Text OCR’d by BackToLuther from the book. Hyperlinks, Table of Contents added. First published at this blog post. Original pagination retained with page headers.  —  Last Update: 2017-04-19 

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STANDARD EPISTLES

PART 2

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 AFTER TRINITY   1 Jn 4:16-21    287   (1841)

Love Toward God

2ND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY   1 John 3:13-18    294   (1841)

Brotherly Love A Positive, Comforting, and Edifying Sign of Our State of Grace

3RD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY    Matthew 18:20    300   (1858)

The Great Blessings of Christian Fellowship

4TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     Romans 14:14-23    305      (1877)

The Care A Christian Must Show in Using His Christian Freedom

5ΤΗ SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     1 Peter 3:8-15    310      (1851)

The Unity Which According To God’s Word the Church Is To Cultivate and Follow

6TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY      Luke 7:1-7    317   (1867)

Why Christians Willingly and Joyfully Bring Sacrifices That Churches Be Built and Beautifully Decorated

7ΤΗ SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     Romans 6:19-23    323   (1853)

The Nature of the Service Which Worldlings Give Sin, A Strong Inducement For Christians To Serve Holiness Zealously

8TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     Romans 8:12-17    328

Three Apostolic Reminders For All Who Wish To Be Christians

9TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     1 Cor. 10:6-13    334   (1848)

Israel’s Fall Into Sin and God’s Judgment Upon Them, A Warning Example For Christians Of The Last Times

10TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     1 Cor. 12:1-11    341   (1853)

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit With Which Christians Are Nowadays Endowed

11TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1     1 Cor. 15:1-10    347   (1841)

Three Important Signs as to Whether One Has the True Faith

11TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2     1 Cor. 15:1-10    353   (1852)

The Two Highest Principles to Which Every Christian Must Hold Fast If He Does Not Want To Be Misled In These Dangerous Times

11TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-3    1 Cor. 15:1-10    359   (1856)

What Is A Christian to Do So That He Is Not Misled and Lost By the Attractions Of New Errors?

12TH SUNDAY AFTER. TRINITY-1     2 Cor. 3:4-11    366   (1841)

The Difference Between the Law and the Gospel

12TH SUNDAY AFTER. TRINITY-2     2 Cor. 3:4-11    372   (1848)

The Greatness and Glory of the Office of the Gospel Ministry

13TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1      Galatians 3:15-22    379   (1841)

The Agreement Between the Law and the Gospel (Übereinstimmung = accordance, conformity)

13TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2      Galatians 3:15-22    385   (1855)

Why Should the Law Not Hinder Us From Appropriating the Gospel in Joyful Faith?

14TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1      Galatians 5:16-24    391   (1857)

The Struggle of the Flesh and the Spirit, A Necessary and Sure Sign of a True Christian

14TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2      Galatians 5:16-24    396   (1841)

The Christian Walk In The Spirit

15TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY      Galatians 5:26 -6:10    403   (1849)

What Should Move A Christian To Sacrifice Joyfully His Earthly Income For The Maintenance and Spreading of God’s Word?

16TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     Ephesians 3:13-21         408   (1848)

The Christian’s Strengthening In The Inner Man

17TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY      Ephesians 4:1-6        414   (1857)

The True Unity of the True Christian Church

18TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1     1 Cor. 1:4-9    419   (1849)

Paul’s Picture of the Congregation at Corinth

18TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2     1 Cor. 1:4-9    425   (1863)

Christians of the New Testament Times Need Wait Only For the Revelation of Jesus Christ on Judgment Day

19TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     Ephesians 4:22-28    431   (1841)

The Daily Renewing of the Christian to the Image of God

20TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1      Ephesians 5:15-21    438   (1848)

“Redeem the Time!”

20TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2     Ephesians 5:15-21    445   (1841)

Why Christians Must Wisely Redeem the Times Even in Days of Peace

21ST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1      Ephesians 6:10-17    451   (1848)

The Three Important Means Which Christians Must Use If In Their Conflict They Want To Do Everything Well and Hold The Field

21ST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2      Ephesians 6:10-17    457   (1861)

The Conflict of the Christian Against His Invisible Foes

22ND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     Philippians 1:3-11    464   (1849)

The Thanks Which We Owe God That He Lets Us Enjoy Fellowship in the Gospel As A Fruit Of the Reformation

23RD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY      Philippians 3:17-21    469   (1849)

The Enemies of Christ’s Cross

24TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY      Colossians 1:9-14    474   (1849)

The Saving Knowledge Of God and His Will

REFORMATION DAY-1     Jude 3    480   (1876)

Why Dare and Can We Never Give Up the Church’s Struggle For the Pure Doctrine?

REFORMATION DAY-2     Deuteronomy 4:7-8    488   (1879)

Why Do We Have Great Reason For Praising and Extolling God That We Are Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church?

ST. MICHAEL'S        Revelation 12:7-12    493   (1848)

The Church, A Place of Conflict Yet A Place of Rest

DAY OF HUMILIATION-1     2 Cor. 12:20-21    498   (1854)

Why Do We Have Urgent Reasons For Most Deeply Humbling Ourselves Today Before God?

DAY OF HUMILIATION-2     1 Peter 4:4    504   (1871)

The Surprise of the World at the Walk of the First Christians, A Rebuking Model of Penitence For Our Congregation

DAY OF NATIONAL PENITENCE     1 Chronicles 21:9-14    510   (1864)

Why War Is the Greatest Of All Of God’s Temporal Punishments?


287

1ST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY   1 Jn 4:16-21  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.

If we ask someone who believes in a God, whether he loves this God none will say that he hates God; rather without further thought everyone will reply: Who should not love God! Would not this be the answer of most of us to this question?

But how many, what countless numbers deceive themselves because they suppose they love God! To love God is something entirely different, much greater, higher, more exalted, nobler than what most men think it is.

The way of love is to love the beloved more than oneself; if we love God we would hate, deny, mortify, and crucify ourselves. The way of love is to be united with the beloved; if we love God we would also be one spirit and heart with God "for", says the apostle, "he that is joined unto the Lord is one

spirit." 1 Cor. 6:17

The way of love is to refuse the friendship of all others and cling to the beloved; if we would not make love to the world, but with Paul regard everything, all its treasures, wealth, and honor, as great harm in comparison with the knowledge of Jesus Christ which passes understanding; for if anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

The way of love is to reveal one's heart to the beloved and expect all good from him; if we love God, we would have a joyful confidence in God; praying to this God would be our desire and in all troubles we would cry to him by the Spirit of adoption; "Abbah, dear Father." The way of love is to surrender itself completely to the beloved with all which it is, has, and is able; if we love God we would offer ourselves to him completely body, soul, and all our powers. The way of love is to deny its own will and do the will of the beloved in all things; if we love God we would rejoice just as long as God's gracious will, be it sweet or bitter, easy or difficult, is complete through or in us.

If the love of God dwells within a person in the way it should, it cleans the heart from all wilful sins and insults toward God, and from all worldly lusts, so that it seeks and loves nothing but what is heavenly. True love draws the mind with all its inclinations and thoughts up to God, so that the soul thinks of nothing, desires and wishes for nothing but God. For what would he even want to seek outside of God, who has everything in God? why should he want to gather sweet drops here and there who is immersed in an entire ocean of sweetness? To be sure, love awakens in the soul a desire to endure God's love, calls itself happy if it has many burdens and crosses, rejoices with the disciples if they were counted worthy to suffer disgrace and blows for Christ's sake, and with Paul boasts of tribulation and the marks of Jesus Christ.

True living love grows from day to day like a green tree and always grows larger. At first it begins to forsake the world and to be displeased with everything with which God is displeased. Then it clings to God, considers him


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its one and all; in all its works It looks to God, accepts everything which befalls it as coming from God, is at peace in all the situations of life which God sends, is not concerned about friend or foe, trouble or happiness, and is satisfied with God's grace. Finally, it progresses so far that it hates its own life and yearns for death, so that nothing will hinder it in delighting itself in the Beloved. It does and suffers everything with such joy that even its work is not toil, yes, suffering becomes joy.

If love toward God has begun to burn in a heart, it can not hide its inner flames but sheds its rays as does the sun; it wishes well to all men; if it sees the unfortunate and unhappy, it is disturbed at the distress; it tries everything it can so that they might be as blessed as it is.

David had this love, so that he could exclaim; "I will love thee, O Lord my strength. The Lord is my Rock, and my Fortress, and my Deliverer; my God, my Strength, in whom I trust; my Buckler, and the Horn of my salvation, and my high tower." Ps. 18;1.2. "As the hart panteth for the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God, My soul thirsteth for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?" Ps.42:1.2. This love Asaph also had so that he could say: "Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart falleth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever." Ps. 73:25.26. This love St. Augustine also had; he wished to be a light which would kindle God's love and which would be consumed in this love.

If they would examine their supposed loved toward God according to this, how many would have to confess that their love is nothing but a dead thought! Oh, to how many would our Savior therefore have to say, as once he said to those Jews: "But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you." Jn. 5:42. And he of us who has begun by God's grace to tear his soul free from sin and all visible things and sink it alone in God's love, he must nevertheless groan with St. Augustine: I have loved you too late, my beauty, alas I have loved too late, my God! I have sought my rest in the creature until you called me to you.

Therefore let us now try to awaken ourselves to love God by considering it in greater detail. But first we turn to this eternal, divine love itself in silent prayer after we have sung ___.

The text. 1 John 4:15-21.

In the epistle just read, John seeks to impress upon his readers the cords of divine law, by showing them the source from which they can draw this love, namely God; he further shows, how necessary love is, since without it we can have no joy on the day of judgment; and he finally shows, how love to God must reveal itself in the love toward one's brother. So today we also willingly wish to let our souls be bound by these bands of love, as we consider together:

LOVE TOWARD GOD

and indeed

1. How It Comes Into Our Hearts;

2. How Necessary It Is; and

3. Whereby It Must Reveal Itself.

God, today we wish to hear that we should love you; oh let your word not be in vain in us; those of us who are still led astray and seek their rest in vain, sometimes in riches, sometimes in the lust of the world, sometimes in


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honor, let them today find rest in your love. Those of us who have known the deceitful lusts of the world, to whom now everything tastes bitter which is not you, who rest in your love and ate blessed, strengthen them, that they may remain until their death, yes, forever in your love. Amen.

I.

My friends, God did not create us as he did the animals for this perishable world; he did not fill the earth with his blessings, in order thereby to satisfy our immortal spirit; no, with our creation God had an inexpressibly higher, more glorious purpose. Not through the enjoyment and love of the creature, but through the love and enjoyment of himself does he want to make us blessed. Poor insignificant man is born with the high destiny, of embracing the highest good with his love, and being eternally blessed in his communion.

But man fell into sin, and thereby a great frightful change took place in his heart. Now when he is born no person knows that he has that high destiny, and if it is preached to him there is no drive in him to attain it. All men still have the drive for rest, for peace, for salvation in themselves; but after we fell we all by nature no longer seek our salvation in God, but in the world. God's holy law stands like an enemy between God and the natural inclination of man. Therefore man either sins securely and maliciously against God, or he accommodates himself only outwardly to God's law, and outwardly seeks to keep God's commands, because he fears God's wrath and punishment. By nature no person now wants to enter into heaven because he loves God and finds his salvation in God, but because he does not want to be damned. Certainly, many who today pass for the best of Christians on account of their zeal in the outward exercises of Christianity would, if they would now learn that there is no hell but only a heaven, quickly forsake the banner of Christ's cross, lose all their zeal, discontinue their praying and Bible reading, and find delight in the world with its lusts. By nature no person has a spirit willing to fulfill God's will; by nature no person wishes to be blessed in that he has God and his grace and is united with him. Therefore by nature no person loves God.

Oh we miserable men! How deeply we have fallen! God does not want to satisfy us with visible, temporal, transient things; he, the eternal highest God, wishes to give us himself, and we rather wish to satisfy ourselves with the husks of this world! How does love to God, for which we were created and In which we alone can be truly happy again enter into our heart?

The apostle tells us in our text; he shows us the source, the spring, from which alone love to God proceeds and again enters our hearts. He says: "God is love." V. 16. Oh man, if it is your wish that love to God re-enter your heart, so that you can deny sin and the world with a willing spirit, that the will of God might be your joy and God himself your highest good and blessedness, then seek this love alone in God himself. No creature, no person, no angel can change your heart, and give you love toward God in your heart; wherever a drop of love is found in this whole creation there it has flown from God, the source of love. Therefore, do not labor with might and main to produce God's love in yourself with your own powers and compel your dead cold heart to do it; it is in vain. God alone,who at the first creation poured out his love into man, can create it anew again in you; God alone is love; he alone is the fountain of love from whom alone it proceeds.

The apostle also shows us the way in which God wants to let his love again come into our heart, when he says: "We love him, because he first loved us." V. 19. Here we hear: If we really recognize that God first loved us, that, therefore, we did not first love God but rather hated him, that we by nature


290        1st Sunday after Trinity

are God's enemy, that we are worthy only of God’s wrath but not his love, and that God still loved us from eternity, even before we were born, and so loved us that he gave us his only begotten Son; if, frightened by our conscience, death, and hell, we were once for all refreshed and cheered with the comfort: Jesus

Christ, the Son of God, came into the world to save sinners; if we heartily believe this through the working of the Holy Spirit; if we at one time looked with fear and trembling into the abyss of our ruin brought by sin, but in this very instant were seized by merciful eternal love; in short, if we in the living sense of our wickedness, under the feeling of our sinfulness and accursedness, came to know the love of God in Christ in faith in our hearts, then also love to God is again poured out into our hearts.

It is impossible to draw near to the great fire of God’s love in Christ without becoming warmed by it in ardent return of love. That man loves God so little comes alone from this, that they have not tasted the love of God which he bears toward them in their heart; they still have not believed and known how highly they are loved by God in Christ. Had they believed and known it, they would truly burn with love and love God more than the greedy person his earthly wealth, than the mother her child, than the bride her bridegroom. Whoever knows what a great sinner he is, but that he is also accepted in Christ, to him the whole world with its love is as though gone; to him everything outside of God is small, insignificant, yes, stale and bitter; he who knows that God alone is worthy of his love finds everything which his heart could wish in him; to him even here heaven with all its blessedness is open when he finds that reconciled God.

Why were the sainted martyrs so firm in love to God? Not by their own power but because they had really known God’s love in Christ. This the history of our Lutheran Church tells us. When in the 16th century a confessor of salvation alone by grace through faith was to be burned, and was asked how he could endure this, he answered: "I gladly will let myself be burned, even if I should receive this alone, that from my ashes there would grow up a flower to his honor, who loved me in Christ from eternity." Queen Katherine once cried the same thing, when at the command of a Persian king her flesh was torn from her entire body with whitehot tongs; amidst these inexpressible pains she cried out, "Oh my God, my Jesus, this is still too little for your sake; I can never repay your merit, because out of love for me you died in your love." Oh my dear hearer, don't also all of you wish to be filled by such love of God? Then taste and see first of all, how friendly the Lord is, come to know God's love in Christ to you, and you also will soon discover your love to him. "We love him, because he first loved us." V. 19.

II.

And that we be awakened the more powerfully to love God, let us now secondly consider how necessary it is. Should love be so necessary since faith saves us? Can it hurt one who believes even if he has no love? Luther answers this question in the exposition of our epistle in this way: "The world always wants to go the wrong way; it can't hew to the line, it lets go either of faith or of love; if one preaches on faith and grace, no one wants to do works; if one emphasizes works, no one wants to cling to faith, and very few

are they who keep to the true middle road."

It is indeed true, my dear hearers, if we ask: "What must I do to be  saved?" God’s word gives us no other answer but: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." Acts 16:31. No work can erase our sins, no love can reconcile God, but faith in Christ alone makes us righteous before God and saves us. Wherein does this blessedness to which faith should lead us consist? Above all in blessed communion with the Triune God. Can we be


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in communion with him, when we do not love God? Never! Our text says: "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." V. 16b. Therefore in vain does a person boast of faith and in vain rely on his dead faith, if love of God is not in his heart.

Faith is not a dead thought; it is not a human resolution to appropriate all the comfort of the Gospel for oneself; it is a heavenly light, a divine power, a gift of God which God himself should bring into the heart with his grace and love. A faith without love to God is an empty conceit of our understanding, a hull without grain, a shell without the kernel, a portrait without life. If there is true faith, love also radiates from him, as the light from the sun. If there is no love in the heart, there also is no God, the eternal love; where God is absent, there is also no faith. As darkness can not be in light, so a loveless person can not be in God.

Therefore, you who want to come to God and be saved, hurl yourself down before God with all your sins, complain to him of your misery and distress, cry to him for mercy, then his Holy Spirit will comfort you and work true faith in your heart; but then he will also live in you through faith and pour out his love which you taste and experience in you. But know, if you do not abide in love you also do not abide in faith, you do not let faith take root in you, so that the heavenly plant of love with its fruits can grow up in you. If love ceases to be in you, then God also again departs from you, for "God is love;" if you forsake love, you forsake God, and are forsaken by God; for "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." V.16b.

Yes, the apostle says still more in order to testify to the necessity of love. He adds: "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." V.17a.18. It is indeed true my friends: Nothing but the word of forgiveness can heal our wounded conscience; nothing but faith in him who makes the godless righteous can strengthen us in the temptations of sin and despair; nothing, nothing but the believing upward glance to the Crucified, who bore our sins, can give us rest and comfort in the hour of death; no work, no love will stand on the day of judgment; but we should also know this: If our faith has not worked love in us, we will with terror in temptation, in death, or finally on the day of judgment see how our faith was nothing but a dream and froth.

Ah, many a one now continues to live in sin against his conscience; he is calm because he comforts himself in his faith. But when death will come he will no longer be able to be so calm since his conscience, yes, heaven and earth and all creatures, which he misused to that hour, will rise up against him as witnesses and accuse him of not having true faith in his heart. And even here it is impossible to have a joyful confidence toward God through his faith, as long as one is conscious, that he is not honest and sincere toward God. It is impossible to be at rest in his faith if one lives in sins against conscience. A good conscience and faith are inseparable.

Therefore you who pretend to believe in Christ, but live in dishonesty, pander in secret to your lusts, now and then gratify the lusts of the flesh, are irreconcilable, proud, arrogant, frivolous, dishonorable and unfaithful, greedy, slanderous, and untruthful know this: With all these sins you destroy in yourself the comfort of your faith and rob yourself of confidence in your heavenly Father. God will at his chosen time put you to the test; you will then see that your faith has no roots, and in eternity you will hear: "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Mt. 7:21.23.

If you wish to die in peace, then take care that you have the conviction, that you have intended to be honest, and did not let sin rule over you, and that with Moses, Samuel, Hezekiah, and St. Paul, you can call for the testimony of


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your conscience and say: Lord, I have loved you; I have confessed you before the world; you have been my all; I have not served you hypocritically; I have been truly earnest; my life is the proof that I have stood in the truth.

Of course, I will in no way deny salvation to those who do not turn until to God their last hour and die sighing for grace. But how difficult it is, when there is absolutely no testimony of faith. What struggles, what wrestlings with despair; oh may no one wantonly drawing upon grace, rely on the malefactor, the only example in Scripture of a conversation in the hour of death. Many, many might also depart of whom we have this good hope and who still merit eternal ruin. For write St. John: "Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is. so are we in this world." V. 17, That is as the Lord received hatred as thanks for his love, and yet did not let the fire of his love be extinguished, so must also his own, who have experienced the same thing in this world, if the Lord should recognize them for his own remain faithful in love until death in spite of all thanklessness.

However the apostles also tells us whereby our love to God must reveal itself, when he adds, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment we have from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also." V. 20.21.

Hence, my friends, love to one's brother it is whereby love to God must reveal itself; and according to our text this is true for two reasons; first of all, because he certainly does not love God who does not love his brother.

When the apostle writes in the first place in our text: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?" V. 20. The apostle is arguing from the greater to the less, or from the more difficult to the more easy as the Lord does when he says: "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much." Lk. 16:10 The apostle wishes to say with these words: It is easier and less difficult to love that which one sees than to love that which one does not see. Seeing an object with his eyes is an important way of being moved to love that which is not present, if the object of one's love can not be seen. Man indeed loves many things which he considers worthy of love, although he may never seen but has merely heard of it; but how much more is he moved to love that when he sees it!

On the other hand, if a person does not love something worthy of love, although he sees it, how much less will he love it when he has not seen it! A person can see his brother or his neighbor, while on the other hand he can not see God. If he loves God, how much more will he love his brother or his neighbor! On the other hand, if he does not love his brother whom he sees, how much less will he love God whom he can not see!

Bear in mind, my friends: With your eye you see the good things which your brother has and what he does to you; if you still do not love him, how much less will you therefore love God, whose glory, and that it is he who does so much good to you, you do not see, but can only believe! Moreover, with your eyes you see the misery of your brother, his sickness, his property, his nakedness, his tears, his trouble, his misery, his destitution; now if you do not love your brother, but like the rich in the Gospel close your heart and hands to his trouble which you see, how much less will you love God in whom you see nothing, because of which he would need your love! Undoubtedly, whoever does not wish to do the easier and the lesser thing will much less wish to do the more difficult and the greater. For "if a man say. I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love


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God whom he hath not seen?" V. 20.

In our text John adds: "And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also." V. 21. With these words the holy apostle mentions a second reason why love to God must necessarily reveal itself in love to one's brother, because God has commanded love toward our brother just as much as love toward God. The conclusion which the apostle makes here is, that one can not possibly love him whose will one does not wish to fulfil. This conclusion is also completely irrefutable. Tell me yourself, would you believe, that he loves you who continually does the opposite of that which you wish and thereby insults and offends you? Certainly not! You would rather conclude from his attitude, that he hates you.

God has written the command of love toward our brother just as well as love toward God not only in the hearts of all men, but has also repeatedly impressed both commands in his revealed Word in every possible way. Yes, in his Word God declares that because he himself does not need our service of love, he wishes to be served in our brethren. Christ remarks that his sentence on Judgment Day will read thus: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Mt. 25:40. And James testifies: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction." Jas. 1:27.

And still more: God wants to have nothing to do with our worship as long as we do not give the necessary service of love to our brethren. Christ says: "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." Mt. 5:23.24. If love toward one's neighbor demands it, we should leave even the outward service of God and serve our neighbor instead, and know that then above all we are serving God.

What shall we think of him who with his deeds refuses to love his neighbor, and pretends that he has love to God in his heart? John mentions what we should think in our text: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. For," the same apostle remarks immediately after our text, "this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." 4:20a; 5:3a. God has commanded: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Therefore, whoever does not love his neighbor, does not keep God's commandments, but despises it and thereby does not love God but is still God's enemy. Love toward God and one's brother are completely Inseparable from one another as the stream is from the spring; for from love of God flows love of the brother; where the one is there is also the other; and where the one is not, there the other is not.

Oh, may God let his love to us in Christ be known to us all; then the fire of our love to him will not only take fire in our hearts but also brotherly love will break forth in desires, words, and deeds as a flame of the Lord. May God then also preserve us all here through faith in this love until our end, and we will there enjoy God's love in eternity. For "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." V.16b. Amen.


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2ND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY   1 John 3:13-18  TOP   (German, Archive)

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true Father of all who are called children in heaven and on earth, grant you power according to the riches his glory to be strengthened by his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that you may be rooted and grounded in love. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

Biblical and church history reports: When things went well in the Christian Church or in a congregation, this for the most part was revealed through love. Whenever by God's grace a great awakening took place in churches and congregations, whenever God again wonderfully built up his fallen Zion by gracious visitations, whenever God's Word came to the light of day and became mighty in many hearts, this was in the main revealed in the fact that in such congregations an inner, heartfelt, mutual brotherly love was again awakened. If at any time God gave a better light of Evangelical knowledge to whole congregations, and if this light was faithfully used, then also a greater, more ardent love soon showed up among them.

When on Pentecost God's Word won such a wonderful victory that by the preaching of Peter's one sermon a congregation of 3,000 souls was gathered, not only was their faith praised, but at once their love is also spoken highly of. We are told: "And all that believed were together, and had all things common, and sold their possessions and parted them to all men, as every man had need." Acts 2:44.45. And when a few days later the number of men along had come to 5,000, Luke reports again, as the apostles who had been reviled and threatened returned from the presence of the Sanhedrin: "The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul; neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common." Acts 4:32.

And when St. Paul wanted to lead the fallen congregation of Galatia back to its former good state, he reminds them of their previous love and cries to them: "Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your eyes, and have given them to me." Gal. 4:15. Almost no congregation is described in such a glorious manner as the one at Thessalonica; and what does the apostle say of it? "But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you; for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren." 1 Thess. 4:9.10. "Your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of everyone of you all toward each other aboundeth." 2 Thess. 1,3. Oh, blessed is the congregation of which such a testimony can be given! And blessed are the Christians who can go the narrow way to heaven in such a loving fellowship!

My dear hearers, as it was in apostolic times, so it also was at all times. Every time the Church blossomed in faith, the fruits of brotherly love immediately appeared. The first three centuries, when during the persecutions of the heathen emperors so many thousands sealed their faith with their blood, were also the times during which love ruled among Christians as it never has since. Although they lived scattered in all lands, they were united by love as though in one large family. All called themselves brothers and sisters, the great the humble, the humble the great. If a Christian was in distress, all felt it. Then they still wept with the weeping and rejoiced with the joyful. No brother was ashamed of his brother. Fearing no danger, the free brethren visited those who had been imprisoned because of their confession; often huge numbers of Christians entered into a prison and comforted and refreshed the prisoners with their tears, words, and gifts of love.


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We have the same experience in the later history of the Christian Church. When under the oppression of the papacy the pure doctrine and the true faith were lost, the first lost also disappeared in Christendom; and when in the darkest times true Christian congregations by the name of the Waldensians and later the Bohemian Brethren came into being when the Bible was read, it was Love again by which one could recognize the confessors of the truth. In these times as well the papal persecuters often laid aside their instruments of torture, moved by that love until death itself which they saw united the believers.

And if we go to the times of the Lutheran Reformation, when the apostolic doctrine again came to light in its purity, we see that then also love awakened with faith. When Luther went unafraid into the camp of his angry enemies, when he stood before emperor and kingdom in Worms and could expect nothing but death by fire, how all the believers in Germany prayed to God for this faithful man! How all were moved by love toward him! How all trembled lest harm should come to this beloved witness of Christ! When nine years later the Protestant lords made their immortal confession at Augsburg, what a firm bond of love was shown among those who were united by one faith! None forsook the other in distress, but the greater the danger became if they were to remain with the believers, the more ardently and firmly they clung together. This was also the time when because of the newly awakened love most of those charitable institutions for churches, schools, the poor, widows, and orphans were founded, whose blessings even now thousands in the lands of the Lutheran Reformation enjoy or could enjoy.

Therefore it is obvious: Whenever there was a great awakening in God's Church through the Word which was brought to light, this revealed itself every time especially in the fact that the first ardent brotherly love returned to the congregations. As this is the case in regard to whole churches, so it is also with the individual. The moment he becomes a true Christian, the moment he comes to the true faith and a living knowledge of the truth, he is also filled with true love. Therefore whoever has love has a comforting testimony that he has the true faith and is under God's grace. Let us now direct our devotion to this comforting and edifying subject.

The text. 1 John 3:13-18.

"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." V. 13.14a. This is the way the apostle begins in our text. With these words he tries to comfort the Christians in the face of the hatred of the world by the fact that with the love to the brethren, which they have in their hearts, they have the positive testimony that they are no longer in the death of sin but filled by a new, spiritual, divine life. This moves me to present to you:

BROTHERLY LOVE A POSITIVE, COMFORTING, AND EDIFYING SIGN OF OUR STATE OF GRACE

We ponder:

1. How certain, and

2. How Comforting and Edifying it is.

Oh God, Thou who art love itself, who lovest all men and would love all, pour Thy love also upon us by which we can know that we are Thy children. Show all who are still without love, that they are far removed from thy grace and fellowship and awaken in them the yearning for true love; grant that they will not rest until their hearts also are filled. And show those in whom thou hast already worked love toward the brethren through thy Holy Spirit, how they


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may be certain by their love that thou dwellest in them with thy grace. To that end bless thy Word so that the loveless may be awakened and thy children of grace may be comforted for the sake of thy eternal love. Amen.

I.

My dear hearers, if we consider people as they are by nature,as they are when they as yet know nothing of God’s Word or have not accepted it, we cannot deny that even fallen mankind is held together by an amazing bond of a kind of love. Though the selfishness, self-interest, and deadness of all men who love the world and live on without God’s grace is great, we nevertheless see that even among unbelievers there still is an affection toward relatives who have the same descent as they, that often the most godless parents have a most tender love for their children, unbelieving children for their parents and brothers and sisters, and worldly-minded friends for their friends. We often experience that people who do not thank God for countless benefits are most thankful toward their human benefactors; that people whom God’s inexpressible love in Christ cannot move are often easily moved to sympathize with and help the hard pressed and unfortunate. Yes, we must be surprised that people who know nothing of God or want to know nothing of him are often exceptionally obliging, helpful, and generous toward the poor and needy.

Yet we dare not be deceived. When Holy Scripture speaks of Christian love, this impure love which still remains in man's heart even after the fall is not at all the one meant. This natural love is by no means a sign of our state of grace; one can have it to a high degree and still lie in spiritual death and under God's wrath and displeasure.

True love toward our neighbor,which bears witness that we are in God and God in us,is not inherited from our parents. The apostle says in our text: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." V.16, Hence by nature no one knows what this true love really is; by nature no one knows how high it ascends; "Hereby," says John, "perceive we love of God, because he laid down his life for us." Hence, in Christ alone we can know which love God demands of us.

He, who has true love, loves not only his relatives and friends, not only those who love him and do good to him, but, as Christ, also his enemies, also those toward whom all the children of the world bear hatred and malice in their hearts. He who has true love makes no distinction between people; he looks on love as an obligation which he must daily pay all his brethren according to the flesh; he considers all the creatures of his God whom He has loved so highly that he gave his beloved Son into the death on the cross for them; he considers ail the possession of the Lord Jesus, his dearest Redeemer, whom He has bought not with gold and silver but with his precious blood; he looks on all people as those in whom the Holy Ghost does not want to refuse to begin his gracious indwelling. He who has true love does not despise the most wretched, yes, the most godless; he rather treasures the souls of all men, for he knows how precious and dear each individual soul is considered by God. He who truly loves knows of no person on earth upon whom he would wish evil; he, as Christ, wishes from his heart that it would be well with all his fellowmen in time and eternity, and he does what he can to promote the welfare of his neighbors; be rejoices when even his enemies prosper, and he takes their distress to heart; he would rather suffer himself than see others suffer. If he has this world's goods and sees his brother suffer want, he does not close his heart to him but he has an open heart and a charitable hand for his brother's need; however, he does not give in order to be seen, nor to receive in return, but to share even if he can expect nothing but thanklessness. He knows how God does not cease


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pouring out his goodness upon the world, even though it gives God nothing but thanklessness, contempt, and sin in return.

He who has true love does not consider himself lord of his goods but only a steward who according to God's will distributes to his needy brethren. If he therefore is liberal, he does not brag about it, but considers himself an unprofitable servant who does merely what he has to do. If someone injures him who has true love, he is not depressed because wrong was done him, but rather that his enemy sinned against God, forfeited God's grace, and ruined his precious soul; therefore he is always ready to be reconciled and gladly relinquishes some of his rights in order to establish peace.

He who has true love does not rejoice at his enemy's fall; he is not eager to speak of the sins and failings of others, and does not reveal them but covers them, excuses them as well as he can with a good conscience, and seeks only the sinner's welfare and conversion. He who has true love places his neighbor's profit ahead of his own; yes, he is ready to give up his life for his brethren, if by his death perhaps many or a more important life than his own can be preserved; he would rather die than lose or jeopardize the lives of others by keeping his own. And if he in whom true love dwells cannot show love in deeds, he nevertheless shows it in truth because his heart is attached to all in love, and his heartfelt intercessions ascend daily to God. He loves not merely with his tongue and his words; rather, there is always more love in his heart than his mouth can utter.

This love toward one's neighbor is not in the heart of any person by nature. This love is a daughter of faith, a fruit of the Holy Spirit who for this reason is called a Spirit of love; it is a working of grace, a gift on high, a heavenly fire, a power of the Lord Jesus, a divine plant in repentant believing hearts which has its roots in God himself, who is love eternal. So universally, so honestly and cordially, so unselfishly and devotedly, so humbly and purely, so tirelessly and faithfully until death can no one love but he whose heart God himself has changed.

This love no one can give to himself. Not until a person is awakened from his sins and has truly known his inexpressible misery without Christ; not until he has finally found in Christ rest for his restless heart, grace for his guilt, and forgiveness for his sins; not until he has finally come to know that God is no longer angry with him, that in Christ he has been accepted as God's child, and that in spite of his unworthiness life and salvation is given him free of charge, not until then does the heart of the sinner open to the love of him who has loved him from eternity; then love toward God through the Holy Spirit is poured into it; thus he is also inclined, drawn, and sweetly urged to do good to his fellow redeemed and to seek his temporal and eternal welfare from his whole heart and with all his power.

Therefore, my dear Christian, if you can love those whom you hate by nature; if you can rejoice over the good fortune and prosperity of your enemy; if you with a heart full of love pray for those who smite you in the face; if you can heartily forgive and forget; if you feel particularly drawn to those of whom you believe that they have Jesus in their heart; if you, therefore, really love Jesus in them; if you feel a continual impulse to help all without making any distinction wherever you can; if you would rather suffer injury than injure; yes, if you are ready from your heart to sacrifice yourself for your brethren if necessary with all that you have, yes, with your very life, then you have a positive sign that God is in you And you in God; for God alone is love and from him alone it enters into our heart, when we are born again through faith. Then you are certain that your sins are forgiven, for only he to whom much is forgiven loves much; then you are a child of God, for only God's children have God's mind; then your faith is of the right sort, for it has the correct fruit;


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it is active in love.

As the natural movements of your body prove that you are alive, so the divine movements of love in your heart give evidence of your spiritual life. Then you are no longer in death. Then a great, blessed change has come over your heart. You have become alive. For where there is love, there is life, and where

there is life there is love. Then you can also confidently say with the apostle in our text: "1 know that I have passed from death unto life, because I love the brethren." V.14a. In other places God's Word also give you testimony of this, when, for example, the same apostle says: "Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God," 1 Jn 4:7; or when the Savior says: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Jn 13:35.

II.

This, however, is not only a certain, but secondly also a most comforting and edifying truth. You see, if love is a mark of our state of grace, then it is not the perception of a strong faith, nor of a great knowledge, nor of great glowing works, nor of a great holiness of life.

You see, my dear Christian of weak faith, you need not become dismayed, when you hear of the strong faith of an Abraham, of a David, of a Peter and Paul, or a Luther; you need not become dismayed if you cannot sing triumphantly in great joy with Job: "I know that my Redeemer liveth;" or if you cannot exclaim joyfully 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." 2 Tim 4:7.8. You need not become dismayed if you cannot rejoice with Luther that hero of faith:

Though devils all the world should fill,

All eager to devour us,

We tremble not, we fear no ill,

They shall not overpower us. (262,3)

You need not be dismayed if perhaps many a fellow Christian joyfully confesses that he is divinely certain that he is in God's grace, that he joyfully looks forward to death and Judgment Day and is ready any moment to appear before God's throne; though you can perhaps grasp Christ but feebly and must often exclaim: Oh, if only I could believe; Lord, I believe, help my unbelief! Be confident! God has not referred you to the feelings of your strength of faith; if your weak struggling faith has worked only love in you, that in itself gives you a certain and comforting mark of your state of grace.

Or do you perhaps lack a rich knowledge, you understand only a little and much remains dark when you read God's Word, you see that many have a much better knowledge, you are not in a position to answer many important questions about spiritual and church events; do not believe that this could prejudice your salvation; not your knowledge but your love is to be the mark of your state of grace.

Or perhaps you are concerned because you can point to no great shining work, that you can do nothing from morning until night but the work of your earthly calling, you cannot as Other saints relate great deeds which you have done for your Savior, nor mention great suffering which you have endured for Christ's sake. Be confident! God does not judge by externals. Just be faithful in your earthly calling; do it in the fear of God and in true love to your neighbor and your works which seem so small are still the greatest, the holiest, the


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most acceptable to God; yes, if during your whole life you have rendered only the most humble and despised service, if you do this in love, you are unceasingly in the most wonderful service of God, and your works are as holy as though you had built churches and with apostolic sermons delivered the souls of your fellow redeemed.

Perhaps many will now say: How can I be comforted, that brotherly love is a mark of our state of grace, since I discover so little of this love in my heart? For the most part, I feel so cold and hard that I am ashamed when I read or hear of true love; I could weep when I think of the ardent undeserved love of my Savior; alas, how often I let myself be moved by lovelessness, yes, by loveless gestures, words, and deeds!

My dear Christian, you who lament thus, you are to know: We are to perceive God's work in us, our state of grace not by the perfection of our love but only by its truthfulness. The love of God's children also has its failings and its degrees; the love of the one is greater, more knowing, and purer, that of another is smaller, weaker, and less perfect. Though you may not have any sweet perception of love, that is not a mark that love is not in your heart; steel and stone are also cold and hard and yet they produce fire when they are struck together. You feel that you are cold and hard, but your longing for love are bright sparks which testify to the existence of love in your soul. He who yearns for love cannot be without love, for if you really hated someone you would never wish to be able to love him. Your concern over the shortcomings and weaknesses of your love is a sure sign that God has already changed your heart and has certainly started love in you.

If you find that your love is still weak, if you sin more often against love even though you would gladly remain in love, do not despair; all the saints of old have complained about that; upright Christians are the ones who must always struggle with the natural lovelessness of their heart, for the Old Man is constantly trying to regain his dominion; just keep up the battle; if you stumble, go to Christ and ask for forgiveness; his love is perfect; he wants to and will cover all your failings. Read of Christ's love every day in The Book, in his Gospel of grace, ponder upon it with a quiet heart and exercise yourself in faith in it; thus you will daily experience Christ's love in your heart and your love toward your brethren will become purer, firmer, steadier every day.

However, my dearly beloved, the truth that love toward one's brethren is a mark of our state of grace is not only comforting for all who walk in love even if they are ever so frail; it also serves to warn and judge those who nourish hatred, enmity, and irreconcilableness in their hearts. In our text God's Word testifies to this in words which cannot be recalled: "He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." V.14b. This pronounces sentence upon all the loveless. Though a person may be able to speak ever so beautifully about Christ, though he may surpass all other Christians in the knowledge of God's Word,though he may think he has ever so strong a faith, though he may do works which seem to be Christian, though outwardly he may be friendly, humble, patient, charitable, stern, and zealous for the pure doctrine, though he may separate himself from the world and to men's eyes lead a chaste, moderate, self-denying life, though seemingly he may take disgrace and suffering upon himself for Christ, yes, if it were possible, end his life at the sake in behalf of God's Word, if he lacks love to the brethren, he is not a Christian, not God's child, does not stand in grace, but still lies in spiritual death. Yes, though he who lacks love may seem to be ever so holy, though he may have the appearance of having all his desires directed only toward Christ, it only seems so; before God he is a murderer; for our text adds: "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him." V.15.


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Ah my dear man, you who are irreconcilable, you who forgive but do not want to forget, you who still hate many people in your heart, you who are not patient with your neighbor, you who quickly judge and condemn, or you who close your heart to the misery of your brother, how unfortunate you are! You pray, you read God’s Word, you sing and speak of Christ, you go to the Lord's Table. Remember that without love this is all lost. You can have all the marks of God's children, but if this one is lacking: Love, all the others are only show, fraud, deception. If love is missing, Christ is not present; where Christ is missing, grace is lacking; if grace is missing, salvation is lacking; if salvation is missing, eternal death is present. For in our text God says clearly through his servant John: "He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." V.14b.

Therefore, whoever of us has in the past lived his Christianity without love, whose love has not testified as to the integrity of his faith, may he let himself be warned; oh, may he cast away his entire previous Christianity, even if he finds it ever so trying to do so or could boast of ever so many things which seem to be works and struggles and sufferings; he still has been nothing but a dead, fruitless tree which will be chopped down on Judgment Day and cast into the fire eternal. May he pause and from now on go a different way; may he repentantly confess his former lovelessness, seek forgiveness in the love of Christ through faith, let himself be filled by Christ's love, and then walk in this love; thus in all times of temptation he will have the testimony that he is God's child and is in his grace.

And you who already have this love toward your brethren, who pray daily for them, who pray that all your works be done in love, that you devote yourselves entirely to your brethren in love, oh hear the exhortation of your most insignificant fellow man: Remain in this love; never forsake this way which the apostle calls the best way; let the commandment of love, which the Lord calls his new commandment, be new to you every day; let the bond of love among you never be torn, for it is the bond of perfection; let nothing cause your love to become tired; do not cease loving, even if you see that your love is often deceived; never use any other guide in judging your brethren but love; let your works be done in love, your tongue ruled by love, your attitudes directed by love, your heart possessed and permeated by love; then Christ's image will be glorified and shine in you; God will dwell in you, and even if your love is misjudged, if you are reviled and your state of grace called in question, your love will give you its testimony. Yes, "Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.  We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." Vv.13.14a. Amen.

3RD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY    Matthew 18:20  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

The text. Matthew 18:20.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.


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From the beginning Christians have fellowshiped with one another. Even during the times of the apostles they associated daily with one another. The persecutions which descended upon them far from destroying the fellowship of Christians or bringing it to an end served to make it only the closer and firmer. During these times they gathered in remote, hidden places, in woods, tombs, caves, and clefts. Even the Christian who was already imprisoned and condemned to a disgraceful death received not seldom the visits of his fellow believers in his dark prison, and even at the place of execution he saw he was surrounded by entire groups of his fellow confessors.

It can be no other way. Christians belong together. One faith and with it one and the same Jesus Christ is in the hearts of all. One and the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the almighty God, moves and rules them.  They have one grace and righteousness, one hope. They are all like-minded; the one loves what the other loves; the one hates what the other hates. They have the same friends and the same enemies. They all go the one narrow way which leads to eternal life, and they all have one goal before their eyes, the eternal homeland, heaven. They are all servants of one Lord, namely Jesus Christ, and children of one Father, namely God the heavenly Father. They are therefore also all spiritual brothers and sisters, and thus compose one large spiritual family whose members are more closely united with one another than blood relatives.

They all dwell in one home, the holy Christian Church. Some day they will also be together in perfect blessed fellowship above in heaven. How they should even here upon earth cultivate a close fellowship with one another!

Therefore, he who wants to be a Christian should also consider it his holy duty not to withdraw from the fellowship of his brothers and sisters in the faith, but rejoice when other Christians seek him out, and also themselves feel compelled to seek them out. It is indeed true: It would be sin for a Christian to neglect his earthly calling in order to be able to cultivate diligently Christian fellowship; yet he dare not forget that cultivating Christian fellowship is part of his calling on earth, and that he fails in his Christian duty if he isolates himself. Yes, Solomon says: "Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom." Prov 18:1. John says: "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us." 1 Jn 2:19. Paul writes of Demas who separated himself from the Christian congregation; "Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world." 2 Tim 4:10. Such a person robs himself of a great blessing. Just think of Thomas, the apostle. When the Lord had died on the cross and the little flock of believers was in distress, anguish, disgrace, and danger, Thomas left the group of disciples, and lo! the result was that he was shut out from the joy and blessing of the first appearance of the Resurrected; instead of being cured of his unbelief as were the others, he sank ever deeper into it and undoubtedly would finally have been lost had not the Lord taken pity on him and had he not as the Good Shepherd in infinite patience gone after the lost sheep. Oh, the blessing of Christian fellowship is greater than many suppose. Well, then, let this be the subject of our today's meditation. On the basis on the text just read and with the gracious assistance of God the Holy Spirit permit me to present to you:

THE GREAT BLESSINGS OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP

I will show you:

1. Which That Christian Fellowship Is Upon Which Such A Great Blessing Rests, and

2. The Nature Of The Blessing Of Christian Fellowship.


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I.

If we ask first which is that Christian fellowship upon which such a great blessing rests, Christ answers this question in our text in the words: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name.” First of all, who are the people whom the Lord means with the "two or three"? What immediately precedes our text tells us. Christ had just shown what is to happen when one brother sins against another; he is to be admonished and reprimanded in a certain order; but if he would despise all exhortations and finally even the entire Christian congregation, then he is to be considered a heathen and a publican and not a brother; the Christian congregation should exclude or excommunicate him. However, that this excommunication of the whole Christian congregation is not a joke but an act of Christ himself and therefore valid in heaven, this the Lord Christ then confirms in our text with the words: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name." Therefore by the "two or three" none other than brethren, true believers or true Christians are meant.

The first thing which makes for that Christian fellowship upon which such great blessings rest is this, that those who cultivate this fellowship are true Christians. If those who come together are not Christians, their fellowship also is not Christian, though they may call themselves "brothers and sisters," use pious Christian sounding conversation, yes, sing and pray together, as, for example happens in the gatherings of so many secret societies, to which most unbelievers and known or secret mockers belong, and in which the name of Jesus dare not be prayed. As far as they are concerned Christ is not graciously present, but rather he calls to them as we read in the Prophet Isaiah: "I will not smell in your solemn assemblies." Amos 5:21. "And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yes, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear."  Is 1:15. For God does not judge the person according to the works, but the works according to the persons who do them.

Though it is necessary for a blessed Christian fellowship that those who associate together be true Christians, it is not necessary that they all be strong in the faith, advanced in love and sanctification, and especially rich in Christian knowledge. No; it is enough if they have a living faith in their Lord Jesus Christ, though otherwise they may have some, yes, many and great weaknesses and failings. True, we can never be absolutely sure whether he who confesses the true faith really is a true Christian; but thank God! He has not called us to judge the heart of him who confesses the true faith; rather we should in love consider everyone a Christian who confesses the true faith and does not openly deny it again by his deeds and associate with him as a Christian. Though false brethren and hypocrites may creep into the Christian fellowship, this does not cause the fellowship to cease; for if among those who confess the true faith only two or three true Christians are to be found, the Lord Christ is nevertheless amongst them.

According to our text not only is the fact that Christian fellowship is cultivated by true Christians a part of Christian fellowship, but chiefly that this is done in a Christian way, in the true manner, that is, in Jesus' name; for the Lord says: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."

When are Christians gathered in Jesus' name? That is the case not only when Christians hold public or private devotions, hear or read God's Word together, use the Holy Sacraments together, pray and sing together, and deliberate together in matters concerning salvation and the kingdom of God; but also whenever a Christian seeks another Christian because he is a Christian, because he heartily loves him as a Christian above other people, because he has loved him as his brother in Christ or received a blessing from him, rejoices with him as


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his brother or wants to weep and lament with him.

Christians, who in Jesus' name fellowship together will by all means often take time to speak together concerning divine things, the doctrines of God's Word, the experiences of their heart, the signs of the times, and the events in God's kingdom, teach, admonish, warn, reprimand, and comfort each other; yet one dare not think that Christians have not gathered in Jesus' name when they speak only of earthly, temporal things, if they come together only to eat and drink, to find refreshment after the burden and heat of the day, and exchange jovial conversation. No, though Christians may not have assembled with the idea of engaging in a spiritual undertaking; if God's Word and the fear of God rules over their get-together; if love to Christ and to the brethren rules their hearts and tongues; if their conversation, even if it touches only earthly things, nevertheless is, as the apostle wishes, with grace seasoned with salt and lovely to hear, their fellowship has been a true Christian one, whilst on the other hand a conversation about pious, spiritual things without a living, believing, agreeable heart is before God nothing but a hypocritical abomination.

Sad to say, it happens at times that even Christians are not gathered in Christ's name, that is, when they sit where the scornful sit, or when they gather at certain places of amusement with the scornful, or when they have come together they let themselves be incited by their flesh to serve vanity, or to slander and defame, that is, to speak evil of one who is not with them, or to waste time with wretched tricks, jokes, and tomfoolery, or to argue and quarrel with one another and anger and injure each other by sneering words, or to squander God's gifts. To be sure, not even Christians go home from such gatherings blessed but with an evil wounded conscience, burdened with anxiety and harmed in faith and love, whilst the Holy Spirit was grieved in them.

Nor must we forget that as all good works so also the fellowship of true Christians is never entirely free from sinful weaknesses; however, as God for Christ's sake forgives the failings of the good works of Christians, yes, even graciously rewards them, so he also forgives the weaknesses with which Christian fellowship is spotted and crowns it with his blessing.

II.

Permit me in the second place to speak to you concerning the nature of this blessing.

The Lord Christ says: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." We see first of all that the blessing of Christian fellowship is as irrefutably certain as God's Word itself; for it rests upon a clear divine promise. Now that the Lord Christ has uttered these words, no Christian can say: I prefer to be alone; why should I enjoy this fellowship? I have no need nor blessing from it but only harm. My friends, he who speaks thus contradicts Christ and casts doubts upon His faithfulness and truthfulness, yes, calls Christ a liar to his face. A Christian may in deed think that as long as he is alone, he has the greatest blessings, but that whenever he associates with others has merely harmed his soul. This definitely is a hopeless self-deception, for Christ who is eternal truth does not deceive us.

