with which they find and seize you they will cling to you untill their end. Yet you have not withdrawn yourself completely from them; you instituted a Meal in which we can embrace you not only in faith, but in which you -- oh incomparable love! -- have ordained that we eat and drink your very own body and blood. Through your Spirit lead us on this day of the institution of this Meal into this very mystery itself, that we may recognize the miracle of your grace, learn to use it for our salvation, truly thank you for it, firmly cling to it, and faithfully guard this greatest treasure of your Church, even in these last times, so that your death will be continually proclaimed on earth until you come. Hear us, O Jesus, for your name's sake. Amen.

Dearly redeemed hearer