Now just what is the blessing which Christ has promised? He says: "There am I in the midst of them." Who is able to estimate the greatness and the glory of the blessing of Christian fellowship on the basis of these words? It is beyond calculation. For can you think of a greater blessing than the one,


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that Christ who is God and man in one person, the Reconciler and Savior of all sinners, the Redeemer of the whole world, the Good Shepherd of all souls, the merciful High Priest of all the fallen, the gracious King of all the redeemed, that this Christ wants to be in the midst of Christians, whenever they, and though it be only two or three of them, gather in his name? Or do you perhaps suppose that Christ would "come" among assembled Christians with empty hands, without distributing the gifts of his grace amongst them? How could this be possible? No, as little as there can be light anywhere without giving light, or fire without giving warmth, or dew and rain without wetting the dry land, just so little is it possible for Christ to come to his own without blessing them. Every time the Resurrected appeared visibly to his disciples, he said to them: "Peace be with you," and thus actually filled their restless and sorrowful heart with peace and joy, with life, light, and power; and he does the very same today; therefore, every time he steps amongst those who are gathered in his name, he invisibly spreads his hands in blessing upon them and pours his peace, that is, all the treasures of his grace which they need, into their hearts.

And I ask you, is this not also confirmed by our own experience? Why was it that after we had been doing nothing, had become secure and indifferent, we are again watchful and zealous in our Christianity? Why is it that after we had become careless we became earnest in our Christianity? Why is it that as we had been near to falling away completely we still took thought, or that after we had actually fallen completely away inwardly we arose again? Must not all of us say that next to the Word which we read and heard it was chiefly the Christian fellowship in which we live which brought us this blessing? How many with faith in their hearts have left for distant lands where there were no churches, no schools, no Christian brethren, no companions in the faith, and behold, they gradually became lazy in their Christianity and finally cold; they fell asleep, and because there was no one there to admonish them, they finally fell asleep in eternal death without scarcely noticing it; whilst thousands upon thousands in spite of the danger of losing their weak Christianity were held on the true way by reprimand and admonition and encouragement received in Christian fellowship! Undoubtedly as a glowing coal quickly dies if placed by itself but keeps its fire in a group of glowing coals and glows with increasing brightness, so a Christian only too easily loses the light and life kindled in him, if he avoids the fellowship of Christians, whereas both receive ever new nourishment in Christian fellowship.

Well, then, my friends, Let us also with heartfelt thanks recognize the blessing which God has given us when we cultivate Christian fellowship. Therefore, let us also use this blessing most diligently. Above all, let us beseech God the Lord and most earnestly seek not only to gather together, but also always gather in Jesus' name, so that we do not exert an evil influence upon each other by our talk and attitudes but rather exert a wholesome and stimulating influence. Then our congregation will constantly grow in faith and in love to the Savior in true unity of the Spirit, and thus also here God's kingdom will be promoted and built up upon the only true foundation which is Jesus Christ

In this point we have all sinned much, yes, very much. Therefore, let us from this day on better redeem the grace of Christian fellowship. Let us not associate as children of the world with children of the world but as Christians with fellow Christians, and then every time we gather let us think: The Lord Jesus Christ is in the midst of us, for he has promised: "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Amen.


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4TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     Romans 14:14-23  TOP    (German, Archive)

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God,

and of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

My dear hearers.

One of the most important, necessary, and at the same time most comforting teachings of the Gospel is the doctrine of Christian freedom. Briefly stated, it is the teaching that a Christian has the freedom to do or not do anything whereby he does not infringe upon love toward God and his neighbor. In the Old Testament it was different; then a host of things, which in themselves were neither good nor evil, had been commanded or forbidden even believers; they had to do or not do merely for the sake of the Law. For example, after the Sabbath had been instituted, no one could do the least bit of work on that day; the death penalty was even commanded. Certain foods were forbidden; he who ate them was guilty of a mortal sin. People could not even touch certain things; he who did was considered unclean according to the Law and would first have to offer certain sacrifices in order to be looked on as clean. A host of ceremonies were prescribed; unless they were strictly observed, a Christian could not. have a peaceful conscience. The believers of the Old Covenant, therefore, lived as though under the toils and nets of sin, in constant and unavoidable danger of falling into sin without knowing or wanting to.

This ceased in New Testament times. Through Christ a Christian is freed of this yoke which, as the apostles say, neither they nor their fathers were able to bear. Christ therefore says: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed," Jn 8:36, and Paul cries to the Galatians: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Gal 5:1. In Christ's name ever ything which is not sin in itself is permitted a Christian, and nothing else is necessary but faith and love.

However, my friends, consider well that all this is said only of a true Christian. He who is not a true Christian also has no part in true Christian liberty but is still a servant of the Law which constantly judges, sentences, and condemns him. But who then is a true Christian? True, in our childhood all of us one became true Christians through Baptism. For by Baptism not only were all our sins washed away, but we were also reborn and our hearts became the temples of the Holy Spirit.

After his Baptism, however, who remains in this blessed state? With very few exceptions all who were baptized as children break their baptismal covenant when they grow up, come under the dominion of sin again, lose the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and fall from grace. Therefore all who were baptized as children must (as said with very, very few exceptions) first be converted just as well as the unbaptized heathen if they want to become true Christian, repent, and be born again. However, this time that happens when by the Word of God which they hear or read they arrive at a living knowledge of their sins, their corrupt heart, and their lost condition, and are heartily frightened and sorrowful over their state. He absolutely must come to the point where he is restless about his soul's salvation, where in his concern he falls upon his knees before God and says to Him from the depths of his soul (indeed with tears and many sighs): "Oh, what should I a great sinner do to be saved?"

He who has experienced nothing of this, who can not relate such a life's experience, has also not as yet returned to his Baptism, he has not reestablished his broken baptismal covenant (as far as God is concerned it is still in force), he has not even made the beginning of becoming a true Christian.


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This remains true: As all infants are physically born into the world with a cry of pain, so God's children are also spiritually born with a cry of pain. In addition to these painful experiences he must immediately have the blessed knowledge of faith in Christ, for otherwise his repentance would be merely Cain's repentance who said: "My punishment is greater than I can bear," and therefore despairs, because of the knowledge of his sins.

Yet we dare not think, that after one has come to the knowledge of his sins and his great misery, it is so easy to believe in Christ. Oh, then one must often put forth many a prayer, many a groan, many a tear, many a severe inner struggle before he can say: God be forever praised, I have found grace; my sins are forgiven! Some, indeed, struggle for weeks, months, yes, years before they can join in this word of victory from their heart. However, once a person has come to this point, he is a blessed person; though once a lost and condemned sinner, he has become a person righteous in grace; though once a slave of the Law, he has become a free man, a Christian.

Yet, my friends, we dare not think that then this Christian who has become free through Christ may use or dare use his Christian freedom in fleshly security. Absolutely not! In this way it becomes clear that a person has become a true Christian, that he has a tender conscience, which stirs not only at gross sins but also at the smallest transgression of the law of love. A Christian, therefore, uses his Christian freedom with great care, and it is this about which I now plan to speak to you.

The text. Romans 14:14-23.

In order to understand the section just read, one must know that the first Christian congregation at Rome was composed mostly of converted heathen. Whilst they could be easily convinced that through Christ they were free from the Jewish ceremonial law, the Jewish Christians, on the other hand, could be convinced only with difficulty. From their childhood they had considered it a great sin, and in this they were right, to break the Sabbath by doing physical labor, eating certain foods which had been forbidden in the Law of Moses, and the Like. Therefore, even after they had become Christians, they were very concerned about going against the Law of Moses. The result was that the oneness of the Roman Christians suffered. Whilst conscience smitten Jewish Christians were offended every time the heathen Christians no longer acted according to the Law of Moses, the Christians converted from heathenism who had a clearer knowledge of their freedom used their freedom thoughtlessly, without asking whether they thus gave offense to their fellow Jewish Christians. In our text the apostle gives instruction on this point. Upon the basis of these words let me speak to you on:

THE CARE A CHRISTIAN MUST SHOW IN USING HIS CHRISTIAN FREEDOM

1. With Reference To Himself: He Must Permit Himself Only That Which

According To God's Word He Is Certain He Is At Liberty To Do. and,

2. With Reference To His Neighbor: That He Do Nothing Whereby He Could

Offend Him.

I.

At the beginning of our text Paul writes: "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean." V.14. The apostle testifies


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that he indeed knows, that in the New Testament nothing is common and unclean, which had been called common and unclean in the Law of Moses; however, if a person did not know this but still held them common and unclean, then for him they are also common and unclean; if he nevertheless permitted himself such things, he sins against himself.

My friends, that is a most important truth. From this we see: In all our actions God does not look so much at our works, which we do, as at our heart, the attitude with which we do it. If we consider something wrong and still do it, for us it is sin, even if that which we do is a matter which is free and permitted by God. For example, if someone thought that it would be wrong to do the least bit of work on the Sabbath, the way this was actually forbidden to the Jews, or if he thought that it would be sin to eat certain kinds of meat the way several had been indeed forbidden to the Jews, before God he would sin against himself by doing this free and permitted thing.

It is tragic beyond measure if someone wants to be a Christian, hence a child of God, a saint in Christ Jesus, an elect, to allow himself many things because he sees that the great majority do them; if he thinks: So many people, even wise and respected people, yes, the whole wide world does this, or lives this way; there must be nothing wrong with it. I say that is something tragic beyond measure; for a Christian should know that according to God's Word the entire world is in desperate straits, and that according to the testimony of God's Word most people go the broad way to destruction. Therefore, is it not terrible if a person who wants to be a Christian does what the great majority does, instead cf letting God be his Judge of right and wrong, and following God's Word as his rule and guide in all things? As a Christian should he not really think this way: Since the great majority does this, it cannot be right?

My friends, to take one's cue mostly from what they permit themselves who pass for Christians is also wrong; for is that not called idolatry when one relies upon men in matters of conscience? Can not even Christian err and sin against themselves? Does not God's Word expressly say that even Christians fail in many ways?

Therefore, to allow oneself nothing about which one does not know from God's Word that it is right, even if not only the whole world, but also all the Christians in the world are accustomed to do it, that above all is showing true prudence in the use of one's Christian freedom. For not the world, nor Christians, but Holy Writ should be our rule and guide.

However, the apostle says in our text not only: "I know", but he also adds: "and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself." Therefore, if one wishes to allow himself something, one should not only superficially know or be of the good opinion that according to God's Word it is permitted, but one should be convinced of it, and that "by the Lord Jesus", that is, by the certainty of faith through the working of his grace.

In order to make this absolutely clear, the apostle adds the following at the close of our text: "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in the thing which he alloweth. And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." Vv.22.23. You see, one sins not only in matters permitted, when one erroneously considers them sinful and still does them, but also when one does not know for sure whether it is free or not and yet permits himself these things, and if one does something, even things permitted, in doubt.


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It can be no other way: He who doubts whether something is right or wrong and still does it shows that he is doing it even at the risk of sinning against God. Is that not contrary to the fear of God, which is to dwell in the heart of a Christian? Oh my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, be admonished and warned, therefore, to be prudent in the use of your Christian freedom! Whenever you want to do something do not think: I hope that this will not be wrong, so I'll do it. As Christians we must be on guard against sin as though against a colorful and often a beautifully glittering snake in the grass. We must always be concerned; our heart, our flesh and blood can deceive us only too easily, and present something as an absolutely innocent thing which according to the strict Law of the Holy God is nevertheless sin, a colorful snake which wants to sneak into our soul, in order to wound a poison our conscience. Though something may have every so good an appearance, if we have not examined it according to God's Word and found it safe through this unerring touchstone, we cannot say with Paul in our text: "I know and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus." that this which I want to do is a matter free and proper. Yes, if only the least doubt exists in our heart and conscience, whether that which we want to do is right according to God's Word and though the entire world considers it all right, we should rather wish to die than do it. For recall the terrible word of the apostle: "And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." V.23.

II.

In the use of our Christian freedom we are to be prudent not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of our neighbor; we should do nothing whereby we could offend our neighbor: and it is this of which I will speak now.

There are, my friends, many, when they know that a thing is a free matter and not sin in itself, who think that they can without further thought do it under all circumstances. If one admonishes them not to do it, they say: Do you mean to claim that it is sin? for example, dancing, card playing, going to taverns, and the like. If one must admit that it is not sin in itself, then they think that they have won and say to the one admonishing them: What? are you going to make a sin out of something that is not sin in itself?

Yet how greatly they err! They do not recall what a great difference there is between whether a thing is free in itself, and whether one dare in freedom use it under certain circumstances. Our Luther has written an entire book on the Freedom of a Christian man; it is (divided into two parts. In the first part his theme is: "a Christian is a free lord over all things and subject to no one;" in the second part he points out the principal: "A Christian is a servant in all things and subject to all." Both of these principles seem to contradict each other, and yet they stand In the most beautiful harmony to each other. Luther means to say: According to faith and his conscience and before God, a Christian is free to do or not to do those things which God has not commanded or forbidden; however, according to love, in his life and amongst people he must accommodate himself to his neighbor.

That is also the point which the apostle teaches in our text. Let us ponder his words a bit. First of all, he writes: "But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably." V.15a. Paul means to say: My dear Roman Christians, you who know that in the New Testament there are no more forbidden foods, and who without being concerned about your neighbor who is weak in knowledge, partake in his presence of all which is set before you, and if it were meat offered to idols, you appeal to your Christian freedom,· but do you not see that your weak fellow Christian is distressed and offended thereby, because they still look on it as sin? Are you not acting against love? Can that be right which is against love? Never!


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So you see, my friends, when a Christian wants to do something it is by no means enough to know that in itself it is not sin; a Christian must always ask: But do not others, do not weak Christians, consider it sin? If I were to do this, would they not be offended?

Ah, my friends, let us think deeply upon this! Also in our congregation there are different classes of Christians; one class considers many things freely permitted which another considers not permitted and wrong. What are we to do? We must listen to the faithful admonition of the apostle in our text. Let us bear in mind: If everyone would do what he considers right, perhaps without being concerned for his weak brother, our congregation would of necessity split up into factions and be destroyed.

Therefore, let no one look only on his own things but above all upon the things of his brother and the whole congregation. Let us avoid everything which is offensive to any one of us, and let everyone of us flee what could be the ruin of our whole congregation. Let that which the apostle writes in our text be deeply written into our souls: "Destroy not him with thy meat," that is, because of something free, "for whom Christ died. For meat destroy not the work of God." Vv.15b.20a. By the inconsiderate use of his Christian freedom a Christian can become guilty, that souls dearly redeemed by the blood of Christ, God's Son, will be eternally lost and that a glorious work of God for the salvation of men be destroyed.

My dear hearer, you now say: Is it not also necessary for one to hold fast to his freedom so dearly bought by Christ? then know: To be sure, that is necessary. Once when false teachers turned things permitted into things not permitted and thus wanted to rob Christians of the freedom of the Gospel, then Paul, as he himself writes, gave place to these false spirits "no not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might continue with you." Gal 2:5; but whenever the love of the weak neighbor demanded it, Paul surrendered his freedom every time, became all things to all men,to the Jew a Jew, to the Greeks a Greek, to the weak weak, etc; yes, he writes: "Wherefore? if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend." 1 Cor 8:13. However, we are not now speaking of every necessary insistence upon one's freedom in those cases,, but of the limiting of our freedom out of love toward the weak. Through this limitation we do not Surrender our freedom, but whilst we out of love do not outwardly use it at times, we cling to it the more firmly in our conscience. Paul, therefore, writes in our text: "It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak;" but he immediately adds: "Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God." Vv.21.22a. The apostle means to say: My dear Christian, if I summon you not to use your freedom before men, I do not want you to give it up! No, far from it', cling firmly to this precious treasure, but hold it by yourself, in your heart and conscience, before God.

Oh, may we all then grow daily in the knowledge of the glorious freedom which we have in Christ Jesus, a freedom which has made us lords of all things, but also grow in love which makes us servants of all and subject to all. May Jesus Christ, the King of Love and Prince of Peace grant this to us all! Amen.


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5ΤΗ SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     1 Peter 3:8-15  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.

When God created the world all creatures were in the most beautiful, the purest harmony with each other; there was not the least discord; God was the sun around which all creatures revolved; His will was the power which moved all spirits, his love the sea in which angels and men lived and moved and were united. Heaven and earth, as it were, was one temple in which everything which had breath, lauded and praised the Creator as though with one mouth. All people were one holy, closely united family, who ardently loved each other as children of one Father and were blessed in this love.

But what happened? Man fell into sin. And sin suddenly disturbed the former harmony; as it tore man from God, so it also separated man from his fellow men. With his reason the children of Adam clearly perceive that, as descendants of one human pair, they are all brothers and sisters; however, love for brother and sister disappeared from their hearts. Now that man through sin has fallen from God, his center, the bond which united him to men is also torn; now he loves only himself; and even when he thinks that he lives and strives for his brethren, he is nevertheless seeking his own ends. With cold indifference people pass each other by. Unconcern and hatred dwells in his heart instead of love. The former blessed unity in God has changed into eternal dissension, the former blessed peace into continual, unhappy warfare and strife.

Yet, my friends, God not only saw from eternity that his wonderful work of creation would be ruined by sin; God according to his infinite love also decreed from eternity to renew his ruined work, to pacify the dissension which arose through sin, and found a new kingdom of grace and concord on earth. And what his eternal love decreed, it also gloriously carried out to the eternal amazement of all reasonable creatures. Since man had torn himself free from God and could never again find Him, his center by himself, yes, would never want to unite with God, God united himself with man; yes—oh, amazing deed of divine mercy!--God himself became a man in order as a man capable of suffering to be able to atone for and erase man's rebellion against Him, and unite all who will let themselves be sought out and found by him through the working of his grace in a new congregation of pardoned children of God, united in blessed love and unity.

And behold! that happened. Through Christ, God's Son, a holy Church of redeemed people was again founded. Amongst the members of this Church the pure harmony which once existed before the fall is recreated. For in the Church God is again the one sun around whom all things move in undisturbed harmony.

There God's will is again the driving force which alone moves all hearts. There God's love is the sea in which all again live and move and are in blessed union. In the Church God has built himself a temple in which all laud and praise him again with one mouth as the Father of their Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Church a holy, closely united family has again been founded whose members ardently love each other as children of one Father and are happy in this love. Amongst the members of the Church there is no envy, no strife, no hatred, no indifference, but love, joy, peace, concord; for they have one faith and one hope. They are all the dwelling places of the same God, the same Savior the same Holy Spirit; it therefore is as though they had only one heart, only one soul. They are baptized through one Spirit to one love, and through one flesh and blood of God's Son all are given to eat and to drink to one spirit;


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they can all say to Christ: We are flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone; therefore, one heartbeat, as it were, goes through the hearts of all members of the Church. They are as though one large mirror in which not only the image of Jesus Christ is reflected in the whole mirror, but which mirrors the same and indeed the very same entire image of Jesus Christ in each piece, even if it has been shattered into a thousand pieces. Therefore we also sing of the Holy Spirit every Sunday:

Who the Church, His own creation,

Keeps in unity of spirit. (251,3)

And now perhaps some will say: Are you not picturing a Church which just doesn't exist anywhere? an ideal which has not yet been attained? I reply: No, my dear friends, the true Church actually and truly is such a kingdom of peace end harmony. According to the spirit and faith it really is and was and always will be a holy congregation of God's children whose unity sin and error never destroy. To be sure, this is also true: As long as the members of the Church are still upon earth, they are not members of the Church only; so long they are not yet completely spirit but have something in themselves whereby they still belong in part to the world; so long they still have flesh and blood, something of the Old Adam, something of the old corrupt nature with which they were born; and, of course, this makes it seem as though even in the Church no true unity, no true peace, no perfect harmony has been brought about again, just as the dross in the gold gives the appearance that gold consists of precious metal and worthless dross. Because in this life so much dross of the flesh is still to be found in the Church, which does not belong to its golden temple, the very members of the Church are constantly and earnestly exhorted and encouraged to unity and to follow after peace amongst themselves. Our today's Epistle contains such an encouragement. Let us, therefore, with heartfelt devotion hear and ponder it.

The text. 1 Peter 3:8-15.

In the Epistle just read the apostle makes two admonitions to the members of the Church; and today we will take them chiefly to heart; they are: "Finally, be ye all of one mind," v.8, and: "Let him seek peace, and ensue it." V.11. On the basis of these words may I speak to you about

THE UNITY WHICH ACCORDING TO GOD'S WORD THE CHURCH IS TO CULTIVATE AND FOLLOW

I will therefore show you:

1. Wherein This Unity Consists.

2. How Necessary The Cultivation Of It Is For The Church, and finally,

3. Which Way And By Which Means It Must Be Cultivated And Promoted By The Church.

I.

If ever there was a time when it is necessary for one to be informed especially concerning the real unity, which the Church according to God's Word is to cultivate in its midst, and after which it should follow, it is today. For union, unity, peace in the Church are indeed the watchwords, which are now upon the lips of thousands upon thousands and which compose the recurring theme of almost all religious periodicals; but what is usually the unity of which


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they nowadays speak and which: they seek? That peace in the Church which they try to establish in our day consists briefly in this: All are to cease immediately in contending for differences in faith; let everyone be unmolested in his faith, be silent about the errors of one's fellow Christians, or oppose only those very gross departures from God's Word, forget differences in faith, extend the hand of brotherhood, unite in one common church, gather everywhere in one common worship, celebrate the meal of reconciliation at the Table of the Lord, battle against gross unbelief together, work for the building of God's kingdom together, in brief, let only love be the moving force, and let it up to God whether he will also at his time want to produce unity in faith and doctrine.

It is true: This is a unity which pleases the reason and heart of natural man. This is a unity such as the world has or wants to have. But is this the one to which God's Word so often and so urgently exhorts the Church? Absolutely not! This is merely a seeming unity. This is not uniting the Church but despairing of the unity of the Church and resigning oneself to the idea that here on earth true unity cannot be established anyhow. That is not healing the wounds of the Church but merely binding the festering ulcers up so that they are not seen even though they then penetrate so much the more deeply into heart and soul. That is not laying the stones in the walls of the Church in a solid edifice but whitewashing the breaks which have arisen, so that the entire building must finally collapse most assuredly and completely.

No, according to God's Word it is an entirely different unity which the Church is to cultivate in its midst, and which it is to pursue. "Be ye all of one MIND" is what the Apostle Peter calls to all Christian at the beginning of our Epistle. Hence, the first thing in which true Christian and Church unity is to consist is being of like mind. Therefore, inwardly, in the heart, in the spirit of Christians, their unity should have its basis and its root. If all the minds of Christians are to be one, they should also have one faith in all matters, which concern their soul's salvation, like principles, like judgments, like hopes. For as the person believes, according to the principles he has, as he thinks, judges, and hopes, so is he minded. What one considers the truth in matters of faith, the others should also perceive as true; the principles which one follows in these matters should also be held by the rest; as one thinks and judges in these matters so should also the rest think and judge; what one hopes, that the rest should also hope.

And the apostle also adds: "Let him seek peace, and ensue it." From this we see: From the root of the one faith there should also grow up amongst Christians the tree of one hearty, ardent brotherly love; upon the foundation of the one truth for which they have fought there should also be built a common laboring in peace.

You see, that is the unity which the Church is to cultivate amongst itself; first it is to be one in mind, and then this unity should show itself in deeds; first it is to be one in the faith and then this unity should show itself in love; first it should be one in doctrine which it holds to be the true one in its heart and then this unity should show itself in its confession; first it is to be one in the truth of conviction and then this unity should show itself in a life of peace; first it is to be one in its hopes and then this unity should show itself in a brotherly walk toward the one goal. First the Church should be of one heart and one soul, and then it should also in this one spirit praise God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with one mouth; then all members should extend the hand of fellowship to each other as members of one living body and at the same time strive against the common foe in one battle array.


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II.

Now that we have seen in what this unity consists, which according to God's Word the Church is to cultivate, let us secondly ponder how necessary the cultivation of this unity is for the Church.

The first and chief reason is because this is God's clear, express, holy will. God's exhortations to cultivate it are almost as many as there are pages in the Bible. Where would I stop, if I would want to present to you only the clearest of God's exhortations to his Church to be one in faith and love? Not only does Peter in our text cry clearly to Christians: "Be ye all of one mind," but the Apostle Paul also writes to the Corinthians: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." 1 Cor 1:10. He also writes to the Ephesians: "Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Eph 4:3-6. Finally this apostle with great ardent zeal writes to the Philippians: "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." Phil 2:1.2. How could the Holy Spirit have exhorted his dear Church in a more friendly and urgent manner to this oneness than he has done in the words of his sanctified instruments!

And in how friendly and urgent a way the Lord himself lays this command upon the hearts of his own! He says: "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Jn 13:34.35. However, the Lord did not let the matter rest with this exhortation. When he was about to leave his followers according to his visible presente and go to the Father, he once more turned in an ardent high priestly prayer to his Father and said, after he had prayed for his apostles: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." Jn 17:20.21. Oh, for what a holy and blessed fellowship and unity for his own did Christ according to these words beseech his heavenly Father, since they were to have their example in the unity in which he lives with his Father! If there were, therefore, no other reason for Christians to cultivate unity amongst themselves than this divine exhortation, how necessary its cultivation must appear to us!

Yet, my friends, I cannot help pointing out to you at least one thing which shows how necessary it is for the Church to cultivate unity and peace amongst itself; it is the infinite harm which comes from the lack of unity amongst Christians and the inexpressible blessing which the unity of Christians always brings.

If Christians do not cultivate unity in doctrine and life in their midst, if they let their flesh and blood induce them to watch calmly when schisms arise, then the lack of unity increases from day to day. For since God does not give his gifts to one Christian or one congregation but distributes them, the one Christian will be hindered from serving the other Christians and the one congregation the other congregations with their gifts through the rift which arises. The result is that individual opinions and errors increase, quar-


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rels become more bitter, the confusion greater; false judgments of condemnation more biting, and the sects more in number.

Oh, how many have then lost the foundation of their faith upon which it had been built! Because of strife with the brethren, how many forget the strife against their flesh and blood! And alas, the poor world! When it sees how disunited Christians themselves are, how much comfort and relief they find for rejecting the Christian faith! How many are offended and kept away from the faith which otherwise would have won them! Who, for example, can count the souls who perished because of the strife which Zwingli started against the doctrines of the holy sacraments, and as a result of which churches of whole countries separated from those with whom they at first were one in faith and love! Who can count the souls who are offended at the condition of Christendom now torn into hundreds of sects, let themselves be prevented from seeking the truth, and, therefore, remain in their unbelief and are lost forever! How can a person some day answer God if he and others are guilty of this disunity and dismemberment of the Church! Oh, how necessary it, therefore, is that the Church with the most earnest concern, with the most earnest zeal cultivates this unity and peace in its midst!

This becomes just as clear from the blessings which the unity of Christians always brings. For if the Church is one in doctrine and life, in faith and in love, the members exchange their gifts and knowledge with one another; they themselves grow rich in knowledge, in strength of faith, in ardor of love, in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and in a living hope; their foundation goes down deeper, their edifice grows in size and glory, and is more and more beautifully adorned with the various gifts of the Spirit. Then they also support the careful education of competent shepherds and warriors, the pursuit of the work of the conversion of those who still sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and the struggle against the foes of the truth. And oh, how many who would have been offended by the disunity of Christians will be enticed to join the Church by their oneness in the truth and by their arder in brotherly love, and be won by the Word! When the first Christian Church had such a blessed oneness, we read not only concerning the Church itself: "They were edified; and walked in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost," Acts 9:31, but even in relation to those who were outside we read: "They had favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:47.

Satan knows very well what power the Church has when it is united, and how not only she herself flourishes and brings forth fruit, but also how invincible she is against her foes, yes, constantly conquers the foe and constantly extends her borders; it, therefore, is Satan's most important and dangerous cunning which he uses to injure the Church by destroying its unity and trying to sow discord amongst her members.

And alas! how easily the foe succeeds! How soon the holy bond which united the Christians was torn! How quickly the little spark of disunity glowing amongst the ashes was blown into a bright flame, which seized and destroyed whole congregations, yes, whole denominations! How necessary it, therefore, is that the Church carefully cultivate unity in its midst, yes, pursue it as a precious treasure!!

III.

Permit me now to add a few remarks upon the way and the means this unity must be cultivated and promoted by the Church.

It must be noted that only he shares in the oneness of the Church and


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can promote it to his salvation who himself is one with the Lord of the Church, hence has turned to Christ from his heart. Therefore, he who outwardly joins the Church, but whose heart still clings to the world, or is still under the dominion of a sin and does not yet have that living faith, which regenerates, sanctifies, and cleanses the heart, does not have reason so much for asking what he must do to promote and cultivate the unity of the Church, as for asking what he must do to become an active members of the Church, a true Christian. God's Word gives us the answer: Repent and believe the Lord Jesus Christ; learn to become frightened over sin, and hunger and thirst for grace; then Christ will enter in; then you will become a true Christian and an active member of his true Church.

However, he who already is a true Christian will recognize that he has the duty of working to cause the whole Church to grow in the unity of faith and love. If this is to take place, a Christian dare not be satisfied with having learned only enough from God's Word as is absolutely necessary for his salvation. In general, God is not only willing that his Christians do not remain children in knowledge who let themselves be blown about by every wind of doctrine, but if the Church is to remain united, it is also necessary that every Christian diligently and daily, with prayer and great earnestness, search in God's Word and in the writings of enlightened teachers, hear the public preaching with great attention, and in general zealously use all the means which have been commanded to grow in the saving knowledge, attain an experienced understanding for differentiating between good and evil, and judging between truth and error. True, it is mostly the minister's duty to search day and night in the Law of the Lord, to decide doctrine, and to reject error, as we read in the last prophet, Malachi: "The priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts." Mai 2:7; however, should the Church actually grow in unity of faith and love it is not at all enough that only the public teacher be grounded in God's Word; as much as is possible, the entire congregation must stand there as one man as witnesses for the truth and fighters against error. The moment laymen became lukewarm and indolent in the search for the truth and let the judgment of doctrine up to their ministers, the unity of the Church is already at an end; then we can be certain that God will soon remove the lamp from its stand and allow false teachers to come, who in one year quickly ruin and tear down what took many years and much labor on the part of faithful teachers to build up. Come, then, my dear hearers, recognize your calling; descend yourself into the mine of God's Word and amid humble searchings and prayers bring to the surface the gold of truth, so that you may also sit in judgment over truth and error, and be able to stand in the breach in the day of strife.

However, merely seeking for greater knowledge is not enough. Should the unity of the Church be preserved, advanced, and nourished, it is also necessary that everyone watch over his own heart, so that it does not exalt itself in pride but remain humble and become ever more humble, so that he always shows that he is ready to recognize his error, confess and let go of it, and give all honor to the truth and adhere to it, no matter who may preach it to him. Church history teaches that most errors in the Church did not rise and increase because they did not know better, but because they were too proud to admit the error which was shown them and yield to the truth of his opponent. That is why St. Augustine has said: "Pride is the mother of all heresy." A humble heart open to the truth is therefore the second requisite in cultivating and promoting peace in the Church.

The third and last is that love, which goes after the erring and leaves no means untried to turn him from the error of his way. Christians dare not be


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satisfied with themselves having known the truth and knowing how to guard themselves against current errors; but love toward erring souls must drive them by every means at their command, be it by letter or by word, be it by exhortations and prayers or by warnings and reprimands, to fight against error wherever it is found and let the truth shine and introduce it whenever the opportunity presents itself. What a wonderful example we have in our fathers! How they labored for the spread of the truth and fought to conquer error! How they by conferences and writings, sometimes in love, sometimes earnestly, sought to preserve and fight for the treasure of the oneness of the faith! True, because of their faithful struggles they were slandered by many thousands as wretched quarrelsome persons; yet what inexpressible blessings God gave their labor and conflict! Next to God millions thank them and their faithful love for their rescue from ruinous error and for the treasure of the pure truth. Who can count up the blessings which have come to Christendom from their polemical writings and devotional books, and especially from the church confessions written by them, and which still flows forth to this hour after they have long since rested from their works in their graves?

Therefore, my dear hearers, let us follow them as true sons and daughters. God has given also us the light of his pure Word; oh, therefore, let us leave nothing untried so that this light which shines for us may shine also for others; that this pound for salvation entrusted to us may gain others; and even though here we may be reviled as heartless squabblers and disturbers of the peace, may we there be found some day as faithful stewards and enter into our Lord's joy and receive the crown!

Yet my dear brothers and sisters, so that this mind may live in your hearts, you have clearly shown these days by being ready to give your Pastor and me a month's leave of absence, so that we may again strengthen the unity of our Church with the troubled Church of our old homeland; we will offer our brethren there some of the spiritual gifts which God has granted us, and our Church here will also receive a blessing from across the sea.

As great as my joy now is that God has guided your heart through his Holy Spirit to promote this great, holy work, just so anxious am I when I think that I, the poorest and most miserable, should be your messenger. However, two things comfort me and fill me with courage and hope in the midst of anxiety and fear: First, that after earnest prayer to God all you congregations closely united with us have called me as your messenger; for I do not doubt for a moment that the call of a Christian congregation is not a human call, but the call of God himself. If God calls me, how dare I be fainthearted? To him I will offer my mouth, to him my heart, to him my body and life. May he do with me as pleases him.

The second thing which fills me with comfort and hope is the confidence that your prayers will accompany me. If I am ever so unskilled, you will get wisdom for me by your prayers; if I am ever so fainthearted, you will give me courage and joy with prayer; if I am ever so weak and fickle, you will get power and steadfastness for me by prayer; if I am ever so unworthy, you will cry with me for grace; if I am ever so ineffectual and despondent, you will not cease lying before God with me and not let him go until he bless me and bring me and my dear fellow emissaries back to you with a joyous message.

But if God has decreed otherwise; if God has decreed that today I stand before you for the last time and preach God's Word to you with stammering tongue, his will be done; and if my poor mortal body should find its grave in the depths of the sea, I am confident that through the grace of my Jesus my soul will find eternal rest in the bosom of my heavenly Father.

Therefore, in conclusion, let me make this exhortation in the name of


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my Lord: You, to whom I have so often preached the Lord Jesus and who have not yet gone to him in order to find rest for your souls in him, go hurriedly to him; I exhort you, I beseech you with tears, perhaps for the last time. And you who have already sought and found refuge under his gracious wings, permit me as your most insignificant fellow Christian say once more to you today in the name of my Lord: Remain with him, your faithful Savior; remain in his grace, remain with his Word and in his truth, remain with his Church, remain in his love; then, be it here or in eternity we will certainly see each other again in inexpressible joy.

May Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Mary, our Lord and Savior, the King of Truth and Prince of Peace, beloved and praised here in time and hereafter from eternity to eternity, grant that to us all. Amen.

6TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY      Luke 7:1-7  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.

As long as there have been people on earth who believed in God, or a Church, so long has it also been the custom to erect small or large, simple or richly decorated edifices for the purposes of joint public worship. Yes, in Holy Writ we expressly read that after the waters of the flood had run off Noah was the first to have built an altar to the Lord. But since we are told that even the first sons of Adam, Cain and Abel, sacrificed, there can be no doubt that they had also erected altars on which they offered their sacrifice, and at which they conducted their worship with prayer and preaching. While up to the time of Enoch only family worship had been customary, we read right after the birth of Adam's first grandson from the pious generation of Seth: "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord." Gen 4:26b. Undoubtedly this was to show that public worship, when the members of several families gathered, also began about this time. Then we hear that not only Noah but that also Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob built altars at which they preached the name of the Lord. These first religious altars may have been of very simple construction; their surroundings perhaps may not have been enclosed with walls. Perhaps, as Luther supposes, they were protected from the burning rays of the sun and bad weather by only an awning. Yet we can see this much from these hints of Moses, that even in the early age of the human race believers had their places for religious gatherings.

However, when God later chose a special sanctified people to himself from the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he himself also ordained that it should have a holy place, where religion should be fostered and,above all, the sacrifices brought to him. And at first (as long as the Israelites were still wandering about) his house should be the tabernacle, covered and surrounded with merely a tent, in order that it with all its appurtanences could be carried from place to place. However, after the chosen people had not only entered the promised land of Canaa, but had also achieved complete control and


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rest, they had to erect the great splendid temple at Jerusalem. This temple had a very special use. It should not be merely a religious meeting house as our churches are, but a site more holy than others; here God wanted to reveal himself especially to his people; it was to be a visible type of the holy Christian Church outside of which there is no salvation. This edifice should therefore be the only temple in the whole land, the only site for the sacrifices of God's people and the celebration of the Festivals of Easter, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.

Yet the tabernacle and the temple were in no way to be the only places for joint worship. We read, e.g., in the "74th Psalm that even at David's time there were God's "congregations" in addition to the sanctuary of the tabernacle. And in Palestine at the time of Christ there were a great number of such congregations in addition to the temple at Jerusalem. At that time they had the name synagogues, which was translated in the German Bible with the word "schools", really meaning as much as meeting houses. Not only did every city and almost every Jewish community living in foreign countries have such a synagogue or religious meeting place, but the larger cities often had more of them. In order to distinguish them from private dwellings, it was customary to build them in the more elevated sections of the city, give them a more prominent character over the residences, and erect a tall shaft on the peak of the roof visible a great distance. An elevated platform composed the rearmost section of the synagogue.  This contained the holy enclosure with the Biblical scrolls and the teacher's chair from which the elder of the synagogue read and explained God's Word, led the prayers and hymns, and finally bestowed the Aaronic benediction upon the people. We, therefore, read that whenever the Lord entered a city, especially on the Sabbath, he as a rule immediately visited the synagogue of the city and read and explained the Bible to the congregation. What the Apostle James says according to Acts 15 agrees with this: "Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day." Acts 15:21,

Hence, there can be no doubt: From the very beginning until the time of Christ and the apostles the Church of God had its religious meeting houses or churches.

And since today is the Sunday in which 18 years ago this little church, now almost dilapidated, our Immanuel, was dedicated, and since you, dear brethren, are in the act of laying the cornerstone of a new church, I plan today for your encouragement to answer the question from God's Word: Why should Christians

willingly and joyfully offer their sacrifices, that houses of God be built and pleasingly decorated? I base my remarks on what is recorded in

The text: Luke 7:1-7.

The words just read tell us of a heathen centurion at Capernaum, who had built a school or synagogue for the Jews there; as we have already heard, this must be understood not as a school for children, but rather a church, a house of God, wherein public worship would be held on the Sabbath Day. At the same time we are also told first of all of the pious motives the centurion had in doing this, and, on the other hand, how wrongly the elders of the Jews used his work. Accordingly, permit me today to answer the question

WHY CHRISTIANS WILLINGLY AND JOYFULLY BRING SACRIFICES THAT CHURCHES BE BUILT AND BEAUTIFULLY DECORATED

I will show you two things:

1. What Our Motives Dare Not Be, and

2. What Should Make Us Willing And Joyful.


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God, the Lord of heaven and earth, you do not live in temples made with hands; you will not be taken care of by the hands of men as one who needs someone else. We dwellers of dust need a place where together we can serve you, hear your Word, call upon you, praise and glorify you. Therefore, we pray, bestow upon us always in this land of our earthly wanderings such holy and blessed places; but above all, give us the proper understanding whenever we wish to erect an altar to you, that you can come to us there and bless us. Hear us for the sake of your dear Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

I.

There have been and there still are enthusiasts who reject all building and external decorations on a church building. That it is not wrong in itself for Christians of the New Testament times to build churches needs no proof.

To be sure, it is true that we Christians have no express command from God to build churches, as the Jews had the express command to build a temple. The time of the prototype is past; our New Testament temple is the invisible, holy, Christian Church whose walls span the whole world and in which we have free access through the open curtain to Christ, the true throne of grace, in the most holy of the heavens. But even as the believers of the Old Covenant faced not only the necessity but had also the freedom to erect houses of prayer and worship in addition to the tabernacle and the temple, so do we.

Moreover, it is true: Church history teaches that the Christians of the first century had no church, i.e., houses dedicated alone to public worship; they gathered for this purpose partly in private homes, in the larger dining halls and its balconies, partly under the open sky, in remote cemeteries, in woods, caves, yes, e.g., in Rome, even in the gloomy subterranean catacombs. Because the first Christians had no temples like the heathen, they were considered atheists and were persecuted as such.

But the first Christians were not without church buildings because they had considered the erection and building of them a sin, but because the intolerance and cruelty of the tyrants and the fury of the heathenish rabble did not allow it. Whoever called himself a Christian, in him the word of the Lord was fulfilled in the highest sense: "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." Mt 10:16. Upon the confession: I am a Christian, usually followed a bloody persecution with a painful death. The greatest grace Christians expected from the heathen world was merely letting them live; how could they, therefore, erect church which shone far and wide? They thanked God if they found merely a corner, where unseen and undisturbed they could hear God's Word together and could sing their hymns of praise to Christ. In the middle of the 3rd century Bishop Dionysius of Alexandria writes of the persecutors of that time: "They had chased us out of the city. But we still held our festival days. Every place of tribulation, the field, the desert, the ships, the stall, the prison had to serve as our gathering places instead of the temple."

That those Christians did not consider the erecting of a church a sin we see from the fact that when in the middle of the 3rd century they were tolerated for almost 40 years, they immediately began to build churches, which in the last, the Diocletian, persecution were again torn down by the persecutors throughout the whole Roman Empire, leveled to the ground, and more than once, even burned with the Christians still gathered inside; but when thereafter Caesar Constantine himself became a Christian, they were again rebuilt the more splendidly.

However, though it is certain that to erect churches and also beautiful and great churches is a matter of the free will and sinless in itself, it


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can also become a sin, yes, an abomination before God, if this is done from false, impure, and ungodly motives.

We have an example of this in our text. The centurion at Capernaum had erected a church for the Jews there; when he now begged that the Lord should heal his sick servant, the elders of the Jews Said to Christ: "He was WORTHY for whom he should do this." v.4; they stated as the reason for his alleged worthiness that out of his own means he had built them a church. Hence, these elders of the church considered the erecting of a church as meritorious, for which sake the centurion was worthy of having Christ hear and help him.

There you have the motive which turns the building of a church from a good thing into an evil work, yes, into an abomination in God's eyes! This absolutely reprehensible motive is self-righteousness. If the centurion of Capernaum had actually built a church for the Jews because he thought that thereby he would be worthy before God of that which he asked, he would have rather become completely unworthy and incapable of any of the grace and benefits of Christ.

Whoever for a self-righteous reason gives for the building of a church, thinking that he merits something in God's eyes, perhaps hoping to make amends for many of his sins, intending as we are accustomed to say, to build a place for for himself in heaven, merely piles up his sins and only builds a place in hell. In so doing he denies Christ who alone has earned the forgiveness of sins and heaven for us.

Moreover, he who for a self-righteous reason gives for the building of a church, seeking praise from God or man, builds as much as is in him, not a church, not a house of God in which God's honor should dwell, but a heathen temple in which he himself is the idol to whom he prays. Only when we give all honor to God alone do we make him our God.

Moreover, he who for a self-righteous reason gives for the building of a church, proposing to show God himself a kindness and therefore considering the building of a house of God as a God-pleasing holy work, makes God himself an idol, who as the gods of the heathen needs a temple as his dwelling, and, therefore, prays not to God but to the self-made idol of his heart. God himself says: "Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool; what house will ye build me? saith the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Hath not my hands made all these things?" Acts 7:49.50,

Finally, he who for a self-righteous reason gives for the building of a church rather than to his poor neighbor, and, therefore, lets the poor starve, considering the building of a church as a holier and more meritorious work, for which he expects a greater blessing of God in time and eternity, does not serve God but the devil; for God, who does not need us, wants to have himself served only in our neighbor. He says: "I will have mercy and not sacrifice." Mt 9:13.

Here is the reason why Luther in his day so often reprimanded and condemned the great zeal of that time in building churches. Luther did this not because he considered building itself a sin, but because churches were built without needing them, merely out of self-righteousness, in order to buy indulgences by it, to purchase freedom from that alleged purgatory, to merit heaven for oneself, and therefore, in order to receive these "blessings"; the poor, the living temples of God, were allowed to starve.

Oh my friends, let this not be your intention; pray God that he himself will give you the true understanding for this work in which you are engaged.


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In the second place permit me to show you the correct idea, which should make us Christians willing and glad to bring sacrifices so that churches are built and beautifully decorated.

II.

An example is the pious centurion at Capernaum who is mentioned in our text. However, he did not suppose that through the offering which he had brought for the erection of a church in the city of Capernaum, he had made himself worthy of Christ's grace and help. The Jewish elders had said to Christ: "He was worthy for whom he should do this." v.4; but he himself says to Christ: "Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am NOT worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof; wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee." V.6.7.

Now what had moved him to build a synagogue for the Jews? The elders of the Jews themselves had mentioned it; they said: "He loveth our nation, and hath built us a synagogue." V.5. We see from this that this heathen centurion was not one of those heathen who at that time usually were filled with hatred and proud contempt over against the Jews. When he had been sent by Caesar with his garrison to Capernaum, God had provided him with the opportunity of learning to know the true religion from the writings of Moses and the prophets. And the centurion did not neglect this opportunity. Through the Word of God, which he learned to know here, he had come to a living faith and as soon as this happened, his heart was also filled with an inner love toward his new religious friends. With sorrow he, therefore, saw that the inhabitants of Capernaum either had no synagogue, or an almost dilapidated one, so that God's Word even on the Sabbath did not have full course. And since the inhabitants of Capernaum were too greedy or too indifferent to build a synagogue for themselves, this newly converted heathen in the fire of his first love interested himself in this matter and sacrificed perhaps all his possessions to build it.

There you see the proper motives for such a work! It is above all love toward one's neighbor, which has sprung from a living faith. Yes, my friends, as long as a person is still without faith and love, as long as he is still unconverted, so long are all his offerings for the building of a church, and if it were thousands and hundreds of thousands, not good works but sin. Only they are true builders of churches who, because they themselves had experienced the saving and converting power of the Gospel in their hearts, now think:

Oh that all men would have the opportunity to hear the precious Word of God! How many would come to the knowledge of his misery and the grace of God as I, a poor sinner, did! Well, then, I will gladly give that a church may be built, in which the pure Word of God which alone saves will be preached and the unadulterated, gracious, most holy Sacraments administered.

Oh my friends, he who for this reason willing and joyfully brings a gift, that a church can be built, does a precious blessed work. Now when we hear almost daily that here and there a new church is built, we suppose that outwardly this is merely a little thing. But there is no church in which God's Word is preached in its truth and purity and the holy Sacraments truly administered, which does not each Sunday become a gate to heaven for some soul. The Word according to God's promise does not return completely void, but it accomplishes the purpose for which God sent it. Therefore, whenever a church is built for this purpose, the kingdom of grace and glory opens again to hundreds and thousands. And there are always several who enter through these open gates, find grace, become true Christians, and are saved. The dedication of each in which the means of grace are correctly dispensed is, therefore, always a matter of


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great importance, of eternal blessed meaning.

Therefore, blessed are all who in love to their neighbor contribute for this purpose. Their gifts, little though they may be, God writes in his book, and because they have done it freely out of love without asking for any reward, they will some day receive an unexpected, glorious reward of grace. And what they loaned God, they will again receive with inexpressible, rich interest in eternal life. They say with the centurion of Capernaum from their hearts: "Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof," v.6b, but Christ sees their faith active through love end considers it so precious and worthy that he does not only enter under the roof of their hearts here on this world, but they will also be received some day out of grace under the roof of his heavenly mansions. Then the pious and generous rich will see what a great blessing of God also their earthly riches were for them.

However, my friends, when the elders of the Jews gave the testimonial of the centurion in our text, that he had built them a synagogue because he loved their people, they showed, that not only the love of his neighbor but also love of God's Word was the motive for this work of love. The centurion had become so fond of the Jewish people, because he had found the Word of God among them; this he treasured more highly than all the treasures of the world.

There you have the second correct reason why we Christians should willingly and joyfully bring offerings that churches can be built, and not only built but also beautifully decorated. It is, namely, the love of God's Word.

It is true: If beautiful, great, and magnificent churches are built out öf pride, it is not the beautifying of a church, but the abomination of desolation in holy places. But if churches are more beautifully decorated than one's houses, because one wishes to indicate that one is not only not ashamed of God's Word before the world, but also considers it his greatest treasure on earth and the church where this Word resounds his dearest place on earth, such a beautiful, great church is a shining memorial in the city, which announces to all the world, that here live people who still believe in God and his Word, and who still serve him joyfully. Yes, as It brings shame upon Christians when their dwellings are palaces but their churches are merely dilapidated, shabby huts, so it, on the other hand, brings honor upon Christians when as their dearest place the house dedicated by them for God towers majestically toward heaven .above all their earthly huts.

So my dear friends, joyfully continue the building of your new church. Let love toward your neighbor be the reason for which this edifice is erected, and the love of God's Word decorate it in the most beautiful manner. The Lord be friendly and further the work of your hands; yes, the work of your hands may he prosper. Amen.


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7ΤΗ SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     Romans 6:19-23  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

Among the many kinds of dangers and temptations surrounding Christians, one of the greatest and strongest is the evil example of the children of this world.

We see how for the most part the children of the world prosper in spite of their sinful life; we see how the children of the world generally hasten from one delight to the next, from one pleasure to the next; we see how those who are unconcerned about God and his will, are usually loved and honored in the world; we see how those who are not conscientious in their dealings and life but accept every profit, even the sinful kind, generally among to something, become rich and prosperous; this enticing appearance of earthly good fortune which surrounds the children of the world, at first blinds not a few, and finally deceives and seduces them to fall from their piety. Alas, many a one has been for a time true to his God and Savior in faith and life; however, when with lascivious eyes he meditated upon the apparent happiness of the worldling, as Eve did the forbidden tree, he said to himself: Why should I plague myself by being pious? see, all these people also want to be saved and still enjoy the world; and God even lets them prosper; I don't intend to be a fool any longer!

It is especially the youth for whom the glory of the world has such a terrible seductive charm; many a young man and woman educated as a Christian, who had the Lord Jesus in their hearts, fell immediately before they had a chance to learn to know the enchanting glory of the world, when they went out into the world and tasted the sweet poison of worldly pleasure. Thus Paul writes of one young Christian of his times named Demas, who at first had walked most piously and had wanted to be Paul's helper: "Demas hath forsakes me, having loved this present world." 2 Tim 4:10.

That is why John beseeches and admonishes his spiritual children: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." 1 Jn 2:15-17. Christ our Lord himself warns even more earnestly against the alluring example of the world when he exclaims: "Woe to the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Mt 18:7.6.

Yet we dare not imagine that the evil example of the world is such a powerful cord for temptation that by God's grace and power a Christian could not tear it, resist the temptation, and gain the victory. Oh, no! Countless numbers in the very midst of the severest temptations by the world have by the power of faith remained faithful to their God. Thus Lot with his family was in the most pressing danger of apostasy ip the rich but godless and seductive city of Sodom; yet he remained faithful to his God. Joseph was in great danger of being led from the path of piety while in the company of his godless brothers and


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In the temptations by Potiphar's unchaste wife; yet Joseph stood as firm as a hero and said: "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" Gen 39:9. At the idolatrous, sensual Egyptian court where he had been educated, Moses was in great danger of falling from the religion of his fathers and be ashamed of his despised Israelite brethren according to the flesh and faith; yet in the Epistle to the Hebrews we read: "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." Heb 11:24-26.

Friends, a God-fearing person, a true Christian, can, however, not only conquer the evil example of the sinful world; he can even turn this evil example into good for himself and find in it an impulse to serve his God so much the more zealously. St. Paul shows us this in the Epistle for this Sunday. Let us, therefore, ponder how a Christian converts the poison of the world's evil example into medicine for his soul.

The text. Romans 6:19-23.

After the apostle in the foregoing verses had shown that Christians could not remain in sin, because they are baptized into Christ's death in order to die with Christ to sin, and because they had received God's grace which could not exist with the dominion of sin, the apostle says in our text: "I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh." V.19. And what is the idea with which Paul comes to the assistance of the Roman Christians with these words? He shows them that even in their former life of sin Christians find a strong incitement to be zealous in their Christianity. Therefore, permit me to present to you:

THE NATURE OF THE SERVICE WHICH WORLDLINGS GIVE SIN, A STRONG INDUCEMENT FOR CHRISTIANS TO SERVE HOLINESS ZEALOUSLY

We ponder:

1. The Nature Of The Worldling's Service Of Sin, and

2. In How Far It Induces Christians To Serve Holiness Most Zealously.

Oh Lord Jesus Christ, from a whole heart the world serves sin, its greatest enemy, making them wretched for time and for eternity, and should we serve your our God and Savior who saves us in time and in eternity with only half a heart? No, though the world may willingly sell itself to sin, you have purchased us; therefore, we also want to be yours, completely yours, belong to your completely, live, suffer, and die completely yours. Oh, assist us with your power, for we are weak and, alas, so changeable. To this end bless in us all this present, presentation from your holy Word. Hear us for the sake of your faithfulness. Amen! Amen!

I.

My friends, the kingdom of sin is the greatest kingdom in the world, for it encompasses the entire world. No king, no emperor has ever had so many and such important subjects as sin. Not only are all people born into the kingdom of sin, not only do also the common people serve sin throughout their entire life, but almost all kings, emperors, lords, the mighty, the great, the rich, the learned, and the wise serve this world. However, these slaves of sin serve it


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in such a way, that the apostle knew he could present to the Roman Christians in our text as an example for the. service of holiness none more provocative or easily understood than the service they had rendered sin when they themselves were still children of the world.

How does the apostle describe the service of sin? He writes: "For as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death." Vv.19-21.

There are chiefly four things which the apostle says about the sinful service of the worldly; 1) it is not forced upon him but is a most freewilling one, for he says that before their conversion even the Roman Christians "had yielded your members servants to uncleanness;" 2) he says that the service of sin is also a most zealous and tireless service because he adds: "To iniquity unto iniquity;" 3) he says that this sinful service is also a most oppressive, bitter service; connected with it is ignominy and the greatest sacrifices, for he holds before the Romans that then they were completely "the servants of sin," slaves and captives and "free from righteousness," the "fruit" of their service of sin was of such a nature that now they must be "ashamed" of it; finally, 4) he says that this sinful service has a most wretched, shameful reward, for "the end of those things is death," that is, eternal damnation.

And so it is, my friends, a more faithful and vivid picture of the true nature of the service of sin there cannot be than the one, which the apostle by inspiration of the Holy Ghost has sketched in these few strokes.

As long as a person has not yet turned to God from his heart, he first of all serves sin, not as one compelled to do so but willingly. He is a servant of sin, a slave, who does not hate his mistress sin, but loves it from his heart. He is driven to the service of sin more by his heart and inner inclination than by outward constraint. Freely, joyously the empty-headed young man, the empty- headed young woman, the empty-headed wife serves vanity. Freely, joyously the greedy serve mammon, the sensual lust, the drunkard immoderation in drinking intoxicating drink; freely, joyously the haughty serve ambition, the wrathful his vengeance, the slanderer his itch to slander. It is not a burdensome but a pleasurable thing, not a bitter but a sweet thing to be able to serve all these their sins, especially their pet sins.

Therefore, the slaves of sin also serve sin not slothfully and indolently but in its service they are most zealous and tireless. He who has been conquered by sin is compelled to practise it in his heart day and night. Therefore, whenever the slave of sin finds the chance to indulge in his sin, he seizes the opportunity without taking much thought, and he considers the day lost in which he could not serve his pet sin.

However, note this especially; even though the service of the slaves of sin is such a bitter, oppressive, and ignominious one, they joyfully serve it and bring any sacrifice they must to serve sin. This is incomprehensible and still it is true. Sin is the most brutal tyrant; it makes its servants the most unhappy slaves; it is an evil worm which eats its way into their body and life, into their heart and conscience; its fruit is unhappiness, groans, remorse, and tears -- and yet it is served!

In order to be able to indulge in his sin the sensual person sacrifices the health of his body as well as peace of soul, and with an entire unhappy


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life often purchases only one hour of sinful joy. In order to be able to serve his sin, the drunkard likewise sacrifices his health and often purchases his animal pleasures with the ruin of his family's happiness, with the loss of his good name, yes, with the deepest disgrace and contempt. In order to be able to serve his sin, the avaricious enjoys no recreation and frets and slaves day and night; either he goes deeper and deeper into burdensome dangerous debts, or amid groans he piles up his money, purchases one house after the other, one lot and plot of ground upon another until he finally dies without having himself enjoyed something of it, leaving to laughing heirs the fruits of his worrying and grieving. In order to serve his sin the thief and cheat lead a more miserable life than the poorest beggar; when others, even the beggar, lay down to rest, the thief denies himself sleep; he scurries about in darkness and storm, in frost and heat, always on edge lest he be recognized and justly punished, which often overtakes him and robs him of his freedom and, indeed, of his life by the most disgraceful death of all. In short, no slave of the most inhuman master lives in such a wretched slavery as do the servants and slaves of sin.

And to what end does the person thus serve sin? Is its reward in the end so glorious that it richly sweetens and outweighs all the pains of service? Alas, no! The most fearful thing in the service of sin is the pay which the sinner receives for his bitter service. For what are the wages of sin? They are, as the apostle says in our text, "death," namely, eternal death or damnation. Oh, what infamous pay! oh, what bitter fruit! oh, what a fearful end!

If during his earthly life, in order to serve sin faithfully, a person has sacrificed the health of his body, the rest and happiness of his life, the peace of his conscience, his good name, in short everything of value in this life, and finally there comes the eventide of life, the hour of his death, indeed, sin does not set its slave free without giving him its reward. No, but the pay which it gives him is this: Upon his deathbed sin torments the sinner mostly with a foretaste of hell; it pictures to him how, because he served it, he has impudently transgressed God's eternal Law, angered and insulted the holy God, and burdened himself with God's curse and wrath; and if the sinner would want to turn to God even now, it calls, grinning at him: It is too late! and thus at the very gates of eternity sin usually hurls its slave into the hell of despair. And finally, when the poor, alarmed soul of the slave of sin has torn itself from a body covered with the cold sweat of death, then sin accompanies the soul, which has served it upon earth, to the throne of the most holy God and terrible Judge and there accuses it, relates all the evil which the person has practised in his life, all his evil thoughts and desires, all his evil words and attitudes, all his evil works and deeds.

And alas! the time of grace, the time for repentance and conversion has then flown by! In vain are all the prayers and groans and tears of the slave of sin. God who is righteous pronounces the sentence of damnation and eternal death upon him, and thus sin finally takes it pallid, trembling slave, drags him away from the presence of God, hurls him into outer darkness, where there is howling and gnashing of teeth, and finally hurls him down into the sea of fire, where the smoke of his torment ascends forever and ever, where his worm does not die and his fire is not quenched.

That is the true picture which the apostle sketches of the service which the worldling renders sin; now let us in the second place also ponder in what way the nature of this sinful service should arouse Christians to serve righteousness most zealously.

II.

After the apostle admonishes the Christians at Rome in our text


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to give themselves just as willingly and zealously to the service of righteousness as they had once given themselves to the service of sin, he also adds the basis for his admonition and says: "For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Vv.20-23. The apostle has two reasons which he uses to support his admonition: First, he means to say, because the service of sin is such a bitter and disgraceful one, and yet the children of the world serve sin so willingly and zealously, so Christians should serve righteousness even more willingly and zealously, since this service is such a blessed and honorable one; and secondly, because the service of sin has such a terrible end and yet the children of the world serve sin so faithfully, so Christians should serve righteousness even more faithfully since this service is always crowned with the most glorious end.

And must we not agree with the apostle? Is there not strong encouragement in the nature of the world's service of sin for the Christian to serve righteousness zealously and ever more zealously?

Many a Christian is often assailed with the thought, to be a Christian is a most depressing business; if one wants to be a Christian, one must always struggle against sin, watch, and pray, and follow after sanctification, and in addition put up with mockery, ridicule, and shame; a worldling, on the other hand, couldn't have it better. Asaph was thus assailed; he says in Psalm 73: "As for me, my feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day

long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning." Ps 73:2.3.13.14.

No better advice can be given those Christians who likewise are tempted than to examine more closely the children of the world and their service. Oh, yes, you Christians, who in the hour of temptation consider the children of the world more fortunate than you, take a good look at them. Must not the children of the world serve as well as you? And which master do they serve? The most revolting of all, sin, this disgraceful tyrant, this spawn of Satan, this mother of all the misery in the world. And you? You serve the kindest Lord of all; you serve God, the Highest Good, the Fount of all blessedness, the Source of all treasures. Now if the world serves its disgraceful lord so zealously, should you not, since you must serve anyhow, serve your most kind Lord with ever greater zeal? If the children of the world are zealous servants of sin, should you not therefore be even more zealous servants of God, the Most High?

Moreover, tell me, what do the children of the world get out of their service? Next to a very few hours of sinful pleasure, the fruit of their sinful service is ruin in body and soul, treasure and honor, anguish and a restless conscience, illness and a sickly body, poverty, ignominy, and disgrace. And you, Christians? Blessed are you in your service which you render righteousness, not without any suffering nor without disgrace before men, but the fruit which you harvest from your service of righteousness is peace and joy in heart and conscience, the certainty of divine approval, protection, and blessing, honor with God and all the children of God. Now if the world serves sin with such great faithfulness in spite of the bitter fruits they harvest, should you not, since there is some trouble in every service, serve righteousness with much greater faithfulness, which in the midst of outward unhappiness makes you inwardly happy, in physical poverty rich as to your soul, in earthly sorrow gloriously and divinely happy?


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However, the chief reason is this: If in unappeased longing the world has served sin to the end without finding true joy, true peace, true happiness, what then is the result? It is death, it is eternal death, being eternally rejected from heaven, eternal torment in the flames of hell. To be sure, the children of the world do not want to believe this; but it is not only constantly preached to them and they read it in Holy Writ, but their awakened conscience tells them often louder, than they wish, so loudly that they often become restless, filled with anguish, fear and sorrow.

You Christians, what is the result you can expect of your service of righteousness? To be sure, you cannot merit eternal life as a reward, but God is so gracious that out of free grace for Jesus Christ's sake he gives eternal life as a gift to those who in faith in Christ serve righteousness. Oh, blessed, oh, glorious end! When the children of the world remain faithful until death, even though the end of their sinful service is eternal death and damnation, should not you Christians show even greater faithfulness in the service of righteousness, since the end of your service is eternal life in heaven, inexpressible, unending blessedness?

Certainly! So remember, all you Christians who groan under your burden, remember that the children of the world must merit eternal death and hell by a disgraceful, bitter, miserable service of sin; after an easy, happy, blessed, honorable service of righteousness, you will be given eternal life and heaven free of charge and by grace. Therefore, let it not be said of you that the world is more faithful to its disgraceful master, sin and the devil, and brings more sacrifices than you do your good Lord, your Master who saves by grace, your God and Savior. Do not let the world labor more tirelessly, suffer more patiently, and struggle more earnestly to gain hell for itself than you to enter into heaven. With its whole heart the world surrenders itself to sin; therefore, do not halt between two opinions; give your heart completely to God.

The world's broad way is at the start

Through meadows green and fallow,

Its onward way brings dangers great,

Its end bring night and terror.

The way to goodness is quite wild,

With thorn and hedge on every side:

Yet he who goes it gladly,

Will truly come, Lord, by Thy Spirit

Where joys and pleasures flourish. Amen.

8TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     Romans 8:12-17.  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

As it is impossible for a person to become a Christian without God's Word, just so is it impossible for him to remain a Christian without it. Therefore, St. Paul calls the Word of God not only the incorruptible seed from which


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one is born again, but Peter also calls it the sincere milk of the Word which the newborn child must desire, in order to thrive.

Hence, it is not enough to be awakened once through God's Word to spiritual life, to have come to a saving knowledge and true faith. If we want to keep this spiritual life, this true knowledge, this true faith, this must take place through the precious Word of God. As our body needs daily nourishment, so does our soul, if it is not to sink back soon into spiritual death. As no fire can keep burning of itself, so the fire of true faith must very soon die if it is not nourished daily through the Word of God. Though a person may have for a time shown ever so great a zeal for godliness, though an ever so bright a light of the saving knowledge may have glowed in him, he will again become lazy in the use of God's Word, if he perhaps for weeks and months at a time stops reading and hearing it. His zeal will very soon grow cold, and the old darkness will cover his soul. If a Christian ceases completely dealing with God's Word, the only result is the complete fall from divine grace.

A Christian who knows himself, his weakness, and his ruin, who knows how easily one can become lukewarm and forget the danger of losing his soul, will also know how necessary it is to awaken his heart anew through the daily study of the divine Word, and to draw from it instruction, admonition, warning, reprimand, and comfort. Certainly, if a Christian does not let himself be persuaded through the indolence of his flesh to study earnestly and devoutly at least something from God's Word, he will not so easily wander from the way of truth and piety.

Therefore, God at one time said to Joshua: "This book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success." Josh 1:8. Therefore, David also says in his First Psalm: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the Law of the Lord; and in his Law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Ps 1:1-3. And elsewhere: "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Ps 119:105. "Unless thy Law had been my delights, I should have perished in mine affliction." Ps 119:92.

Therefore, the apostles say to their converted Christians: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to the Lord." Col 3:16. But they also show us through their own example how necessary incessant and ever new admonitions, warning, reminders, and encouragements from God's Word are for converted Christians. The apostolic letters are the clearest proof; our today's text contains a few such necessary reminders from God's Word to all who wish to be Christians. With heartfelt devotion let us today consider them.

The text. Romans 8:12-17.

My friends, they are glorious, precious words of God which we have just heard. They are just as rousing for such who wish to live as true Christians, as they condemn and sentence those who have the appearance of piety, but deny its power; they are full of boundless comfort for all who bear the testimony of their godly adoption in their souls. Oh, that today none of these


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precious words of God might fall to the ground! Oh, that they all might become really clear, powerful, and alive in our hearts; then this precious seed would bring forth glorious fruits for time and eternity. Well, then, let us now with God's assistance consider them. They contain, as we will see

THREE APOSTOLIC REMINDERS FOR ALL WHO WISH TO BE CHRISTIANS

1. A Reminder Serving As Encouragement By Reminding Them Of Their Duty;

2.A Reminder Serving As Warning And Examination By Reminding Them Of Who They Are;

3. A Reminder Serving As Comfort By Reminding Them Of Their Blessed State If They Actually Are True Christians.

Oh Lord God! you wish to help us so that for none of us today your holy Word becomes a savor of death unto death, but a savor of life unto life, for the sake of your unfathomable love and mercy. Amen.

I.

My dear hearers, even the holy Apostle Paul at his time had the same sad experiences in the preaching of the Gospel which the preachers have today. If today we preach than man is not saved by works but alone by grace through faith in Christ, very many, who wish to be Christians, are very much pleased with this precious, comforting doctrine, but they misuse it to become secure and disregard sin. Well, many say, if we cannot merit heaven by a single work we do, if it is all grace alone, sin will give us no trouble; it would be very foolish to wrestle much with sin; in our last hour we will cry: Lord Jesus, have mercy on us! We shall not fail to enter heaven. And alas', how many, perhaps also among us are they we still knowingly serve many a sin, and always quiet their consciences with the comfort: You will be saved; it is all by grace!

St. Paul in also this letter to the Romans tries with all his might to prevent this fearful misuse of the doctrine of grace; in many ways he tries to show that the grace of God indeed offers us the forgiveness of sins, but in no way gives us permission to sin; yes, the very preparation of grace which God in Christ has done for our redemption, reconciliation, deliverance, and salvation has as its ultimate purpose the complete, permanent cleansing from sin, the permanent complete sanctification through God's Spirit, the restoration of the divine image in us, and having our spirit again become capable of eternal perfect union with the holy God.

Our today's text proceeds to show how the apostle tries to encourage the Christians at Rome first of all to walk a holy walk by telling them that they really owe this to their God. He, therefore, says: "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh, to live after the flesh." V.12. The apostle means to say: My dear brethren, it is indeed true, this is a precious, esteemed word that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners; it is true, you dare not doubt it, oven if your sins are ever so great and frightful, even if they were red like crimson; through Christ they will become white as wool; it is true, with our works we can merit nothing; nothing but faith in Christ makes us righteous and saves us; but my dear brethren, if through your works you can merit nothing and God offers you grace and forgiveness for all your sins, do you want to misuse this in order to continue in sin? God has become gracious to you; do you now wish the more to do that whereby God becomes angry anew with you: God wants to forgive and forget everything; now should his thanks be that you continue to serve your flesh, i.e., your sinful desires, and despise God?

Alas, dear Christians, you can merit nothing by your works, yet bear


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in mind, that you through God's grace have become "debtors"! Bear in mind, God has created you; everything which you have, body, soul, life, and all your possessions are God's gifts; are you not God's debtor for even these things? Are you not for that reason already obligated to serve him, to live to him, to surrender yourselves to him body and soul and everything which you have?

But that is not enough! God has made you debtors anew; you have fallen from him by sin, you have become his enemy, you had lost heaven and salvation, and had fallen into death and eternal damnation, and behold! God has graciously received you again; he has given you his Son; he no longer wishes to remember your shameful apostasy and your sin against him in all eternity; he has brought you back again into his blessed kingdom through Christ and has lovingly received you again. Now tell me, are you not a double "debtor" of God? You admit that even though the angels did not fall to be redeemed again, they are debtors to serve God and praise and glorify him forever and ever. Are not you fallen sinners, who have been received again, not a thousand times more liable than the angels in heaven, who have not experienced such grace? Therefore, is it not a frightful, horrible word at which heaven and earth must shudder and tremble if you mean to say: God forgives us our sins, hence we need not stop serving sin? God is gracious, our sins will not harm us? Christ has died for us, we no longer need good works?

If you must confess that God is gracious, is that not also confessing how much you owe your God? If you must confess that the Son of God died on the bloody cross for your sins, do you not thereby also confess that your soul, your life, your service belongs to him, to the precious merciful Savior? Hence, is it not terrible to say: Since I cannot merit heaven with my works, I will do none? Is that not as much as saying: Since God is gracious toward me, I will indeed despise him, trample on his commands, remain his enemy? Is that not as much as saying: God has indeed done great things to me, given me body and soul, and delivered me from my eternal ruin through giving his Son into death, but God is not worth any thanks? No, no, a Christian thinks, if I cannot merit any grace with my works, I still truly owe it to my God not to live according to my flesh, but according to his Word; though everything may be pure grace, that is reason enough for God to be my God, and my soul his offering and possession.

Ah, my dear hearers, you who are gathered here and who wish to be Christians, let also this remonstrance of the apostle pierce your hearts: "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh." V.12. Never ask in unthankfulness, is a holy life necessary for salvation? Ah, faithless question! You should firmly believe, that there is grace for all your sins; none of you should despair in his sins; God demands no works of any of you in order to merit salvation; this work has taken place; Jesus has already won salvation for you; just accept Christ and you are helped. But tell me yourself, have you not then become God's great debtor for time and eternity?

Therefore, if your corrupt heart or Satan whispers to you: You are in grace, why do you want to be so exact about sins! become frightened at such thoughts, and rather think this way: Since we are in grace with God, since God has delivered us from sin, out of which we could not have delivered ourselves, since God has given us salvation, which we could not have earned by ourselves, we are doubly and a thousandfold under great obligation to God, we can never repay him for what he has done for us poor sinners; yes, we want to deny the accursed sins which had so long separated us from this faithful, gracious, and merciful God; we want to serve God forever out of thankfulness and love, who has earned that so faithfully for us afflicted persons.

II.

However, my dear hearers, many, many who wish to be Christians are so


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sold under sin with their false trust in Christ, that they can never decide by themselves to forsake their miserable walk according to the flesh, even if the fact that they truly owe this a thousand times to their gracious God is movingly presented to them. They think: Yes, to be sure, we owe God this, but God is merciful; he will have mercy on us poor weak men, even if we do not succeed 100%.

For such miserable servants of sin, the apostle in the second place adds a reminder to warn them and for their self-examination, and says to them: No, my man, you do not only owe it to God, but you should also know that all your praise of grace is in vain as long as you still live according to your flesh. The apostle continues thus: "For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Vv.13.14. The apostle says in these words, that also in true Christians the flesh is constantly busy, i.e., true Christians are always attacked, incited, and enticed by all manner of evil lusts, thoughts, and desires, but at the same time, they have in themselves a new spirit, a new divine power, a new holy drive, which unceasingly opposes the impulses of sin. The heart of a true Christian is no longer dead; it no longer willingly obeys the suggestions of his flesh and blood; but there is a continual battle, a continual killing, quenching, and conquering of sinful lusts. Sin does not let the true Christian have one hour of rest, but as soon as it arises in the heart, so soon the good spirit living in him flies into a holy agitation and it is busy fighting the foe who wishes to enter in.

Whoever does not have this continual battle of the flesh and spirit, whoever upon hearing this description must not immediately say: Yes, that is the way it is in me, I experience that daily, let him give up the sweet dream that he is in grace; let him know that grace is in his thoughts, but not in his heart; let him know that sin which is in him and against which he does not battle still rules over him; that all spiritual life is mission; hence, he is spiritually dead and, therefore, also without the hope of eternal life and is already the booty of eternal death. "For," says the apostle, "if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." V.13a.

There it is, my dear hearers. Thus reads the words of the living God. Who may dare to extinguish these words? Who may dare to contradict the great God? We read: "If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die." Eternal sentence is irreversibly pronounced on all false Christians. If you still live after the flesh, if you still consider the sinful product of your heart like a pet which you cherish and nourish, if any sin is still so dear that you would not gladly kill it, God draws this conclusion: If you do not let every sin die in you, then YOU must die; God says to you: You are a man marked for death! for through the love of sin you reject grace. Your false trust in grace makes you completely incapable of any true grace; as you remain in sin so you also remain in death and willingly renounce the redemption of Jesus Christ, who has come to free you from the prison of sin, and destroy the works of the devil.

Oh, the folly of wanting to comfort oneself in the redemption of Jesus Christ from sin, when one still of one's own free will remains a servant of sin! Oh, the folly to hope for eternal life, when one daily presses ever deeper into the death of sin! Oh, the folly of dreaming of God’s grace when one daily stirs up God's wrath against himself! Of what avail is the cleansing through Christ's blood, if one daily defiles himself again through new sins? Of what avail is the cross of Christ, if one does not want to kill and crucify his flesh, but daily crucifies Christ anew through his walk in the flesh? And if Christ would die a thousand times for the sins of the world it would still be impossible for a person, who continues in his sins, to come into heaven, be righteous, and be saved.

"For," the apostle continues, "as many as are led by the Spirit of God. they are the sons of God." V.14. With these words the apostle presents a new


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touchstone for our Christianity. He means to say: If you want to be a Christian, you also call yourself a child of God; only those are children of God whom the Spirit of God drives. Oh, how many a Christian's reputation brings shame also on this word! We cannot conceal ourselves; sad to say, even in our congregation signs of earthly ideas, of envy, of pride and haughtiness, of contempt of one's neighbor, of hardheartedness and irreconcilableness, yes, of lies and slander clearly show themselves. What sort of a spirit is it which drives one to such works of the flesh? To be sure, it is not God's Spirit but the evil spirit, the spirit of impurity, of darkness, of the world, and of sin; wherever this spirit moves the heart there is no grace, there one boasts in vain of being a Christian. Therefore, let each one of us hear the word of the Lord: "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."

And now let each one ask himself this question: Which spirit drives me? Some spirit must rule me; either it is the spirit of sin or the Spirit from God. What drives me to think as I think, to speak as I speak, to act as I act? Can I say: God, it is you who lives in me? who rules my thoughts, words, and deeds? Lord, when I lay down to sleep I think of you; when I awake I speak of you? (Is 63:7); you guide me according to your counsel, you teach me to act according to your will, for you are my God, your good Spirit leads me upon the level way? I live but not I but Christ lives in me?

Oh, how many will have to admit that they are driven by their own spirit, or that the Spirit of God awakens, warns, entices them only now and then, but an abiding dwelling place or power he has not yet established in their hearts! You who call yourselves Christians and children of God, if you are not yet born by the Spirit of God and not yet under his mild discipline and rule, let this be your boast. First of all, throw yourselves down before his throne as God's enemy, and beg for grace in Christ, for change of heart and mind, then you will become someone of whom you can boast, and then you will recognize how inexpressibly glorious it is to be in grace with God and his dear child. Finally, the apostle points

III.

in our text to this, when he says: "For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry. Abba. Father." V.15. The apostle means to say: If nothing can move anyone to give up his miserable life according to the flesh, neither that he owes it to his God, nor the certainty that he is lost, then the condition of those who walk according to the Spirit should move him to let him be driven and ruled by his Spirit as God's child; for this condition is absolutely blessed and glorious.

Whoever still sins against his conscience, strives in vain to lay hold of a childlike confidence in God; he tries in vain to heal up his way of life with the salve of a false comfort; he strives in vain to imagine that God's threatenings against sin will not strike him and to appropriate to himself the promises which are given to God’s children. Of course, for a time a false comfort can give a false rest, but this rest is always of short duration; pretty soon the wounds of sin, which fester only the more inwardly, open again with even greater pain; often a single verse strikes so deeply into the soul of the hypocrite, that all at once he sees the entire vanity of his self-made faith, his imagined hope, and his false trust. He can often from habit bend his knee in prayer, or in slavish fear sigh to God, but he is not capable of pouring out his heart before God in childlike confidence; he pretends to love God, but his heart is full of slavish fear of him; the Law of God with its threatenings still lies upon him, and finally gives him an unblessed death into an unhappy, immeasurably frightful eternity.


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But he who does not wait with his fright over his sins until the hour of death or until he is in eternity, but through God's Law his sin's greatness, number, and damnableness be presented even here, then in his misery lets himself be led by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel to Christ, and then through the power of his faith daily mortifies sin in himself, crucifies his flesh together with the affections and lusts, and lets himself be led by God's Spirit into all wisdom and righteousness, he has protection against all the accusations of his conscience, peace and rest of soul, and a daily approach to God as his dear heavenly Father. If misery comes to him, God is his refuge and strength, whom he knows will never forsake him; yes, if out of weakness he falls into sin, he quickly hurries again to his dear Father in heaven, reconciles him through Christ's blood, and in faith comforts himself in his grace and forgiveness. Though everything may condemn and reject him, slander and cast suspicion upon him, he is joyful and happy. The Spirit of God gives him an all-conquering testimony, that he is God's child.

Therefore, how blessed are all they who rightly bear the name of God's children! They need not envy the world with its glory, their glory is greater; they can laugh at sin, Satan, and death, for they have conquered all these; they need not fear the future, for God is for them, who can be against them?

However, the life of God's children is still hidden with Christ in God; the world does not suspect their glory and blessedness. But when Christ their Light will reveal himself, then they also will be revealed. For that reason St. Paul concludes our text in the words: "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." V.17. Oh, glorious day when God will break the seal of his eternal testimony and divide the heavenly inheritance among his children! Ah, therefore, let us be faithful until death, in order that we may receive the crown of life. Let us seize Christ and hold him fast in life and death. Amen.

9TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     1 Corinthians 10:6-13  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

In our Savior, dear Christian friends.

No other book contains so many stories of the abominable sins and misdeeds which men have committed as does the Bible. This Holy Book, especially the Old Testament, as far as it concerns the deeds of men, is almost nothing else but a great, frightful register of sins. The very first thing which the Bible reports of the doings of men is the fall into sin, that fall which has dragged sin and ruin in its train for the whole human race of all times. Then it tells us that the first son of the first parents became a fratricide; it shows that from generation to generation the wickedness of man became ever greater, yes, it became so corrupt that in the 17th century after the creation of the world God finally had to wipe out through a flood all but eight of the millions of people who lived on the world at that time.

Yet after relating this fearful divine judgment the Bible does not sketch a picture of an improved post-deluvian world. Not only does it picture


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Sodom and Gomorrah as heathen cities whose sins and abominations cried so loudly to heaven for vengeance, that God had to overthrow and destroy these cities through a rain of fire and brimstone from heaven, but the Bible presents even the families of the patriarchs and the entire chosen nation of God as theaters of sin, idolatry, and all manner of vice. Yes, even of those whom the Holy Scriptures extol as saints, there is almost not a one of whom it does not also mention a fall into sin or some spot in their lives. And in so doing Holy Writ often describes the greatest sins in such detail and so plainly that one cannot read the description without shuddering.

Many have taken offense at that. They have supposed that a book which on almost all pages related almost nothing but the sins of men and describes them so freely and unveiled, such a book cannot possibly be a holy book. It cannot possibly be the Word or the revelation of God. One would really expect that a book which should be inspired by God himself for the betterment of man would describe only the lives of pious, virtuous, holy men who are worthy of imitation in all respects.

Even though wise people think that, such thoughts are completely wrong. If we ponder this matter just a bit, we will soon be convinced that God has wisely sketched such a dark horrible picture of mankind in his Word. Bear in mind: All Scripture has been written to bring man to faith in Christ, the Savior of the world. Christ is the heart and center of the Old and New Testament. He himself says of the Old Testament: "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me." Jn 5:39. Paul likewise writes to Timothy of the Old Testament: "And that from a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." 2 Tim 3:15. Peter says: "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 10:43. That the New Testament also serves this purpose needs absolutely no proof passage. To quote only one, we read at the close of John's Gospel: "These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name." Jn 20:31.

If Holy Writ would preach how pious many men have been, would we be led to faith in Christ? Would we not get the idea that mankind is not so wicked, it has not fallen so deeply, mankind is not so wicked, but that by their own works they can save themselves, if they want to and don't need a Savior? Undoubtedly. Therefore, it simply is not true that we should dare to be offended that the Bible always pictures man, and even the most pious, as a sinner. We must rather recognize the great wisdom of God. By presenting sin which has been prevalent among men from the beginning of the world, God in this way wants to bring us to the knowledge, that man's righteousness and worthiness is nothing but an empty dream, that the human race is a fallen race, and that, therefore, every person is a sinner; that even the most pious cannot stand before God in his own righteousness; that grace, free grace, is man's only refuge, and that there is no salvation outside of Christ. The sins, occasionally the most frightful sins, related in the Bible should serve as a mirror in which we should see and learn to know our own life and heart, humble ourselves before God, and flee to the cross of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Blessed, therefore, is he who thus employs the sins presented in Holy Scripture; he will not be offended at them but will rather thank God for these bitter yet wholesome revelations. What I have now expressed in general the holy apostle shows especially in our today's Epistle in the example of the Israelites in the wilderness. Let us now direct our attention particularly to this event.

The text. 1 Corinthians 10:6-13.


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My friends, in our Epistle the apostle speaks of the sins which the Israelites committed in the wilderness. He mentions the judgments of God, which fell upon them because of these sins, and says of those events: "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." V.11. Let us now therefore consider:

ISRAEL'S FALL INTO SIN AND GOD'S JUDGMENT UPON THEM, A WARNING EXAMPLE FOR CHRISTIANS OF THE LAST TIMES

They warn us of a threefold error:

1. That We Should Not Be Offended At The Sins Which Even Now Occur In The True Church;

2. That Amid The Full Enjoyment Of All The Means Of Grace We Should Not Consider Ourselves Safe From A Fall Into Sin;

3. That We Should Not Suppose We Can Escape The Judgments Of God If We Sin Wilfully.

Oh holy God, you know how necessary an earnest warning is in these times. Alas, in spite of all the grace, which you have at all times richly shown us until this hour, in spite of all the streams of the Holy Spirit which have flowed into our hearts through his sweet Gospel, the sins, vices, and lusts of the world lift their satanic head shamelessly and mightily among us. O Lord, if you do not help us we are lost. We, therefore, beseech, implore, and sigh to you: Help us, Lord, save us, we perish! not temporally but eternally, not in respect to our bodies but our souls. Oh, help us through your Word, frighten and crush us thereby; but also comfort and heal us and give us also power to be faithful to you. To this end bless also today's sermon for Jesus', yes, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

I.

We cannot doubt that the Israelites, who at God's command and under the leadership of Moses moved out of Egypt through the Arabian desert toward the promised land of Cannan, at that time were the congregation of the true children of God on earth. As you know, they were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God had made a covenant with these three patriarchs and given them the promise, that they and their descendants should be his chosen people. When at Abraham's time the whole world had fallen into idolatry, God called this man from Chaldea to Canaan, revealed himself to him, and said to him: "In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed." Gen 12:3. "I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee." Gen 17:7. And as a seal of this covenant God gave Abraham the sacrament of circumcision. This very same covenant God solemnly renewed with Abraham's son Isaac, and with his grandson Jacob, or Israel. When the descendants of Israel had fallen into slavery in Egypt and in their misery cried to God for help, God remembered his covenant, raised up his servant Moses, and with his powerful almighty arm led his covenant people out of Egypt from the house of bondage to the land promised to their fathers.

Though the people of Israel might at that time be the most despised of all nations and wander about in the wilderness without a temple and homeland, it was the most richly blessed of all nations on earth. In this nation alone could still be found the knowledge of the true God. This nation alone had God's prophets and his pure Word. In this nation alone the true way to salvation was


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taught. It was this nation to which every one who wished to be saved had to turn. In a word, this nation alone was the true Church of God on earth. Wouldn't one also suppose that this nation would be an outstanding one before all the world, that sins would not prevail among it as among other nations, but that among its members even their virtues would shine as pious children of God" To be sure, one would suppose that. Actually, we find something entirely different. Sad to say in our today's Epistle Paul mentions five kinds of sins by which the members of the Israelitish Church completely denied and dishonored the true faith.

After the apostle had said in the previous verse: "With many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness," v.5, he begins our Epistle with the words: "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted." Thus Paul calls a certain incident of evil lasciviousness the first sin with which the Israelites besmirched themselves in the wilderness. After they were satisfied by manna, a bread which fell from heaven, most of them remembered the many other different kinds of food which they had enjoyed in Egypt. The distress from which God had delivered them was quickly forgotten and in lust they cried out: "Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic; but now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes." Num 11:4-6. They considered these miserable dishes more dear than all the thousands of experiences of God's grace, which they had till then enjoyed in the wilderness.

The apostle continues: "Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written. The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." V.7. Idolatry was the second sin which once ran riot in the Israelitish Church. This happened when Moses ascended Mt. Sinai in order to receive the Law and delayed there a longer time than expected. At the wish of the people Aaron let himself be used to make a golden calf, offer sacrifices to it with the people, and thereafter feasting, singing, and playing, pay it divine honors. Who would have thought, that there where alone the revelation of the true faith existed and where God had just visibly revealed himself in his glory, people could fall into gross idolatry!

The apostle continues: "Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in ONE day three and twenty thousand." V.8. Fornication was the third frightful sin with which the Israelitish Church defiled itself. When the Children of Israel came into the vicinity of Moab, the Moabites sought to conquer Israel by inviting them through their daughters to the feast of their idol Baal-peor. And what did Israel do? Forgetting that they should be a holy nation, they accepted this invitation. Since at this feast to the honor of the idol the most shameful unchastity was practised, many of the unfaithful in Israel fell into horrible sin and shame.

Again the apostle writes: "Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents." V.9. Tempting Christ was the fourth sin of the Israelitish Church. After Israel had wandered about almost forty years and had been accompanied everywhere by the Son of God, the true spiritual rock; after they had experienced countless proofs of the power and assistance of God and were at the borders of the Promised Land, but the Edomites had refused them passage through their land, the people immediately murmured against God and Moses and said: "Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is their any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread." Num 25:5. What a frightful sin! Tempting


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God, they want to recognize God as their God only if he let things go according to the wishes of their flesh.

The apostle mentions one more sin as he continues: "Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer." V.10. Murmuring against God, the Almighty, wrangling with the Creator was the fifth sin into which many members of the Israelitish Church once fell. When the spies, who had been sent into the Promised Land to spy it out, brought the information that the country was possessed by a mighty nation and would be difficult to conquer, everyone, great and small, murmured and in unbelief, completely forgetting about God, they wept: "Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?" Num 14:2.3.

There you see, my friends, what gross, horrible, more than heathenish sins at one time occurred even in the midst of a Church in which not only one of the greatest of the prophets but God himself preached with his own mouth. Why did God let this be written down in his Word for all time to come? The apostle tells us in our text when he writes: "They were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." V.llb. This should be a warning example for us.

First of all, it should warn us against being offended at the many sins which even now arise in the Church, as though she were for that reason the false church. From of old there have been and even now there still are not a few who, when a gross sin is committed in a congregation or denomination, conclude that the true Church cannot be there. Right then and there they leave that church. Of course, it is true, that those who live in gross sins, yes, who allow a sin to rule them, do not belong to the true Church, even if outwardly they belong to it. However, it is false to consider the Church a false church because gross sins are revealed in her. Whoever would have separated from the Israelitish Church because of those transgressions would have himself fallen into the greatest sin. When the apostle says in our text: "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples," we dare not expect that the Church of the New Testament, as a copy of the Church of the Old, will be any different. Even now we dare not be offended if gross sins are ever and again found in it. It is nevertheless the true Church, if God's pure Word is preached there and the Sacraments are administered according to his institution.

Oh that we would not need this warning! But sad to say, among us also more and more sins are revealed, so that certainly many have been offended and with doubts in their hearts asked: Does God actually have his Church here? Or perhaps has not God completely forsaken our congregation and now looks at it only in wrath since more and more slaves of sin are being revealed amongst us? If I should answer according to what is in my heart, I could give you no comforting reply. But since God himself, pointing to the sins of Israel, says: "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples." I must say: Be warned, my dear

people. Sinners have always dishonored the Church, weeds were always found amongst the wheat, a person without a wedding garment among the wedding guests, a Judas, a traitor, among the apostles. Therefore, do not be so offended at the sins found in our congregation, that you consider it a false church. God has left us his Word and Sacraments; he has, therefore, not departed from us.

II.

There is another warning in the Israelites' fall into sin in the


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wilderness; it warns us, that amid the full involvement of all the means of grace we should not consider ourselves safe from a fall: secondly, permit me to present this to you.

If ever there were people of whom one might think that they must be safe from the fall into sin and unbelief, they were the Israelites in the wilderness. For their sakes God already in Egypt had done the most astounding and terrible signs and wonders to move Pharaoh to let them go. Thereupon God had parted the Red Sea, so that they could cross it dry shod and escape their powerful foe, who was chasing them but would perish in the sea. As on angels' wings the Lord carried them to the wonderful land promised to their fathers. God accompanied them visibly by day in a pillar of cloud and by night in a pillar of fire. God caused manna and quail to rain down as food, and to quench their thirst he caused water to flow miraculously from dry rock, and the bitter waters of a lake were made sweet. God himself descended upon Sinai in fire and amid the trembling of the earth and the sound of trumpets proclaimed his holy Law to the people in his own voice; God caused the earth to open and let Korah's mob be swallowed alive by hell, when they rebelled against their prophet Moses; and he cause Aaron's dry staff to become green overnight, blossom, and bear almonds as proof that Aaron was the one who was made high priest by God himself.

So does it not seem impossible that such highly favored people, surrounded by thousands of God's miracles, yes, walking in the fellowship of God himself visibly present, led by his hand as beloved children, could fall into unbelief and sin? Yes, it seems impossible. And yet the majority immediately fell into the most terrible sins, into homesickness for heathen Egypt, into idolatry, adultery, tempting God, and murmuring against his holy and gracious guidance. Even an Aaron to whom God had entrusted the highest spiritual office in his Church falls into the sin of the most abominable idol worship; even a Moses into doubt and unbelief.

What a warning example! "Wherefore," the apostle cries to us in our text, "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." V.12. If you have forsaken the Egypt of this world and now cling to the fellowship of true Christians, happy are you, but be not secure; let Israel serve as a warning; scarcely had they passed through the Red Sea and entered into the wilderness, then soon a small privation awakened the lascivious yearning for the fleshpots of Egypt; so also if you do not earnestly watch, pray, and struggle against your flesh and blood, you will soon lust again for the vain pleasures, ease, and the good things of the world which you have now forsaken, and, if not outwardly, at least inwardly, become a child of the world again.

If you have the true faith now and if you confess the pure doctrine because of a living conviction worked by the Holy Spirit, happy are you; but do not feel secure; let Israel serve as a warning; the moment Moses delayed but a little on Mt. Sinai, the people were offended and cried to Aaron: "Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, we wot not what is become of him." Ex 32:1. If you who now stand firm in the faith do not watch and try to strengthen yourself daily in the faith, you also can very soon be offended and fall into the idolatry of false doctrine, enthusiasm, and unbelief. Think of Aaron; use him as an example; if even he could fall, then you are even less secure no matter how greatly enlightened you may be now.

Though you may hate sin and earnestly follow after sanctification, blessed are you; but do not become secure; let Israel serve as a warning; when they were tempted by prostitutes, they fell into adultery and fornication and all the abominations of unclean venereal disease; if you do not watch, pray, and wrestle and even earnestly avoid temptation, you can again soon lose your


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present horror of sin and zeal in sanctification and quickly and suddenly, or slowly and unnoticeably fall into the sin of uncleanness, adultery, fornication, drunkenness, hot temper, lying disposition, deceitfulness, in short, into sins, shame, and vice.

If you are content with God's guidance, if you are now ready to suffer all things for Christ's sake, yes, rather die than deny God, happy are you; however, do not feel secure; let Israel serve as a warning. When the Lord let his people experience only a little difficulty, they immediately fell into the terrible sin of tempting and murmuring against God; if you do not diligently pray and watch over your heart and daily receive power from God's Word, you can easily despair of God, murmur against him, and finally renounce him.

Oh, how many thousands have made a good beginning but have walked only a short distance on the narrow way, like Lot's wife have soon looked back at the world with yearning, and become pillars of salt! How many have been pardoned like David, and considered themselves as strong in the faith as Peter, and indeed like David and Peter have fallen but never rose again. How many a one has served Christ for long years and conquered countless temptations, and behold! he became secure and thus let himself be caught in a snare of the flesh, the devil, and the world and become a slave of sin. How many a sad example of every kind God has placed also before us. Therefore, let all, all be warned and admonished, admonished for God's sake, for the sake of your salvation, and for the sake of Christ's blood which was shed also for you. "Wherefore let him" among you "that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." V.12.

III.

My friends, one more warning lies in the example of the fallen Israelites. In the third place this example warns that when we wilfully sin, we should not imagine that we are able to escape the righteous judgment of God.

The purer, the clearer, and the richer the Gospel of Christ and his grace is preached, the more secure, the more carefree, and the bolder many become in their sins, as we heard last Sunday. Either they think that in spite of their dominant sins they still are in the faith, because they believe in Christ, or, if death would knock they could quickly pray for grace and God would certainly accept them as the malefactor on the cross.

In the midst of their sins, the Israelites certainly also had similar thoughts; for the more God showed them his extraordinary grace, the more faithless they became. Yet was their sweet hope for grace fulfilled? No, three times in our Epistle Paul mentions God's judgment which fell upon Israel. He says: "Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in ONE day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer." Vv.8-10. And what does Paul add? He says: "Now all these things happened unto them FOR ENSAMPLES, and were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." V.11. You see, that mirror of God's wrath which in the end always descends upon wilful sinners, is held up to us, to us Christians of these last, dangerous, temptation- laden times.

"Be not deceived," we read, "God is not mocked." Gal 6:7. If God did not spare the Israelites before whose eyes and for whose sake he had performed those countless miracles of grace, and whom he had chosen as his own people' in


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preference to all the nations of the earth; if he let the most fearful judgments descend upon them, if because of God's judgment only two of the 600,000 men who left Egypt, entered Canaan, the promised land, whilst all the other perished miserably in the wilderness because of God's anger, I ask everyone of you who still sin wilfully: How dare you imagine that you will be able to escape God's judgment? God remains as he is. As terrible as his wrath once was toward Israel, who in spite of all grace sinned wilfully, so brightly does it still burn. Indeed, his patience permits a person to live a long time, despise God, and serve sin a long time, dishonor his Word and his congregation a long time, lets his foes blaspheme for a long time, lets them offend thousands and thousands of innocent people and grieve and insult God's children; but finally the measure, of every sinner's measure is full; finally, God becomes tired of showing mercy; finally, he tears the sinner out of his life of infamy, brings him to trial, and casts him into the lowest hell. And the greater the grace which the sinner enjoyed, the more terrible the wrath which overwhelms him. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!

On the other hand, he who clings to God, who "is faithful," as the apostle says at the close, "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." v.13b, he who clings to this faithful God, daily seeks his grace, and despairs' completely of himself, he is not lost. It is impossible for a person, who rejects his own righteousness completely and in faith takes comfort alone in Christ's righteousness, to be rejected by God; for God is faithful. However, it is also impossible for a person to be ruled and conquered by sin who struggles against it not in his own power but in Christ's grace; for God is faithful. May this same God have mercy upon us all, especially all those of us who still sin wilfully; may he grant us all repentance and finally lead us through the wilderness of this world with the few elect into the heavenly Canaan. May he do that through Jesus Christ, our heavenly Joshua, for the sake of his infinite mercy. Amen.

10TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     1 Cor. 12:1-11  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.

The apostolic Church, that is, the Church in the time when the apostles still lived, enjoyed advantages such as she never had at any other time. Never again were Christians, not only the apostles, but even most of the laymen, so gloriously blessed with the unusual gifts of the Holy Spirit. His fire and amazing gifts with which the disciples were baptized on Pentecost Day quickly burst into bright flames in all congregations they founded.

Wherever the apostles preached the Gospel, baptized converts, or laid their hands on them, they usually imparted all the amazing gifts of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost Day the Apostle Peter told his hearers: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,


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and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 2:38. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the Gospel, they sent Peter and John to them; they laid their hands on the converts and those already baptized, and behold', they also received the Holy Ghost, that is, the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit. When Peter preached God's Word to the heathen Centurion Cornelius and his family and they received it in faith, we read that "while Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." Acts 10:44. Suddenly they began to prophesy, speak in foreign tongues, and praise God.

In the days of the apostles almost every congregation had several members, who had received the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit. One member could speak in foreign languages which he had never learned; at the same time another received the gift of translating what was said and explaining it to the congregation; another was a prophet and had the gift of predicting things to come; a third had the ability of expounding difficult passages of Holy Writ even though he was no theologian; a fourth had the gift of doing miracles, healing the sick with one word, driving out devils, raising the dead, and the like.

When a congregation in those days assembled it was often like going to a remarkable drama. Here one arose and preached in a language which no one understood, and immediately another arose to translate the sermon. Here a member predicted what would take place; there another applied a difficult passage of Scripture to something which had already taken place. Here one suddenly causes a blind person to see, there another causes a dumb person to speak.

These miraculous gifts served to establish and confirm the new revelation which was given to the world with Christ's coming, and to spread the Christian faith quickly in all the countries of the world. They were to be a visible striking testimony from God himself that the Gospel of the Crucified preached by the apostles was really a message from God, a revelation from heaven, and that the Christian Church founded by the apostles was really God's Church, the Church of the elect and the saved.

Therefore, that the Church no longer has the gift of performing miracles dare not surprise us. The New Testament has already been sealed and the Christian religion has been brought into the world as a divinely proven revelation; today miracles are not needed. Yes, what do I say? That after 1800 years in spite of all assaults, which it has experienced, that the Christian Church still stands unshaken like a fortress of rock in the raging sea, that even though it is a tree more than a thousand years old, it still continues to become green like a young one, bear fruit, and spread, that is a greater miracle than all the miraculous events of apostolic times. He who does not believe the Gospel which has been sealed by the old miracles, will also not be convinced by constantly recurring new ones; yes, had God preserved the gift of working miracles in the Church, it would finally have been despised because of its daily occurrence and would have lost its powers of proof for most people.

My friends, even though Christians no longer have the power to perform miracles, they still have many other glorious, extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost, which loudly testify for the divinity of the Gospel. At the invitation of our today's Epistle permit me to speak to you about these gifts.

The text. 1 Corinthians 12:1-12.

When I spoke to you the last time upon this text, I explained mostly the first part; therefore, permit me today to speak to you on the second portion in which the apostle speaks of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, with which the


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Corinthian congregation once had been adorned. However, it is not my intention to speak to you so much of the gifts which these Christians once has as of those which are still granted to true believers; for to this very day Christians can not only sing of the Holy Spirit: "The Comforter of all the blind," but also,

"Grant us Thy wondrous gifts."

Therefore, let the subject of our meditation be:

THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WITH WHICH CHRISTIANS ARE NOWADAYS ENDOWED

We ponder:

1. Which These Gifts Are, and

2. How To Use Them Properly.

Lord God, Holy Ghost, you are not only the One who constantly calls those who are redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ, gathers them into one church, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps them with him in the one true faith; to this very day you also endow those with your gifts whom you have called and sanctified. And--we must confess this--you have not let us depart empty-handed; also amongst us you have distributed so many beautiful gifts. Oh, therefore, grant that all of us may not only recognize the gifts given him with humble thanks but also faithfully and zealously use them for the purpose you have given them. Grant that all of us may not only earnestly seek to be saved, but by the use of the gifts which you have bestowed lead also others to salvation. Oh, Lord God, who alone can work all good, hear us for the sake of your faithfulness. Amen.

I.

"Now there are diversities of gifts;" these words with which the apostle begins the second portion of our text can even now be said of every congregation, in which the pure Word of God is in use. God's Word is still not only so powerful that through it people are brought to a living faith, truly converted to God, and become changed people in heart, spirit, mind, and all powers, but when the Holy Spirit works true faith in a person's heart, he to this very day also endows him with the most wonderful, the most extraordinary, supernatural gifts.

However, we must make a twofold distinction concerning the gifts of apostolic times which the apostle names in our text. He mentions nine gifts. Four of them have now disappeared completely from the Christian Church; the other five are still found among believers, though to a lesser degree. Completely gone are the gifts of healing without the use of medicine, the gift of performing miracles, the gift of speaking foreign languages without previous study and practise, and finally the gift of interpreting those languages which one never learned.

That is not the case with the other five gifts mentioned by the apostle, with the gift of speaking by the Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, with the gift of prophesying, that is, explaining Scripture, with the gift of a particularly great, strong, and heroic faith, and finally with the gift of discerning spirits. As we stated, these last gifts the Christians of apostolic times had in a greater degree than the Christians of today; however, these and similar gifts are found even now to a certain degree in the Church, and in such a degree that no person can deny that these gifts of present-day Christians are not natural gifts but the gifts of the Holy Spirit.


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I remind you of the following. There are Christians who in their unconverted state could scarcely express themselves in a connected sentence; but the moment they were converted the received the gift of speaking of divine things which is extraordinary, which often works great things and always leaves a sting behind in their hearers. There are Christians, who as long as they were unconverted had to be silent in every argument because they were thrown into confusion by the weakest premises of their opponent, because they lacked presence of mind as well as keenness of judgment; however, after they came to a living faith, they were unafraid of any opponent, not even of the most learned and proud; even though they were simple and unlearned they knew how to defend their faith against anyone in the most glorious manner.

There are Christians, who as long as they lacked faith were always fearful, irresolute, anxious, and full of apprehensions; however, from the time they confessed Jesus Christ, though still afraid and undecided in worldly things, they in matters of faith, in matters of God's kingdom show a fearlessness and courage, a certainty and heroic faith which amazes one. There are Christians, who as long as they were without Christian knowledge were always dependent on others and were easily persuaded by the opinions of others; however, since they were converted, they became so sure,so firm, so resolute, that not only can no one ensnare them, but they can also easily separate the false from the true teachers and expose them by themselves. There are Christians, who as long as they lacked a living faith could scarcely pray three words of their own; however, after they were converted they have the gift of praying so that one sees that they not only wrestle with God but also gain the victory over Him.

Still other Christians have the special gift of quickly comprehending the pure doctrine, still others that of explaining difficult passages of Holy Scripture, still others that of shaking and softening stiff-necked sinners, or comforting the tempted and depressed, or convincing and assuring the doubter, or reconciling warring parties, and the like. For who is able to mention all these wonderful and glorious gifts of Christians?

So it is true: Not everyone has all these gifts, but one has this gift, another that, and one has them in a lesser degree the other in a greater degree; however, though a Christian may often seem to be untalented, everyone has some beautiful gift as the apostle writes at the close of our text: "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." V.ll. Our beloved congregation can, therefore, also sing with our highly gifted Luther:

He's by our side upon the plain With His good gifts and Spirit.

II.

Well, then, now that we have learned to know the gifts of the Holy Ghost, with which Christians are even now endowed, let us turn to the chief point, to that which is the most Important for us, and in the second place learn from God’s Word how to use these gifts properly.

The apostle indicates this in the few words of our text: "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." V.7. The apostle does not mean to say, as it might appear, that all gifts actually always serve for the good of all, but that the gifts reveal themselves in every Christian, or the only reason God gives all Christians gifts is that everyone might use them for the good of all.


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And so it is, my friends. That a Christian by faith receives God's grace, forgiveness of sins, righteousness before God, comfort, and the hope of eternal life is a fruit only for himself; but that a Christian by faith in Christ receives also all manner of gifts, these are given him not for his sake but for the good of all, for the sake of the Church and the world; the Christian should serve the world and the Church with them. As the eye is the gift to see not for itself but for the whole body, and as the ear is the gift of hearing, the foot the gift for walking, the hand the gift for working with the hand, in short, as all the members of the body have their various gifts not for themselves but for the entire body, so also a believer has his gifts, not for himself but for the Church and the world.

Therefore, all gifts which a Christian has are used correctly when he uses them for the good of all, when, namely, he assists in preserving, promoting, and cultivating congregations in the unity of faith and love, and in bringing more and more who are still outside the Church to the true faith.

The whole Christian Church should be a militant Church, should be a camp of the Lord of salvation, which is struggling to destroy more and more of Satan's kingdom and to spread and enlarge Christ's. In a manner of speaking every congregation should be a mission family and every member be a missionary in his circle of friends. A Christian should not stand as a lone wolf, separated from the rest, unconcerned about the other Christians; he should never forget that there is a fellowship of saints, that he is one of the members of the Church, one of the members of the body of Jesus Christ, of which everyone, and he as well, has a definite office and task for the whole body. A Christian should, therefore, not think, that he has done everything which he as a Christian is obligated to do when only he is on the way to salvation and silently serves his God, but he should also recognize it as his holy duty to bring others upon the true way. A Christian should not think that converting people and being concerned about them is the business only of the preacher and not the laity, but he should be a spiritual priest, who should show forth the praises of him who has called him out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Oh my friends, if we examine ourselves by this yardstick, must not all of us be heartily ashamed of ourselves? Many of us do not even provide for their own soul and salvation, live in constant uncertainty of whether they could be saved, and never take the kingdom of heaven by storm; we, therefore, need not be surprised that they are even less concerned about the salvation of others, about the entire Church and congregation.

But how do matters stand even with us who are concerned about our soul and salvation? Do all of us really use our gifts for the good of all? or do not many rather bury the pound of gifts entrusted to them for use in the Church and the world in the napkin of indolent rest and indifference? Is everyone a missionary in his circle of friends? Is everyone a soldier who at the post at which God has placed him faithfully defends the fortress of the Church? Does everyone show that he is a spiritual priest who first of all shows forth to his own house, his wife, his children, his servants, his workers, and then also to his neighbors and to all whom God leads to him, the praises of God, that is, the Gospel of God's works of redemption? Can everyone point to a number of people who were pointed by him to the true way or kept on it, warned and preserved against error and sin, comforted in bodily and spiritual distress, or reprimanded to their eternal salvation?

We cannot deny it; in this point we are far surpassed by the members of the sects. They are plainly more zealous in winning people for their error and the sects than we in winning people for the truth and for our orthodox Church. And alas', how many of us are so indolent in being helpful to our


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congregation! How many almost never come to our congregational meeting, let others work, give counsel, and decide for them, while they themselves remain calmly, comfortably, and lazily at home and provide only for themselves! If it would have depended upon the zeal of many of us, our congregation would have been destroyed long ago or fallen into every error and confusion. How will we be able to answer God?!

Let no one say that he has no gifts with which he could serve the world and the Church in spiritual things. Let him who says that recall how thankless he is to God. If you are not a dead nominal but a true, living Christian, you most certainly have a gift of the Holy Spirit; if you lack the one with which you see your neighbor endowed, then you certainly have another which your neighbor lacks; and even if you seem to be greatly lacking in gifts, you certainly have the gift of confessing the true faith before the world, working along with the congregation, and confirming its good resolution by a yes full of conviction and faith.

In our old homeland in Germany a layman could have the most wonderful gifts for ruling the congregation; he dared not use them; he had to remain silent. Here God has granted us the blessing of religious and ecclesiastical freedom, so that everyone can use his gifts for the good of all; Oh, let us use them for this purpose! Let him counsel to whom God has given the gift of wisdom and good counsel; let him teach to whom God has given the gift of a good knowledge for instruction; to whom God has given the gift of a strong heroic faith, let him show it and also try to kindle it in others who lack strong faith; let him pray to whom God has given the gift of special, ardent, and powerful prayer; he who has the ability to give comfort, let him give it; he who can urgently admonish, let him admonish; he who can forcibly exhort quarreling parties, let him exhort; in short, let everyone try to know that gift which he has and others don't, not boast about them, not exalt himself because of them, nor let them lie dormant but use them for the benefit of all. Oh, if in the past everyone would have used his gift for the edification of the congregation and the conversion of the world, how completely different our congregation would be, and how many more people would have been won for God's kingdom!

Come, then, my friends, take my admonition to heart. You who still lack a life of faith and, therefore, still lack the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to whom the doctrine of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is something strange and ununderstandable, awaken from your sleep of death and believe the Gospel; you will also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. You who already have such gifts but have used them only for yourselves, use them for others.

You who have always used them and therefore are the crown and blessing to our congregation, use your gifts from now on even more zealously. As the Savior offered himself completely for you, so also offer yourselves completely for your brethren. Oh, how you will some day rejoice when you see in eternity the fruits of your labor! How you will rejoice when in heaven you meet those whom you have rescued by your reprimand, by your comfort, by your faithful warning and admonition! Then, truly, your labors of love will not be unrewarded! You will hear the blessed word from the mouth of the Savior: "Well done, 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 25:23. May the Lord let all of us hear this voice. Amen.


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11TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1     1 Corinthians 15:1-10  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

Not to know whether one has the true faith and is under God's grace is a most tragic and wretched condition.

Indeed, there is an unnumbered host of people which does not know this, which does not even want to know this, which in uncertainty must merely hope or even accept the very opposite; but is it not terrible not to know whether he is gracious to us who has created us, who has redeemed us, (to whom we, therefore, belong in a twofold way), who must preserve us, who alone can provide for us, into whose hands we must certainly fall some day when our soul leaves the body and arrives in eternity, who can either help or ruin us for time and for eternity.

How can a person who is not certain of God's grace go to sleep so calmly! Must he not think: What will happen to me, if I die this night during my sleep? How can he awaken with joy in the morning? Must he not fear that he is rising to meet a miserable, unfortunate day? How can he go eagerly to his labors! Must he not be concerned that a curse will rest upon his labors? How can he rejoice when he prospers! Must he not fear that God is granting him worldly blessings in anger? How can he comfort and raise himself up when trouble strikes! Must he not look at everything as a punishment? How can he be without despair, if many enemies attack him! Must he not believe that God will decree that he is to fall into the hands of his enemies and be cast down? How can he bear the sicknesses which are sent him with resignation! Must he not think that God will forsake him completely and in him let the example of a person be seen, who must experience God's displeasure because he despises God's grace? How terrible must the forerunners of death be for him! Must he not expect that they are also the forerunners of being eternally rejected from God's presence?

Of a truth, we must be amazed that a person who does not know whether he is under God's grace, is not terrified when he hears the leaves rustle; we must be amazed when he can lift his face to heaven without becoming afraid, read or hear God's Word, enter God's house,use the Holy Sacraments, and open his mouth in prayer or song. Ah, my dear hearer, you who do not have a gracious God in heaven, perceive how boundless your misfortune still is and do not take another step until you have sought and found God's grace!

On the other hand, we can imagine a no more fortunate person than he who knows that he is under God's grace. He can lie down joyfully, for he knows that he places himself in the fatherly arms of his God, who has appointed His holy angels as watchmen; with joy he wakens, for he knows that God has preserved him in order to grant him a new day of grace; with joy he goes about his calling, for he knows that God is with him; with joy he sees that he is blessed with earthly things, for he knows that God wants to make him happy with these things; with confident courage he meets trouble, for he knows that God wants to lead him to heaven on this way; without horror he sees himself surrounded by secret and known enemies, for he knows that he has nothing to fear from them; without God's will they cannot harm one hair of his head, for God is in a covenant relationship with him; gladly he lies down upon the sickbed which God has prepared for him, because he hopes to be able to think, speak, and live even there to God's


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honor; the report of the nearness of his death is joyous news. Joyfully he opens his Bible, for on its pages he finds light, power, comfort, and peace; joyfully he enters God's house, for his soul delights in the beautiful worship of the Lord; delightfully and joyously he joins the congregation in singing, and partaking of the Holy Supper prepares him for a solemn day.

Ah, how wonderful it would be if we all would know that we had true faith and were under God's grace! Would that not be a heaven on earth in spite of its thousandfold distresses? Certainly.

Since the opportunity is given us, my friends, in our today's Epistle to test our faith and state of grace, let us grasp it and with heartfelt desire study the marks which show whether we are in the true faith or not.

The text. 1 Corinthians 15:1-10.

As was already mentioned on another occasion, heretics had arisen in the congregation at Corinth; they attempted to disseminate the Sadducean principle that there was no resurrection of the dead; to his sorrow Paul must have seen that many Corinthian Christians had actually let themselves be seduced by this fundamental error, and others were at least moved to becomes uncertain of the true doctrine. To bring them back is the purpose of the Epistle just read; the apostle shows those misled that Christian doctrines hang together like a chain from which one cannot take even one link without tearing the entire chain; that either they must reject the fact which he had planted in them, or accept the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. The apostle now indicates three signs of the true and well-founded faith; I, therefore, take this occasion to present to you:

THREE IMPORTANT SIGNS AS TO WHETHER ONE HAS THE TRUE FAITH

They are the following:

1. If Our Faith Is Founded Alone Upon God’s Word;

2. If It Is United With A Living Knowledge Of The Heart, and

3. If It Is Revealed By A New Holy Mind And Walk.

Oh, eternal and living God who says to us in your Word: "Without faith it is impossible to please him," guard us against the darkness of unbelief; however, also preserve us so that we do not deceive ourselves with merely something which looks like faith; kindle this heavenly light in our souls, so that we may some day progress from faith to blessed, eternal vision for the sake of Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, our Lord. Amen.

I.

My friends, when in our text the apostle tries to convince the Corinthians that he planted the true faith in them, he says in our text: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." Vv.3.4. Two times he says that he laid the foundation in all "according to the Scriptures:" we see from this: The first sign that one has true faith is that our faith is founded alone upon God's Word.

To remind ourselves of this is particularly necessary in our day. About


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seventy years ago such a great apostasy occurred in Christendom that for forty years one heard almost nothing preached of faith. Instead of the doctrine of faith, nothing but the comfortless, heathen doctrine of ethics was heard from most chancels especially in Germany. In the last decades the situation has changed somewhat. Especially from the year 1817 many again began to preach a little about faith. Yes, in our new homeland the great majority of teachers and hearers now confess that faith is necessary for salvation.

However, we must not let this deceive us. Not all which they often try to sell by this name is faith. It is not true that so many have returned to the faith of the Reformation. Even true believers can fall into error; but true faith is not present when one errs knowingly, or considers error insignificant and harmless, or knowingly swears to follow an error. True faith is not present when one is careless and indifferent, when doctrine is positive or negative, true or false. True faith is not present when one knowingly departs from a single Word of God.

God makes no deals; he is not satisfied as long as we accept some things from his Word, which are acceptable to our reason and seem correct to our feelings; he who still thinks he can reject at least a few things in Holy Writ rejects the entire Scripture; he who does not want to accept the Old Testament as God's Word also rejects the New, for the New Testament is based on the Old. He who denies the damnableness of original sin, the existence of a devil, the eternity of the torments of hell does not believe in Christ, for these are the things which Christ himself has clearly taught. He who often reads in the Scriptures and prizes it highly as a beautiful book of instruction and comfort, making a few exceptions and thinking that it contains many things which in their simplicity the apostles and prophets believed for which one must pardon them, but which can no longer be accepted today, let him not think that a spark of true faith lives in his heart; in spite of his imagined faith he is nothing but a proud unbelieving spirit who does not want to be a humble pupil but a teacher and judge of the Word of the living God. He thinks that he is wiser than Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, the eternal Truth and Wisdom. For Christ himself proved his entire doctrine with the Scriptures and always said, even in the conflict with the Seducer: "It is written, it is written." And so Isaiah says: "To the Law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light," that is, Christ, "in them." Is 8:20.

Only he can have the true saving faith who by the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit actually perceives that the writings of the Old and New Testament are the revealed Word of the Most High God, according to which all will some day be judged, either absolved or condemned. If true faith is present, one is filled with the deepest respect of Holy Scripture; David says in Psalm 119: His flesh trembleth for fear of God; and Isaiah says: God looks at the poor and him of a contrite heart and who trembles at his Word.

If true faith is present, no one knowingly departs from a letter of Holy Writ; he would rather give up goods, honor, blood, and life; a single word of the Scriptures is worth more to a true believer than all the wisdom and utterances of all the wise of this world. A true believer never says: How is this possible? but for him the all-important question is: "What is written? How do you read?" If he has a clear Word of God for any teaching, he accepts it humbly, no matter how much his reason, his heart, his feelings contradict it; whatever is against the clear Word of God, he confidently rejects as delusions and lies no matter how plausible it sounds.

No true Christian is satisfied if something has only the appearance of God’s Word; in matters of faith he is cautious, filled with the earnest care and fear that he does not deceive himself. He bases everything upon God's Word. If one passage is against him, he cannot set his mind at rest even if the whole world calls him blessed; if he has God's Word on his side, nothing can disturb


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him, even if the whole world, yes, his own heart condemns him; his motto, therefore, is: "If my heart simply says no, I will hold God's Word more certain."

By grace! May sin and Satan hearken!

I bear my flag of faith in hand

And pass--for doubts my joy can't darken--

The Red Sea to the Promised Land.

I cling to what my Savior taught

And trust it, whether felt or not.

My dear hearers, examine yourselves according to this. Do you also consider God's Word so precious, great and holy? Are you also prepared to give up your life rather than depart in one letter from the purity of God's Word? Are you also dissatisfied merely with the appearance of the truth? Is your faith so firmly grounded on God's Word that you feel confident of being saved, even if all men would reject and condemn you?

Sad to say, the rule among many is the fearful contagious disease of not wanting to be certain of their faith by themselves, but first looking at others to see whether they acknowledge it or not. If they see others happy, certain, and secure with another doctrine, they easily mistrust their own faith and join them. What is the cause of this? They are not certain of their own faith on the basis of God's Word. Oh, you who must constantly look to others, to your counselor and those whom you consider good Christians and then are satisfied if they console you: Bear in mind, some day you will have to plead for your own soul; your salvation is at stake; if you let yourselves be deceived by others, you do this at your own risk; you will not be able to say to Christ: I believed this, because this person and that person whom I considered Christians comforted me; Christ will then reply: Did I direct you to people? Have I not given you my Word and said to you: "Search the Scriptures, for they are they which testify of me"? Why have you not grounded yourselves in them? Behold, you have rejected my Word, I must in turn reject you! Cursed is the man who trusts man! Depart from me, I never knew you, you evildoer!

II.

My friends, a second sign whether one has the true faith is if it is united with a living knowledge of the heart. St. Paul points to this when he says to the Corinthians in our text: "Moreover, brethren. I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you." Vv.1.2. This, my dearly beloved friends, is a glorious description of a true believer; the apostle says that they have accepted the Gospel and stand in it. This must prompt us to think that these are not the words of men but the words of the Holy Ghost, who spoke through the apostle. God's Words are deep, rich, and vast. Ah, my dear Christian, if you hear that the Corinthians had accepted the Gospel and stood in it, do not hurry so quickly over this expression, and do not immediately conclude that this could be said of you as well, but ponder what this means, actually to accept and stand in the Gospel.

Many think, that if they call that good which God's Word calls good, if they are pleased with the beautiful doctrine of the Gospel, if they gladly and diligently hear and read God's Word, then they have also accepted it. However, one can indeed find a certain pleasure in God's Word and yet be full of hostility toward the Word, when it strikes the most tender spot of our heart. Mark 6 says of Herod: "For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and holy, and observed him, and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly;" Mk 6:20; however, when John reprimanded him because of his pet sins, he finally


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lost his head under the ax of the executioner of this apparent lover of God's Word. In the same way almost all Germany once extolled Luther's comforting teachings, and yet we hear this man complain in all his writings that his word is not accepted but rejected.

If you want to be certain of your faith, then listen to the following. By nature no person is capable of embracing the Gospel; that must happen through the Holy Spirit. Whenever an unconverted person hears, read, or studies God's Law, the Holy Ghost tries to convince him of being a great sinner, that he is not in God's grace but his wrath rests upon him. If by the working of God he does not resist the Holy Spirit, his heart will be filled with a deep sorrow, his awakened conscience will hurl him into anxiety and terror, and through the Gospel there arises in man a heartfelt longing for grace, help, and mercy. Oh, blessed is the one who experiences this, for this longing for grace is already the beginning of the true saving faith the moment the sinner with his longing reaches out for Christ, the Reconciler of sinners. If he remains under the discipline of the Holy Ghost, He finally leads him through the Word of the Gospel from the longing for Christ to embracing him in faith and trust, so that he can exclaim with divine certainty: "Praise the Lord, oh my soul," for I a sinner

have found grace, I a wretched person have found mercy.

Hence, all earthly treasure!

Jesus is my Pleasure,

Jesus is my Choice.

Hence, all empty glory!

Naught to me thy story

Told with tempting voice.

Pain or loss, Or shame or cross,

Shall not from my Savior move me

Since He deigns to love me. (347,4)

You see, my friends, one can merely say of him who has had such knowledge, that he has embraced the Gospel and come to true faith. He who knows absolutely nothing of the pains of true repentance; who still has not discovered the power of the Law and does not know how a sinner feels, when by the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit he sees his state of wrath and perceives that he is a child of death; who in true distress of soul has never cried for Christ's grace from the depths of his heart, nor known that by one's own power one cannot believe in Christ, that God alone is able to give us this through his precious Spirit, he definitely is without grace. The birth of faith in the soul of the sinner does not take place without his noticing it. It is a work which changes the entire man, leads him from darkness to light, from spiritual death to spiritual life, from weakness to divine power.

In his preface to the Epistle to the Romans Luther phrases this most beautifully: "Many when they hear the Gospel, fall at this point and of their own powers create the thought in their heart which says: I believe. This they consider the correct faith. But since it is a human fable and thought which never comes to know the elements of the heart, it, therefore, does nothing and no improvement follows. Faith, however, is a divine work within us which changes us and is newly born from God and kills the Old Adam, makes us an entirely different person in heart, spirit, mind, and all powers, and brings the Holy Spirit along. -- Pray God that he works this faith in you; otherwise you remain forever without faith, do what you will."

Examine yourselves, my friends, on the basis of this; have you also come to your faith by way of such an experience? Can you relate what God has


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done to your soul? Can you by experience say: If God had not granted me faith, I would never have been able to give myself to him? My faith is not the work of my nature, but a result of the Holy Spirit, who has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith?

I am convinced that if all true Christians among us would have to answer this they would be able to tell even more of the guidance of their God, and how much it cost them before they were certain than could be indicated here in this brief time. However, perhaps many of us can say nothing of this but he has, as Luther says, by his own power created a thought in his heart which says: I believe. And in the past he has looked on this as the true faith. Oh, let him first of all surrender to the discipline of the Holy Spirit, let go of his dead faith, and beseech God for the true faith, otherwise he will certainly remain without faith eternally.

III.

My friends, one could at one time have had that living experience, when hearing the Gospel for the first time, and perhaps now not have it any more and have lost the faith; therefore, when the apostle wants to extol the faith of the Corinthians, he not only says, that they have received the Gospel, but in the third place, they they still stand in this Gospel, "unless ye have believed in vain;" if we compare the testimony which St. Paul gives of himself at the close of our Epistle with this, we see that the third sign, whether one is still in the true faith is this, if it is revealed in us by a new holy mind and walk.

Without a doubt St. Paul had true faith in Jesus Christ, and how was it revealed in him? Before he was proud and self-righteous, and now he is humble, calls himself one born out of due time, the least of the apostles; yes, he speaks as though he were not worthy of being called an apostle, hence, he looks on all his previous righteousness according to the Law as dung and boasts alone of the grace of his Redeemer; previously he was a persecutor of the fellowship of God, but now by the untiring preaching of the Gospel he gathers holy congregations in all lands to the praise and honor of Christ, so that he could say that he labored more than they all; if before he had misled many, he now tries to rescue so many more and bring them to Christ; he proves that over against Christ's sheep he is a true father in Christ, a faithful shepherd of souls; if in the past he dishonored Christ, now he tries so much the more to promote Christ's honor; if as a religious fanatic he persecuted those of a different opinion, he now wishes to be cursed by Christ for his blinded brethren after the flesh, if with his soul he could rescue theirs.

This is the picture of a Christian, who has not only embraced the Gospel but also stands in it; honestly and earnestly examine yourselves according to it. If there is true faith, a new life will also give evidence of it. If in the past you were proud and haughty, now you will be humble before God and men; if you were greedy and loved money, now you will be generous and heavenly-minded; if you were vain and loved the world, you will now be self-denying and pious; if formerly you were unchaste and lustful, now you are chaste and temperate; if formerly you were angry and surly, now you are gentle and friendly; if you were faithless and dishonest, now you are honest and conscientious; if you were lazy and indolent, now you are zealous and eager; if you were frivolous and unfaithful in your earthly calling, now you are earnest and diligent; if you were full of jokes and tomfoolery, now your mouth is the more full of God's praise and edifying speech; if you were full of murmuring against God and full of earthly cares, now you will be submissive and full of confidence in your heavenly father. If in the past you served sin, the world, and Satan zealously, now you will so


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much the more earnestly serve righteousness, God, and your Savior. For: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new." 2 Cor 5:17. "In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love." Gal 5:6.

He of us who can 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." V.10, I have a new heart and walk in a new life, let him not despair in the face of the great weakness of his flesh; if he must say with Paul: That what I want to do I do not, and what I do not want to do I do, let him carry on the conflict sincerely and not let sin have dominion over him; if in this conflict with sin God's grace in us is not in vain, this is a sign that it also will not be in vain when we must appear before God's throne, but it will absolve us from all guilt and open to us the gates of eternal life. Amen.

11TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2     1 Corinthians 15:1-10  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.

We now live in such dreadful, and dangerous times, that it must almost be considered a miracle, if here and there a very few still recognize, accept, and hold the truth firmly. On the one hand, whole legions of unbelievers now arise who even deny and with the coarsest ridicule censure all those truths, which are written in every man's heart from his very youth. What in even the most corrupt ages only a very few dared express to the horror of their contemporaries, that almost all leaders of the people now proclaim frankly and freely from the housetops as those principles finally recognized and accepted by the whole world. Nowadays a person can scarcely go into a public gathering or pick up a periodical without hearing or reading the most sacrilegious expressions against the Almighty in heaven, his works and counsels, and besmirching his heart with them.

Christianity, however, does not oppose these atheists and blasphemers as once it opposed the unbelief of heathenism. Christianity does not stand like a tightly closed line of battle against the foes of the faith, not like one immense light beaming into the darkness of these evil times. Alas, no! even among Christians, who still claim they want to preserve the divine truth, there is such great disunity, that it seems as though Christians in turn are just as distinct from each other as they are different from manifest unbelievers. Split up into countless sects, Christians fight against each other like the most bitter enemies. Each party claims to have the true alone, and the more ingenious their spokesmen are, the more deceivingly they present their errors as the only truth.

The result is that great numbers despair completely of ever becoming certain where the truth can really be found. Many of the unlearned especially say: How are we to decide who is right, if even the learned cannot unite on this matter?


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And it is true, when so many thousands of wise deceivers of all kinds arise, it is not a very small matter to remain on the correct way of the truth and be able to say without a doubt: This is the way which I intend to and must go; I will not swerve either to the right or the left.

However, my friends, we dare not think that this is actually impossible. No, no, the name of the Lord be praised and blessed for this! God has not only commanded us to walk the way of truth, but he has also seen to it that every person of every age can recognize the way of truth and find it and become so certain, that he can say: Even though the entire world would think and believe otherwise, I know that I am not upon the wrong way but have the truth which saves me.

This, however, is the most wonderful thing: He who wants to become certain of his faith need not leave his calling and study until he knows what is in the Bible; he need not have as great a knowledge as a learned professor. There are rather certain simple principles which even the unlearned can easily grasp, and if a person holds fast to these and tests all things according to them, no one, not even the wisest and most learned, can lead him astray. There are certain simple principles which are like a thread with which one can enter even the darkest maze of human opinions and can successfully find his way out again. There are certain simple principles which are like a good touchstone; as a goldsmith with the aid of a touchstone can easily find out whether something offered him as real gold actually is gold or brass or other worthless imitation metal, so if every Christian holds firmly to these main principles, he can easily make the test whether that which is being sold him as the gold of truth actually is .such gold or the worthless brass of human opinion and errors.

Since in our today's Epistle we are directed to the two chief principles to which above all every Christian must firmly hold, if he does not want to be misled, let us in the present hour examine them more closely.

The text. 1 Corinthians 15:1-10.

My friends, even the Corinthian Christians were once in great danger of being misled. Many false teachers had arisen among them who had caused them to cast suspicions upon the doctrine of Paul. Now what did the Apostle Paul do in order to preserve the Corinthians against being misled and make them certain of the doctrine which he had preached to them? He reminds them of two things, namely, that the source of all his doctrines was the Scripture, and that the foundation of all his preaching was Christ and his grace. Here Paul places the true touchstone into the hands of Christians of all times. Therefore, permit me to present to you:

THE TWO HIGHEST PRINCIPLES TO WHICH EVERY CHRISTIAN MUST HOLD FAST IF HE DOES NOT WANT TO BE MISLED IN THESE DANGEROUS TIMES

1. The First Is: Holy Scripture Is The Only Source And Rule Of True Faith, and

2. The Second Is: Man Is Righteous Before God And Is Saved Only By Faith In Jesus Christ

Oh Lord God, heavenly Father, you have called us to live in a time when your Word and truth is impudently mocked and blasphemed by countless numbers, cunningly falsified and twisted by others; and alas! in the face of these things our own heart is so inclined to unbelief and so uninclined to


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believe, sometimes indifferent, sometimes fearful. Therefore, if you do not interest yourself in us, we would never reach the blessed goal which you have placed before us. Oh, then graciously behold our helplessness and the danger in which we hover and come to our aid. Give us your Holy Spirit and never take him from us again. Do not forsake us if we stray away from you and your truth but bring us immediately back to the true way. And finally grant us a blessed death in your comforting Word, and in eternity receive us among the host of your elect. To that end bless your Word also during this hour. Amen.

I.

My friends, when someone caused the Corinthians to suspect the doctrine of the Apostle Paul, one would have thought that Paul would have quashed all suspicions simply by stating that he was an apostle immediately enlightened and filled with the Holy Ghost and endowed with the gift of doing miracles; therefore, no one should dare to doubt the truth of what he has taught.

But what does Paul do? Of himself he speaks last of all; yes, calls himself one born out of due time, the least of the apostles, who is not worthy to be called an apostle; the real, true reason why his doctrine is certain and true he mentions first of all; twice he says that everything which he explained to the Corinthians he has expounded "according to the Scriptures." In these words the apostle clearly confirms the first principle, that the Holy Scriptures are the only source and rule of true faith.

Of course it is true, that there were times when there simply were no Scriptures, namely during the entire period of the patriarchs, from the beginning of the world until the time of Moses. Even though, for example the teachers in the Papal church cite this in order to prove that Holy Scripture must not be so necessary, this does not in the least prove their contention; rather, the very opposite is true. True, at first God let his Word be transmitted by word of mouth through the patriarchs and the house fathers; but what happened? It soon appears that this way of preserving and transmitting divine revelation was chosen by God only for the first period of world history; for behold! at the time of the flood divine truth was found in unadulterated form only in Noah's family, whilst among the millions of his contemporaries lies and error held sway as being God's Word, and the true, oral, holy traditions were despised and rejected as vain, uncertain things and fables; and even afterwards it lasted but a short time and the whole world was found in the same darkness again, so that God had to choose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and once again reveal to them directly the divine truth. However, scarcely was Joseph dead in Egypt when the old faith was again suppressed and falsified; it appeared as if God's Church on earth would soon come to an end. What did God, therefore, do? He finally chose Moses to be his servant and through him did not only let his holy Word be preached orally to the people, but in order that it might stand firmly without change, it was also written down; later on God himself began the recording of his Word when with his own finger he himself had engraved the Ten Commandments on tables of stone.

However, from the moment that God began to let his Word be written down, the written Word became and is for all times until the end of the world the only source, rule, and guide of all true faith. From that moment every teacher has had to prove that he is a true prophet and that his doctrine is true by showing that his doctrine agrees exactly with the Word of God already written down. Therefore, when Moses was to complete the first books of the Bible, he had to add the warning: "Thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." Dt. 12:32. Even the later prophets who received new revelations from God not only had


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to prove by prophecies and miracles that the Lord spoke through them, but also in the fact that their new revelation agreed completely with God's words already recorded, yes, that their new revelations were really nothing more than further explanations, unfoldings, and confirmations of the old revelations already written in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, the next prophet relied and appealed to the writings of the preceding prophets from Moses to the last of the prophets, Malachi. They all said as though with one voice what is written in Isaiah 8:

"To the Law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."  V.20.

And if we examine the New Testament we find that all the apostles as well mostly proved that their doctrine was correct because they agreed completely with the written Word of God in the Old Testament. Thus the Apostle Paul says to the Corinthians in our text: What I have given you I have given "according to the Scriptures." And when this same Paul preached before King Agrippa, he testified loudly and openly: "I say none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come." Acts 26:22.

Yes, and more; even Christ, the Son of God, in his doctrine continually appealed to this: "It is written." In everything he spoke and did, we read: "So that the Scriptures might be fulfilled." "Thus it is written, and thus Christ must die, and on the third day rise from the dead." And he declares: "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." Mt 5:17. In another place he says: "Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of me." Jn 5:39. "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me. But if he believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" Jn 5:46.47. Never do we read, that Christ or the apostles in addition to the Scriptures appealed to the oral traditions; rather, wa hear that Christ severely reprimanded the Pharisees who annulled God's Word in the interest of the traditions of their elders.

Therefore, when John had written and finished the last book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation, he added the earnest, threatening warning: "I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Rev 22:18.19.

On the basis of these facts this is clear: The principle that Holy Scripture is the only source, rule, and guide of faith has from the moment that God's Word was written always been the chief principle of the true Church, and it will and must remain that until the end of days. All the prophets of the Old Testament and all the apostles of the New, yes, Christ Jesus himself, the Son of God, the Most High, have stood on this principle.

Though this principle is so simple that the most unlearned can easily grasp and remember it, it is also a very precious, safe, infallible means for not being misled in these dangerous seductive times. He who clings firmly to this principle has a light which reveals all error, a sword with which he can conquer all opponents and falsifiers of the true faith. No sect can deceive him who clings firmly to this principle. For if one sect makes something else than the Scriptures the rule of faith, he knows that this cannot be the true Church. If, for example, the papists say: You must believe not only the written but also the unwritten Word of God, the traditions of the Church, he says: Get thee hence!


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Not the unwritten traditions but Scripture alone is the source and rule of my faith. If the Reformed say: You cannot believe everything which is written; you must explain unbelievable things according to one’s reason, he says: Get thee hence! Not reason but Scripture alone is the rule of my faith. If the enthusiasts say: You must not cling to dead letters, but to the Spirit, the inner light, he says: Get thee hence! Not the Spirit without the Scriptures, not an inner light but the lamp and the light of the written Word is the source and rule of my faith.

Oh my friends, cling firmly to this highest principle of the true Church of all ages; then you have a rock upon which you stand firmly even if everything else about you wavers and totters. Then you will never doubt that our Evangelical Lutheran Church is God’s true Church upon earth, for this our Church confesses not only the principle that the Scripture is the only source, rule, and guide of faith but it also follows this principle; they believe and teach everything as it is written in the writings of the apostles and prophets and abandons traditions, reason, and the inner light, or upon whatever foundation of sand other groups otherwise base their false faith.

II.

There is yet a second principle to which every Christian must cling firmly if he does not want to be seduced during these dangerous times. Permit me now to add a few things about this.

It is true, one would suppose that if one would cling firmly to the first principle one would be safe from any seduction. But this is not so. There are not a few even among the false teachers who often say that the Bible is the only source and rule of faith and in their sermons and writings also quote many Bible passages. Many, therefore, are deceived by them because they do not notice that these preachers not only omit the chief points of Biblical doctrine, but also falsify and distort most of the things which they pretend to take from Holy Scripture. We conclude: If a Christian does not want to be misled, he must not only hold firmly to the principle that Scripture is the only source and rule of faith, but he also needs another principle which also mentions what a true teacher draws from this source of faith. Now which is this second principle?

The apostle mentions it is our text when he says: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose a gain the third day according to the Scriptures." Vv.3.4. We see from this: As proof that he taught the true doctrine, the apostle appeals to the fact that he presented to the Corinthians "first of all." that is, as the first thing, as the chief thing, as the foundation upon which he built all else, that Christ died for our sins, that is, that Christ redeemed us from sins by his death, reconciled us with God, won grace and forgiveness, and brought righteousness, life, and salvation to light by his resurrection. He wants to say: You indeed know, my dear Corinthians, it was faith in the crucified and risen Christ which I preached first of all to you, which I preached to you as the only way to salvation, as the only way to heaven, as the only comfort, and as the only hope for your soul. Must you not, therefore, know and confess that you have heard the true doctrine from me?

According to Paul's declaration, what is the second principle by which one can recognize a true teacher and the true Church? It is: That man is


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righteous before God and is saved alone through faith in the crucified Christ.

And so it is, my dear hearers: The doctrine that one cannot stand before God through works, nor through one's own righteousness, nor through one's own worthiness, nor through one's own merit, but that the crucified and risen Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, that has been the heart and center of divine revelation at all times and will remain that until the end of the world. The moment man had fallen God made the start with this teaching in Paradise when he said: "The seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent and it will bruise his heel." This doctrine is the sum total of the preaching of all the prophets of the Old Testament and all the apostles of the New. For the sake of this teaching God revealed his Word to us. This teaching separates Christianity from heathenism and all other teachings of the world. Without this doctrine the Gospel is no longer Gospel, Christianity no Christianity. What the shell is from which the kernel has been taken, what a lampstand is from which the light has been taken, what a brook is in which there is no water, what the human body is from which the heart has been torn, that is what a so-called Biblical sermon is without the teaching that we are righteous before and are saved only through faith in the crucified and risen Christ.

Therefore, if a Christian does not want to be deceived in these dangerous times, he must also cling firmly to this second principle.

If a Christian does this, no one can mislead him. If he hears a preacher who can indeed make beautiful words about virtue and piety, praise Christ highly but promise salvation for virtue and piety, then a Christian says: You are a false prophet, for we are righteous before God and are saved alone through faith in the crucified and risen Christ. If a Christian hears a Catholic priest say that faith in Christ is necessary for salvation, but that in addition one must do good works, must himself make satisfaction for his sins, confess his sins to the priest, and by hearing the mass, giving alms, fasting and similar works must earn his own merit before God, this Christian says: You are a false prophet, for we are righteous before God and are saved only through faith in the crucified and risen Christ without the works of the Law. If this Christian hears an enthusiast say, that it is indeed correct that one must believe in Christ, but that this does not end the matter, one must also be able to pray a certain kind of prayer, one must also feel one's faith and the rebirth, one must also have a holiness of a certain degree, this Christian says: You are a false prophet, for we are righteous before God and saved alone through faith in the crucified and risen Christ.

Oh, would that everyone of us would note and cling firmly to both of those highest principles: First, the Scriptures are the only source and rule of our faith, and secondly, we will be righteous before God and be saved alone through faith in Christ; if he would always use both of these divine touchstones correctly even in these last dangerous times, I am certain not a one would be deceived and misled. Both of these supreme principles are divine armor, in which even the most unlearned Christian is unconquerable in the face of all the cunning and arts of the most learned and wisest person. Both of these principles are two suns before which all the deceiving qualities of false doctrine melt away like clouds and fog.

Oh my friends, let us not be unthankful for the inexpressible mercy of God, who has been pleased to give us poor, unworthy sinners the most precious treasures of his unadulterated truth! Let us hold fast what we have, that no one will rob us of our crown! Only in the true doctrine is the true Christ, only in the true Christ is true grace, only in true grace is the true God, only in the


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true God is true blessedness. Therefore, let us pray: "Oh, God, preserve us in thy truth, grant us the eternal freedom to extol thy holy name through Jesus Christ. Amen."

11TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-3    1 Corinthians 15:1-10  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 Matthew 24 Christ says of the time shortly before the Last Day: "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or, there; believe it not. For 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." Vv.23.24.

If we compare the present condition of the Church with this we must admit that Christ's prophecy is being fulfilled before our very eyes.

True, up to the present time Christendom has been growing steadily; under all the zones of heaven, amongst all peoples and tongues of the earth there are now confessors of the Crucified and bearers of his name; everywhere the cry resounds: Behold, here, before, there, is Christ. But at no time was Christendom, as far as the bond of love is concerned, outwardly so split and torn, and inwardly so fallen in the faith as ours. No longer is there a Church spread over the earth, bound by one faith and one confession as in the first centuries of which one could say: Behold, that is Christ's Church, that is the kingdom of God on earth! Here are the people who will be saved; outside of their Church there is no salvation and now blessedness!

Nowadays Christians are split up into almost countless factions and sects, who oppose each other like hostile armies and fight; and even within these individual factions which have the Christian name there is now almost no more unity of faith and confession. There are almost as many confessions as there are chancels and preachers, almost as many faiths as so-called Christians; and there is almost no article of faith about which even Christians are not at variance in their teaching. However, the most tragic thing is that nowadays they know how to present and whitewash false doctrines with such cunning that they have the most wonderful Christian semblance. In his time Luther lamented in song:

With Fraud which they themselves invent

Thy truth they have confounded;

Their hearts are not with one consent

On Thy pure doctrine grounded.

While they parade with outward show,

They lead the people to and fro,

In error's maze astounded. (260,2)

We must now echo him in song during this even incomparably greater confusion of faith.


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Now my friends, is it, therefore, really possible in these times, to know who is right and be preserved from being misled? Should an unlearned man who has no time to study books every day be in a position to separate truth from error, examine everything and keep what is good? Certainly one would think that everyone would accept the truth rather than error. However, do not even the wisest and most learned men now disagree, so that the one considers and calls that the truth which another deems and attacks as error? If even the wisest and most learned people cannot find their way, is one not to think that, therefore, an unlearned could discover the truth even less?

True, so it seems; and sad to say, there are only too many who suppose that it is absolutely impossible to say with certainty who is right and who is not. But eternal praise and thanks be to God! It only seems so. True, the prevailing errors nowadays are many; true, they are presented and defended as the truth with great vigor; true, the whole Christian Church today seems to be a huge maze; true, the danger of being entangled in error and being lost is great as Christ has so clearly predicted of the last times; but with this tragic prophecy Christ has at the same time given comfort. He says: "Insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Mt 24:24. "If it were possible," says the Lord. It, therefore, is not possible. God has taken care that every person can find the truth; no seduction can be so cunning and no error so plausible but that even the simplest Christian can be preserved against it. Not only does Solomon say: "He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous," Prov 2,7 but also Isaiah predicts particularly of the times of the New Testament: "And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those; the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." Is 35:8. And Christ himself says: "I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Jn 8:12.

Now what must a Christian do so that in spite of all the good appearance of errors which emerge he is not misled and lost? The answer to this question so important mainly for our times we find in the Epistle of this Sunday. Let us then hear it; but first, let us in silent prayer call upon him who is the very truth for his light and assistance.

The text. 1 Corinthians 15:1-10.

In order to understand the real purpose of the words of our text, it is necessary, my friends, to look at the words following our text. There the apostle continues thus: "Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?" V.12. We see from this: In the Corinthian congregation there were a few who has fallen into the serious and ruinous error, that there is no resurrection of the dead. Therefore, the words of our text contain the apostolic direction on how to deal with this and all similar errors. Permit me today to answer the question:

WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN TO DO SO THAT HE IS NOT MISLED AND LOST BY THE ATTRACTIONS OF NEW ERRORS?

On the basis of out text I answer:

1. Above All He Must Hold Fast To The Fundamental Truths Of The Gospel Which He Already Knows;

2. He must Always Cling To The Clear Letter Of Holy Scripture;

3. He Must Strengthen His Faith Through The Testimony Of Teachers Proven As Teaching The Truth, and finally,


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4. In deepest Humility He Must Despair Of His Own Worthiness And  Wisdom.

Lord our God, you have let us be born in a time when the dangers of losing your truth and falling into ruinous errors threaten us on every hand. However, your holy Word is a light which gives light at all times for finding and going the true way. Then cause this light to shine upon us in this hour and do you yourself show us the way of which you say: "This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left," is 30:21; and then by your power help us to remain on it until we come where we shall sec you, the Sun of truth, and be blessed in your light. Amen.

I.

As we have seen, our today's Epistle was written first of all to the Corinthians, in order to save them from the error arising at that time amongst them, the error that there is no resurrection of the dead. What does the apostle do? He writes: "Moreover brethren. I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received and wherein ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if he keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." Vv.1-4.

Thus the apostle first of all reminds the Corinthians of certain fundamental truths of the Gospel, which they had already known as irrefutable truths,and upon which they until this hour had placed all their comfort and hope, namely, the truth that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and on the third day rose again. The apostle means to say: My dear Corinthians, it needs not much proof to make it clear to you that it is a great error to deny the resurrection of the dead. Simply think of what you already know and believe; this stands firmly for you as Christians beyond any doubt, namely, that Christ died, was buried, and rose again; then you will immediately perceive that those who deny the resurrection of the dead are miserable deceivers; for if they were right, the whole Christian faith, hence also your faith, your comfort, your hope, would be vain.

My friends, we see from this not only Paul's great wisdom and how mighty he was in reprimanding his opponents; but from this we derive this important rule: If a Christian does not want to be misled by the errors which a rise and be lost, it is not only necessary that he be a very learned or an unusually keen-minded fellow, who can see through and resolve all false conclusions; no, as long as he holds faithfully and firmly to the fundamental truths of the Gospel already known to him, he will certainly be preserved from all dangerous errors, no matter how pleasingly they are adorned.

Yes, my friends, so it is; the whole Christian religion is like a huge chain which reaches from earth to heaven and unites both. All the separate Christian teachings are the links in this chain. Remove one of these links and the entire chain is torn; the connection between heaven and earth is broken. The whole Christian religion is like an amazing artistic edifice erected by God in which one stone supports the other. If only one stone is removed, or a false stone put in its place, the entire edifice trembles and is liable to collapse. All the parts of the Christian faith are as closely connected as the members of the body. That is also why they are called articles of faith, that is, parts of


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the faith. If only one such part is broken, the whole body is immediately aware of it. Therefore, if a Christian understands only the simplest Catechism truths, he dare cling only to them nor let them be taken from him at any price; he will also soon detect every error or not accept it and take it into his heart.

This must also be added: There are certain doctrines, which as it were, are the mark of the entire Christian revelation, the real roots from which the thousand-branched tree of Christian doctrine grows forth, the true heart of the Gospel from which all the rays of divine truth shine forth, and this mark, these roots, this heart are not the doctrines which only the very learned can penetrate, but they are those well-known truths, which every well-instructed school child knows. He who clings firmly to these has, therefore, as it were, the thread with which he himself can find his way in the dark mazes of these last times and get out again.

Let me give you an example. Every Catechism pupil knows that Christ is our only Savior; therefore, all of the teachings of the Romanists according to which one can receive salvation by his works must be false. Every Catechism pupil knows that God is almighty and with him nothing is impossible; hence all the teachings of the Reformed which they have accepted contrary to the Word of the Bible, because the one or the other doctrine is not possible, must be false. Every Catechism pupil knows that God is holy; hence the Calvinistic teaching that God himself has committed sinful acts, e.g.. the fall of man, the hardening of Pharaoh, must be false. Every Catechism pupil knows that God loves the whole world and wants its salvation; hence the Calvinistic teaching, that God has even from eternity destined and created many to damnation must be false. Every Catechism pupil knows that every person in this life is and remains a sinner; hence the Methodist teaching of perfect holiness even in this life must be false. Every Catechism pupil knows that in this world the Church of Christ is and remains not a kingdom of this world but a kingdom of the cross; hence the teaching of the Chiliasts of a thousand-year kingdom of joy and peace must be false; and so forth.

I therefore repeat: My dear Christian, cling firmly to the fundamental truths of the Gospel which you already know, and you will be preserved in spite of the deceiving qualities of new errors.

II.

We continue. The second rule is this: The Christian should always remain with the clear letter of Holy Writ.

Paul teaches this also in our Epistle by his example. There the apostle reminds the Corinthians not only of the fundamental truths of the Gospel which they had already known and accepted, but he secondly also reminds them that he presented everything "according to the Scriptures." He writes in verses 3 and 4: "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES."

There are such sly deceivers who, because they know that Christians will not let certain basic truths be taken from them at any price, in a deceitful way often try to prove their errors by these very basic truths. When, e.g.. in the fourth century the heretic Arius arose and wanted to contest the divinity of Christ, he appealed chiefly to the point that all Christians believe only in one God. Again, when 300 years ago Zwingli in Switzerland arose and wanted to over


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throw the doctrine of Christ's presence in the Lord's Supper, he appealed chiefly to the point that all Christians believe that Christ has ascended into heaven and would not come again until Judgment Day. Finally, when 300 years ago the Anabaptists also arose and wanted to destroy the baptism of infants, they appealed chiefly to the point that according to the teaching of all orthodox Christians, if baptism is to have salutary effect, faith is necessary. These false teachers used these very basic truths of the Gospel to support their errors and to convince simple Christians.

How can Christians guard themselves against these Arian, Zwinglian, and Anabaptist heresies? and how did many millions actually guard themselves against them? They replied to the Arians: True, we cling firmly to the article of faith that there is only one God; but what is written? Is it not also written: "Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever"? Rom 9:5. Is it not also written: "All men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father"? Jn 5:23. "I and my Father are one"? Jn 10:30. "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father"? Jn 14: 9. Hence it is true that according to the Scripture God is one God in essence; but at the same time according to the same Scriptures triune in person.

Moreover, 300 years ago the Lutheran said to the Zwinglians: True, we cling firmly to Christ's ascension; but what is written? Is it not also written: "This is my body, this is my blood"? Must we not, therefore, believe both, Christ's ascension and his presence in the Sacrament?

And finally to the Anabaptists they testified: True, we cling firmly to the doctrine that Baptism saves only him who believes; but what is written? Is it not also clearly written in the Scriptures, that children also believe? Does not Christ say in clear words, placing a child at his side: "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea"? Mt 18:6. Must we not, therefore, believe both, the necessity of faith in Baptism and the legitimacy of the baptism of children?

See, my friends, "It is written!" is the second sword which is given Christians to combat every error. If a Christian lets this sword be wrested from hi3 hands, then of course, he is surrendered to every wind of doctrine and deception of men, even if he thinks he holds firmly to the basic truths of the Gospel. If in all things, which are presented to him as the truth, he also asks: "What is written?" and stand firmly on the clear words of Scripture without wavering, he stands upon a rock which no wisdom of man can overthrow and upon which he can wave his banner of victory even if the world sinks beneath him. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away," says Christ. Mt 24:35. And David exclaims: "The word of the Lord is right, and all his works are done in truth." Ps 33:4.

III.

In our Epistle the apostle refers to a third way of preserving his Corinthians from the error that there is no resurrection of the dead. He calls upon the human witnesses of the Lord's resurrection, that the Resurrected "was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of about 500 brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James, then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as one born out of due time." Vv.5-8.

We see from this, that if a Christian does not want to be deceived by new errors and be lost, he must thirdly not despise the testimony of teachers


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proven as teaching the truth but must seek to strengthen his faith through them.

Of course it is true: That faith based on the testimonies of man is built upon sand, and if they were the most pious and enlightened who ever lived. Psalm 62 says expressly: "Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie." V.9. The Prophet Jeremiah writes: "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." Jer 17:5. But, my friends, it is not to no purpose that the Lord from time to time gives his Church men of most unusual gifts of grace and office, of shining piety, of heroic faith, of penetrating understanding, of deepest knowledge, of the richest experience, of almost irresistible eloquence, and the like. Of course, we should not base our faith upon such men, but they have been given to us weak mortals to lean upon, and if we are in danger of falling and perhaps have already stumbled to raise us up again. Their authority should not be the reason for believing something, but it should serve to strengthen our faith. For example, that Christ was no longer dead but had risen and lives, the Corinthians did not believe because men had told it to them, but because they detected the living Christ in their hearts; however, the testimony of the apostle and a great host of brethren of having seen the Resurrected with their own eyes must have mightily strengthened their faith. That is why Paul also reminds them of these human witnesses.

Therefore, my friends, we also during these last perplexing times should not despise this glorious means of strengthening our faith against the pressing stream of opinion and error. If a new error arises, the first question must be: "What is written? how readest thou?" What does God's Word say on this point? However, if we have recognized the error from God's Word, then we should also turn to the writings, e.g.,of Luther and his faithful pupils, but above all the confessional writings of our orthodox Church and hear also their testimony. Yes, at times it can be good and necessary that first of all we have recourse to these fathers of the faith who have proven their trustworthiness, certainly not to believe something because they say it but because in difficult cases often they alone can give us the key for unlocking Scripture. For all do not have all gifts but they are divided; not everyone, as Paul testifies in Romans 12, has the gift of prophecy, that is, it is not given to everyone to explain Scripture correctly and to convince others of his explanation of the Scriptures. However, he who has this gift has it for the benefit of all, has it for us all. "Whether Paul, or Apollos, all things are yours." 1 Cor 3:22. Therefore, he who does not want to use the great gifts of outstanding servants of God but always wants to stand on his own feet will also be very easily misled into error as a righteous punishment for his contempt of God's gift of his chosen vessels, and perish. For it is not to the individual but only to the Church that the promise is given that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Therefore, he who despises the blessing and the treasures of the Church will also not experience the fulfilment of that promise.

IV.

This leads me to the fourth and final thing which a Christian must have, if he does not want to be deceived by new errors and be lost; he must in the deepest humility despair of his own worthiness and wisdom.

True, in our text, the apostle does not expressly exhort the Corinthians in this point, but he clearly enough intimates it, when in deepest humility he at the close speaks of himself, calling himself "one born out of due time." and adds: "For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an


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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." Vv.9.10

As we said, here the apostle intimates that in order not to lose the truth or fall into error the deepest and purest humility is necessary indeed.

And so it is my friends. As an old teacher of the Church wrote correctly, pride is the mother of all heresies. Errors are almost always accepted by a person without him knowing that they are errors. But if he is proud and haughty, he will not give up the error even if it is proven to him, in order not to bear the inevitable disgrace that once he erred, and then he finally becomes a stiff-necked heretic. That's the way it went with the arch-heretic Arius and almost all who caused all kinds of unrest and trouble in the Church by their errors, and finally hurled themselves under God’s wrath and into eternal ruin.

If a Christian is assailed by such proud heretics, it is above all necessary that a Christian himself is not proud and haughty. He who relies upon his own wisdom and shrewdness, who thinks: I know very well what I have to believe; no one will mislead me; no one will dissuade me from my religion, is like a fortress whose gates are already wide open to the foe. The very ones who consider themselves unconquerable, unseducible, and have relied upon and bragged about their great knowledge have often been the first to fall.

No, my friends, to know and remain with the truth, to see through and resist error is not within our own power; "with might of our", also in this point, "can naught be done, soon were our loss effected." Though a person may be ever so learned and clear-sighted, this gives him no security against falling into the worst error. True knowledge of doctrine and a clear perception of error is a gift of God; God must give it by his Holy Spirit; however, God does not give his Holy Spirit to proud but only to humble hearts. For "God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble." 1 Pet 5:5.

Well, then, my dear hearers, what is written in Revelation 3: "The hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth," v.10 has now come to pass. The errors prevailing now are so strong, that if it were possible even the elect might be misled into error. If you do not want to perish during this great danger, follow the four apostolic rules: First, cling firmly to the basic truths of the Gospel which you already know; second, at all times remain with the clear letter of Scripture; third, strengthen your faith through the testimony of teachers proven trustworthy; and fourth, in deepest humility despair of all your worthiness and wisdom; then no one will prevent you from reaching your goal; then, though it may grow constantly darker and darker in Christendom, you will walk in light; you will remain on the right road, and finally when your hours comes, you will be able to exclaim with the apostle: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, 1 have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness." 2 Tim 4:7.8. May Jesus Christ, the King of truth and grace, grant this to us all. Amen.


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12TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1     2 Corinthians 3:4-11  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

It certainly has not escaped him who has read the writings of the Old and New Testaments with just a little attention, that they contain two entirely different doctrines; it would appear to our foolish reason that God himself were showing us two ways by which a person could receive eternal salvation. The doctrine which God once caused to be announced through his servant Moses upon Mt. Sinai amid frightening revelations of his glory is clearly an entirely different one from the teaching of the crucified Christ; to preach this latter doctrine the apostles were sent forth 1500 years later into all the world.

It is one teaching when in God's name Moses tells the people of Israel: "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments," Ex 20: 5.6; and it is an entirely different one when, on the other hand, Christ says to Nicodemus: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Jn 3:16. Yes, they are clearly entirely different teachings when Christ says in one sermon: "Repent," and adds, "and believe the Gospel." They are entirely different teachings when St. Paul says in one place: "Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil," Rom 2:9, and in another passage: "That is, the word of faith, which we preach, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Rom 10:8-10.

There is no doubt: God's Word presents,two doctrines; the one demands that we fulfil God's will, the other entices us to faith in his dear Son; the one announces God's wrath and eternal death, the other announces God's grace and eternal life; the one announces a curse upon the sinner, the other a blessing; the one leads him into hell, the other opens heaven to him; the one gives him up for lost, the other shows him the way to definite deliverance and help; the one is like a heavy hammer which smashes the rocks, the other is as gentle as balm and oil which heals and soothes the hurts of the soul; the one is as frightening as a storm, the other as gentle as the mist in early morning.

And both of these doctrines we find in the Old as well as the New Testaments; all the prophets and apostles use both; yes, even Christ according to his prophetic office preached both; Zechariah predicted in chapter 11, that as the true Shepherd he would pasture his flock with the staff called Beauty and the staff called Bands. By both of these staffs we must understand the doctrine of the holy Law and the doctrine of the gracious Gospel.

From all this, my friends, we see that one cannot possibly understand God's counsel for salvation aright, if he does not know the different purposes which God had and still has with the revelation of his holy Law as well as the gracious Gospel. Without the knowledge of the relationship in which both of these doctrines stand to one another the whole Bible remains a dark, unexplainable, yt:3, a locked book.

The Epistle of this Sunday as well as the one next Sunday leads us to the important doctrine of the Law and Gospel contained in God's Word. In our


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today’s text we are shown the difference and in next Sunday's text the glorious harmony of Law and Gospel. Let us therefore take up as our meditation the first subject mentioned.

The text. 2 Corinthians 3:4-11.

My friends, if we want to understand correctly the purpose of the Epistle just read, we must know that in the congregation at Corinth false teachers had arisen, who pretended that they also were apostles of Jesus Christ and preached the Gospel; however, they maintained that according to God's Word one must not only believe in Christ, but also keep the Law if one wanted to be saved; for in God's Word works are just as urgently demanded as faith in the promised Messiah. They, therefore, mixed the doctrine of the Law with the doctrine of the Gospel. Our today's Epistle is directed against these false teachers, when the apostle shows that both, Law and Gospel, are indeed contained in God's Word, and that both have their glory, but that both must be clearly distinguished from one another, if one wants to show a person the way to salvation. Accordingly, permit me to present to you the important doctrine:

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL

1. We Will Study This Difference Under The Guidance Of Our Text, and

2. Ponder What This Study Demands of Us.

Oh God, without whom no one is capable of thinking, to say nothing of speaking or doing, good, have mercy on us all; open my lips that my mouth may show forth your praise and truth; and may all hearers hear it to their soul's health and salvation, for Jesus' sake. Amen.

I.

Even in our times nothing is more usual, my dear hearers, than for teachers and hearers, even those those who want to follow God's Word, to mix the doctrine of the Law with the doctrine of the Gospel. Yes, many suppose that when they correctly fuse Law and Gospel into one, when they say that faith in Christ makes one righteous and saves yet not faith alone; one must also live piously according to God's commandments, this is the true middle way, this is the best understanding of God's Word.

However, my friends, as acceptable as this appears to our reason, one can scarcely think of a more horrible falsification of God's Word than this one. For if one in this way mixes Law and Gospel, one nullifies both; then no sinner can ever be sure of the forgiveness of his sins; then Christ's reconciliation is beclouded and the whole foundation of all true comfort begins to totter and waver.

If, therefore, anyone does not want to deprive himself of the comfort which God has intended for all men, if anyone is glad to find the way by which a poor sinner can be righteous before God and be eternally blessed, he must learn to separate the Law from the Gospel, as day from night, as light from darkness, yes, as far as the heavens are from the earth.

The first thing which the apostle says in our text about Law and Gospel is this, that he called both a "ministration,” that is, a service to be done. From this we see: Both doctrines are from God, and both doctrines according to


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God's will should, therefore, be also taught in God's Church, the Law not without the Gospel, the Gospel not without the Law. What God once revealed upon Mt. Sinai through Moses amid thunder and lightning and the quaking of the earth, namely, the holy Ten Commandments, which he uttered there with a loud voice and wrote out with his own finger on two tables of stone, are just as well God's Word, apply no less to all men without distinction, and must, therefore, be preached just as well to all men who want to be saved, as those great deeds of God, which on Pentecost the Spirit caused the apostles to proclaim with fiery tongues. The same God who commanded: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature," that same God also says to his servants: "Lift up thy voice like a trumpet and show my people their transgressions and sins." Is 58:1.

Although in our text the apostle calls not only the Gospel but also the Law a ministration, he also says that God has "also made us able ministers of the New Testament, NOT of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." V.6. We see from this: Even though a servant of Jesus Christ preaches the Law, this is in no way his true ministry. According to the testimony of our text, his real duty is rather to preach the Gospel. Hence, the real means by which our souls are delivered and brought to God and into heaven is not the Law but the Gospel. This is the first thing, therefore, which every hearer must hammer home if he intends to grasp the difference between these two doctrine; if we had only the Law, no person could be saved; how we are saved is revealed to us only in the Gospel.

This difference becomes even more clear when in our text the apostle calls the Law "the letter" and the Gospel "the spirit," and adds: "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." St. Paul means to say: The Law is a doctrine which God himself wrote in letters on tables of stone on Sinai; it is a beautiful, divine writing which we can indeed read, but without the Gospel it is and remains nothing more than writing. True, there in clear letters we read what we are to do and not do, but where is the power to fulfil the Law? "Thou shalt! Thou shalt!" the Law cries out, but that is also all it can do; it indeed shows the wretched person his debt, but if he hears nothing else he is lost; with all its commandments and threats and promises the Law cannot change his flesh ly heart and give him the power to do what the Law demands, namely, love God above all things and his neighbor as himself. "Thou shalt! Thou shalt!" is the letter of the Law, but even more loudly man hears his heart say: Ah, I will not, I cannot, I have no power to!

Not until the sinner hears the Gospel: Believe on the Lord Jesus who will help you; he died for your sins; he will forgive you your sins; he wants to make you righteous and save you freely and out of grace and mercy, not till then does he hear the word which does not remain a letter; it brings the Holy Spirit; it brings peace and joy and delight, and power into the heart of the sinner, so that he trusts God, at last studies God's Law with pleasure and with a free, willing spirit does what God demands of him.

"The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." writes the apostle, that is, the Law truly reveals to man his death; it shows him that he is dead in sin; it shows him that for the sake of his sins he has deserved to die in time and eternity; however, it lets him remain in his death, shows him no way of coming out of death, but the more clearly this fact enters his mind and heart, the more he must despair of ever being delivered from his misery and saved. The Gospel, however, is the comforting message from God's own mouth directed toward that wretched, sinful, lost man, as we read in Ezekiel 16: "When I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live." V.6

The Law tells us what we must do and at the same time shows us that we


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are unable to do it. The Gospel, on the other hand, tells us what God has done for us. and that in our stead he has fulfilled what we could not.

The Law reveals to us our sickness and causes us to feel the mortal wounds of sin in our soul. However, the Gospel shows us the heavenly Physician and real Helper; in itself it is the balm which soothes the wounds of the soul and brings us eternal healing.

The Law shows us our poverty, makes us naked before God and all his holy angels, so that we stand there in the shame of our nakedness. The Gospel discloses to us God's heavenly gift and his divine alms. It helps us in our poverty. It shows where we can receive everything we need, all the garments of salvation to cover our soul free of charge, so that we can confidently appear before God's judgment.

The Law cries out: You are lost, for you have not done what God has commanded you. The Gospel says: Sinner, do not despair; here is help, for here is Jesus Christ, a Savior for all sinners, for great and small, for old and young. Through the Law is the knowledge of sin and God's wrath; through the Gospel is the knowledge of the expiation of sin and grace in Christ. This the apostle states even more clearly in our text when he says: "The ministration of condemnation, the ministration of righteousness." V.9.

God's Law, therefore, is not a casual, wretched teaching of morals or ethics, which merely tells how we should live respectably, honorably, and uprightly before men; no, wherever the Law is actually preached in its purity, it preaches to all men nothing but eternal damnation; for the Law is spiritual, that is, it has a spiritual meaning; it concerns the soul and intends to have the sinner's whole heart. It preaches: Men are to be completely holy and pure in thoughts, words, and deeds, as holy as the holy God and Father in heaven, and it adds the terrible threat: "Cursed is everyone who continueth not in all the words of the Law to do them." Anyone wishing to become righteous through the Law must also pay the very last dollar which he owes God; God will not take away one letter, on tittle. The apostle, therefore says, that the Law preaches damnation to all men without exception, for none can keep it; each and every transgression pronounces damnation upon us. The Gospel, however, preaches righteousness to us, not ours which we could never work, but Christ's righteousness which God wants to give us freely and without charge, if we believe in him, our Substitute, Savior, and Redeemer.

However, the most glorious difference which the apostle makes in our text between Law and Gospel is the last when he says: The ministration of the Law ceases but the ministration of the Gospel remains. The apostle means to say: True, the Law must be preached to us sinners in all its sternness; true, we must recognize our misery in this mirror, perceive our worthiness of damnation, and in terror feel in our hearts God's threats; however, the Law is not to hold our death constantly before us; this must cease. It should strike us only so long until we hurry to Christ. At the very moment, so to say, when the Law rejoices over the frightened sinner and seems to have conquered us, when we no longer know how to escape its threats, and when finally we cast ourselves down before God helpless and miserable just as we are, and, thinking of Christ, surrender ourselves unconditionally and cry out: "Oh Lord, do not let the pains of your death be lost to me a wretched sinner', then the Law must cease; then its terrors end and the Gospel reveals to the poor sinner a free city in Christ the crucified, where Moses with his curse can no longer reach him. The lightning of the Law can no longer strike a sinner the moment he has fled under the protection of the gracious wings of the Gospel. The moment the sinner can no longer endure the blinding glory of the Law and he looks in faith at the glory of the grace of his Savior, the thunder of the Law must become silent, and in joy the Christian can say with Peter upon the mountain of Christ’s transfiguration: "It is good to be here (with Christ); here let us build huts."


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Yet in order that everyone may learn to understand this even better and apply it to himself for healing and blessing, permit me to answer the second question: What this study of the difference between the Law and the Gospel demands of us.

II.

At the beginning of our text the apostle indicates the first reason, when he says: "Such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit." Vv.4-6. Humbly St. Paul here confesses that he also had not known how to make the proper distinction between the Gospel and the Law and thus carry out the office of the New Testament, if God had not made him able to do that. Therefore, see, my dear Christian, if you want to learn to divide Law and Gospel properly not only in doctrine but also in your heart for your salvation and use both correctly, you must ask for this blessed art. The Holy Spirit is the only Teacher who can teach you this correctly to your soul's salvation. Here the reflection of our reason is of no help; without the Holy Spirit God's whole revelation, Law as well as Gospel remains dark, inexplicable, contradictory, yes, foolishness. Without the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit you will never truly perceive neither why the Law nor why the Gospel is given to you; all this you must learn.

From all said in the first part everyone by sincere prayer for the Light of the Holy Spirit must, therefore, note the following: The Law as well as the Gospel is a doctrine which comes from God, and both must be preached in God's church if hearers are to learn the whole counsel of God to their salvation. Therefore, do not believe that in an Evangelical sermon the stern Law dare not be heard; nor forget that the Law is not preached, so that it is kept at least outwardly, or that by such a miserable seeming fulfilment of the commandments one would become righteous before God. Anyone wishing to be righteous by the Law just does not know how much the Law demands of us; he is like the Jews who, because they did not understand the Law, thought they had kept the Law and must reject Christ. Never forget: No one becomes a Christian by doing a few good works according to the Law, but not until he has become a Christian through faith can he do what pleases God.

Anyone who thinks: I will keep God's commandments as much as possible, so that: I am a good Christian, is still on a false way; he still does not know what a Christian is; he considers a Christian a heathen who is pious. Not by works but by faith one becomes a Christian. Anyone who thinks: I will be safe, I will believe in Christ and do good works in order to be saved through both, mixes Law and Gospel and still does not know what faith is. Know that if the question is: How can I be righteous before God and be eternally saved? absolutely no Law, absolutely no works, absolutely no merits are required; in the matter of the justification of the poor sinner before God we must remove the Law from the Gospel as far as heaven is from earth.

If you ask: How do I become righteous before God? how do I become a Christian? How am I saved? God's Word gives you no other answer than: Believe on the Lord Jesus! If you have come to true faith, then the correct good works will follow of themselves. First you must be concerned that you become a good tree; if you are, then you will spontaneously bring forth good fruits. First you must be concerned that your heart is a good fountain, then the living water streams of good thoughts, good impulses, sincere love to God and his Word will flow of itself.

But, you ask, why has God then given his holy Law? Ah, my dear man,


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we would be unhappy, yes, eternally lost if God would have given us fallen men his Law so that by keeping it we would be saved. For then no person would be saved. True, God at one time did give us the Law for this purpose; but man has fallen, he is even born as a poor sinner; therefore, no one is now able to keep it perfectly. Now the Law is preached to you only that you should recognize your fall, come to feel your death of sin and God's wrath, and thus be driven to look around for other help, for a better righteousness, for Jesus Christ who alone can help you out of your sins to gain righteousness, from death to life, from wrath to grace, from hell to heaven.

Ah, you who do not yet see that you are lost sinners and, therefore, still do not seek your salvation alone in Christ, but place your trust either completely in your works, or half in Christ and half in your righteousness and piety: Come at last to recognize the difference between the Law and the Gospel. First look into the mirror of God’s Law and there learn to feel your death of sin, your misery, your helplessness without Christ; then you will also seek your righteousness, your rest, your peace, and your blessedness alone in Christ and certainly find it through faith.

You, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, who have already seen by the Law how wretched you are without Christ, who have already experienced the killing power of the Law: Why are you still so despondent? Why do you let your day to day stumblings always take away your rest in Christ? Why are you still so often frightened at the threats of the Law? Why do you again and again seek to attain a better confidence in God by your own improvement, by your own works, running, and chasing? Oh bear in mind, that is not the way to a lasting rest. If you recognize that you can be righteous and be saved only through Christ, oh, then do not continue to mix Law and Gospel! The Law has already killed you; it has already done its part, carried out its work in you; do not let yourselves be frightened and worried any longer by the Law, but flee to the place whither it should drive you; seek protection in the wounds of Jesus; there Moses' curses must become silent.

If you would gladly fulfil God's Law, then first of all separate it completely from the Gospel, first reject all your own works and lay the correct foundation with Christ's righteousness; upon that alone place all your trust; then the more you will hold God's mercy in Christ before your heart, the more you will recognize his gifts, his blessings, his free grace from the Gospel, the more able and willing you will become to serve God again and not walk under the Law but after the Law. Ah, pray God daily, that he will teach you daily the high art of separating Law and Gospel in daily exercise; then the Law will cause the Gospel to comfort you and the Gospel Will cause the Law to be lovely; then your sins will drive you to Christ who has erased them; every day Christ will conquer and kill more sin in you, until finally you will through the Gospel carry away an eternal victory over sin, Law, death, and hell. May Jesus Christ grant this to me and to you. Amen.


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12TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2     2 Corinthians 3:4-11.  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.

The office of the ministry is not merely a worthwhile human ordinance; it is not an arrangement as that of the teacher in the schools and the instructor in the workshops, which has been hit upon because it was seen that it was necessary and profitable that people be instructed also in religion. No, the office of the ministry has a higher origin; this office is a holy, divine office. The Most High God himself has established and chosen it as the usual way by which he wants to lead men to salvation.

This even the Old Testament states in simple language. In Jeremiah, in chapter 3 we read not only God's promise: "I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding," V,15; but also Psalm 68 expressly says of the time of the Old Covenant: "Thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor. The Lord gave the Word; great was the company of those that published it." Vv.10b.ll, and in Joel we read: "Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; for he hath given you the former rain moderately (Luther: who gives you teachers for righteousness)."

The New Testament says the same thing. St. Paul writes: "God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers;" 1 Cor 12:28; and again he writes: "And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit , that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the Word of Reconciliation." 2 Cor 5:18.19. What in this passage is ascribed to God the Father, in another passage is attributed to God the Son. We read: "He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some,apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers." Eph 4:9.10.

Yet we dare not suppose that this concerns only those who were directly called by God and Christ into the office of the ministry, or that the call of ministers, who are called by congregations into their office, is only a human work, a human contract. No, Christ gave his Church the Office of the Kingdom of Heaven, so that as mistress she may in his name administer the treasures entrusted to her and with his authority fill the office with qualified persons. That is why Christ also exhorts his Christians to pray the Lord of the harvest for faithful laborers in his harvest. Hence, those ministers who are called indirectly through the Church are called by God, by Christ, hold a divine office, are not servants of men but servants of Christ and ambassadors of the Most High God. Paul also says that the Holy Ghost himself made the elders of Ephesus who were called indirectly through their congregation bishops to pasture the congregation of God which he purchased with his own blood.

God has also declared beyond a shadow of doubt by his deeds, that the office of the ministry is not man's changeable ordinance but his own holy institution; for despite the raging and storming of Satan and the world against this office, God has preserved it from the beginning of the world until this hour for almost 6,000 years. During the early periods the first-born of every family was also its priest; later God chose the tribe of Levi and especially the family of


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Aaron to be the exclusive possessors of all priestly offices and rights among the Children of Israel. In the New Testament period first the twelve apostles and the seventy disciples were the ones whom Christ sent into all the world as heralds of his Gospel; and they in turn caused other persons to be appointed bishops or elders in the congregations started by them; thus this office has remained until this day.

So many arrangements were discarded soon after they had been made; however, the office of the holy ministry has never, not for one hour, ceased to exist, not even in the time of greatest decay; at the present time this office is continually be transmitted to more than 100,000. Thus God has actually proven: The office of the ministry is his work; that is why he has protected it so mightily, so that it could disappear in the Church as little as could marriage in the family and the government in the state. For "if a work be of God it must endure; if it is of men it will come to naught." Acts 5:38.39.

How important this is for us, my friends! How comforting, first of all for us ministers! Though we ministers may always be despised by the world, though they may call us miserable clerics from whom all the unrest in the world comes, and though in this world we may be ever so defenceless against countless hostile foes, this is our comfort: Our office is an office instituted by God himself; hence we are in the service of the most high Lord; he stands at our side; our affairs are his affairs; how dare we despair?

And how important this is also for you, my dear hearers' Then as long as he preaches God's Word to you, you can and should consider your ministers God's messenger whom He has sent to each of you in particular; then you can and should also be certain: Every time he speaks to you from God's Word, God himself speaks to you; what he says to you for the salvation of your souls is said to you from heaven at God's command; his exhortations are God's exhortations, his warning God's warning, his comfort God's comfort. What greater grace and blessing could you experience than the one that you not only have God's written Word which is directed to all men, but that God also speaks to you by word of mouth and individually! Oh blessed the house in which such Christians assemble! There one must cry out with Jacob: "How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." Gen 28:17.

But my friends, the office of the Gospel ministry is to be praised not only for its divine origin; its purpose is also great and holy; glorious and divine power are the means which are given it to attain its purpose. Therefore, permit me today to praise once more the office which I hold among you. May it be done to the honor of him who has founded it, and to the profit and benefit of you and me. We, therefore, pray God in silent prayer for his grace to teach and hear.

The text. 2 Corinthians 3:4-11.

As you have heard, the Apostle Paul in the Epistle just read praises the office of the Gospel ministry, which he holds, as an office of boundless glory. He does this not from a vain, inordinate desire for fame, but because many false teachers had come among the Corinthians who had tried to belittle his office, in order thus to prevent the blessing which it had already brought among the Corinthians. In our day also and especially here in America the office of the Gospel ministry is almost universally an object of contempt; thus the blessing of God's Word within and outside the Church is hindered inexpressibly more than is usually believed, let me today imitate the Apostle and glorify my office in speaking to you on


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THE GREATNESS AND GLORY OF THE OFFICE OF THE GOSPEL MINISTRY

mentioning

1. The Great Purpose Which It Has, and

2. The Glorious Means Which Are Given It To Attain This Purpose.

Oh Lord God heavenly Father, you have established the office which preaches the reconciliation among us. Alas, very many of us still have not known the great, boundless grace you have thus shown us and not to millions of others; for up to now your Word has been preached to so many in vain. Oh, therefore, cause this hour to come today for them when they perceive your grace and open their heart to you. You have promised: "I am found of them that sought me not; I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name." Is 65:1. Therefore, if they do not seek you, do you seek them; if they do not seize you, do you seize them; yes, do more than we are able to ask and understand. Hear us for the sake of your infinite love which is in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

I.

When the Apostle Paul wanted to praise his office, he makes the following introduction in our Epistle: "And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward; not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament. not of the letter, but of the spirit." Vv.4-6a. Since Paul, who as is well-known was a learned and well educated man, declared that of himself he was absolutely and completely unfit to hold the office of the New Testament or the Gospel ministry, this office must truly have a higher purpose and a higher goal; they must be great things which are to be carried out by this office.

And so it is. A minister is not there to teach a little religion to those entrusted to him and establish an external arrangement among them. If a minister has brought his hearers to the point where they have a good religious knowledge, walk honorably, where drunkards leave drink, the curser his cursing, the spendthrift his carousing, the thief his stealing, if he has established decency, order, peaceableness and the like among them, he has not in the least fulfilled the purpose of his ministry.

The purpose of the office of the Gospel ministry is infinitely greater. Through it works which far surpass all human power, wisdom, skill, and labor are to be achieved; yes, no angel in heaven can achieve them. Through it greater wonders should be done than were the healing of the lame, the blind, the deaf, and the lepers, and the awakening of the dead which Christ once did. Yes, even the creation of all visible things is a work of lesser significance than the work for which the minister of the Gospel is called.

For what is the purpose and goal of his office? Through it the harvest of the seed of his bloody suffering should be brought to Christ, that is, fallen mankind; a mankind dearly redeemed by Christ the Son of God should be brought to partake of this redemption, hence, should be delivered from all their sins and their spiritual and physical misery and be made eternally blessed. What a work, what an assignment this is! Bear in mind: By nature all men are found in the kingdom of darkness, sin, and death; they should not only be delivered from it through the office of the ministry but also be transplanted into the kingdom of light, righteousness, life, and salvation. Before God's Word


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works in them mankind resembles a primeval forest full of ravening animals, snakes, and beasts of prey, full of swamps and precipices, full of thorns, thistles, and prickly briers, whilst the thickly intertwined limbs of oaks 1,000 years old let not a ray of sunlight penetrate the dark damp ground; and this spiritual forest the minister is to cultivate and turn into a beautiful flowering garden of God, into a spiritual paradise.

Do not think that I exaggerate. God's Word itself describes the work of the minister of the Gospel in no other way. St. Paul writes that if Timothy carries out his duties correctly he would save himself and those who hear him. Christ said to Paul when he called him into this office: He sends him to men "to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." Acts 26:18. From this you clearly see: A minister has the assignment of battling against the devil and delivering and converting all whose pastor he is called to be from his power, to bring everyone to faith, and if he has come to faith to watch over him so that he does not fall away again, in good and evil days to be at his side upon the way to life with counsel, exhortation, warning, and comfort, and finally lead him through the last conflict into the heavenly kingdom. So what miracle is to take place in and to the souls of men through a minister? He is to make the spiritually dead alive, give the spiritually blind sight, make the spiritual lepers clean, cause the spiritually deaf to hear, make the spiritually dumb speak, cause the spiritually lame and halt to walk!

He is to awaken those from their spiritual sleep, who live on securely and unconcernedly and think they need concern themselves neither about heaven or hell, so that they also finally become restless and worried about their soul's salvation, perceive the danger of being lost, and, therefore, earnestly ask: "What must we do to be saved?"

He is not only to teach those God's counsel to salvation, who do not know the way to salvation but are possessed and blinded by a thousand prejudices; he is also to make such an impression that their understanding is enlightened by the light of Christian knowledge and their heart warmed by God. He is to free those who love sin and are bound by it with bonds which they themselves cannot tear, so that at last they detest even their pet sins, regret them, and breaking forth in tears says: "What have I done? Father I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son."

He is to bring those who seek their heaven on earth and place their happiness and blessedness in the things or joys or honor of this world to the point where they loathe the world and say: "Farewell, world! I am tired of you; I want to go to heaven. Oh glory of the world, I will have nothing to do with you.

He is to bring those who are self-righteous, consider themselves virtuous and worthy of eternal reward because they live blamelessly before the world to the point where they learn to become poor sinners, smite their breast, and say with the publican: "God be merciful to me a sinner!" He is to bring those to whom the Gospel is foolishness, who want to build on their reason and belong to the enlightened and wise of this world to the point where they cry out with Paul: "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." Phil 3:8. He, the Crucified is my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. 1 Cor 1:30.


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If a minister has thus robbed hell of its booty and brought these souls to Christ, and if they were all who were entrusted to him, he still has not completed the work he was charged with. He must also watch as a watchman on the battlement day and night, seeing whether the danger of being misled or the danger of apostasy might not threaten those rescued souls. As a spiritual father he must try to nourish, strengthen, and educate his spiritual children, so that they, as Paul writes, "all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, but speaking the truth in love, may grow up unto him in all things, which is the head, even Christ." Eph 4:13-15.

A minister must faithfully see to it that no one in his congregation wanders off in life or doctrine. If wolves in sheep’s clothing draw near, that is, false teachers with a holy air, he must boldly warn against them, reveal and reprimand their false doctrine, and thus battle against them; on the other hand, he must earnestly defend the pure doctrine and not omit one iota, whether peace or discord is the result, whether he may be praised or reviled. If sins, offences, dangerous customs, imitating the world, and the like force their way into the congregation, he must quickly oppose them, reprimand, threaten, exhort, and block them, whether it is the right time or not, whether his hearers like it or not, whether it makes friends or foes for him, whether it brings him honor or disgrace.

If he sees a weak lamb in his flock, he must strengthen it; if he sees one which is sick, he must wait upon and nurse it; if he sees one which is depressed and assailed, he must comfort it; if he sees one who has fallen, he must lift it up; if he sees one who is lost, he must go after it and search for it and not rest until he has found and can carry it home again on his shoulders to the faithful flock. He must place himself in the gap in the congregation and make up the hedge against corruption and against the punishment and judgment of God which descends. He must be a light which shines in all homes; he must be the salt of the earth which wards off the corruption of error and sin; he must be the physician who in all the sicknesses of the soul gives the correct medicine and properly binds wounds; he must be the intercessor who daily places himself before God; he must be a mother who with a mother’s love bears all in his heart; he must in a word be the good shepherd who feeds and fights, teaches and defends, and in danger does not flee like the hireling but is ready to give his life for the sheep. Therefore, he must be able to say some day to God: "Here I am and

all the children whom you have given me; count them, Lord; see, I have lost none of them."

There you see, my friends, what an office the office of the minister of the Gospel is! Which office is a higher, holier, and more blessed one than this one whereby the kingdom of darkness is destroyed and heaven is opened, whereby immortal souls dearly bought by God's blood are torn from the jaws of hell, rescued from eternal ruin, led back to God, and made eternally blessed? What is the office of an emperor or a king in comparison to such an office which rescues souls? What are all the other victories on the battlefields in comparison to the victory of such a spiritual soldier? As the soul is worth much more than the body, as heaven and eternity is much more important than the world and time, so much more precious are the works of the office of the ministry than any other office in the world. Oh, how every minister should consider all labor, toil, and worry, all disgrace and contempt, all persecution, yes, death and whatever he must bear and endure for the sake of his office as nothing in comparison to the honor of holding such a glorious office! Then though he may be pilloried his monuments are imperishable: they are immortal souls rescued through him.


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However, we must not only exclaim in this connection: Who is worthy to hold this office? but also: Who is capable of holding it? If someone in tends to take upon himself such an office must he not be frightened when he hears that the apostle not only says: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves," but also adds: "As they that must give account"? Heb 13:17. Must he not be frightened when he hears what the Lord himself says: "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. 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 3:17.18.

This heavy responsibility for souls entrusted to him which God alone has placed upon his servants in carrying out the duties of their office would surely frighten everyone who is to assume it or has assumed it, if God had not also given the means which they need to attain the high purpose of their ministry. The greatness and glory of the office of the Gospel ministry consists secondly in this that God has given it such glorious, powerful means. Permit me to add a few words about this.

II.

After the apostle had said in our text, that God has made him able to hold the office of the New Testament, he adds: "Not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel would not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance, which glory was to be done away, how shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory. much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory." Vv.6-9. In these words Paul compares his office, which he calls the ministration of the New Testament and the Spirit, with another office which he calls the ministration of the letter which is built of stone. What the apostle means by this is as plain as day; he means the ministration of the Old Testament, or the ministration of the Law, which as you know was once written on two tables of stone.

Why, my dear hearers, does the apostle exalt his office, the ministration of the New Testament so much more and so much higher than the ministration of the Old Testament? Because this was the ministration of the letter or the Law; on the other hand, his office was the ministration of the spirit or the Gospel. Hence it was the Gospel which Paul was called to preach for which sake he ascribed to his ministration great glory, and it is that which makes the ministry of the Gospel so glorious even now.

It is true, my friends: Even a Gospel preacher must preach the Law. He must show his hearers what God demands of all and what he threatens the transgressors of the Law. His hearers must learn to know that they are sinners. They are to become frightened at themselves, despair of themselves, and become hungry and thirsty for God's grace in Christ.

If we preachers had no other teaching than the Law, then we would be in a sorry state; then we could never attain in one soul the high purpose of our office—rescuing souls, leading them to God, and saving them. The Law indeed says what a person must do, but it does not show how it is possible for him to do it. The Law indeed says: Keep the Law perfectly and you will be saved; but it does not say, how one keeps it; indeed, it shouts in all the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt, thou shalt!" but it gives no power to do what one must do. The


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Law indeed shows what man lacks, but it cannot give him what he lacks; it can indeed reveal the sickness of his soul, but it cannot heal; it reveals to man his sins but: does not show how he can be rescued from sin; it announces to all men God's wrath and damnation because they are sinners, but how a sinner and transgressor of the Law can still receive grace and be saved the Law knows nothing.

Usually the Law is not understood correctly; most, therefore, think that they could stand before God as long as their lives are outwardly honorable; in this way the Law makes only hypocrites. But if the Law is understood correctly, if a person perceives that the Law is spiritual and must be fulfilled with one's whole heart, then the Law hurls one into despair, death, hell, and damnation. The apostle, therefore, says in our text: "The letter killeth," that is, the Law only hurls one to the ground.

Woe, therefore, to us ministers if we had nothing to preach except the Law! Our hearers would indeed become hungry but never satisfied; they would be frightened out of their security but they would never have peace; they would indeed learn to know their misery, but they would be without help and deliverance; the anxious question would be enticed from their lips: "What should we do to be saved?" but we would have no answer for them. And if we would proclaim God's Law until Judgment Day ever so earnestly, not one human heart would be made alive, not one person would be truly converted to God.

But happy may we be! A means has been given us which is so glorious, so precious, so mighty, so divinely powerful, that it does that miracle in all who are struck down and killed by the Law, who are given into the care of a minister of the Gospel; and this glorious, precious, mighty, powerful means from God is the Gospel, namely: The joyous news: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;" 1 Tim 1,15; the joyous news: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life;" Jn 3,16; the joyous news: Jesus sinners doth receive; he is a Physician for the sick and the weak and not for the health and the strong. See, this message of the righteousness of grace turns the office of the Gospel ministry into an office of the spirit which makes alive; this gives him the greater glory with which it far, far surpasses the glory of the office of Moses, the office of the letter, the ministration of the Law.

Oh glorious office! If it weighs heavily on one's heart that he must keep God's commandments perfectly and yet cannot keep them, and he asks us: What must I do that I may be saved? we dare and should answer him: "Christ is the end of the Law;" believe in him and you will be saved. Oh glorious ministry! If a person has come to a living knowledge of sin and now he asks: What must I do to erase my infinite guilt and become clean? we dare and should answer: "The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin." 1 Jn 1,7.

Oh glorious ministry! If a person perceives that without sanctification he cannot see the Lord, even if he is pardoned, and now asks: Whence do I receive power for a new life? we dare and should answer him: Simply enter in by faith in Jesus; for without him you can do nothing, but through him who strengthens you, you can do all things. Oh glorious ministry! If a person comes to us and says: Alas, once I was a Christian and was so blessed. But I have let sin deceive me; I have fallen, fallen deeply, very deep; is there still help for me? we dare and should reply: Yes, there is still help even for you; just do not try to help yourself; give yourself to Jesus, for he has ascended on high, and has led captivity captive, and has received gifts for men, yes for the rebellious also!

Oh glorious ministry! Though a person's soul may he ever so sick, we can heal him through the Gospel; though he may have sunk ever so deeply into


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the ruin of sin, through the Gospel we can tear him free; though he may be ever so depressed, frightened, and tempted, through the Gospel we can comfort him; yes, in whatever condition a person may be, and though he thinks that it is all over for him, he must be lost, then we can confidently greet him and say: No, as truly as God lives, he does not want the death of the sinner, not even your death; you need not be lost, you also should be saved; turn to Jesus; he can forever save all who come to God through him. And if not until he death a sinner cries out: Oh God, what have I done? Woe is me! Now it is too late' I am lost! we can and should say to him: No, no, not too late! not lost! Commit your departing soul to Jesus and today you will also be with him in paradise.

Oh, glorious, high ministry, too high for angels! Oh, may we always treasure it highly, not look at the person who holds it and because he is weak and sinful despise it; let us rather look to the Founder of this ministry, really know and faithfully use his boundless goodness which he shows us through his glorious ministry. Then we will also experience the blessings of his ministry and through it be some day gathered as full ripe sheaves in the granary of heaven. Amen.

13TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1      Galatians 3:15-22  TOP (German, Archive)

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

Dear friends in Christ Jesus!.

Last week we heard that the Word of God, the Old as well as the New Testament, contains two completely different doctrines, the doctrine of the Law and the doctrine of the Gospel. Sometimes God tells us through his Law to be perfect, sometimes through his Gospel that all we are to do is believe and accept what he has done for us. One moment God through the Law promises life and salvation provided we obey perfectly, the next moment through the Gospel he promises us life and salvation without any conditions, by free grace and mercy for the sake of his Son Jesus Christ. Sometimes in his holy Law God announces to all men that they are subject to temporal, spiritual, and eternal death, sometimes in his Gospel he announces to all men grace and eternal life.

The more different both of these chief doctrines of divine revelation are the more necessary it is that at all times they are rightly divided in teaching and application by teachers and hearers. If Law and Gospel are mingled God's entire plan of salvation is perverted and all doctrines falsified; on the other hand, the proper distinction is a bright spotlight which lights up the whole way of salvation. When Law and Gospel are mingled no one can be certain of his salvation; only when these doctrines are correctly divided do we see how even the greatest sinner can be righteous before God. Whereas this mingling must necessarily produce a perplexed conscience and unrest, the correct dividing of Law and Gospel, on the other hand, brings clarity and rest. If one preaches the Law so as to say that God does not mean what he says, that God is satisfied with outwardly fulfilling the Law, that as a gracious Father he does not demand more than we poor weak men can do, such mingling of the grace of the Gospel with the thunder of the Law produces only a self-righteous hypocrite; and if one in


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preaching the Gospel says that one must first do something good, that grace alone does not make a person righteous and saves, that then hurls a poor sinner into despair when he feels his great burden of sin and his complete inability to do anything good. No person can be helped if the Gospel is turned into a new Law r the Law into the Gospel.

Dr. Martin Luther is, therefore, correct when he says: "This difference between the Law and the Gospel is the highest art in Christendom, which each and every one who boasts of or accepts the Christian name can and should know. For wherever this art is lacking, one cannot tell the difference between the Christian and the heathen or Jew; so much depends upon this difference." "Therefore, whoever knows very well the art of dividing Law and Gospel set him at the head and call him a doctor of Holy Writ. For without the Holy Spirit it is impossible to make this difference."

All the teachers of our Church in their writings praise God for this great special blessing, that through the Lutheran Reformation the great infinite distinction between Law and Gospel was again brought to the light of day; for since the days of the apostles this distinction has never been shown so clearly in the Christian Church as has been done by the faithful Reformer of the 16th century and has been so wonderfully written down in the Confessions of our Church.

Therefore, let no one suppose that it is easy rightly to divide Law and Gospel in doctrine and life, in understanding and heart; only a very brief introduction can be devoted to this in a sermon. The important thing remains for every hearer to go home, bow his heart before God, and ardently implore him to teach him this difference through his Holy Spirit. If he does not come to know it in daily battle with the terrors of sin and his conscience, he remains ignorant of the real difference between Law and Gospel, and if he should think that he knows it very well, he has really become the most blind of all; that highly enlightened man of God, Luther, still calls himself in regard to this difference a pupil of the A B C's; how far from their goal must the most experienced among
us therefore
 be!

But, my friends, we would make a great mistake, if we were to understand the difference between the Law and the Gospel in such a way that God had revealed two contradictory doctrines, that God was preaching against himself and was testing us to see whether we would find and chose the true way. No, though the Law is different from the Gospel according to its contents, purpose, and effect, yet the Law is not opposed to the Gospel, nor is the Gospel opposed to the Law, but the one must serve the other; the one must confirm the other; and both must assist each other in the great work of converting, guiding, and the future perfection of fallen man. A week ago we ponder the important difference between the Law and the Gospel; today let us reflect upon the remarkable agreement of these doctrines. May God awaken our hearts to a fruitful hearing for the sake of his eternal mercy. Let us ask him for that by praying the Lord's Prayer silently.

The text. Galatians 3:15-22.

In the words preceding our text, the apostle had clearly shown, that one must never find in the Law that righteousness which avails before God, but only in the Gospel; now in our text he shows that, even though the Law does not save us but rather demands holiness of us, it does not war against the promise, that is, the Gospel. He says: "Is the Law then against the promises of God? God forbid; the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the Law, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect." Vv.21a.27. Accordingly, I will speak to you on:


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THE AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL

Our text shows us

1. That The Law Does Not Repeal The Gospel, and

2. That Really The Law Serves The Gospel.

Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, as the great Chief Shepherd you once ruled and pastured your sheep with the staff Beauty and with the staff Bands, the Law and the Gospel; let us perceive how wise this government and how blessed this pasture of yours is, that we may let ourselves be brought to your flock and as your sheep be led into your heavenly flock. Yes, Jesus, as the true, merciful Samaritan you pour the biting wine of the Law and the soothing oil of the Gospel into the wounds of men who have fallen among spiritual murderers in order to bring them into the heavenly resting place; show yourself just such a merciful Samaritan to every one of us and bring eternal healing to us by means of the Law and the Gospel. Let us perceive how all the means agree by which you work to save our souls; help us not to harden ourselves against the blows of the Law but let

them humble each of us; and then may we let ourselves be raised up and made a live again by your Gospel. To that end bless the sermon today for the sake of the reconciliation established on the cross. Amen.

I.

The Gospel is that teaching which by nature is unknown to men but which has been revealed by God in his holy Word to all men. Salvation can be found in no one else, neither is there any other name given by which men can be saved but the precious name of Jesus, who as God and man reconciled and redeemed sinful fallen man with his angry God.

Many take offence at this and think: If there is no salvation outside of Christ, how could the fathers of the Old Covenant be saved? Only the Law was proclaimed to them. If there is no salvation outside of Christ, why did he wait until the eventide of the world after 4,000 years had already gone by to appear? Why didn't God's Son bring his reconciling sacrifice in paradise after man's fall, so that all men could seek and find their salvation in him? Did not the Law, which they all had, annul the teaching of the Gospel?

This offence rests upon a great error. Not only in the New Testament times but also in the Old God showed men no other way to heaven than the way of faith in the Savior of the world. For that reason we read in the last chapter of the letter to the Hebrews not only, "Jesus Christ today but "yesterday, and today, and for ever.” Heb 13:8.

Even though Christ did not die in Paradise for our sins, the Gospel about him was preached and all men were invited to believe in the coming Messiah. God spoke consolingly to the first sinners: "The woman's seed will bruise the serpent's head and it shall bruise his heel," that is, a women's son will some day erase sin with all its misery by a bloody sacrifice. This precious promise was the Gospel upon which alone all the pious of the Old Testament times placed their trust; Abel, Seth, Noah, Shem, Melchizedek held fast to this promise and in faith in it they died and were saved.

However, God was not satisfied with this. Two thousand years later he repeated that first promise to Abraham, the father of all believers. Then the Gospel read: "In thy seed," that is, through one of the descendants of your


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family, "all the nations of the earth should be blessed." That, my dear hearers, is the testament of which the apostle speaks when he says in our text: "Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He said not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the Law, which was 430 years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect." Vv.15-17. In these words the apostle states two reasons why the Law cannot annul the Gospel: First, because God gave Abraham the Gospel as his testament, as his last, inviolable will, and secondly, because the Law was not revealed until 430 years later through Moses upon Mt. Sinai.

The Apostle wants to say: How can we believe that God wants to annul his gracious Gospel by his threatening Law? Would he then have given the Law 430 years after the Gospel? And has not God himself declared that the promise of Christ is his testament, his last will, in which he has made all the nations of the earth heirs of his blessing? How do we proceed after the death of our parents? Is it in accordance to different words which they expressed during their lifetime? No, it is in accordance to their last will which they have stated in their testament. How much more with God?

Though God may have later given the Law upon Sinai in great majesty, it cannot overthrow the testament of his Gospel for us; the Law which follows can be nothing else but a new seal of the letter of his testament, which at the time of the New Covenant finally appeared in all the world through the preaching of the apostles, is revealed to all men, and is ratified through the announcement of the holy absolution. Oh, what a comforting doctrine this is for all those who are frightened by the law!

Behold, my dear Christian, if you have fallen, perhaps have fallen deeply into sin and transgression and you are afraid to approach the holy God since the Law says: "Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with thee," Ps 5:5, ah, know that God's last will is not to reject you, as he threatens in his Law; open the precious Gospel, read there the testament of your God, and you will discover: His last, oh rejoice, his last will which is never changed again is this: "Jesus sinners doth receive. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." For in him all the nations, also you, also you should be blessed. Oh, simply believe the Gospel of your God, and joyfully examine the seal of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper with which God had irrefutably confirmed his precious testament.

The Law is not to annul the Gospel. True, we read that most of the Jews were deluded by the thought that the Law was given to them, that by the outward keeping of the Law they were acceptable to God and were saved. However, the prophets of all times have borne witness against this and pointed alone to the grace of the New Testament. Thus says Jeremiah: "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord. But this shall be the covenant that I will make: I will put my Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my people....For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jer 31:31-34. All the Israelites, who while trying to keep the Law let themselves be enlightened by God's Spirit, came to the conviction that only faith in him who was to come would make them righteous and save them.

As it was at the time of the Old Covenant, so it still is today; even though the Gospel is preached, most think they need but live an outwardly pious and upright life according to God's commandments and they will be saved; only a


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very few actually recognize and experience that only the Gospel is a power of God to save all who believe it; only a few understand the heavenly wisdom of how one becomes righteous before God. Among these few belonged, for example, David who says: "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it; thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Ps 51:6.7.16.17. "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." Ps 32:1.2. David does not rely upon any outward sacrifice prescribed in the Law, and he does not say: Blessed is he who has no transgressions, but: Blessed is he to whom they are forgiven, for whom they are covered, to whom they are not imputed!

The difference between the Old and New Testament is not at all that in the Old one became righteous by the Law and we in the New become righteous through the Gospel. No, God never showed another way than the one of faith.  When God majestically announced his Law to the world on Sinai, he never regretted his eternal counsel and will of grace. We read in Psalm 33: "The word of the Lord is right, and all his works are done in truth," v.4; therefore, he keeps what he once in Abraham promised to all nations, and he proved his faithfulness and truthfulness when in the fulness of time he actually sent his only begotten Son, the blessed Seed of Abraham, gave him into death for all sinners, and sent out all the apostles to preach the word of the cross to all creatures.

But if the Law does not annul the Gospel, why did God give it? My friends, that is a question which also the apostle asks in our text, when he says: "Wherefore then SERVETH the Law?" This leads us to the second portion of our meditation which is to show us that the Law is not against the Gospel but rather serves it.

II.

It is indeed true, my friends: Through the Law no flesh shall be saved; the Law cannot make us alive, as the apostle says in our text; but the Gospel is a treasure chamber full of divine grace for all men. Nevertheless, by nature no person is ready for this grace which is offered. If a natural person perceives that he is a sinner, he does not think that he is a great sinner who can be again reconciled with God alone by the blood of the Son of God. The human heart is by nature surrounded by self-righteousness and security as though by a wall of diamonds; it has no terror of sin, no hunger for grace, but in the midst of sin has a proud, haughty mind.

As long as the heart and mind of man remains in this condition, so long the Gospel is preached to him in vain; the proclamation of grace indeed resounds in his ears, but the self-secure heart remains empty. The Law is, therefore, the messenger which God must first send into the heart of the sinner, so that it prepares it to accept the Gospel and opens an entrance into the soul for Christ. To the question: "Wherefore then serveth the Law?" the apostle answers in our text: "It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made." V.19. Hence, if the Law shows a person the greatness of his sins, if it lets him feel God's disfavor; if it demands of him what he cannot do; if it drives him into anguish, terror, and despair through its threats against all transgressors; if it gives him not a drop of comfort; if it awakens in him the sleeping testimony of his conscience so that the sinner


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must accuse and reject himself; if it fills him with unrest and misery and knocks him down into the dust of death, then through the Law the Holy Spirit does nothing else but make the poor sinner, who feels that he is lost, capable of receiving divine grace and help.

If the Law lets him taste its horrible bitterness, this happens only that he might learn to taste the sweetness of the Gospel. If the law bruises, wounds and kills him, this takes place only that the sinner will gladly let himself be bound by the good Samaritan, Jesus Christ, when he comes in the Gospel and out of grace and mercy lets Him bring him to the heavenly rest home. The sterner, the more irrevocable, the more implacable the Law is in its demands upon the sinner, the more ready he is not to seek its fulfilment in himself but only in his Savior and Substitute, Jesus Christ.

Therefore, just before the coming of Christ into the world God also revealed and caused the Law to be preached with very special brilliancy and terror, in order to awaken, nourish, and sustain in his people the yearning for the promised Redeemer. As the Israelites had to learn to yearn for the Promised Land under the tyranny of Egypt, so by the severe unbearable yoke of the Law God tried to make them long for the promised Messiah. The history of God's people must repeat itself in every one who wants to experience the coming of Christ into his heart.

If we want to be rightfully called God's children, the story of God's people must also be the story of our life. First, we also must be under the yoke of the Law until Christ celebrates his coming into our soul through faith. "The Scripture," we read at the close of our text, "hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." V.22. That is, every one must once feel and experience that he lies in the bonds of sin which Christ alone unties, that he lies in the prison of spiritual death which Christ alone can open. Most gloriously Luther says: "It is impossible that he can hear the Gospel and let the grace of the Spirit be made alive in him who will not first hear the Law and let its letter kill him; for grace is not given except to him who thirsts. Life helps only the dead, grace only the sinner, the Spirit only the letter, and no one may have the one without the other." So far Luther.

The Gospel spread the table of grace for all men, but the Law must first make them hungry guests; the Gospel is the hospital for all soul-sick and miserable, but the Law must first cause them to feel their sickness; the Gospel offers the payment for all the guilt of sin, but the Law must first show us our huge debt in its account books and bring them to a recognition of it; the Gospel is full of inexpressible comfort, but the Law must first depress us, make us sorrowful, and truly thirsty.

However, as the Law precedes the Gospel in order to bring men to the grace of the Gospel, so the Law must always assist the Gospel so that the person remains in the grace of the Gospel. As the Scriptures say, no Law is given for the righteous, that is, it dare no longer condemn him; but even the man truly righteous by faith, even the reborn Christian is not complete spirit; he still has flesh in him, sin in his heart which unceasingly incites and entices to bring the pardoned Christian again under the dominion of sin and out of the kingdom of grace. Therefore, even he who has experienced the first repentance still needs daily repentance until his death. Every day Christ must make his spiritual advent into the Christian's heart and by daily repentance the Law must prepare the way for Him. Tribulations are the Law in action; as God deems them necessary for his own, so also does the Law. If one is to remain in grace, the Law and the Gospel must work together in him until his blessed end. One's whole Christianity is a continual conflict starting with the Law and ending with the Gospel until finally the fortress of heaven is conquered by a blessed homeward journey,


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where there is no more conflict but victory, peace, and eternal life.

You see from this, my friends: Though the difference between Law and Gospel is great, their agreement in guiding the person to his heavenly goal is glorious. Certainly, the oft-mentioned Reformer of our Church is right when he says: "Law and Gospel are so closely united in the heart of a Christian that not even the period in a sentence can be as close to the next. Therefore, if you want to have the one, you must keep both; he who takes away the Law, takes also God and Christ away; he who wants to preach Christ must also proclaim the Law."

Therefore, let us think God that he has revealed to us not only his holy Law but also his gracious Gospel. Ah, let none of us resist the Holy Spirit, when he wants to reveal his misery, his sin, his corruption, his fall to him through the Law. He who does not first want to become a poor sinner will also never become God's child; he who does not first want to be sorrowful over his sins will also never be comforted; he who does not first want to be weary and heavy laden will also never be refreshed and will never find that rest which Christ alone can give; he who with all his wisdom and righteousness does not first want to come to nothing in his heart will also never become wise to salvation, never become righteous before God; yes, he who does not want to die will never be made alive.

And you who groan under the burden of your sins, who deem yourself unworthy of grace, who often exclaim with Paul: "Oh wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" who perhaps suppose through your guilt you are completely unfit for grace, but who also think: Oh, if only I would have God's grace! ah, do not let your unworthiness keep you back from seizing Jesus Christ! The more unworthy you feel you are the more eagerly will Christ accept you; the more unfit you imagine you are the more suitable he is for you, The Law has prepared you; now then let Christ enter in. If you can not pray, then sigh; if you can not sigh, then long and persevere; finally you will be able to boast with David: "I was brought low and he helped me." Ps 116:6. Amen! Yes, may God do this in us all. Amen.

13TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2      Galatians 3:15-22  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

In this same dear Savior, beloved hearers.

Even those, who superficially page through Holy Writ, will soon make the noteworthy observation, that it contains two entirely different doctrines, which show two entirely different ways to heaven.

Thus, for example, Moses writes: "Ye shall therefore keep my statues, and my judgments; which if a man do, he shall live in them." Lev 18:4. On the other hand, the Prophet Habakkuk writes: "The just shall live by his faith." Heb 2:4. John says: "He that doeth righteousness is righteous." 1 Jn 3:7.


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On the other hand Paul writes in Romans 10: "Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Rom 10:4.

Moses writes: "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this Law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen." Dt 27:26. On the other hand Paul writes: "There is no difference, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forebearance of God." Rom 3:23-25.

Finally in the ninth chapter of John's Gospel we read: "God heareth no sinners." Jn 9:31; in the Epistle to the Romans we read: "There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Rom 10:12.13. Yes, in Isaiah we read: "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; 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. And the Son of G©d himself says: "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Jn 6:37. "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 11:18.

We see: Two different doctrines run throughout the Scriptures like two great threads through a woven cloth. One doctrine demands its own works of men; the other says absolutely nothing about the works of men and speaks only of God's works. One doctrine says: If you want to be saved, you must do this and this; the other says: If you want to be saved, then believe! One demands its own works of all men; the other promises everything, life and salvation, without merit, alone by grace. One doctrine preaches curses, punishment, and damnation to all sinners; the other preaches blessing, forgiveness of sins, and salvation to all sinners. The one takes away from all who have not done God's will all hope, hurls them down, and frightens them; the other gives all, even the greatest sinners, reason to expect eternal life, raises the stricken, and comforts all the sorrowing with abundant comfort.

These two doctrines are the Law and the Gospel. The Law is the terrible doctrine which condemns all men; the Gospel is the joyous sweet message that all sinners will be helped without their merit and worthiness, out of pure grace and mercy.

Now tell me, my friends, to which of these two different doctrines should and must a person cling? to the Law or the Gospel?

I think you will all say: If we want to be saved, we must cling to the comforting Gospel. You are right; but say: Is not the Law just as binding as the Gospel? Is not the Law God's eternal unbreakable Word just as well as the Gospel? So, what is the use of wanting to cling to the Gospel? Will not the Law condemn us anyhow? If we wanted to flee into the Gospel as into a free city, will not the Law come and fetch us forth as the avenger of blood and place us before God's judgment? If the Gospel has assured us of God's grace will not the Law deny it and take it away?

Sad to say, my friends, such thoughts are indeed only too often in the Christian's heart and these thoughts almost never want to let them have true rest, certainty, and happiness. If Christians were to hide in the Gospel as doves in the clefts of the rock, they usually tremble, when they hear the Law with its thunder against sinners and see its lightning flash. They always imagine that in the Gospel they can never be completely safe against the Law.


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Well, then, permit me to show you why the Law should not restrain us from appropriating the Gospel with a joyous, certain faith.

The text. Galatians 3:15-22.

The Galatians, to whom our text had first been sent, had been misled by false teachers to become righteous before God and be saved not alone through faith in the Gospel but also by the works of the Law. The Galatians were therefore in a most perilous position. They could never become truly certain of their state of grace and their salvation. The purpose of the entire Epistle to the Galatians and also our text is to show them that the Law dare not let them be prevented from confidently accepting the Gospel. Therefore, permit me to show you today:

WHY SHOULD THE LAW NOT HINDER US FROM APPROPRIATING THE GOSPEL IN JOYFUL FAITH?

On the basis of our text I answer:

1. Because The Gospel Is A Promise Of Free Grace Which God Gave Us Long Before The Law, and

2. Because The Only Purpose Of The Law With Its Stern Demands And Threats Is To Drive Us To The Gospel.

Oh God, you are no respecter of persons. You grant even the most unworthy sinner the certainty of your grace. You have therefore commanded that your sweet Gospel be preached to all creatures. And you know, when we hear the demands and threats of your holy Law and alas, when our conscience tells us that we have repeatedly sinned and that your stern demands and threats are righteous, how easily we do not know what to make of your comforting Gospel. Oh, therefore, show us from your Word that your Law is not your testament, not your last will, but that the gracious Gospel is, so that we finally begin to rest in your free promises and to let nothing allow us to become confused regarding the certainty of your grace; then we will be able and happy to love you and our brethren, be exercised in all good works, also suffering in patience, and finally die in firm confidence in your grace. Hear us for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom we are also acceptable to you. Amen!

I.

There are few Christians who have always been absolutely certain of their state of grace. Many never become certain of it; most, however experience a constant wavering between doubt and certainty, between despair and joyful confidence. How is that? Is perhaps the Gospel so sparing with its comfort and connected with such strict conditions that only a few dare appropriate it to themselves? No! The Gospel showers its comfort in the richest fullness upon all people, be they who they are; everyone need simply grab it. As we believe so should it be. Or is it perhaps that most Christians are not pious enough? No; nor that. For no one can be so pious that he can build the certainty of his state of grace upon that.

The true reason is this: Most Christians let themselves be troubled so much by God's Law. If they read and hear the sweet Gospel, they feel like Jacob of old when he heard that his son Joseph still lived and saw the wagons which Joseph had sent him. As we read of Jacob: "The spirit of Jacob revived," Gen 45:27, thus also the spirit of Christians revived every time they heard the message of the Gospel of the heavenly Joseph, who wants to bring them into the


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heavenly Goshen. But if Christians then hear the Law, if they hear how holy they should be and how God excludes transgressors from his kingdom of heaven, they feel as though the gates of heaven, scarcely opened by the Gospel, were quickly closed again. Their faith turns into doubt, their previous confidence into anguish and unrest.

Once the Galatians, misled by false teachers who wanted to be pious and strict, experienced the same thing.

How does the apostle try to cure his Galatians in our Epistle? In the main, he holds two things before them and first of all he writes the following: "Brethren. I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a MAN'S covenant. yet if it be confirmed, no man disannuleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to SEEDS, as of many. but as of ONE. And to THY seed, which is Christ. And this I sav, that the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the Law, which was 430 years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the INHERITANCE be of the LAW, it is no more of PROMISE: but God GAVE it to Abraham by PROMISE." Vv.15-18.

Bear in mind, my dear brethren, the apostle intends to explain what the Gospel is. You can read this in the story of Abraham, the father of believers. God said to Abraham: "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." In these words God promised to Abraham and all people in the world his blessing, that is, grace, life, and salvation, and without the condition that they must do good works, as a free gift. And in order that no one would think, that every descendant of Abraham, yes, everyone born after Abraham had to do something in order to merit the blessing, God did not say: Through your descendants, as by many, but through your Seed, hence through one, namely only through Christ, this one Seed of Abraham, all the nations upon earth should be blessed. Therefore, why should you be concerned about the demands of the Law in the matter of your salvation, when God in these words has already promised and offered salvation to you as a free gift?

However, the Galatians could still think: Is not the Law given through Moses God's Word just as well as the Gospel, which God gave Abraham? Paul, therefore, Immediately reminds them of the time in which this Gospel was given. He wants to say: Was not the Law given 430 years later on through Moses upon Mt. Sinai? Did not God clearly show in this way that we are saved not by the Law or by works but by the Gospel, by grace? Or do you imagine that the Law has repealed the Gospel? Do you want to think that God is more unfaithful than men? What do men do when they have made and confirmed an agreement or a testament? Can someone later on add conditions which he had not made earlier? No; if a human testament is confirmed, no one dare change or add anything. Therefore be confident; not even God's testament, the covenant of grace, the free promise of God is not repealed by the Law given later on nor were any new conditions added. God is and remains faithful. He promised a blessing, that is, grace, life, salvation, to all people in the Seed of Abraham as a free gift 430 years before the giving of the Law. There the matter rests and will rest into all eternity as certainly as God is faithful and true.

Now, my friends, what the apostle here holds before the Galatians was valid not only for them; that applies also to us and particularly to all of you who let yourselves be hindered by the Law from appropriating the Gospel in joyful faith. Of course, you think you were doing right. You think: What else can 1 do but rejoice with trembling? Yes, what else can I do but doubt my state of grace, since T do 30 often what I should not do, and so often fail and am so


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lukewarm and indolent in doing, what I should do with joy? Does not God clearly say at the close of the Commandments: "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me"? Ex 20:5.

True, according to these words it seems to be true humility and prudence to doubt your state of grace continually. But what does the apostle, enlightened by the Spirit of Christ, say of this? He calls nil such scruples unnecessary, false, yea, an insult to God! He says: God has given to all men his free blessing, that is, life and salvation, by a promise of grace and not until 430 years later on did he give the Law. And so he who does not joyfully grasp and appropriate to himself this divine promise, because he is afraid of the Law, turns God into an unfaithful covenant God; he accuses God of cunning, as though first he gave something free of charge and then later on said what he wanted to be paid for his alleged gift; yes, he makes many people seeds by whom the promised should come and denies the only Seed of Abraham, namely Christ, through whom alone all the nations of the earth should be blessed.

Well, then, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, let us not deny the great love, mercy, and unchangeable faithfulness of God. Whenever the threats and demands of the Law want to take the certainty of our state of grace and our joyfulness away, let us rather think: The first and last revelation which God has granted to us fallen men is not the Law but the Gospel; the gracious will revealed in the Gospel is really God's first and last will with regard to men who have become sinners; the Law appeared only in the second place; our loving, generous, rich God does not want to sell life and salvation to us for our works and piety, but give it freely. Yes, this is his honor, that he alone is the Giver and that ail men are receivers, his beggars. This honor let us give him.

II.

Perhaps many will now say: If that is true, what is the purpose of the Lav? Would God have given it, if it were not necessary? This objection leads us to the second portion of our meditation. Let us now turn to it.

The Apostle Paul also supposed that the Galatians would make this objection and say: If one is not to keep the Law to be saved, what is it for? The apostle therefore raises the question: "Wherefore then serveth the Law?" And what does he answer? He says first of all: "It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made." V.19. The apostle means to say: The Law was given after the promise not for the sake of righteousness and salvation but because of sin, that is,so that sin would be recognized, and only until the Seed, that is, until Christ came. If Christ has come to a person through faith, then the Law has done its work.

The apostle continues: "And it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one." Vv.19b. 20. Paul wants to say: That the Jews could not and should not be righteous through the Law you see from the fact that they needed a mediator, namely, Moses; for a mediator is never necessary for one person but at least for two whom he must mediate. Moses, therefore, was not only a mediator for God but for both, for God and the people who could not stand before God without a mediator, when God gave his Law amid lightning and thunder.

In conclusion the apostle writes: "Is the Law then against the promises of God? God forbid; for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ


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might be given to them that believe." Vv.21.22. The apostle means to say: The Law is therefore not against the promise or against the Gospel; for the Law had neither the office nor the power of the Gospel; that is, it cannot make a person alive. Rather, its only office and power is to conclude a person under sin. It is to turn his sins into a prison in which he finds himself enclosed by sin like a criminal with chains, and now yearns for that freedom which Christ offers in the Gospel by grace to those who believe.

What the apostle wants to say is briefly this: The Law should and dare hinder no one from appropriating the Gospel in joyful faith, The only purpose of the Law with its demands and threats is to show us the misery of our sin and thus drive us to the Gospel which alone frees us from all this misery by its promises of grace.

Now, my dear hearers, you tell me: Is this not an inexpressibly comforting, glorious revelation? It truly is, my friends; all men can never praise and glorify God enough in all eternity for this revelation, which has been given us through the Apostle Paul! For in these words all uncertainty whether they also could be saved is in one stroke forever taken from the hearts of all who gladly want to be saved. If only we would all rightly understand, believe, and take this to heart! How many tormenting doubts, how much anguish and unrest would be spared us! How restfully and joyfully we would be able to took forward to our death, eternity, the judgment!

Tell me: Why are so many of us continually uncertain as to whether they can take comfort in the Gospel? Why do so many of us believe that sometimes God is gracious to them, sometimes that they are not in grace? The chief reason is this: They read in Scriptures: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Phil 2:12. "Ye shall be holy; for I, the Lord, your God, am holy." Lev 19:2. "Pray without ceasing." 1 Thess 5:17. Ah, they think, this I fail to do; I do not work out my salvation with fear and trembling; I do not pray without ceasing; I am still unholy; I am a very bad Christian; how dare i comfort myself with the Gospel and God's grace?

What are you doing who think thus? You are seeking your salvation in the Law. You want to be righteous through the Law, whereas its only purpose is to make your sinners. All by yourself you want to deal with God according to the Law, whereas you can deal with God by means of the Law only through a mediator. You want to give yourself life through the Law, whereas the Law can only kill you. You want to become free from sin through the Law, whereas through the Law you will only be concluded under sin, that is, you can experience that you are the prisoners of sin.

Believe me, my dear friends, in this way we never reach our goal. Every time we have learned to know and feel our sins through the Law, the Law has accomplished its work in us. It can bring us no further. Then the Law leaves us like the priest and Levite forsook the one fallen among murderers; it neither wants to nor can help us. Then we must let the Gospel, Christ, grace help us. For the only purpose God has in convincing us of our miserable condition, of our complete unworthiness, yes, of our worthiness for damnation through the Law is that, as Paul testifies in our Epistle, we turn to the promise through faith in Jesus Christ which is given to those who believe.

Permit me to ask all of you a question: What would we do if God would send prophets who would say that we must all die within the hour? Would we who have known that we are poor sinners who could not stand before God with our works quickly try to make ourselves pious and holy? Rather, would not all of us


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despairing of our betterment without hesitation turn to Jesus, cling in faith to the Gospel's promises of grace, and even in our last breath say: "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief"? I believe we would. Thus many thousands even under the papacy are saved because in their last distress they let go of everything and turned directly to Jesus, to his innocence and righteousness, his free grace and mercy, grasped these in faith, and thus have died in blessed hope.

Are we not fools if we do not now want to do that which we must do anyhow in the hour of death?

Come, then, my friends, we do not know whether God will let us die suddenly and unexpectedly so that we could not once sigh: "God be merciful to me a sinner!" Let us now, while we still live and are as healthy as we are say farewell to the Law as great, unworthy sinners and comfort ourselves in the precious, sweet Gospel.

That will not make us secure and indolent, as many suppose, but alive, strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, willing and able to do all good works.

Now may the Holy Spirit himself lead us down from flaming Sinai up to Golgatha, where the blood of the reconciliation flows for us; may the heavy rod of Moses drive us under the gentle shepherd's staff of our Good Shepherd Jesus Christ; may the fearful writing which is written upon the Law’s tables of stone frighten us so that we open our ears and hearts to the Gospel's loving voice of grace; thus and only thus will we become Christians and finally be saved. May God grant this to us all through Jesus Christ. Amen!

14TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1      Galatians 5:16-24  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

All the congregations in which God's Word is preached and the Sacraments administered and in which it is clear that there are not only true Christians but also false Christians and hypocrites are called Christian churches; such congregations composed of pious and godless are only improperly called churches. It has this name only because of the true Christians and pious people who are there, just as a field is called a wheat field only because of the wheat even though wheat and weeds both grow on it. The Christian Church is the kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth; it is really only all the people taken together who have accepted Christ as their King and let him rule them, who believe in him from their heart, hence are true Christians. It follows that in the real meaning of the word one cannot see the Church, that it is invisible. We read in the Third Article of our Christian faith: "I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints." What is believed is not seen; only the invisible is believed on.


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That fellowship of people which is called the Christian Church one can of course see; but the real Church of true Christians who are in it and for whose sake they are called churched one cannot see. Moreover, these true Christians who compose the Church are not invisible spirits but visible men; but who in a congregation belongs to it no one can know and see. No one can distinguish them from false Christians; and even if they could be pointed out, we would not be able to see that which makes them Christiane; that would remain invisible to us and we could only believe it. In love one considers everyone a Christian; but in full certainty it cannot be known and said that a single person In the world is a true reborn Christian.

However, every person by nature is of the' opinion that he would rather see than believe; even the Jews wanted to have nothing to do with an invisible kingdom of the Messiah. In Christendom the desire to have a visible church later led the founding of the papacy; and in our days the same wishes makes itself felt again even in the midst of the so-called Protestant Church; the teaching that Christ's Church in the real sense is invisible is considered enthusiasm and we are told: Away with your invisible dream church! No, no, it is visible! See: "Here is Christ, there is Christ!"

However, my friends, though a person may in these last times be ever so wise and ingenious, he will never see Christ's Church with his eyes. To invent a magnifying glass to do this job is beyond the skill of man. The privilege of knowing and seeing those who belong to the Lord, the Lord has kept for himself who alone can examine the hearts and reins. As what the Lord said to Samuel will not be moved: "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart," 1 Sam 16:7 so also Paul's utterance will not be moved: "The Lord knoweth them that are his," 2 Tim 2:19; nor will Christ's statement: "I know whom I have chosen," Jn 13:18. No person or angel will ever be able to discover which among men are the elect, until finally on Judgment Day Christ as the Lord will reveal the Church to all men and angels, and will at the same time present his Church visibly prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

My friends, though it is impossible for a person to know with complete certainty whether another is a true Christian, it is, on the other hand, possible to know this of oneself; and as foolish and impertinent as it is if a person wants to discover who of others is one of God's elect children, so wise and necessary it is, on the other hand, for one to discover whether he himself is one. Now what that necessary as well as infallible sign of an elect child of God would be Paul tells us in our today's Epistle. Let us now try to learn to know this sign. May the Lord himself help us that we not only become acquainted with with the correct touchstone but also really examine ourselves according to it. We, therefore, will pray to him in silent player.

The text. Galatians 5:16-24.

"The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things ye would.” V.17. With these words the Apostle Paul describes in our text the innermost workings of the Christian's heart, namely, how a struggle of the flesh and spirit takes place, and at the same time gives us an infallible sign of a true Christian. Let the subject of our today's meditation be:

THE STRUGGLE OF THE FLESH AND THE SPIRIT, A NECESSARY AND SURE SIGN OF A TRUE CHRISTIAN

We ponder


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1. The Nature, and

2. The Result Of This Conflict.

Lord Jesus, you know that so many, alas perhaps many of us, truly want to belong to you and some day rule with you, but do not want to fight under your banner. They call themselves your servants but sin and not you rules over them. Oh, therefore, have mercy upon us all and let your Light fall into our dark hearts, that we learn to know ourselves, in order that all of us who will be yours will join you in the conflict here and be victorious through you and some day be perfectly blessed in your. Amen! Amen!

I.

My friends, by "flesh" when it is opposed to Spirit, Holy Scripture understand not the body of man or only fleshly unchaste desires but the sinful nature of the whole person as it is by nature, hence the corruption of original sin, the natural blindness of the understanding, the natural malice of the will, the natural disorder in the sensual inclination, or in short, the evil lust born in all men. By "spirit" the Scriptures then mean not man's soul or an alleged third portion of man's essence in addition to the body and soul, but the new godly life, which the Holy Spirit works in man, the new divine light, the new divine power, the new divine mind, the new divine nature, briefly, the new heart of a true, reborn Christian.

When in our text the apostle says of Christians: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh." we see in the first place that there are two things in a true Christian, flesh and spirit, that is, the old heart and a new heart, the old mind and a new mind, the old sinful lust and inclination and a new desire and inclination directed against everything sinful and directed toward everything good, the weakness of the old nature and the power of a new nature, briefly, the old inborn sinful corruption and a new work and being produced by the Holy Spirit in his heart, or as the Scriptures usually speak, the Old Man and the New Man.

Therefore, for a person readily to know whether he is a Christian or not he need only ask whether he consists only of the Old Man, does he have only the old nature, the old heart, the old mind with which he came into the world; if he has not once been converted by the Holy Spirit so that now, so to say, he consists of two persons and has a double heart and mind he still is not a Christian. In the Epistle of Jude they are called "sensual having not the Spirit," v.19, whilst Christians can be called spiritual who still have flesh.

My friends, the apostle does not only say in our text that Christians have both in themselves. flesh and spirit, but also that a conflict rages between the flesh and the spirit.

So that no one might deceive himself concerning this conflict, one must know that not every conflict in man against his flesh is a sign that he is a Christian; even in those who are not Christians a certain conflict against the flesh often takes place. In non-Christians either reason alone struggles against their flesh or only flesh against flesh, that is, sin against sin, for example, greed against extravagance, pride against disgraceful slander, indifference and laziness against avarice, and the like. If non-Christians are tempted they often reason within themselves: No, I cannot possibly let myself be moved to commit this sin; for what would people say when it would become known? I would stake my good reputation, my honor, my entire life's happiness if I were to do


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this! Or they think: Should I do this, I would destroy my health; or, at best they think: God would punish me in time and in eternity! Hence, for God's sake alone they do not struggle against any sin. However, a clear sign that all such conflicts are only the conflict of reason against the flesh or flesh against flesh, sin against sin, is this, non-Christians do not struggle against all sins, not against their pet sins nor against the sins of their thoughts and mind; and secondly, they do not constantly but only now and then struggle against them.

On the other hand, when the apostle writes In our text: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit. and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." he has an entirely different conflict between the flesh and the spirit in mind. The very moment a person is truly converted to God and becomes a true reborn Christian, he bears in his innermost being the spirit in addition to the old flesh. This is a new spiritual light and desire and power of the Holy Spirit. For from the moment this spirit enters into him, it is constantly alive day and night and shows itself as an irreconcilable foe of the flesh still remaining behind in the Christian. Every time a Christian is tempted by others to sin, his flesh desires to agree to sin, but immediately the spirit stirs itself and gives the Christian the impulse to resist sin. And if a Christian is not incited to sin by others but by his inner self, that is, by his naturally evil heart, even then the spirit dwelling in the Christian immediately stirs, makes the Christian restless and moves him to pray against it and use every means to conquer this incitement to sin.

In a Christian flesh and spirit are, as it were, two scales. As on the one side the scale immediately rises when the other sinks, so the spirit immediately rises when the flesh wants to draw the Christian down into sin. Yes, it often seems as though the spirit has left the Christian completely, or is seemingly asleep, but the moment a temptation to sin arises in the Christian, there it is as though the spirit were suddenly awakened from its sleep and immediately takes up arms; and because the flesh never completely ceases attacking the Christian, and if it were only with indolence, so the spirit in the Christian also never completely stops fighting against the flesh.

The spirit in the Christian makes no difference between sins. It reprimands even the most secret sinful thoughts, desires, and impulses of the heart; it battles against the pet sins of the Christian the more ceaselessly and earnestly the more dangerous they are. It happens not seldom that whilst a Christian is in happy company he is unnoticed by men inwardly in a vehement conflict and driven by the spirit; in the temptation of unchaste thoughts he secretly prays with David: "Create in me a clean heart, oh God!" or in temptation to anger: "Oh Lord, grant me gentleness!" or in temptation to envy or pride: "Oh Lord, grant me, oh give me love and humility!" or in violent temptations to other serious sins: "Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death, oh my God?" A Christian is engaged in this conflict against all sins not only because he fears only the results of sin but because he hates sin itself, every sin, and hates it because he loves his God and Savior; therefore in every temptation he thinks as Joseph did: "How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" Gen 39:9.

Let everyone examine himself accordingly. Can you, my dear hearer, say with Paul: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit,and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would"? Do you experience not only how the flesh still remaining in you continually lusts against the spirit but also how the newly created spirit constantly lusts against the flesh? Even if it sometimes is greater, sometimes less, is there a continual earnest conflict within you against the constant impulses of sin, the constant secret sighing for help whenever your corrupt heart assails you


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from within or the world from without and incites you to sin? Can you in this mind say with Job: "Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?" Job 7:1. Blessed are you’, then you have an Irrefutable sign that you are a true Christian; for only true faith brings the spirit into man's heart which struggles victoriously.

Or, do you still fight only with your reason and your natural conscience, and not with a new spirit dwelling within you, one created by God? Do you indeed struggle against many but not against all sins? Do you indeed fight now and then, namely when you are especially awakened but not always? Then you are still not a true Christian.

II.

In order that this might become still clearer, let us in the second place ponder the result of this conflict of the flesh and the spirit in Christians.

The first thing which the apostle says in our text is this: "This I say then. Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the Law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Vv.16.18.24.

We see from this: When this conflict of the flesh and the spirit takes place, the spirit shows that it is stronger than the flesh, the flesh as the weaker of those that fight; the flesh does not then rule man but the spirit does; the spirit wields the scepter and far from the lusts of the flesh ruling over him they are· the rather his subjects; true, they continually rebel against the rule of the spirit but daily they are conquered, captured, and nailed to the cross by the spirit. True, in the conflict of the flesh and the spirit the Christian often receives many a wound, yes, as one might say, he often lies bleeding on the ground having been overtaken by sin; the final results of his conflict, however, is always victory over flesh, world, and devil.

The apostle, therefore, continues in our text thus: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations. wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Vv.19-21.

We see from this: Even though Christians are and remain sinners,there are certain sins, certain known works of the flesh, certain mortal sins in connection with which Christianity and the state of grace is absolutely impossible.

Therefore, do not think, my dear hearers, you who calmly let yourselves be ruled by anyone of these sins named by the apostle, do not think that you are engaged in a true Christian's conflict of the flesh and spirit. If you live in one of these sins which are mentioned and still imagine you are fighting against it, your conflict is merely the shadow boxing of your reason, or only your flesh against your flesh. The result of your conflict will simply be an ignominious defeat; for to the degree that you fall into manifest sins and vice which rule over you, to that degree you have a master and you are their subject, their servant, their slave. And alas, as the result of your struggle here is temporal captivity, so in the hereafter there is nothing but eternal captivity; for with great earnestness the apostle says: "Of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past." hence it is forever true, "that they which do such


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things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." V.21b. The apostle likewise says in the Epistle to the Romans: "For sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under the Law, but under grace." Rom 6:4. If sin still rules, one is under the Law and then also under the curse.

The apostle, however, has this to add: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsufferine, gentleness. goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no Law." Vv.22.23. We see from this: In the conflict of the flesh and the spirit in which true Christians are engaged, they not only conquer sin but they also carry away all kinds of virtues as the booty of their strife. The longer the fight the more general, upright, and their love will be, the purer their joy, the firmer their peace, the more enduring their patience, the more sincere their friendliness, the richer their goodness, the more constant their faith or faithfulness, the more invincible their gentleness, the more unspotted their purity. In short, the result of the true conflict of the flesh and the spirit is continued progress in sanctification.

True, this sanctification following the conflict of the flesh and the spirit is as little perfect as the victory of the spirit over the flesh is a complete one. In reference to both, every Christian must confess with the Apostle Paul: "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect." Phil 3:12a. However, if that conflict is actually being waged, the fighter without lying must also be able to say with Paul: "But I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." Paul closes our text with the words: "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."

Thus, my friends, we have seen: What God's Word says of the conflict of the flesh and the spirit in the true Christian is in part a reprimand, in part comforting; it condemns those who have experienced nothing of this conflict or are still Ignominiously defeated and remain prisoners of sin; it, on the other hand, comforts those who are engaged in this strife and, even if at times they are wounded, they will finally come forth the victor.

Oh, may God grant that all of us become, be, and remain true soldiers. Rut above all, whenever we become tired, yes, stumble and fall, may he not withdraw his hand but forgive us our sins, set us on our feet, and finally help us into his heavenly kingdom. Yes, may Jesus Christ, our eternal Prince of Victory, grant this to us all for the sake of his conflict unto death. Amen.

14TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2      Galatians 5:16-24  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

Dear friends in Jesus Christ.

When man was still in the state in which God had created him in paradise, his greatest worth and blessedness consisted in this, that God himself lived in his soul, that God himself was the light of his understanding and the moving force of his will. But after all men had fallen into sin, the greatest misery of man, on the other hand, consisted in this, that by nature they are lost, without God. What Isaiah testifies of the Israelites, is true of all men in their


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natural condition: "Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear." Is 59:2. As long as a person still belongs to the world, so long is he without God. Christ says, Jn 14:17: "The world cannot receive the Spirit." Before they are converted to Christ all men are godless, that is, without God; their unforgiven sins build the high, tragic wall of partition.

But Christ came into the world for the very purpose of uniting heaven and earth again, reconciling God and man, and leading us sinners back again into communion with God. As soon as a person repentantly confesses his fall from God and in faith turns to the Mediator of the New Testament, to Jesus Christ, the wall of separation crashes down, which hitherto had Separated him from God, his eins are forgiven, and God graciously unites again with him. "God saves us," says St. Paul to Titus, "by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly." Tit 3:5b.6. And to the Ephesians he writes: "In whom also after that ye believed,ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption." Eph 1:13b.14. "Know ye not," the same apostle adds in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, "that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" 1 Cor 3:16.

My friends, recognize from this what an honored and blessed person each true Christian is. My dear Christian, though you may see another honored before you and you see yourself despised and in deep humility, bear in mind, the honor and high station of all children of this world is nothing in comparison to the honor in which you share because the great, Most High God has graciously united himself with you poor sinner. If the centurion of Capernaum did not consider himself worthy that the Son of God should enter under his roof, for what inexpressible honor must you view this, that the Triune God not only has entered under your roof, but even into your poor heart! My dear hearers, if you are a true Christian you will often hear the Holy Ghost sigh in you, and will learn how he enlightens you ever more through the Word of God, how he drives, reprimands, comforts, and admonishes you in your heart. Why do you wish to continue to yearn for honor in this world, or grieve and vex yourself on account of the contempt you experience, since the great God, before whom everything in heaven and on earth must bow, does not disdain to live in your soul!

That Christians receive the Holy Ghost through faith is not only a great honor, but also a boundless comfort. For whoever has experienced that he was moved by the Holy Spirit has also a divine incontestable testimony that he is God's child, and is in grace; he has,as the apostle says, an inviolable seal and certain pledge of his eternal inheritance. "But," says St. Paul, "if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." Rom 8:11.

Certainly, a Christian can never be sad in tribulation, never despondent in contempt, and never can despair in the temptations of sin, if he ever truly remembers how precious he must be considered by God, since God not only looks upon him from his great heavenly throne, but really and truly has chosen his miserable heart as his dwelling place.

But my friends, if it is true that all true Christians are temples of God the Holy Ghost, it is not only certain that all of us who do not have Christ's Spirit cannot be true but only make-believe Christians; it is also true that everyone who has become a partaker of the Holy Spirit must also "walk in the Spirit." and thereby reveal, that this great Holy Spirit is in his heart. Our today's Epistle speaks of this necessary walk in the Spirit. Let us today


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hear more of this Word of God for our awakening, testing, and edification.

The text. Galatians 5:16-24.

My friends, St. Paul had shown in the words preceding our text, that Christians are not called to the authority of the Law, but to the freedom of the Gospel; they could not receive the Spirit through the Law but only through the preaching of grace. Perhaps many Galatians could understand this falsely, and suppose, that hence the Christian is no longer bound to any divine Law, but under the protection of grace could live according to the lusts of his flesh. To prevent this misunderstanding, the apostle shortly before our text said to the Galatians: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh." V.13. Now the apostle shows us in our text, that all those who had received the Holy Spirit through the preaching of grace, must walk after this Spirit, "Walk in the Spirit," he says, "and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh." V.16. Therefore, ponder with me today:

THE CHRISTIAN WALK IN THE SPIRIT

1. Wherein It Consists, and

2. Whereby It Is Revealed.

O God, you want to open the heart of each of us by the hearing of your holy Word, so that it is not preached in vain to any of us. Awaken in each a holy attention, and apportion to each that very word which he needs, and let it become powerful in his soul. Everything is in your hands; let divinely anxious souls find true comfort in a little word for them, the weak something for their strengthening, the despondent something for their establishment, the lazy something for their awakening, and the hypocrite and secure something to their shame, that they, struck by the power of your Word, may reflect and also hurry to save their souls. Dear heavenly Father, who does not want his Word to return void, fulfil this your faithful promise today also in us for the sake of your eternal mercy in Christ Jesus. Amen!

I.

"Walk in the Spirit!" Thus reads the word which God at one time commanded to be preached to the Christians of Galatia, and which he commands to be preached to each of us today. Oh, may this important word become bright and powerful in our hearts today. "Walk in the Spirit!11 says the sainted apostle. What does this mean? Does this perhaps demand that whoever wishes to call himself a Christian and be saved must be completely spiritual, completely pure and holy, and without any sins? Alas, then one would hunt in vain for a Christian among men. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" asks Job. Job 14:4. Only Jesus could say: "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" Jn 8:46.

However, the apostle clearly says to you in the following, that under the necessary Christian way of living in the Spirit not a perfect holiness, not a spirituality of angels is to be understood, because he adds: "And ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are contrary the one to the other. so that ye cannot do the things ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit ye are not under the Law." Vv.16-18. Also those who walk in the Spirit therefore are and remain poor sinners. They also still have the flesh and its sinful lusts along with the Spirit. Also the true Church errs and sins and has had to pray


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even from the time of the apostle to the present day: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Even through the work of regeneration the unfathomable ruin with which we come into this world is not completely destroyed. Even if grace is so powerful in a person, it cannot in this life completely erase sin from our hearts. Even in the hearts of true children of God, evil, impure, yes, at times even blasphemous thoughts still arise. Even the most holy saint must often find the most shameful lusts in his soul until his death.

Yes, the holier a person Is the more terrible the attacks and temptations to sin with which he is often visited. Even the Apostle Paul had to confess of himself: "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing." Rom 7:18. Even St. John had to complain: "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." 1 Jn 1:8. And even David must yearn for that desired justification: "Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults." Ps 19:12. "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.Yes, Solomon says: "A just man falleth seven times." Prov 24:16. We see from this that even the just who walk in the Spirit are not only attacked by sins in them, but then stumble and even fall. If e.g.. someone is by nature inclined toward anger, through conversion the power of this sin is indeed broken. Yet even an upright Christian falls into It in the hour of temptation. Thus it is with the natural inclination to pride, to thoughtlessness, to joking, to fear of men, and with all the other sins of human nature. Even true Christians are often so greatly covered with weaknesses and failings, that without further ado a faultfinder can attack their state of grace, yes, even humble but inexperienced Christians suppose that they must deny them the way of living in the Spirit.

However, my friends, although the true Christian, who walks after the Spirit, is a poor sinner just as well as a false Christian, who walks after the flesh, and although a child of the world in many particulars seems to be similar to a child of God, such a great difference lies between both as between death and life, freedom and slavery. Our text says: Man, as long as you still love a sin, and have no power to hate it and struggle against it, but when you meet with a sin you like, you do it as the servant of sin, the new spirit is not in you; you still walk after the flesh on the way to hell. Whoever walks in the Spirit also has the flesh whose lusts he must still fell in himself, but he also has the Spirit which hates sin, and battles against it, so that sin does not come to completion.

If you commit sin because you wish to do it, you walk after the flesh; whoever walks in the Spirit also sins, but then he does what he does not want to do, what he hates and detests. He can say with Paul: "What I would, that I do not; but what I hate, that I do....To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. For I delight in the Law of God after the inward man, but I see another Law in my members." Rom 7:15b. 18b . 19.22.23.

If you are still in that state that you can peacefully undertake to do something which you know is sin, if you still sin purposely and deliberately, you are still on the broad way of the flesh which leads to destruction. If one walk? in the Spirit, of course, one sins, but out of weakness and rashness.

If your sins still give you pleasure, or if you are indifferent over against them, you live in the flesh. Whoever walks in the Spirit sorrows daily over his sine, is filled with anxiety and worry over them, and with a thousand bitter tears of repentance often bewails them; they are his greatest misery, his heaviest burden, hie greatest cross. Every time an evil thought, a sinful lust arises in him, he is also driven inwardly to sigh: Alas, God, have mercy on me! Alas, see how corrupt my heart still is! Forgive me this sinful impulse!


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If you have sins which you really recognize as sins but deem them insignificant, alas, you still live in the flesh. Whoever walks in: the Spirit considers great, serious, and horrible all sins in himself, even those which appear to be most insignificant.

If you try to excuse your sins gladly when they are held up to you, you still live in the flesh. Whoever walks in the Spirit tries rather really to know the depths of his fall, gladly admits his guilt before God and man immediately, whenever he is convicted in his conscience, and even judges and condemns himself before others pronounce sentence upon him. If you know that you have committed a serious sin and are calm, postpone your repentance from day to day, and do not earnestly seek God's grace and forgiveness for them, you are still a child of sin and death and walk in the flesh. Whoever walks in the Spirit can, of course, also fall, but he again rises quickly with Peter, hurls himself down before God with sorrow and deep shame as a miserable worm, and sighs and begs and implores for Jesus Christ's sake for forgiveness and grace; he does not rest until his conscience is again cleansed, until he has again found rest, and is certain of his reconciliation with his heavenly Father, whom he has offended by his sin.

If you sin in such a manner that the Good Spirit of God must depart from your heart, you live in the flesh; whoever walks in the Spirit can at times also grieve the Holy Spirit, but he does not reject him by wanton sinning; sin can Indeed rebel against the authority of the Spirit in his heart, but he does not let sin get control but remains under the rule of the Spirit.

Therefore, my dear hearers, examine yourself as to whether you have hitherto followed the admonitions of the apostle: "Walk in the Spirit." Is God's Spirit in you? or are you still spiritually dead? Do you daily experience his war against the lust of your flesh, or do you still commit sin without resisting it? Do you wish to do good, and do you actually hate all evil? Do you still sin purposely, or alone from weakness and rashness? Are you calm about your sins, or do you sorrow over them daily? Do you consider each one of your sins great and serious, or insignificant and small? Do you still try to minimize your sins, or even to excuse them, or do you immediately and gladly plead guilty and beg for grace? Is your whole life a daily repentance of your sins, or do you postpone it from one day to the next? Do you let yourself be reprimanded, enticed, and drawn only now and then by the Spirit of God, or does he really "rule" in your hearts? Ah, do not flatter yourself in this examination; if you find the flesh in control, let the word of the apostle: "Walk in the  Spirit." pierce your soul like a two-edged sword; humble yourselves before the Most High, confess your misery, pray for the, forgiveness of your previous enmity against God, and he will accept you, give you his Holy Spirit today, so that you can also walk in him.

However, in our text the apostle adds how the walk in the Spirit is revealed. In the second place let us for our examination and awakening consider this.

II.

We read in our text: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings. murders, drunkenness, revelings. and such like; of the which I tell you before. as I have also told...you in time hast, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Vv.19-21. Of a truth my dear hearers, these are absolutely shocking words! The more shocking since we do not hear them from the mouth of Moses, but from the mouth of St. Paul, whose mouth otherwise always


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overflowed with the evangelical testimony of God's grace in Christ. Here the apostle presents an entire register of sins, of which he says two things: If anyone lives in such sins, it is clear that such a person certainly does not walk in the Spirit, not in faith, but after the flesh and cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

Ah, listen to this, you who live in the sin of adultery, fornication, uncleanness, and lasciviousness, and seek your pleasure either with others or alone in unclean lusts. As secret as your sins may be, concealed perhaps from the eyes of men by the mantle of night, to God's all-seeing eyes you are revealed as a slave of your flesh; you will be an abomination to the holy, pure God, as long as the sins of shameful passion and the lust of the flesh have not become an abomination to you.

Or you who live in idolatry, love gold more than God, fear temporal disgrace more than God's wrath, build more upon earthly wealth and men, on your own wisdom, cleverness, and power than upon God, seek a comfortable life in the world, make your belly your God; know this, you greedy and earthly-minded person, you live after the flesh and God's kingdom is still locked as far as you are concerned. Or you who carry on witchcraft, i.e.. through the misuse of God's name and superstitious means, yes, through the help of a secret satanic power try to cure your sicknesses, you reveal that God's Spirit does not live in you.

Or you who still cherish and nourish enmities, strifes, jealousies. wraths, factions, and splits in your heart, do not consider these as only pardonable weaknesses and failings. You loveless dealings over against your friends or enemies, or over against your wife and child, gives evidence of the existent damnable control of your flesh. Or you who against your own conscience hold fast to destructive errors, know this that rests are works of the flesh, by which no salvation and no state of grace is possible. Or if you go on sprees and carouse, are intemperate in eating and drinking, if you do the desires of your flesh and do not feel ashamed to drink yourself drunk now and then, or make yourself by immoderate enjoyment of spiritous drinks incapable of prayer and daily work, know this that no glutton, no drunkard will inherit God's kingdom.

Up', all of you who still live in such and similar declared works of the flesh. Do not comfort yourself with this, that even true Christians are poor sinful, frail human beings. Such knowing, intentional, cherished, wanton sins no Christian commits as long as he is a Christian. If there are such works of the flesh, there is no walk in the Spirit, no state of grace, and no faith. Where such works are done, there the Spirit is driven from the heart; if someone was a child of God's grace before such works, he is a child of Satan and hell after the deed. As much of a child of God as David first was, so that God himself called him a man after his own heart, the moment he had fallen into adultery he was a child of Satan and damnation until he repented. Whoever wishes to comfort himself by thinking of fallen David must also arise with him, repent with him, be converted with him. If David had lived on without repentance and died without repenting of his sins, this one-time great saint would now lament in hell. Of course, no sin is so great that it cannot be forgiven, the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost alone accepted. But if one wantonly persists in sin, no sin is so small that it does not cause us to lose our soul and salvation.

Therefore, if there should be a few among us who ever continue to besmirch their conscience with intentional sins, let them be warned. Do not you yourself be the cause of the lose of your eternal life. In such a state you rely in vain upon your alleged faith; your faith is a dream. In such a condition you also rely in vain upon God's mercy for God is also just. Ah, let the word of the apostle pierce your heart to repentance: "Of the which I tell you


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before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." V.21b. Let this frightful conclusion of God shake you vehemently. There still is time for conversion; if you remain in your sins and death comes, your conscience or Satan will in this frightful momentous hour hold this passage before your eyes and hurl your departing soul into despair.

After the apostle has shown in our text how it becomes plain that a person does not walk in the Spirit, he adds certain signs of this life when he adds: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." Vv.22.23. My friends, here you see the beautiful picture in which those are glorified who walk in the Spirit. Here you see the conduct by which a true Christian is revealed. Learn from this, that all praise of true faith, the true knowledge, the pure doctrine, the true Church, the true light, all this is nothing, is hypocrisy, self-deceit, useless, and in vain if these fruits of the Spirit do not show themselves. Listen, oh listen, my dear hearers, to our dear teacher, the sainted Apostle Paul. In our text he tells us so clearly that everyone can easily understand it: If there is the true walk in the Spirit, there is also love, namely the love for one's brother, that the one deferently prefers the other and each one thinks more of the other person than of himself. There one finds also joy in God and his Word, in Christ and his grace, which inner spiritual joy is unknown to the world; it is well- known to the Christian, for whom it sweetens a thousandfold all the miseries of this world. There one finds also peace, namely peace with God and the love of peace with every person. There one finds longsuffering, namely over against one's poor, erring, weak brother; there gentleness, that is, such a loving, pleasant outward appearance, in which the brother can recognize the love of the heart; there goodness. i.e.. the love and desire to do good to all men by word and deed; there faith, here that is the good confidence of each true Christian toward his brethren of whom he hopes the best, who also does not lose his confidence in others when he is very often deceived; there meekness, that is, a friendly heart, also toward one's offender, there also temperance, that is a continual seeking for cleanness of heart and mind.

Thus, my dear hearers, you see that if you wish to examine yourself as to whether you walk in the Spirit, you should not ask about great works, but according to Paul's instruction only after these fruits of the Spirit and ask; Where is my love? where my joy? where my peace? where my longsuffering? where my gentleness? where my goodness? where my faith? where my meekness? where my temperance? If God's Spirit is in you, your heart will also as a cultivated tree certainly bring these noble, sweet, and lovely fruits before God and man. God's love will be poured into you and Christ's grace toward you will have filled your heart with mercy toward your brother.

"Against such," the apostle concludes, "there is no Law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." V.23b.24. Thus the apostle tells us that also those fruits of the Spirit are found only imperfectly in a Christian, that even the best Christian must daily crucify his flesh together with its lusts and desires, which want to hinder and destroy the fruits of the Spirit in him.

Now may God pour his very own Spirit over us all, that we do not bring to completion the lusts of the flesh, but walk in the Spirit, bring the fruits of the Spirit, and finally fall asleep by the comforts of the Spirit to a joyful awakening through Jesus Christ. Amen!


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15TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY      Galatians 5:26 -6:10  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.

Sad to say, when a false worship is in full swing and the delusion is preached that one must merit heaven by himself through his works, we experience very often that people are very zealous in doing all kinds of things. Yes, they bring the greatest sacrifices, although they never find rest in their works, and continually remain uncertain about their salvation. On the other hand, when the true worship is again established and the divine truth is preached that man is saved by free grace, that he should do good works purely out of love and thankfulness to his gracious God, people become slow in doing this and wish to do absolutely nothing.

We see this especially when we compare the times before and after the Reformation with each other. When before the Reformation the Roman church taught that man must earn heaven himself, what zeal for the false worship was then shown! They gave for the construction and decoration of churches, for the maintenance of monasteries and nunneries, for the support of countless priests, and for the luxurious living of a whole army of proud bishops and prelates; they gave colossal sums without objection; even a Roman author writes, if Luther had not come, the pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, and monks would have had all the wealth of the laity, and these would have become their serfs. When Luther appeared and preached the doctrine that man should be righteous and be saved without the merit of his works, alone out of free divine grace through faith in Christ, millions quickly and joyfully accepted this blessed teaching, but scarcely was the zeal for the false worship gone, then the zeal for the true also immediately died out; as much as they previously had sacrificed for false teaching, so little did nobles, citizens, and farmers now want to give for the maintenance of the true office of the ministry, churches, and schools.

If we read Luther's writings, we find a repeated earnest complaint about this. Among other things he writes in the exposition of today’s Epistle: "In times past when they preached nothing but error and lies, the devotion of the people was so great and their giving was so much, that the wealth of the church was increased to such an extent that the pope became a caesar, the cardinals and bishops kings and princes of the world. But afterwards as this time when the light of the Holy Gospel has again arisen, how much thanks do they give for it? This is their thanks: Whereas they formerly gave without measure and necessity, they now willingly give neither the Gospel nor a single poor Christian not even one cent."

If we look at the present condition of our new homeland, we must, sad to say, remark that here and there we today have the same. In our old fatherland the members of each congregation were compelled to contribute so much for church and school that many could scarcely manage it. But they let themselves be compelled and gave richly and abundantly although most preachers and teachers were miserable hirelings who preached comfortless doctrines of men instead of the Gospel to which they had sworn allegiance. But what do most do when they come here, and no one can any longer compel them to contribute for the maintenance of Church and school? Most use the freedom which they have here for giving absolutely nothing or as little as possible, so that often a big congregation can scarcely build a little hut for a church and school and can give their pastor scarcely the least pay of a hired hand.


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When I speak to you of this, I do not say this because I feel this very same stinginess. No, if I would say this, I must be most unthankful; rather, to the glory of God I must confess that you have always showered me with kindness and charitable gifts to my great confusion; you have always shown yourself ready to bring really great sacrifices for the maintenance of church and school and for the spreading of God's kingdom. However, not ell of us are equally conscientious in fulfilling the duties of giving of his income for the work of Christ's kingdom, but who of us does not need encouragement to be an ever spontaneous, a really more-joyful giver? I believe we all need this. Well, then, let me now give you such an encouraging address on the basis of our today's Epistle

The text. Galatians 5:25-6:10.

There are three duties which the apostle inculcates in this Epistle to the Galatians. First of all humility; secondly, gentleness; and thirdly, generosity and liberality, especially for the needs of the ministry, the Church, and school. Since we are now in the process of founding an institution for the special education of preachers and teachers of the Gospel in Church and school, an institution which above all will have its existence through our liberal gifts, permit me on the basis of the last apostolic admonition in our text to show you for your encouragement:

WHAT SHOULD MOVE A CHRISTIAN TO SACRIFICE JOYFULLY HIS EARTHLY INCOME FOR THE MAINTENANCE AND SPREADING OF GOD'S WORD?

I answer: Three reasons.

1. God's Clear Command;

2. The Rich Blessing Which Can Be Expected From Such Giving;

3. The Promised Reward Of Grace.

Lord God, you have made us all in Holy Baptism a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that we should show forth your praises who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light. You want to remind us powerfully through your Holy Spirit of this holy, great office to which you have commissioned us, in order that we may be found as good stewards of your manifold grace. Do not let our life in this world be in vain for our fellow redeemed, but grant that when our body slumbers in the grave and our soul is with you, our work here may live on to your honor and the salvation of our brethren, and thus we be remembered on earth with thanksgiving. Hear us for Jesus' sake. Amen.

I.

Most people believe they have done their whole duty if no one can accuse them before a human court. Since in our new fatherland no one is compelled by governmental law to contribute for the maintenance and spread of God’s Word and the public worship, many also suppose it is entirely within their freedom whether they do something for it or not; it is within their freedom whether they want to belong to a Christian congregation or not and assume the burdens of a member of not. All who think thus Just do not know what being a true Christian is, let alone that they should be true Christians. They still have a sleeping conscience and have never, even in some measure, begun to care for their souls and their salvation.


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As soon as a person awakens from his natural security and unconcern the first thing which he knows is that he dare not think like the world; rather, he must guide himself in all things according to God's Word. What God's Word demands of him that he must do, even if no human being demands it of him.

Therefore, a person can have no doubt, whether he is obliged to bring a sacrifice from his income for the maintenance and spread of God's Word, for, first of all, we have God's clear command to do that.

St. Paul gives such a clear divine command in our today's text when he says: "Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things." V,6. The same apostle writes in 1 Cor 9:14: "Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel." And when our Lord sent his disciples to preach the Gospel he said: "Freely ye

have received, freely give." Mt 10:8. He forbad them to trade with the Gospel and spiritual things, for he also added: "Provide neither gold nor silver nor brass in your purses." Mt 10:9. "Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give; for the laborer is worthy of his hire." Lk 10:4-7. You see, my friends: It is God's command that the preacher of the Gospel should not support himself by the work of his hands, so that they can take care of their office. Therefore, woe to those, if they desire a peaceful, comfortable life, or if they wish to enrich themselves! They are not Christ's servants but belly servers; but the food and clothing they need should by all means be given them by those to whom they preach. Now tell me: Since this is a clear, express command of God, can he be a Christian who does not gladly bring any sacrifice from his income so that God's Word may be preached to him? Certainly not.

However, my friends, God's Word goes even further. Christ says: "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest." Lk 10:2. Yes, Christ teaches his Christians to pray every day: "Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name, Thy kingdom come." Now if Christians should diligently pray God for workers in the spiritual heavenly harvest, and daily beg him that his name be hallowed by all men and his kingdom come everywhere, must not they also do everything so that God hears their prayer? Would it not be a hypocritical prayer, if Christians implored God to send his Holy saving Word to all men and yet wish to sacrifice nothing for it, although they could do it? Thus does not also the command to do everything that we are able for it lies in the command to pray for the salvation of all men?

But even more. Christ says the command: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," is similar to the main command: "Thou shalt love God above all things," in which is contained the entire Law and the prophets. If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, do we not have the duty of not only seeing to it that we have God’s Word, but that our neighbor, our erring fellow redeemed, our children, and all our descendants also have it?

There can be no doubt: God has not only expressly commanded us to bring a sacrifice of our income for the maintenance and spreading of his Word, but no doubt every command to pray for the spreading of his kingdom, yes, every command to love our neighbor as ourselves is nothing but God calling to all Christians: Help, help, that the sound of my Gospel may ring in all the world and resound in the ears and hearts of all men until the end of days!


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II.

My friends, it should be enough for a Christian merely to know that God has given some command; even that should forcibly move him to do it with joy; but he must be moved even more forcibly when he considers what a rich blessing he can expect from it. Permit me in the second place to speak to you of this.

It is true: If a person out of heartfelt love uses his income for alleviating the temporal wants to his brethren; when he makes bequests to widows and orphans, to poor people, those weak due to age, the infirm, and the sick,for the advancement of knowledge and Art,, or for the encouragement of business and industry, and especially for the general welfare here on earth, a great blessing lies on this. But if we compare the blessing which earthly goods brings which one can use for the maintenance and spread of God's Word we can only be amazed that a temporal earthly gift could bring such great and glorious spiritual and eternal blessings.

Bear in mind, how miserable those people are who do not have God's Word. Neither their riches nor their honor nor their earthly joy can make them happy; the best, the most necessary thing is lacking, namely the peace of God, their conscience at rest. With all their riches they are, therefore, poor and full of carking [?] cares, and often full of bitter melancholy amid all their joys. If trouble comes to people who do not have God's Word, if poverty, sickness, shame; if they lose their loved ones through death, if they must die, ah, then they feel really, yes, completely and unutterably miserable; they have no balm of comfort for the wounds of their anxious hearts, no hope for the dark future, no joyful expectation of escaping this vale of tears to go into a blessed eternity.

Yet the most frightful of all with those who do not have God's Word is the misery which they do not even once recognize--the misery of their sins. They lie under God's wrath and don't know it; heaven and salvation is not theirs and they do not suspect it; when they die hell and damnation open for them and they do not believe it; and thus they then plunge into death as though blindfolded, into the abyss of eternal misery and ruin--and are lost.

But if such people receive God's Word all of them seldom accept it, though always a few believe it; God has given the promise that his Word would never return void but prosper in the thing whereto he sent it. Those who in faith embrace God's Word do receive not earthly wealth in the place of their poverty, nor human honor in the place of shame, nor bodily health in the place of sickness, nor temporal life in the place of their death and the death of their loved ones. Through the Word they receive such a sweet heavenly comfort in their misery, that they as the apostle writes: "rejoice in hope, patient in tribulation." Rom 12:12. Yes, they glory in their cross and tribulation. In short, in the middle of their misfortune they are happy and in the midst of death full of the hope of life. Yes the most glorious thing about those who receive and embrace God's Word is that thus they are redeemed from their sins and its bitter fruits, all anxious cares, doubts, unrest, and anxiety of conscience is taken from them, God's wrath against them extinguished, hell and damnation closed; on the other hand, grace and the forgiveness of all their sins, the peace of God and the sweet rest of their conscience, the adoption of children and the hope of eternal life is given them, and heaven and all its blessings is opened to them.

Oh, it is a blessed change which takes place in one who receives God's Word and in faith embraces it. This world loses its bitter woes, yes, they are in the annex of a better world; even here he catches many a glimpse, and receives many a blessed foretaste of it. He is redeemed from the greatest misery, from the misery of sin and the greatest good, God himself, is given to him.


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My friends, there you see all the glorious things which God's Word produces. He who in a love flowing from faith gives his earthly wealth for the maintenance and spread of God's Word assists in this labor. He shares in bringing comfort to one or perhaps many people in their great distress; he shares in turning this vale of tears into a temporal paradise of grace; he shares in relieving the burden of sin and the wrath of God; he shares in tearing the prince of darkness from them and in closing hell for them. He shares in opening heaven for them, in giving them God, and in eternally rescuing their immortal, dearly redeemed but lost souls.

Is that not blessing enough for a small earthly gift? Boundless, amazing blessing? Is that not incalculable interest for a little mite? Oh my friends, bear in mind: With each little earthly gift which you can spare for the maintenance and spread of God's Word you have a means for enriching the poor souls of men with incorruptible treasures; you have a key which locks up eternal misery and unlocks eternal Joys for your unfortunate fellow human beings. You have a seed which, if you sow it on the field of the world, grows up into a tree whose fruits are rescued, immortal souls. Should such a consideration not move us joyfully to bring sacrifices of our earthly wealth for the maintenance and spread of God's Word?

III.

However, my friends, we still have a third motive, and this is the future glorious reward of grace promised for it.

A person who wishes to bring sacrifices only because some day he expects a reward will be without his reward; such mercenaries God reward in this world; in eternity they can expect no reward. However, that it is not incorrect to remind oneself of the promised reward of grace in order to do good, to encourage, and. to incite oneself, we see when God himself so often holds before us the future reward of grace. Therefore, we also read of Moses: "Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he," we read, "had respect unto the recompense of the reward." Heb 11:25.26. To be sure, this does not mean that the prospect of the reward in the world to come was not the reason for his faithfulness, but this prospect ever and again strengthened him anew when the world wanted to entice him with its glory or frighten him with its wrath.

For that reason God has placed such a great reward on one's joyous sacrifices of his temporal wealth for the maintenance and spread of God's holy Word. Hence, the apostle continues in his text in his admonition: "Be not deceived. God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth. that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the spirit shall of the spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Vv.7-9.

Thus you see my friends: Everything which a person does in this life is seed for eternity. Whoever uses his temporal wealth only for himself, for his comfort, joy, and honor sows to the flesh and shall reap of the flesh eternal corruption. On the other hand, whoever uses his wealth to do good, to serve his neighbor, and above all to further the kingdom of God sows to the Spirit and shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. Temporal gifts should bring him eternal fruit. For this brief sowing he should reap unceasingly. All


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contributions for the maintenance and spread of God's Word brought with believing Joyful hearts should in eternity become nothing but trees of the heavenly paradise, which never wither but are eternally green and constantly bear the new buds and fruits of blessed joy.

There you see, my friends, now it may often well seem as if our gifts are used in vain when in spite of our contributions we perceive no progress but more often that God's kingdom is losing out. It often may seem that way. However, in eternity the fruits, the glorious reward of grace is assured us. Here it may often seem as if our small gifts fell like drops into the ocean and disappeared like nothing; here it may appear that way; there the little drop will have become a precious pearl in our crown. Yes, like a snowflake which rolls from the mountains, rushing into the chasm like a huge avalanche, so will also our smallest gift brought in love and faith fall from the mountains of divine mercy as immeasurable treasures of heaven into our laps. Here it may often happen that no one knows what a great sacrifice our little gift was; it may often happen that our good deed was as nothing, forgotten amid the shining works of the rich. There we will see that God has not forgotten what we have sacrificed for him. God has not weighed it in a human scale but on the scales of his infinite goodness which looks into the heart; he says in his Word, he will openly reward even the secret prayer in the hidden closet.

Oh my friends, when we ponder all this and when we bear in mind that we could still take not one bit of our earthly wealth along into the grave, should we not be filled with joy and want to do good and not become tired? Oh certainly! Well, then, let's hurry up! Let us listen to the voice of God in our today's Epistle: "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men. especially unto them who are of the household of faith." V.10. Let us not listen to the voice of our flesh which so gladly complains that there is no end to giving. Let us rather listen to the voice of the divine Rewarder who again today says to us: "In due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Yes, may God himself impress that on the hearts of all of us and soften our hard hearts through the fires of his love in Christ Jesus our Savior and Redeemer. Amen.

16TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     Ephesians 3:13-21  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.

If a child receives the sacrament of Holy Baptism, a great miracle of divine grace is worked in him. Christ says: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Jn 3:5. Through Baptism, therefore, a child is born once again. In the moment that this mysterious act is completed, a new spiritual person in him comes into the world and this pardoned child from this time on consists of two persons. He still has the Old Man, or the old nature inherited from his parents, according to which the child is a sinful human being who has sin and lusts after sin; but then he also has within himself the New Man or a new nature worked in him by the Holy Spirit


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according to which the child is a holy person who strives against sin and wants only divine things.

If all people would remain in the state into which they were placed by Holy Baptism, how blessed they would be! But as a rule what happens? Children forget their Baptism and the inexpressible grace which they received, imagine that the world and its vain treasures and joys is their highest good, fall into all kinds of sins against their conscience, and thus lose again what had been worked in them by Holy Baptism; the New Man born in them and the new nature engendered in them dies as it were, and the Old Man who no longer has an opponent regains control. That is why there are millions of baptized Christians, but alas, only a small flock of reborn Christians.

My friends, blessed are they, however, who are concerned about this truth; for the miracle which takes place in a person in Holy Baptism can occur again, even if it has been lost; the New Man which was created in him and died again can be born again. However, this takes place not by being rebaptized but by repenting, that is, perceiving his sin and his fall with terror and in faith turning again to Christ. The moment he comes to a living faith, the New Man is also reborn in him and a new spiritual life, a new spiritual power, a new spiritual will, a new heavenly mind, a new pure heart which resists sin and seeks divine things is recreated in him. Oh, blessed is the man, who in true repentance returns to his Baptism! He again finds all the things which he had forsaken and lost by his fall; for the baptismal covenant is a covenant of grace, which we indeed can break, but which as far as God is concerned stands eternally firm. Even in the prophets we read: "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.

But if a person has returned to his Baptism through repentance, he a gain has faith; the new, spiritual, inner man is indeed again engendered in him, but he has not thus conquered everything; he has not yet reached his goal. The New Man is still as weak as a newborn child, still as tender as a young plant, still as small as a hidden spark. Therefore, in order that this spark may not die soon, nor this young plant wilt, nor this newborn child die again, it must be strengthened.

Alas, only too many who often hear God's Word preached in its purity, cannot resist its awakening power, pass indeed from the death of sin to a spiritual life, and a new man is born in them; but then they again become secure and careless and do not try to grow in grace; thus they waste away that which God worked in their hearts, and the treasure which holds before them their heavenly calling in Christ Jesus is lost.

That this would some day happen to the zealous Christians of Ephesus was Paul's concern. For that reason, as he writes to them, he often bowed his knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus to grant them strength by his Spirit in the inner man. Now if this prayer and the exhortation contained in it was necessary even for these zealous Ephesian Christians, should it not be doubly necessary for us? Therefore, permit me to speak to you today about this necessary strengthening in the inner man.

The test. Ephesians 3:13-21.

St. Paul wrote the Letter to the Ephesians, from which the Epistle of this Sunday is taken, when he languished in chains and bonds in Rome as a prisoner for the sake of the Gospel. The only concern which lay upon the heart of the


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apostle did not concern his own fate; he was completely unconcerned about that and joyfully submissive to the will of his God; the only thing which concerned him was the weakness of the members of the congregations planted by him. He was afraid that many of the weak members would be offended at his bonds and suffer shipwreck of their faith because of the disgrace connected with it. Therefore, in our text the apostle writes not only: "Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory:" but he adds: "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man." Vv. 13-16. The strengthening of the inner man, that above all was what Paul sought in prayer for his beloved Ephesians. Wherein this consists, he himself tells us in the following  verses. Therefore, permit me to speak to you on:

THE CHRISTIAN'S STRENGTHENING IN THE INNER MAN

According to our text it consists of three things:

1. That The Christian Grows Constantly Stronger In The Faith;

2. That He Becomes Ever More Zealous In Love, and finally,

3. That He Constantly Increases In Knowledge And Experience.

Oh Lord God, you now want to instruct us in how a weak Christian can become strong in the inner man. You know how we especially in these last calamitous times need to be strong in you and in the power of your might. Oh, therefore, give all weak Christiane among us--and who of us can call himself strong-- the grace to become firmer in the faith, more zealous in love, and richer in knowledge and experience, so that even in these time of the strongest temptations they may remain faithful to you, faithful, Lord, until death. Awaken all those who have not even begun to walk as Christians, who make love with the world and sin, and show them the terrible danger in which they are. For if the righteous scarcely be saved, where will the sinner be? Grant us all, therefore, one blessing; strengthen the one in faith and grant it to another; then we will some day love you for it and praise you forever and ever. Amen.

I.

In this physical life, my friends, there is as you know a time when a person ceases growing; it is not so in the spiritual life. If he has become a Christian, that·is, if a new spiritual or, as we read in our text, an "inner man" is created by God in him through faith, the growth of this man dare never cease until death. In Christianity there should and can be no standing still. He who does not go ahead goes backwards. The Christian is not in the state of being but in the process of becoming; he has such a distant and high goal, that he can never say: Now I have reached it, now I can stop in my efforts, now I can rest from my struggles. Even a Paul says: "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. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those which are before, I press for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Phil 3:12-14.

Where does the growth and progress of the Christian in spiritual things, or as we read in our text, "the strengthening oftketaner man", consist? The apostle indicates this when, first of all, he continues in our text: "That Christ


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may dwell in your hearts by faith." V.17. Above all, becoming more and more firm and strong in the faith is part of the strengthening of the inner man by which Christ dwells in our hearts.

It is faith by which a person becomes a Christian. For if a person once perceives that he is a sinner, if it becomes clear to him that with his righteousness he cannot stand before God nor erase his own sins, that he needs a Reconciler, a Redeemer, a Savior; if along with this knowledge he becomes anxious because of his hopeless state and in this anxiety he turns to Christ who offers grace, forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation to all sinners in the Gospel, then through this faith he becomes a Christian. When this happens a new young Christian usually thinks that he has a great, strong, firm faith. He feels so blessed in the new experiences which he now makes; he is so happy that his worry about sin has disappeared; a huge burden has been lifted from him; his conscience which previously accused him is silenced; he therefore cries loudly and joyfully: Oh, what a blessed man I am; I have found that for which I searched! Oh, how happy I am! I have God, I have his grace, I have found heaven. The Lord hath done great things for me for which I am glad. Hallelujah!

As strong as the faith of such young Christians, such novices and beginners in Christianity seems to be, just so weak is it. And this weakness of faith shows itself especially in the fact that they are so confident, so certain, and so full of joy because they feel the grace they received in their hearts, because they find a joy which they had never experienced. But if such novices lose this sweet feeling of grace, if they lose this inner joy, or if they have a rough time, then they also frequently lose their faith. They think: Alas, I have deceived myself; I have comforted myself by mistake; I still have not found grape; Jesus was not yet mine. They think: How can Jesus dwell in me, since I feel nothing but sin and sorrow in me? How can God be my Father and I his child since everything is going wrong? You see, the faith of a Christian is at first like a weak reed which the wind blows hither and yon; he is like a young child which laughs one minute and weeps the next.

If a person remains so weak in the faith, nothing else is possible but that his faith is finally overthrown and extinguished. If he is to remain a Christian, his faith must constantly grow in strength. Wherein this consists can be easily stated on the basis of what has been said. A Christian must arrive at the point where he builds his faith alone on the Word, that is, comforting himself with the written Word alone, even if he detects no. joy in his heart; believing in the forgiveness of sins preached to him even if he feels that sin still dwells in him; comforting himself in God's grace preached to him even if he is sensible of God’s wrath; considering God his gracious Father and himself as his child even if it seems as though He has forsaken him; even in bitterest want relying upon God to provide for him, in great misery and danger relying upon God's help and deliverance, yes, in the midst of death relying upon God's assured redemption. That, that is what it means to become firm in the faith and in this way a Christian becomes strong in the inner man.

A beautiful example is the nobleman. He came to Christ with a weak faith and said to him: "Sir, come down ere my child die." Jn 4:49. He still thought that if Christ would not personally come to his house, he could not help his son. Yet when Christ said to him: "Go thy way, thy son liveth," behold, the faith of the nobleman suddenly became strong, for we read: "And the man be lieved the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and went his way." Strengthened by Christ's word, he no longer believed in Christ's help only under the condition that Christ would go with him to his home; now he relied entirely upon his word; and thus equipped he returned to his house an invincible hero of faith who at first was so weak and faint-hearted.


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We have another example in Peter. When he was a novice in the faith, it seems as though he wanted to remove mountains with his faith. Feeling strong because of Christ's presence, he boldly promised to go with Christ into death. But behold, scarcely did he see Christ in chains when the weakness of his faith became manifest; he fell away and in one night denied Christ three times. But what an entirely different view we have of him when his faith had become strong! Though he might be threatened even with bonds and the pains of death, he frankly confessed the crucified and risen Christ.

II.

Not only is the constant growth in faith necessary for the strengthening of a Christian in the inner man, but becoming ever more zealous in love is also. Permit me to speak to you on this as the second point.

When the apostle says in our text that he often prayed God that he would make the Ephesians strong, he not only says by way of explanation: "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." but also, "that ye being rooted and grounded in love." V.17.

We see from this that also through love Christianity becomes like a firmly rooted tree, or like a house on immovable foundations.

Can this actually be ascribed to love? According to Scripture is it not faith alone which makes one righteous before God and saved? Is it not faith alone which gives life, light, comfort, and power? Hence, is it not really faith alone through which a Christian is truly rooted and grounded? This is true, my friends; but bear in mind that Holy Writ says that faith without works is dead, hence merely an empty picture of faith; however true living faith is active through love. As certainly as light and warmth is noticed where there is fire, so certainly will the person in whose heart the sun of faith has risen let it shine through the warm and bright rays of love and good works, As the tree is known by its fruit,so is faith by love.

I now ask you: Can he be a strong, solid Christian who lacks love or whose love is very weak? Certainly not. His heart will constantly say: You call yourself a Christian; you brag about the Savior; you say: I believe! But where is the proof that you have faith? Where are the rays and warmth of

your light of faith? You have no love; then you certainly have no faith, and your boast is false! Oh, woe to a Christian when in the hour of death he must admit that he boasts of faith but showed no love! He will then have a difficult time comforting himself in Christ and not despairing.

Therefore, even though faith alone avails before God, we not only owe our neighbor love we also need love for ourselves so that we become strong.

So, if you want to become strong in the inner man, you must grow ever more zealous in love. Your love must include more and more, so that you never say: How does this concern me? he is a stranger to me, he is not worthy of my love. No, you must think about every person who needs your love: He is also Christ's possession, God's Son spent his blood for him as well; one God created him and me; one God redeemed him and me; one God called him and me to eternal life and even though he were my enemy; I therefore love him and all men as my brothers and sisters.

You must also grow purer and more unselfish in your love; you must not ask when you are to do good: What will I get out of it? You must not do


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good just to be thanked, or to be repaid, or to build a reputation; your left hand must not know what your right hand does. You must learn to put up even with thanklessness and not let your love grow cold because of it. You must keep a heart full of love even toward those who have offended, insulted, yes, done you a flagrant wrong, hated, and persecuted you.

You must become more and more gentle, holy, and divine in your love. You must be patient with your neighbor’s weaknesses, sins, and failings. You must also not be ashamed of the greatest sinner but have pity on him. Above all, you must see about the salvation of his soul; out of love you must reprimand him even if you would lose his favor, even if your love would be explained as hatred and you would be despised and rejected as a malicious person because of your love.

You must rejoice at the good fortune of your neighbor as over your own and be sorrowful over your neighbor's misfortune as over your own. To have depressed or offended a brother must cut your heart in two. In a word, you must come to the point where you are concerned about letting your whole life be a service of love to your neighbor, ready to surrender property and goods, yes, your life for your brethren.

Oh, blessed, blessed are such loving Christians! They as we read in our text have become truly "rooted and grounded in love." No matter if temptation may assail them, they do not despair; for they can say with faithful John, the disciple of love: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, be cause we love the brethren." 1 Jn 3:14. Yes, even in death these Christians will not despair; when Satan wants to accuse them because of their life, they will be able to say to God: Lord, you know that I was no hypocrite; by your grace I have been faithful to you, served you with an honest heart; oh, let me find grace also in my last distress for the sake of my Savior in whom I believed and whom I served in love.

III.

My friends, the apostle mentions one more thing in our Epistle which also is part of this needed strengthening of a Christian in the inner man, and that is increasing in knowledge and experience. Permit me to add a few words on this final point.

The apostle closes his request with the words: "That ye be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God." Vv.18.19. The last words according to the original say as much as: "Know the love of Christ, which surpasses all knowledge." You see from this: In this entire concluding sentence the apostle does not speak of a constantly greater knowledge of Christian doctrine and its truths, for knowledge often merely inflates a person; no, the apostles speaks of the knowledge and experience of the love of Christ. And it is true, my friends, the knowledge and experience of this love is a chief thing for the needed strengthening of a Christian. He who does not know Christ's love has gained nothing, even if otherwise he knows everything; but he who knows Christ's love knows enough whether otherwise he would know nothing else.

Hence, my dear Christian, if you want to become strong in the inner man, then learn to know more and more of Christ's love. Learn to know its "breadth." that is, that is is broader than the whole world; for it surrounds all sinners, everything which lives in heaven and on earth. Learn to know its "length." that is, that this love is of longer duration than the world; it is


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from eternity and stretches into eternity. Learn to know its "height;" for this love is higher than all the mountains of the world, it reaches up to heaven. Learn to know its "depth;"for this love is deeper than the foundation of the earth; it is a deep, inexhaustible, bottomless well, it flows from the depths of God's own heart. Paul goes even further: You should learn and experience that Christ's love surpasses all knowledge, that you can never finish learning, searching, or studying it, that it is as great, as glorious, as boundless as God himself is.

Oh my friends, would, therefore, that you would daily and hourly open the book of Christ's love and read and above all study in this book with prayer and meditation! Oh what you would then experience! how often you would have a foretaste of eternal life! how strong you would become in the inner man! In this way you would, as the apostle says, "be filled with the fulness of God."

Oh, blessed Christians, who daily try to become stronger in faith, daily more zealous in love, dally richer in the knowledge and experience of Christ's love!

Well, then, all of you who have begun to believe: Try to become such Christians; in addition, hear and read God's Word, pray, watch, carry on the conflict; thus you will also some day see what you believe and some day enjoy what you hope.

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us. unto him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." Vv.20.21.

17TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY      Ephesians 4:1-6  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

During the whole time that there have been true believers and zealous confessors of the truth, they have always been blamed for being the enemies of peace and unity. Even when the great prophet of the Old Covenant, Elijah, met King Ahab, we read that the king immediately cried out in anger to him: "Art thou he that troubleth Israel?" 1 Ki 18:17. We hear the same thing of the time of the New Covenant. When Paul, the great herald of the Gospel, was arraigned before the Roman Governor Felix, the accusation against him read: "We have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world." Acts 24:5.

During the time after the apostle, we read that Christians were declared enemies of public peace and law, yes, enemies of the whole human race, not only by the heathen rulers, but often Christians were called by other Christians, disturbers of peace and unity . In the same way Athanasius the brave confessor and defender of Christ's divinity, accused of being an enemy of peace in the church,


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had to spend twenty years in exile. Again when 300 years ago Luther, the man of God, again announced the pure Gospel after a long time of falsehood and loudly testified against errors dangerous to souls, he also was everywhere considered, even among those who wanted to be friends of the Gospel, as one who confuses the Christian Church. And finally, what must we also in our time experience? Because we do not want to take part in the so-called newly instituted Evangelical Church union, we are also accused of wilfully tearing the body of Jesus Christ and preventing that unity to which every Christian is so earnestly admonished in God's Word.

Of course, it is true, my dear hearers: If true Christians could be rightly accused of being the foes of Christian unity, they would be in a tragic situation. For, indeed, all Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are full of exhortations to peace and unity. The chief thing contained in the prayer of the Lord for his Church is: "Neither pray I for these," that is, the disciples, "alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word, that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one is us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." Jn 17: 20.21. That is why Paul says to Timothy: "Follow peace with all them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." 2 Tim 2:22. Yes, in the Letter to the Hebrews we read: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Heb 12:14. In these words eternal salvation is denied to all who do not follow peace with everyone.

My friends, though it seems as though true Christians must lower their eyes in deep shame when accused of being the foes of peace and unity, this is nothing but mere appearance. The unity for which the Lord once besought his Father for his Church, and to which the apostles earnestly admonished the churches founded by them is something entirely different than what this beautiful name usually bears. It is Christ himself, the eternal Prince of Peace, who was accused before Pilate of being the disturber of the peace of the Church. His accusers cried out: "He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry." Lk 23;5. But as little as true Christians are intent upon starting and promoting false peace, just so great a zeal they show in founding and promoting true unity. Wherein this consists is told us in our today's Epistle, from which we now want to try to learn to know it. May the God of peace and unity grant us his light and his grace to do this.

The text. Ephesians 4:1-6.

The Epistle just read falls into two parts; in the first part the Apostle Paul exhorts in general that Christians should walk worthy of the calling wherewith they are called, with all humility and meekness and patience; in the second section he exhorts particularly that they should be diligent in keeping the unity of the Spirit. Now since this first exhortation was already directed to you last Sunday, let us today above all direct our attention to the second part of our text. I present to you:

THE TRUE UNITY OF THE TRUE CHRISTIAN CHURCH

I will show you:

1. Wherein It Consists.

2. Upon What It Rests, and finally,

3. By What Means It Is Preserved.


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I.

"Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." v.3; in our day these words of our text they frequently call their watchword who have begun or embraced a so-called church union. They suppose that with these words the apostolic and divine seal has been pressed upon their union. "Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;" these words are, therefore, often urged upon true Christians who do not want to take part in this newly organized church union, and it is thought that these words reprimand and judge them.

But as they deal with many other passages of Scripture in our day, so also with this one; careful thought is not given to it; they misunderstand and misuse it.

For what is really the unity which they try to found by this so-called church union? It is only an external, physical, earthly, visible one. Whilst in their heart and mind Christians believe different things, think differently, are minded differently, they intend to found a unity which consists in carrying on certain pious works, e.g., the work of missions and the spreading of the Bible; calling each other at least brothers and sisters, although they are not in their hearts; holding one formal divine service together; appearing together at one altar, and accepting certain rites. And he who does not want to take part in a mere outward union is called a foe of Christian unity and is told: Have you not read what the apostle writes: "Endeavor to keep the unity"?

However, the apostle does not write only this but: "Endeavor to keep the unity OF THE SPIRIT." It, therefore, is not the mere outward unity to which the apostle exhorts but "the unity OF THE SPIRIT." The true unity of Christians or the true Christian Church, therefore, consists of an inner, invisible unity, one of heart, mind, soul, and spirit. And so also the apostle immediately continues with the words: "ONE body, and ONE Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling." V.4. The true unity of the Christian Church does not consists in being joined together externally like the dead ones of a house, but like living members of a living body which is pervaded and suffused by one Spirit, namely, the Holy Spirit.

Though Christians have different earthly callings and stations in life, their unity consists in having only one calling; it concerns heaven which they all hope for alike, because it belong to them all without distinction. The first Christian congregation at Jerusalem once stood in such a unity; it is written of this congregation: "The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul." Acta 4:32.

Therefore, do not be deceived, my friends, when, for example, the Roman Church proudly boasts of its unity under the mighty rule of its visible head, and when it with malicious joy points to the disunity which prevails in the midst of so-called Protestantism. Do not be deceived by the outward unity which is being brought about here and there by the church unions of our day. It is not this mere external unity of which the Holy Scriptures speak and to which they so earnestly exhort us. All external unity without the inner unity of the Spirit is nothing else but the unity of a corpse in the cemetery; no matter how much it glitters in men's eyes it counts for nothing in God's; it is an illusion, yes, it is a positive sign of spiritual death.

II.

My friends, now that we have briefly seen wherein the true unity of the Christian Church consists, let us in the second place also try to learn upon what it rests.


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The foundation upon which they today usually build the unity of the church and upon which particularly the unity of the church of unionists rests is that everyone can believe what he thinks is right, the most widely differing opinions are tolerated in the church, and this difference is covered with the mantle of love. No opposition is raised against false doctrine but silence is maintained even in the face of the crassest falsification of God's Word. As proof that this is correct, they quote the words of our text: "Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit IN THE BOND OF PEACE." However, the bond of peace, it is said, is nothing else than love; hence, true unity rests upon love. This, however, is a great error. The apostle does not say: "Endeavor" to found or make, but "to keep." that is, maintain, preserve "the unity of the Spirit." So it simply is not true that according to our text true unity could be made by and rest upon the bond of peace or love. No, this must first be in existence; but when it exists, it should be preserved and cultivated by the bond of peace and love.

But that upon which true unity really and alone rests is stated in our text when we read: "ONE Lord. ONE faith. ONE Baptism. ONE God and Father of all. who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Vv.5.6.

See, the true unity of Christians rests upon the fact that they confess one Lord, namely Jesus Christ, have one faith in their hearts, are baptized with one Baptism and are the children of one God and Father. If this foundation is laid, then unity rests upon the true foundation. On the other hand, if this foundation is lacking, if one confesses this, another something else, if one believes this, another that, if one considers Baptism merely a ceremony, another considers it a means of grace, namely, the washing of regeneration, briefly, if there is not one faith and one confession, then all this external unity is nothing but a false unity, a mere illusion, a farce, nothing but lies and deceit.

As much as the apostles have urged true inner unity which rests upon one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father, just so earnestly have they, on the other hand, warned Christians against external unity with those they are not of one faith and confession. With great earnestness Paul writes 2 Cor 6: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." Vv.14.15.17.18. Moreover, the same apostle writes: "I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them." Rom 16:17. Again he cries to Titus: "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject." Tit 3:10. Yes, in the first chapter of the Letter to the Galatians we read: "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." Gal 1:8. And even John,the disciple of love, writes in his Second Epistle: "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed; for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." 2 Jn 10:11.

Hence, far be it that God should command us to keep an external unity with those with whom one is not one in faith and confession; rather in God's Word this is earnestly forbidden and is an abomination before God. Therefore when Luther in the 1529 at the Colloquy at Marburg did not extend the hand of brotherhood to the errorist Zwingli, this was not lovelessness but faithfulness


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and obedience to God and his Holy Word. And if we even now do not want to take part in the newly organized church union, this is not done in egotism, stiffneckedness, hatred of peace and unity, but out of love to true unity which alone pleases God which rests upon one faith and one confession.

III.

Now the question arises: If this true unity is already to be found, how is it preserved? Thirdly, let me answer this question.

In order to do this, all kinds of ways have been proposed from olden times on. Most think that the best way of preserving true unity is to have a supreme church court which by its utterance decides and settles all strife and to whose utterances everyone submits unconditionally for the sake of the office. The papacy insists on this. It is stated: How is it possible to preserve the unity of the church if there is no supreme judge, a pope with his council, in the church? The history of the Church teaches us the result of using this method. External unity is maintained in this way to a degree, but the true inner unity is lost.

The apostle prescribes an entirely different way in our text. He writes: "Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." According to the apostle the correct means is "the bond of peace:" what he understands by this we see from the preceding verses where the apostle exhorts Christians to be humble, gentle, patient, and loving.

And thus it is; when God has granted unity of the Spirit on the basis of unity of faith and confession, then no one dare judge the other; then· among each other no one dare cast everything upon the scales; then one must rather be prepared to overlook much, very much, pardon all manner of weaknesses and failings in each other, and cover them; then one must gladly give in to the other; then no one dare try to win followers for himself. Yes, in this way and no other the precious treasure of true unity is maintained and preserved.

Well then, my dear hearers, our faithful God in great mercy has granted us also this treasure. For our church and congregation is built upon the principle: "ONE Lord. ONE faith. ONE Baptism!" Then let us listen to the exhortation of the apostle in our text: "Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit." Let us be on guard against false unity and false peace like against a poisonous serpent with a shining, glittering skin; but let us carefully cultivate true unity of the Spirit, faith, and confession by being gentle, humble, patient, loving toward each other, briefly, "in the bond of peace:" thus the God of peace will be with us. And finally when this time of strife and conflict will be past, we will enter into the mansions of eternal peace, where no struggle, no conflict will any more disturb our unity, where we will all be perfectly one with the Father, Son, and Spirit, and with all the angels and elect praise and laud him with one mouth into all eternity. Amen.


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18TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1     1 Corinthians 1:4-9  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 this world to found one holy Christian Church on earth, which inwardly is one in faith, love, and hope, and outwardly one in worship, doctrine, and confession. Christ does not speak of several but only of one congregation which he would build on the rock of his Word against which the gates of hell would not prevail. And he says to the Jews: "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd." Jn 10:16.

We find such unity in the Christian Church in the first centuries of the Christian era. During this time practically the whole Church was one big family scattered all over the world. Wherever a Christian traveled, he found people who called themselves Christian; he found people who confessed the same faith with him, who received him as their brother, and whom he could greet as his brethren.

But what happened? Later on the prediction of the Apostle Paul made to the Christians at Ephesus was fulfilled: "Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." Acts 20: 30. Until this very hour there have been men in the Christian Church who wanted to be something special. They did not want to travel the Christian way, departed from the teaching of the universal Christian Church, introduced new doctrines, and procured a following among the easily misled, ignorant, and curious crowd. Thus it finally has come to pass that Christendom is split into many sects and parties. Each has a special doctrine and organization, their own special ceremonies and customs, and all want to be the only true church.

In all the countries of the world there is no land in which so many different sects have arisen than in North America, the land of freedom. Whoever emigrates here has repeated opportunities to join any church he wishes. There are as many different choices of congregations to join as there are degrees of knowledge and temperament among men. Here is one who wishes to be a member of a congregation where he has the freedom to believe and confess what he wishes. Another wants to join only a congregation in which he can at least live as he wants to and where no one dares to reprimand him because of his sins. On the other hand, a third person considers only that as the true Christian Church in which everything proceeds in unity, peacefulness, and friendship, where there never is any quarreling, or if quarrels do break out are calmed down with the expression: "Love one another," and so all members greet one another at least outwardly with friendliness. A fourth judges each congregation according to the degree of holiness which is demanded of all members; he associates only with a congregation where all outwardly walk piously and no tares are found among the wheat.

It is most important to know how one can recognize the true Christian congregation. Let us consider the picture which the apostle sketches of a true congregation of Christ in our today's Epistle.

The text. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9.

The apostle has words of praise for the congregation at Corinth. May


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these words of praise incite us to emulate this congregation! In order that this may take place, permit me to present to you

PAUL'S PICTURE OF THE CONGREGATION AT CORINTH

1. Let Me Present To You The Picture Of A True Christian Congregation For The Instruction And Encouragement Of Us All, and

2. Let Me Show You How Important It Is That Paul Has Sketched Such A Wonderful Picture Of The Congregation At Corinth.

O Lord God, today we want to cast a glance in the mirror which you hold before this whole congregation in your holy Word. Help us not to conceal our defects, frailties, and corruption, which we as a congregation see in this mirror. Give us your Holy Spirit, that we all may sincerely humble ourselves before you, and seek grace and help for our common sins.

But, O Lord, you have been gracious to us in the past; do not reject us in wrath; do not extinguish the light of your Word, which you have lit, but preserve unto us your pure holy Word and unadulterated Sacraments. Hove all hearts that we henceforth bring forth better fruits of repentance, that we let our light shine more clearly before people, that we adorn your Church more beautifully, that men may see that God is still in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Purge the vine among us but do not chop it off; clear away ever more the rubbish of all our own works, but build up the walls of your New Testament Jerusalem among us. Do not destroy it completely in your wrath. Oh Lord, help us and our children, help this city, and this whole country, help and bless your entire Church in all places. Let it possess the gates of its enemies; lead it soon to eternal rest and triumph for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Bridegroom. Amen! Amen!

I.

"I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Christ Jesus; that in everything ye are enriched by him." Vv.4.5a. With these words Paul praises the Corinthian congregation. We see from this introduction: When the apostle praises conditions in the Corinthian Church, he did not want to flatter and honor them. He intended to praise God's grace which showed its mercy for Christ's sake on this congregation composed of former heathen, and made them without their merit or worthiness so rich in everything. And so it always is. If a congregation flourishes, it dare not ascribe that to itself but alone to divine grace. Each congregation is like a field on which nothing grows by itself but the tares of error and sin, If it is to become a productive field, God must send and equip preachers, who faithfully sow the good seed; then God must graciously bless the work of the preacher. What is written of one person: It is not due to somebody's wishing or chasing, but alone to God's grace, applies also to entire congregations.

Now let us consider the wonderful picture Itself which Paul sketches of the congregation at Corinth. The apostle mentions four things which describe its blessed condition.

First of all the apostle mentions that the congregation was rich "in all utterance." We dare not be surprised at this because the congregation had had first-rate preachers. First of all, Paul himself founded the congregation and taught there a year and a half. He speaks of that in the second chapter:


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"And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom,but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." 1 Cor 2:4.5. When Paul left Corinth, it appears as we read in Acts 18, that the congregation was without a preacher for a while. God soon cared for this important post in the great city most wonderfully. A man, bom in Alexandria, named Apollos, came to Ephesus whither Paul had gone. We read that he was "an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord;...he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord." Acts 18:24.25. When the congregation at Ephesus had come to know the great gifts and pious zeal of Apollos, it sent him with a letter of introduction to Corinth. Corinth received him joyfully. We right away hear that "when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace; for he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the Scriptures that Jesus was Christ." Acts 18:27b.28. Therefore, St. Paul says; "I have planted, Apollos watered." 1 Cor 3:6.

Because the Corinthians congregation had had such outstanding preachers, Paul could praise them, that they became rich "in all utterance." The apostle mentions this first to show that the first sign of a true Christian congregation is that the pure doctrine is in operation amongst it. That not only one or several doctrines were taught to the neglect of the rest, but "all utterance." the whole counsel of God for salvation. The usual characteristic of the sects is that they always teach almost exclusively one or a few doctrines, perhaps the doctrine of conversion and regeneration, or the doctrine of the bloody reconciliation of Christ, in short, the one almost nothing but Law, the other almost entirely the Gospel. In contrast, in a true Christian congregation everything is faithfully taught and confessed which God had revealed in his holy Word for our salvation.

We continue. As the second thing which showed the wonderful state of affairs in the Corinthian congregation, Paul mentions that they were also rich "in all knowledge." The members of this congregation must have been attentive hearers of the preaching of Paul and Apollos. They must not have slept during the sermon as many of us do, or have wanted to hear something new,or an ingeniously constructed speech. Rather, every explanation of God's Word which they received in the sermon was most important and precious. However, if they were only attentive hearers at the divine services, they scarcely would have gained great knowledge; at home they must have also spoken of that which they heard; and searched daily in the Scriptures as the Bereans did. How important they must have considered growth in the true knowledge we see from this that they had written to Paul and posed several questions dealing with the marriage covenant, divorce, remarriage of widowers and widows, and the like. From the example of the Corinthian congregation we learn that the second mark of a true Christian congregation is the zeal to grow in the knowledge of true doctrine, the diligent and attentive hearing and reading of God's Word, and the desire to speak of it and search in it.

The apostle continues: "Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you." V.6. This gives us the third point in which the apostle describes the excellent state of affairs in the Corinthian congregation. We see from this that this congregation had not only comprehended the pure doctrine with their mind. No, they also had let it go to work in them; they had let it enter their hearts, move them to repentance, in short, bring them to a living, active faith through love. Paul expressly mentions this in the 6th chapter. After he had testified to the Corinthians that neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor thieves, nor greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers would inherit the kingdom of God, he adds: "And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the lord Jesus, and by the


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Spirit of our God." 1 Cor 6:11. Not only were the Corinthians better outwardly, but through the Holy Spirit they had become born again and sanctified people. To the amazement of the heathen they walked in a new life full of love and good works. So you see, my friends, this also is part of a true Christian congregation; not only does it have the pure doctrine but also a Christian life; it confesses Christ and his Word not only with the mouth but also by good works. Yes, the purer and richer the doctrine is which is preached to a congregation, and the greater the knowledge which a congregation receives, the more holy it should be and the more strict accounting they will some day have to give God, if it does not allow the rich preaching of Christ to bear fruit among it. For to whom much is given, much shall be required!

Finally, Paul has this to say of the Corinthian congregation: "So that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." V.7. In these words lies the greatest praise which the apostle could give the congregation at Corinth. He declared that through God's grace they no longer sought temporal things, that they did not expect good !days, that they did not seek riches and honor, but that in all the persecution which they had to endure at the hands of the heathen at Corinth their only goal and their only hope was the return of Jesus Christ on Judgment Day. That continually remained in their minds, and they were prepared at any hour to receive Christ with joy. Oh happy congregation which progressed this far! Oh blessed congregation which as it were stands before the door of eternity and bravely continues the battle, and only waits for the door to open so that it can enter as a triumphant congregation into heaven!

Now if we examine our congregation according to the example given by the Corinthian congregation, we must to the honor of God's mercy say, that he has made us rich "in all utterance, and in all knowledge." Yes, for the sake of God's honor we dare not deny that whereas other congregations are covered with the night of unbelief and superstition, whereas in their pulpits they have rationalists or the priests of the antichrist, who extinguish the light of the divine Word and substitute the will-o'-the wisp of their reason and the doctrine of men; whereas other congregations sit in the twilight of false doctrine, always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth, who with many a sigh bear an almost unbearable burden and always desire the true certainty of faith, on the other hand, the light of the divine Word burns brightly among us. Our congregation is not only built on the good firm foundation of the true irrefutable confessions of our Evangelical Lutheran Church, this confession stands not only on paper in our constitution, it is also publicly taught from our pulpits in great weakness it is true but it is taught faithfully. And not only this or that teaching, but every teaching revealed in Scripture for our salvation is taught among us, the Law as well as the Gospel, repentance toward God as well as faith in Christ Jesus, reprimands as well as comfort, Christ's redemptive death as well as his justifying resurrection, justification as well as sanctification. Christ's Sacraments are in full force in doctrine and practise among us according to Christ's institution. We can and dare not deny that the apostolic light which God has re-enkindled 300 years ago after the 1,000 years of darkness under the papacy through the Lutheran Reformation burns among us brightly and clearly, and the way to Christ and God's grace is so clearly shown without any detour that anyone of us who does not wantonly close his ears knows the true way to heaven.

Though through God's grace we are very much like the Corinthian congregation in doctrine and knowledge, what must we say, on the other hand, if we are asked whether the preaching of Christ is so active among us, that we expect only the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ? Alas, when this question is asked, we


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must lower our eyes in shame; yet happy are we if we are truly ashamed and sad as a result of this examination! There is still time to let the preaching of Christ become powerful in each of us; still time for each one to follow the call to repentance and grace; still time to prepare himself by sincere repentance in order to receive Christ with joy, be it at his death on on Judgment Day.

Come, therefore, all of you whose conscience says that you have often heard the preaching of repentance and rebirth but have never known what repentance and the rebirth is! Kneel in solitude before God and pray that his Holy Spirit work true repentance, true knowledge of your sins, true divine sorrow over them and a living faith in Christ Jesus in you; soon the preaching of Christ will become mighty in you. You will also joyfully look forward to the glorious revelation of Jesus Christ and become an ornament and an honor to our Christian congregation.

Yet, my friends, after I have held before you the wonderful picture of the Corinthian congregation for the instruction and encouragement of us all, permit me to show you in the second place, how important it is that Paul has sketched just such a wonderful picture of the congregation at Corinth.

II.

Since the apostle gives such a glowing description of this congregation, one would think that it certainly would have few or no failings in doctrine and life. But that is not the least true. Read the entire Letter to the Corinthians from which our today's Epistle is taken and you will discover that the Corinthian congregation, in spite of the praise which the apostle bestows upon it, suffered the most glaring failings in doctrine and life.

As far as doctrine is concerned, there even were in this congregation people who denied the resurrection of the body; for in the 15th chapter the apostle exclaims: "If Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?"

Even more offence was given by many in the matter of daily life. The entire letter is full of reprimands. In the very first chapter the apostle complains that the Corinthians quarrel and that one prefers Paul, another Apollos, a third Cephas or Peter, a fourth wanted to know nothing of any person but only of Christ; soon they named themselves after Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or Christ in this congregation.

In the third chapter the apostle laments that many showed a fleshly zeal; in the fifth that there even was one guilty of incest whom they had not excommunicated, but over whom many were even puffed up and did not regret this great offence. In the sixth chapter the apostle laments that several Corinthian Christians even accused their brethren before the heathen authorities because of temporal things, instituted suit, and had not let the judgment between brother and brother to the congregation. In the eighth chapter the apostle complains that many misused their Christian freedom causing offence to the weak by taking part in the heathen sacrificial feasts. In the eleventh chapter the apostle complains that divisions and factions arose in the congregation, so that the love feasts which at that time preceded the Lord's Supper were often held in a very disorderly and loveless fashion, and that many had gone to the Lord's Supper unworthily and to their damnation. "For this cause," he adds, "many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep." V.30. Yes, in the twelfth chapter of his Second Letter to the Corinthians he in warning says to them in great earnestness: "Lest when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness


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and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed." V.21. "If I come again, I will not spare." 13:2.

Is it not amazing that the very first thing the apostle says of this same Corinthian congregation, in whom he must reprimand so many errors and sins and offences: "In every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ"? Vv.5-7. Could the apostle say this of a congregation in which heresies, quarrels, divisions, factions, lawsuits, misuse of Christian freedom, fleshly zeal, unworthy partaking of the Holy Supper, yes, the horrible sin of incest occurred? Should not the apostle have rather given honest Christians the advice to separate from such a corrupt congregation?

To be sure, many think thus. The apostle, however, did not think so and proceeded in an entirely different way; this very procedure of the apostle gives us this important teaching: A congregation is not to be judged on the basis of individuals, yes, perhaps many, who are gripped by error and sins and cause great offence, but on the basis of how God's Word is preached in it, how the congregation united with it, and how the holy Sacraments are administered. Particularly as long as God's Word is preached in a church in its truth and purity and the unadulterated Sacraments are administered according to Christ's institution, there still are members present who receive the pure Word of God with its seals in good and honest hearts and bring forth fruit in patience; and these honest and upright people are then the real church.

On the other hand, even though the rest are in the church, they do not belong to the true Church; they are the ballast in the ship, the tares among the wheat. As a wheat field sown with good seed is not a wilderness because of the weeds but remains a wheat field, so also a congregation in which the good seed of the pure doctrine is sown is not a false church because of the heretics, factions, hypocrites, and known sinners who rage in its midst. On the other hand, if it were possible for a congregation through all its members to exist in the brilliance of the holiness of angels, so that it would appear as though this congregation no longer belonged upon this imperfect earth, as though it already dwelt and walked body and soul in heaven, but if at the same time it falsified God's Word and Sacraments and overturned the foundation of the Christian faith, in spite of all its holiness it would be a den of spiritual murderers; for it is plainly written, that at times Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, in order, if it were possible, to mislead even the elect into error.

But you, who perhaps have often taken offence at the fact that in many congregations where the pure doctrine is taught, more offences often arise than in those congregations where God's Word is falsified, think of the Apostle Paul. Even though much evil was in the Corinthian congregation, he still called it "God's congregation;" he praised it highly because of the pure Word which was preached in it by Apollos, and the few good Christians who were there. So today you also must not be offended at the offences which arise in an orthodox congregation and do not separate from it for that reason. Rather bear in mind: The more God carries on his work in a congregation, the more Satan assails it, tries to fasten all kinds of blemishes to it, cause it to be a spectacle and an object

of mockery and contempt and thus frighten the world away from it. The proverb is correct which says: "Where God builds his Church, there the devil erects his chapel." So it was at all times, even in the congregations of the apostles, and thus it will also be until the end.

You zealous Christians, do not leave the poor, disgrace Church, your abused spiritual mother because of its many wicked children, but cling all the more firmly to it, and adorn its pure doctrine with an even more pious life. Do


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not forsake the apostles because of Judas, but join them in bearing disgrace, and you will also be glorified with it. But woe to those who disgrace the true Church by their wicked life' The judgment falling upon them will be the more frightful, if they do not repent. May the Lord grant this repentance to all the fallen for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

18TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2     1 Corinthians 1:4-9  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

In this same faithful Savior, dearly beloved hearers.

In all ages the unbelieving world has cherished the hope that the world is getting better and better, that from century to century it develops more and more and is achieving perfection with hurried step. This hope has attained its greatest heights particularly today. First, it is thought that man is constantly learning more of the forces of nature and is making them serve him; even now this is making man's hard toil less and less necessary and finally will make it completely unnecessary. Secondly, it is thought that if man would become increasingly more conscious of human worth, it would become clear to him that all men are born equal, have also equal claim to all rights and treasures; thus every chain of human authority and inequality would at last dawn. Thirdly, it is supposed that if man would see ever more clearly that hitherto it has been chiefly religion which has held him back from full happiness on earth, that religion has been the unholy cause for man seeking his happiness in a future other-worldly heaven instead of on earth during this life, but as man has become more enlightened, he is no longer concerned about these empty bugbears: God, eternity, judgment, and hell, pays no more attention to the burdensome voice of conscience which is nothing else but a result of incorrect education, and lets all his striving be directed to happiness in this life. Thus the world hopes that if those three alleged hindrances to perfect happiness would be removed, then the golden age would finally enter and the world would be turned into a heaven.

Though this hope is insane in the land where sin, sickness, and death remain, and where also imperfection, misery, and distress must also remain, yet this insanity has become so universal, that now even Christians have begun to join the world in order to pursue the phantasy of an ultimate perfect world system; even Christians greedily swallow the new gospel being praised in worldly papers; and the more they become roused for this, the colder and more indifferent they become toward the kingdom of God.

Nevertheless, there are other Christians who are not occupied with that hope but an entirely different one, one just as vain. They hope for better times for the Church. They hope that Christ will appear once more on earth, bind Satan, overthrow the kingdom of the antichrist, convert the Jews and the heathen by the millions, awaken all the saints from the dead, particularly the martyrs, and found a great, glorious thousand-year kingdom on earth; not only will Christ himself rule visibly but also his believers with him. They would rule over the remainder of the unconverted world. Then the Church, which hitherto was oppressed and persecuted by the godless, would become the ruler of the world and celebrate a thousand-year festival of victory on earth. Then things


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would be turned about: The non-Christian would be suppressed and the Christian on top; and not only would the members of all confessions be at peace among themselves but mainly a universal peace would rule as far as Christ's new kingdom would extend. Even nature would be transformed in a most glorious way and would produce and offer Christians the fullness of its gifts without hard labor.

These hopes which nowadays are shared by many Christians in all or at least one or the other point smile at the flesh of all Christians in a most endearing and enticing manner, particularly today when the Church, burdened with disgrace and contempt, lies in the dust and the individual Christian who is not completely blind is pressed almost to the ground by the misery of these times; however, as the hope of the world for a golden age of civil freedom and equality and domestic happiness, so is also the hope of certain Christians for a glorious thousand-year kingdom of peace for the Church nothing but an empty delusion; it has no foundation in a single syllable of God's Word. The only thing which Christians can expect is something entirely different. The apostle tells us this in our today's Epistle. Permit me to present this to you today for your devotion.

The text. 1 Corinthians 1:4-9.

What the apostle says to the Christians at Corinth in the Epistle just read in sum and substance is contained in the words: You "wait for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ." V.7b. In these words the apostle presents the entire life of the New Testament Christians as a continual waiting only for the revelation of Jesus Christ on Judgment Day; for that he means the revelation of Judgment Day follows from what He adds: "Who shall also confirm you UNTO THE END, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." V.8. Therefore on the basis of our text I present to you:

CHRISTIANS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT TIMES NEED WAIT ONLY FOR THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST ON JUDGMENT DAY

and this because

1. They Already Have Everything Which They Need For This Life And The Life To Come, and

2. They Are Certain That God's Faithfulness Will Preserve Them Until The End.

Lord Jesus, you have withdrawn your visible presence from your believers on earth, ascended into heaven, and seated yourself at the right hand of majesty on high. But you do not want to let your followers orphans forever, nor allow your congregation here below to fight and struggle forever; you intend to return and lead your own into your Father's mansions of peace so that they may see your

glory; for where you are, there shall also your servants be. Oh, therefore, grant us your grace, so that we do not seek those things which are on earth but what is above, where you are; that our eyes may be steadily directed toward the place where you are,from whence you will come to fetch us home; that day and night we wait only for your glorious appearance in the clouds of heaven and for your revelation in the eternal kingdom of your Father. Preserve us in your grace and fellowship so that we may reach that place; then with all who loved your appearance we will sing praises to you and glorify you forever and ever. Amen.

I.

My friends, as long as the Savior promised to the first people had not appeared, so long the believers could only yearn and wait for the better condition


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of the Church which was to be brought by the Messiah. We, therefore, notice that the entire Old Testament is full of utterances of such hope for a better time. Even when Noah was born, during those fearful times before the Deluge,his father Lamech exclaimed in joyful hope, that this child would be the Messiah: "This same shall comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed." Gen 5:29. When Jacob lay on his deathbed in Egypt far from the Land of Promise, he comforted himself at his departure from this world with the hope of that better time and so broke forth in the words: "I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." Gen 49:18. Even as Israel lived under David's happy reign as a free, victorious people, David still sighed: "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad." Ps 14:7. Even Isaiah sighed with intense longing: "Oh that thou wouldst rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, as when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence!" Is 64:1.2. When the darkness was gathering about God's people Zechariah gave the wonderful comfort which still lay in the future: "At evening time it shall be light." Zech 14:6. Finally, Malachi, the last Old Testament prophet, joyfully exclaimed, certain of the nearness of the fulfilment of his hope: "The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts," Mal 3:1

The case is quite different with the believers of the New Covenant. The New Testament no longer preaches of a glorious kingdom of God on earth which is still to come, but that he has already come. Now we read:

What the fathers most desired,

What the prophets' heart inspired,

What they longed for many a year,

Stand fulfilled in glory here. (91,2)

Even at his very first public appearance Christ says: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand." Mk 1:15. And later on Christ expressly stated: "The Law and the prophets were until John; since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." Lk 16:16. Therefore,what must the Church of the New Testament still expect? The apostle states that in our text in the words: "You wait for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," namely on Judgment Day. V.7b.

Not only does the apostle maintain this but he also proves it by saying: "I thank God always on vour behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ, that in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance. and in all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you; so that ye come behind in no gift." and he adds, "waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." Vv.4-7. The first reason which the apostle gives is,therefore, this, because through Christ New Testament Christians are "enriched in EVERYTHING" and therefore already have everything which they need for this life and that to come.

And as the apostle says, they first of all are rich "in all utterance and in all knowledge." True, the believers of the Old Testament also had enough doctrine and knowledge so that they could be saved by it. But as day is different from night, the light of the sun from the light of the stars, the noonday from the dawn, so is the New Testament different from the Old. During the time before Christ most of the truth was still veiled in the dark shadows of types;


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however, with Christ's coming all these shadows disappeared and the Person which these things prefigured, the body itself, appeared. Today, as the apostle says in another place, the glory of the Lord is reflected with open face in all believers. True, the believers of the Old Covenant also caught sight of God's essence and counsels in the words of prophecy, the work of redemption, and its blessed goal but in the way a wanderer sees from a hazy blue distance the mountain town toward which he is going. The believers of the New Covenant, however, have already arrived within the city, are walking its streets and alleys, and see all things clearly before their eyes. Now there are no questions concerning God, his essence, his will, his works; no questions concerning good and evil angels; no questions concerning man, whence he is, his nature, and whither he goes; no question concerning the true way of man through this world to heaven; no question concerning the destiny of the Church; no question concerning death, concerning the nature of the world to come, concerning heaven and hell, concerning the resurrection and the judgment, concerning damnation and salvation; in short, there is no question whose answer is profitable to man for true faith, for a God-pleasing life, for complete comfort in all distress, and for a joyous death which is not plainly answered believers in "unfigurative" language. In the times of the New Testament, every child who knows his Catechism well possesses such riches in doctrine and knowledge that in comparison to such a Christian child not only all the wise of this world sit in deepest darkness, but even Abraham, David, Isaiah would be merely weak pupils in clarity of perception. In a word, New Testament Christians are, as our text says, rich "in all utterance, and in all knowledge."

The apostle mentions a second thing about them; he continues: "Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that ye come behind in no GIFT." Vv.6.7a. But how would I be able to finish speaking about what is contained in these words? How would I be able to enumerate every gift of New Testament Christians, since according to these words they do not lack a single gift, hence have all gifts? Let us cast only a brief glance at their riches. First of all, they have all the gifts of grace. They have the Gospel and by faith in it God's grace, the forgiveness of their sins, that righteousness which avails before God, divine adoption, the peace of God, power to do everything which serves for a divine life and walk, the hope of a blessed resurrection and eternal life; and that they may indeed be absolutely, positively certain of these things, God, so to say, has stated it in writing in his Word.

But even this was not enough for God; in order to strengthen their certainty and seal all this to them he also gave them Baptism or his covenant of grace, the Keys of the kingdom of heaven on earth or absolution, and the Lord's Supper or the Communion of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, which are simply God's pledges of the spiritual and heavenly treasures already promised and given them. And still more. God has also instituted & holy office for Christians, the office of reconciliation; he has earnestly commanded the holders of this office to preach his grace and reconciliation day and night to Christians and to pour into their laps all the treasures of his grace.

And still more. God has also given Christians that prayer in which they can receive everything, everything which they think they still lack. And still more. God has also made the holy angels, yes, all creatures, the servants of Christians; for even the world with its temptations and distresses, even the devil with his assaults and fiery arrows, yes, even their own sins with their humiliations, briefly, everything must work together for their good. And finally, God, the Giver of all these gifts, has even given himself to Christians, made them temples of the Holy Spirit, yes, dwellings of the Most Holy Trinity.

Not only are these gifts of grace part of these gifts which Christians have but also the gifts of their office, the gift of the dignity of priests, kings, and prophets, the gift of wisdom and great knowledge, the gift of prophecy


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or exposition, the gift to teach, to warn, to reprimand and comfort, the gift of languages and speech, the gift of government, the gift to heal and do miracles. For even though God does not adorn all the individual Christians with these gifts for their person, they nevertheless are "for the common good," hence, given for all Christians; therefore, in order to have them all share in all the treasures of his house he has united them in a Church and congregation, a communion of saints, Christ's mysterious spiritual body. Paul must, therefore, soon after our text exclaim to New Testament Christians: "All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." 1 Cor 3:21-23.

According to these words, who is able to enumerate the riches of New Testament Christians? If a king or an emperor is not a Christian, what is he in comparison to a Christian, even though he would have all the riches of the world under his control? A poor miserable beggar! Christians are so wealthy that they could not even see it all in one glance and count its value. That is why the apostle, who had cast a particularly deep glance at these riches, expresses thanks for them in behalf of the Corinthians and begins in our text in the words: "I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ, that in everything ye are enriched by him." Vv.4.5a.

Now you yourself tell me: What should we say about those who still are not satisfied with these riches, which Christians have, and so wait for a thousand-year kingdom in which first Christians should assume their true glory? Since according to our text Christians have already been made rich in all doctrine and in all knowledge, what new doctrine and knowledge could they still hope for? And since they lack no gift and are rich in everything, what gifts could they still hope for? Hence, this is as clear as day: Those who still hope for a different glory of God's kingdom can hope only for physical, temporal, earthly things, for freedom from the cross and temptation, for riches, dominion, and honor in this world. Their hope is nothing else but this home-sickness of the flesh for the fleshpots of the Egypt of this world. Oh wretched hope, oh unholy yearning! Woe to Christians, if they must comfort themselves in the fact that a period of earthly glory awaits them, for this only would be to their misfortune and mean their fall back to the world and the loss of their salvation.

No, no, there is only one thing for New Testament Christians to hope for in this world, that they may see what they have believed and perfectly enjoy what they already have. This the apostle indicates in our text in the words: "Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." namely, for Judgment Day, hence not for glory in the world but for deliverance from this world, not for a thousand-year kingdom on the old world but for an eternal kingdom upon the new earth and in the new heavens where dwelleth righteousness.

II.

My friends, the apostle presents a second reason why Christians should wait only for this heavenly glory; it is because Christians are also certain that God's faithfulness will preserve them unto the end, for he continues thus: "Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." Vv. 8.9.

One thing could easily cause Christians to become bitter while waiting for the revelation of Jesus Christ, the worry whether he would also preserve them


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unto the end. A Christian not only sees that so many made a good beginning and believed for a time but in the time of temptation fell away; he also experiences dally In himself the danger in which he lives, how cunning Satan still is, how alluring the world, how powerful his own flesh. That is also why even Christians at times are more afraid of Judgment Day than awaiting it with joy.

Now of course, it is true that God has given no Christian an unconditional guarantee that he would preserve him in all situations until the end, no matter what he may do. The Gospel gives no freedom for security but commands us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. God has promised no one that he would compel him by irresistible grace to believe and enter heaven, and save him even if he wilfully surrenders to sin and unbelief. But my friends, these warning truths apply only to those who wilfully want to abuse God's grace and sin against grace. On the other hand, whoever as an upright Christian is afraid of sin and unbelief; whoever when tempted to sin thinks with Paul: "How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" Rom 6:2, and whoever feeling his unbelief painfully sighs with that distressed prayer: "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief," can and should without fear of apostasy joyfully wait for the revelation of Jesus Christ on Judgment Day.

Why? Because the promise of our text concerns him also: "Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." Vv.8.9. This promise applies to everyone who believes; all that is necessary is that he seize this promise in faith.

Oh precious promise! For see, according to it the blessedness of a Christian does not depend upon his tottering faithfulness but on the unshakable faithfulness of his God. According to it his blessedness does not lie in his weak hands, for then it would soon be lost, but in the powerful hands of his God. So, though a Christian may be ever so weak, God himself wants to be and will be his strength. Though in weakness he may stumble and fall ever so often, God's faithfulness wants to and will cause him to stand, as he did Peter. Though in weakness he may wander away ever so far, God's faithfulness wants to and always will fetch him back as he did lost Thomas and set his feet on the way again. Though the battle which the Christian is called upon to fight may be ever so fierce, God's faithfulness wants to and will strengthen him as it did Jacob and even fight with him to victory. Though the devil and the world may ever so often and ever so cunningly seek his soul, God's faithfulness wants to and will see to it that, as with Paul, they always lose and be dashed into the ground. Though God may wonderfully lead the Christian on ever so dark a way, God wants to and will be his light and as with Job his faithfulness will finally carry all things out gloriously. Whatever a Christian might need and though it would be a mouth and wisdom before kings and princes, if it be a heroic faith, if it be the gift of performing miracles, God's faithfulness wants to and will give it to him, as once he gave it to the sainted martyrs. Though a Christian may ever so often besmirch himself in the dust of the earth, God wants to and will hold him blameless until the end as he did the Christians at Corinth, and perform the good work which he had begun in them until the day of Jesus Christ. A Christian can and should, therefore, believe that from eternity he is elected to salvation, and that, therefore, his salvation is so certain that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. His salvation depends upon that golden chain whose unbreakable links the apostle forges together in the words: "Whom God did foreknow, he also did predestinate; whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified." Rom 8:30 .


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This, then, remains true: New Testament Christians have nothing more to wait for than the revelation of Jesus Christ on Judgment Day, for they not only have everything which they need for this life and the life to come, but they are also certain that God's faithfulness will not let them fall but will preserve them until the end.

Oh you Christians, do not have the false hope which directs your glance to this world instead of to heaven, to this life instead of the life to come. Your walk, your citizenship is in heaven from whence you also wait for the Savior Jesus Christ the Lord, who will glorify your vile body so that it will be fashioned like his glorified body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself. Recognize the unutterable riches which you already possess in Christ, and you will never wish for better times in this world; and believe from your heart that you are among the number of the elect, and you will without fear go to meet Judgment Day and, as Christ says, lift up your heads with joy because your redemption draws nigh. Though others may hope for earthly glory, let us with John at the close of the divine revelation wait only for the coming of the Bridegroom for the heavenly marriage and continually pray with him: "Come quickly, yes, come, Lord Jesus!" Amen.

19TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     Ephesians 4:22-28  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

According to the testimony of Scriptures, when God saw everything which he had made, it was very good; however, the most glorious of all his visible works was man. True, God had created all creatures out of love and clearly impressed upon them the marks of his goodness; but it pleased God to shower on man above all the fullness and riches of his love and goodness. Therefore, when God intended to create light and the firmament of the heavens with their beauty, he merely said: "Let there be!" and they came in existence; and when God intended to create the plants and animals upon earth, he merely said: "Let the waters bring forth, let the earth bring forth!" and they sprang up. But when he intended to call man into existence, the heavenly Father consulted with his only Son and the Holy Spirit concerning the greatness and glory of the work which was to surpass all the rest, and said: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." And then, as Moses testifies, "God created man in his own image, after his own likeness."

My friends, in these words is described particularly the inexpressible, glorious state in which man once was when he came from the hand of the Triune God. Oh, what a state that must have been when man still bore the image of the great, glorious God in himself! It would be impossible for human reason to discover of what this image of God in man consisted had not God revealed it to us in his Holy Word. Even the unbelievers of our day eagerly accept the teaching that man is of divine race and created according to God's image; they say that this high nobility consisted in things by which man even now lifts himself above the other visible creatures; God's image still shines in the spiritual essence of our soul, in the light of our reason, in the freedom of our will, and in the attitude of our body which is directed toward heaven. But all these things are


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merely shadows of our past glory which is gone, footprints remaining in the sand after the foot itself has hurried away.

According to God's Word the image of God consisted in things which one no longer brings along to earth. It was a reflection of divine glory. Man's reason was filled and saturated with a pure light, in which man without any error clearly perceived his Creator and his will, the essence of all nations and himself and, as the child Jesus, could grow in wisdom without any wearisome research or instruction; and that was the image of divine wisdom. In his will man reflected God's holiness and righteousness; in his disposition God's goodness, patience, and forbearance; in his inclinations and desires God's love and mercy; in his attitudes and words God's truth, cordiality, gentleness, and friendliness. There was nothing in man which would have resisted the good; neither in body or soul was there an evil incitement, a sinful lust and desire. That glorious knowledge in his reason and this pure righteousness in his will were the chief elements of the divine image.

However, many other glorious things were connected with it. God is almighty, a Lord of heaven and earth; this was portrayed in man in the fact that he exercised a perfect dominion over all visible creatures; then the lion just as well as the lamb obeyed his word and nod. God is eternal; this was reflected in the immortality of man in body and soul; for as long as man still bore the image of God death could not destroy his body, which was a pure unspotted temple of the Holy Ghost. God is blessed; in his presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand pleasures forevermore; this was reflected in man's happiness which he enjoyed even here; in his conscience was rest and peace; no anxieties or worries troubled the boundless joy of his heart; work was a pleasure and produced no tiredness in his spirit and members; no pain or sickness could touch him; heat and cold neither injured nor harmed him; even the earth was full only of the goodness of the Lord; it produced no thorns and thistles but extended its hand to man with only the gifts of joy; and paradise in which man dwelt was the image of God's heavenly mansions where he reveals his divine majesty. The world still was an annex of heaven in which man ruled as a visible copy of the invisible God; man's soul was a quiet scene of divine glory in which was found pure light, pure love, pure joy, pure holiness and righteousness.

Where is this blessed state now? It has disappeared. Man, who at his creation once bore the image of God in himself now bears, when he comes into the world, the image of Satan, namely error, sin, misery, and death. By nature our reason is now darkened, our will turned away from God, our heart estranged from the life which is of God, our body full of unclean lusts and desires; our conscience full of unrest, doubt, anxiety, and mistrust of God; our life surrounded by misery and death. Sadly Moses related the birth of Seth, the son of Adam, and does not say: Adam begat a son in God's but "in his own likeness, after his image." Sadly Solomon exclaims: "God hath made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions." Eccl 7:29. Sadly Paul testifies: "There is no difference, for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God," that is, the old glory. Rom 3:23.24. Vainly does proud man now boast of being created in God's image; this image is lost. Through the seduction of Satan man has fallen into sin and through sin destroyed and undid God's glorious work. Oh, how deeply man has fallen! how much he has lost! how poor he is who once was so rich! how miserable he who once was so glorious!

Who is now so hard and unfeeling in whom a longing for our former blessed condition does not arise when he ponders it, and who should not groan with David: "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God, and awake with thy likeness?" Ps 42:2; 17:15. Happy may we be! God himself assumed the form of sinful flesh in order that we could be renewed to the lost image of God. God has not altered his eternal will of love of letting


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us partake of his blessedness, but is ready for the sake of Christ his dear Son through his Holy Spirit to re-establish in us his destroyed work, here as a beginning and there in perfection. Our today's Epistle speak of man's renewing to the image of God.

The text. Ephesians 4:22-28.

This Epistle, my dear hearers, contains one of the chief passages for the doctrine of God's image which man once bore in himself, but lost through sin. The apostle exhorts Christians to be renewed as man once was created after God in righteousness and true holiness. Oh, that this glorious Epistle would to day become truly glorious also among us! oh that everyone would be enlightened by its light and draw and move him by its power!

Under its direction we today study:

THE DAILY RENEWING OF THE CHRISTIAN TO THE IMAGE OF GOD

1. What This Really Is According To Its Inner Nature, and

2. How It Is Revealed Outwardly In One's Life.

Renew us, O eternal Light,

And let our heart and soul be bright

Illumined with the light of grace

That issues from Thy holy face.

Destroy in me the lust of sin

From all impureness make me clean.

Oh, grant me power and strength, my God,

To strive against my flesh and blood! (398,1.2) Amen.

I.

"Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put ye on the new man. which, after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Vv.23.24. is the way the apostle spoke to the Christians at Ephesus. We see from this; The doctrine of the renewal is a doctrine of God's Word just as well as the doctrine of faith and the forgiveness of sins; also, this doctrine is a link in the chain of the divine plan of salvation; it cannot be omitted if we do not want to break and nullify it; also, renewal is a step on which everyone of us must tread if we want to go the narrow way to heaven.

However, the renewal is not the first step in true Christianity; we are not to become Christians through it but when we are Christians we can be told, as were the Ephesians in our text: "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind." The preaching of the renewal is, therefore, really a preaching only for true Christians. Its basis is the rebirth in which the person through faith receives life from God. Vainly,therefore, do they say to one of unchanged mind: Be renewed; this person has no power to do this. It would be as if one stood at the casket of a dead person and called to him: Arise and walk! As little as the dead person can obey our words, so little is he capable of practising the work of renewal who still lacks the Spirit and faith.

If you want to become a Christian, this is my brief advice: Read, hear and study God's Law, the holy Ten Commandments, first of all; learn from them


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to know your sins, your fall from God, your lost condition, and become frightened at God's wrath over your sins which the Law announces to all who transgress it. But then also listen to the friendly voice of the Gospel of Christ, which promisee and offers grace to all sinners without exception, and accept this promise in firm faith. Only be certain: If you do this, God absolves you in his judgment and declares: This sinner is to be accepted for the sake of my dear Son in whom I am well pleased. If you feel your distress, do not be frightened away from Christ because of the greatness and host of your sins or the depths of your corruption; do not ask: Alas, dare I also believe? For behold, you not only dare but you should believe as certainly as God is true and you dare not call him a liar.

Oh blessed is he who thus has come to faith in Christ! He has become a Christian; the heavy burden of his sins has been taken from his shoulders; sin's dominion in him has been broken, and his heart has been renewed and changed by the Holy Spirit.

However, my dear hearers, if a person has obeyed God's call: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then the divine call also is issued to this person: "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." Vv.22-24. In justification through faith Satan was indeed hurled from his throne in our heart, but he has not been completely killed; he watches and tries day and night, as Luther says, to see if he can gain a little space where he can again place a claw and gradually force his way in completely; and he does not cease until he has sunk us in the former old damnable way of unbelief, contempt of God, and disobedience; therefore, the daily renewal is needed.

In justification our sins are indeed forgiven; however, they still retain their roots in our heart; if the Christian, therefore, does not renew himself daily, his heart must again degenerate like a tree which is not pruned, or like a garden in which the weeds are not rooted out. In justification and regeneration we are indeed born as God's children and thus the beginning according to God's image is again brought about in us; but at first one is just like a weak child to which daily nourishment and strength must be given in the renewal, if it is not to die again and be lost.

In justification we are like the one who fell among murderers; Christ indeed took pity on us, bound our deep wounds of sin with the balm of his gracious Gospel; but in the daily renewal we must also remain under the treatment of his Holy Spirit until we are completely cured; this happens when he returns and has called us from the hospital of this world to himself by a blessed death. In justification and the rebirth the spiritual creation, the daily renewal of the Christian is the work of spiritual preservation. However, as the created world would long ago have disappeared except for God's preservation and government, so except for daily renewal a Christian cannot remain regenerated. It is indeed well if faith has been planted into the heart, but then he needs, as Paul says, daily watering; thus the Lord grants also the final success when one finally receives and enjoys eternal life.

Hence, what is this daily renewal? It is the continuation of the work of grace, which the Holy Spirit has begun in our soul in justification through faith. It is the heartfelt diligence of a Christian to lay aside every day more of the old man, that is, being more and more freed from all error and constantly weaken, smother, and kill sin in oneself. It is the daily earnest concern of a child of God to put on the new man more and more, that is, to grow in all doctrine and knowledge and spiritual wisdom and experience, and become more and more like the image of Jesus Christ in thoughts, words, attitudes, and works and become happy in it.


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True, the Christian's daily renewal takes place in this life in great weakness, for even reborn Christians must still struggle with great corruption in themselves, but they struggle against it and do not let it gain control in themselves. Faithless people and hypocritical hearts also say that they are concerned about becoming better and more pious every day, but they still let sin rule over them. Such miserable, hypocritical pretence is not the daily renewal of the true Christian. When they awaken in the morning their first earnest and heartfelt concern which they carry to God in prayer actually is: Oh that I would be 100% faithful today! This concern accompanies them to their work, this concern accompanies them to social engagements and in times of solitude; and when evening comes, they look back on the past day, with broken heart apologize for all their missteps, and beseech and implore for grace and forgiveness through Christ until they can confidently go to sleep.

Indeed, there are many hypocrites who comfort themselves with the fact that they had a living experience of divine grace, even though now they practice piety with a dead heart as though it were a business; in true Christians Jesus Christ, the Sun of righteousness, has not risen only once in their heart;neither has it again set completely, but it shines every day in their souls with its heavenly shining and warming rays. Not only do true Christians have new experiences daily of their sins but also new experiences every day of the friendliness of God and the power of his grace. Daily they repent anew, believe anew, love anew, struggle and conquer anew.

Examine yourselves, my dear hearers, in the light of these things. You will see: He who wants to pass for a Christian must not only be able to tell of a one-time conversion, but also, how the work of God's grace was daily continued in his heart. Do you try to lay aside the old man every day and put on the new man? Let me ask you: To which sins can you point, against which you have struggled in the past week and which by the power of your faith you have conquered? To which virtue, which commendation can you point which you have pondered upon and which you have won through the help of the Spirit of grace?

Whoever of us has put up absolutely no fight but has lived on lazily, securely, and carelessly, has also not been renewed; in him the old man still rules which ruins itself in error through lusts. Let him return through true repentance to his Baptism, which is a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Let him remember that he who does not want to be renewed to the image of God here on earth will also some day not awaken in his image.

Perhaps there are many of us who truly wrestle but most weakly, who are more often conquered than conquerors. Oh, you beloved soul, who must confess this of yourself, do not let this cause you to despair; remember what God's Word says: "If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully." 2 Tim 2:5. Therefore, let yourselves be kindled by the Word of the Lord to a new and greater zeal which today calls to you: "Put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."

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 market-place.


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Look not to the things behind thee.

Zion, daily strengthened by His grace,

Run thy race, run thy race! (479,1.4)

II.

My dear hearers, not only does the apostle tell us what in the main the daily renewal of the Christian is like, but secondly, how it must reveal itself outwardly in daily life.

The first thing which the apostle tells us is: "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor; for we are members one of another." V.25. Not without reason does the apostle place this exhortation first; he means to show: The first thing which must be seen in a renewed Christian is love for the truth and a horror of all lying, false, and hypocritical ways Satan is the father of lies; therefore, he who loves lies and still takes refuge in lies, lives under the authority of darkness and divine displeasure. God is eternal truth and faithfulness; we read that he destroys liars and abhors what is false. Therefore, he who knowingly lies and says things which he does Intend to keep is not a child of the faithful and truthful God. Jesus Christ testified before Pilate that he is a King of truth; therefore, he who does not love the truth above all things is not a subject in the kingdom of the Savior. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of truth who guides all into all truth; therefore,whoever does not walk in the truth but in falsehood of the heart is not driven by God's Spirit but by his own spirit and the spirit of lies. Excuses and extenuations are of no avail; the apostle says clearly: "Wherefore putting away lying. speak every man truth with his neighbor; for we are members one of another."

Oh, how many in our days must therefore exclude themselves from God's kingdom, since nowadays nothing is more despised than the truth and nothing is more frequent than lies, deceit, and falsehood! You, who in these deceitful times claim to be Christians, do not offend the world more terribly so that they notice even in you lies, falsehood, unfaithfulness, flattery, slander, love of fame, boastfulness, and hypocrisy. He who wants to be a Christian must at all times so speak as his heart and conscience tell him to speak; one must be able to rely more confidently upon the word of a Christian than upon a thousand oaths of a worldling who does not fear God; yes must mean yes, and no must mean no. A Christian must not be friendly and courteous to one's face and hostile behind one's back; a Christian must not be friendly and loving in attitudes and countenance, and full of bitterness and hatred in his heart. Even in his conversation about his enemies a Christian must add nothing untrue. A Christian must try to speak and behave and do everything from the bottom of his heart so that he can say with David: "Search me, O God, and know ray heart; try me, and know my thought; and see if there be any wicked way in me,and lead me in the way everlasting." Ps 139:23.24.

The apostle continues in our text: "Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath; neither give place to the devil." V.26.27. With these words the apostle predicts that in this world the Christian will find cause and incitement enough to anger, hatred, and irreconcilableness; but at the same time he indicates that because of the weakness of their flesh even true Christians feel the sinful movements of wrath often indeed. However, he also indicates: He who wants to be and remain a true Christian and keep God's forgiveness must guard himself against remaining angry. Luther in the exposition of this passage writes: In sum, here is contained and stated an unusual utterance, that he who does not want to control his anger and can keep his anger longer than a day or overnight is not a Christian. What do they want to do who


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keep their anger and hatred one, two, three, seven, ten years? That is no more human anger but the devil’s anger from hell." So far Luther. Let us all take this carefully to heart! This is not a sin to joke around with; one is enough to close the gates of grace to us. Is it not terrible to love a sin so much that one would rather lose his soul and salvation than fight against it and let go of it?

Nor let anyone deceive himself here perhaps by false appearances. Perhaps many a one is not outwardly angry with his neighbor, not in words, countenance, gestures, and deeds; but he is angry in his heart. Bear in mind, you irreconcilable, even if you do not let your anger break forth but conceal it in your heart from men, God sees your heart and according to your heart will he judge. Therefore, let go of your secret wrath, so that it does not hold your soul bound.

My dear Christian, if you are incited to anger, pray to God to give you a soft heart, so that you do not repay invective with invective, but bless those who curse you; and if you have been conquered by anger through the deceit of your flesh, oh, hurry, free yourself quickly from it, and remember the word of the apostle when you lay down to rest: "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." The pious patriarch of Constantinople named John once had a heated exchange of words with an important nobleman named Nicetas, so that finally the later left the patriarch full of anger. Evening came, John sent a deacon to Nicetas and had him say only the words: "My lord, the sun is about to sink." Nice tas understood the patriarch's meaning, hurried quickly to him, and ashamed extended the hand of reconciliation to him. Let us go and do likewise.

In conclusion the apostle adds: "Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth." V.28 Of a truth, my friends, this is a hard saying for our times; this verse lets few Christians remain in Christendom. He tells us: He who pilfers the property of another is clearly not a Christian and has no part in God's kingdom; secondly, he who keeps pilfered property is not a Christian, for his theft continues as long as he wants to keep the property of others among his own; thirdly, he who does not work, hence is not faithful in his earthly calling, is in God's eyes nothing but a thief, who eats the bread of others, is outside the kingdom of grace; fourthly, he who tries to obtain something not by the good labors of his hands, not in the sweat ; of his face, is in God's eyes a wilful transgressor of the Seventh Commandment and, therefore, under his curse; and finally, he who gathers money in order to become rich and not that he may have to give to the needy is in God's eyes a greedy person, that is, an idolater who has no inheritance in the kingdom of Jesus Christ and God.

Therefore, let everyone be warned! If we want to be Christians, we must also decide to be renewed every day; we must also lay aside the old man according to the former walk of life, who is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. May God grant that to all of us who are Christians for the sake of Jesus by the power and working of his Holy Spirit. Amen.


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20TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1     Ephesians 5:15-21  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

According to God's Word our span of life is both vain and very important. It is vain, for it is of short duration; even its short duration is uncertain and all the goods things and glories of time are as perishable as the very ones who arise and disappear with them. The moment we begin to live we also begin to die; as much as our life increases just so much does it decrease; whether we sit or lie, sleep or wake, walk or stand, we are constantly on the way to our grave; in everything we do we merely are hurrying to our end. As Abraham in the land of promise had no estate but only a family burying-place, so man,and though he may have been the owner of entire countries, finally has nothing but a tiny place to bury his decaying body. Job, therefore, says: "Man that is born of woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down; he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not." Job 14:1.2.

So, oh man, what art thou doing who seekest to become rich in worldly goods? who toilest to snatch in your lifetime that which is just a shadow,.and finally in death vanisheth away completely? What doth is profit that rich man now that here he could clothe himself in purple and costly linen and live sumptuously every day? Alas, his riches became a burden with which he could not walk upon the narrow way to heaven and which at last caused his soul to sink into ruin and damnation.

And what is all the honor in this world? How fickle it is! He who today is exalted by men to the heaven? is often on the morrow held in deepest contempt; and though one is honored by men until the day of his death, what does it profit him if he must be ashamed in his own conscience! How are the Pharisees and scribes profited now who did not want to confess their hypocrisy in order to keep their honor among men? what profit do they now derive from the honor they retained among men? Eternal disgrace and shame before God and all the angels and elect in heaven now weighs heavily upon them. How many they are who enjoyed the veneration of many thousands and did everything to make a name for themselves for posterity. And where are they now? Some lie buried in a well-deserved eternal oblivion, or their name is mentioned only with revulsion. What dost thou do, oh man, who in thy speaking and striving dost not seek God's honor but only thine own? thou wouldst gladly condemn thyself but wouldst gladly be thought pious by men? thou who wouldst consider thyself fortunate if thou wouldst pass for a wise man among your fellowmen and enjoy their honor and respect? Thou pursuest something which outwardly seemeth to be honor but of which thou art inwardly ashamed. Hence, what is this worldly wealth? A dream, a froth. Truly has that pious poet written:

"Frail and fleeting are our powers,

Short our days, our foresight dim." (461,3)

And my friends, as vain as our earthly life is in relation to all its passing wealth and glories, so important is it again in another way. When God decreed to create us, he also decreed to save us. Through sin we have indeed lost all this blessedness, we fell under God's wrath, but our patient God did not immediately inflict eternal punishment upon us, as we had well deserved; it pleased his infinite goodness and patience to give us poor sinners a time of grace during which we are to return and be accepted by him and find salvation. And this time of grace which has been left for us is the period of our life in this world. God gave us his dear Son, Jesus Christ, as our Savior and has


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commanded that we be told in his precious Gospel; All people, you have indeed fallen from me, and I could immediately condemn you eternally, but I will not do that; as long as I permit you to remain here upon this world, so long the gates to my grace will remain open; he who hears and accepts my Gospel during his lifetime, turns to my dear Son, and in faith perseveres in him until death, shall again be my child, all of whose sins I will forgive, and he shall inherit the kingdom which was prepared for him from the foundation of the world.

There you see, my friends the reasons why our perishable lifetime is so infinitely important for us all. It is important not only because with every step which we take in time we draw closer and closer to eternity, but above all because our attitude during this short life decides our lot in the long eternity. Though our days may be ever so few, everything depends upon these few days; though our life may be ever so fleeting, so wretched, or so miserable, we nevertheless can either forever win in them eternal life or lose it forever. Our life is a way which leads to eternity; if our way is Christ, he leads us into eternal life; if our way is the world and our own flesh and blood, that leads us into eternal death.

How foolishly, therefore, they act who despise their precious life and waste and squander it on vanities! He who has lost his time has lost his period of grace, and nothing, nothing is there in eternity with which he can buy it back again. What's done is done! If our time has slipped away without Christ, then the seedtime has slipped away and the eternal harvest brings no sheaf of eternal joy but only the thorns and thistles of eternal sorrow. Oh you who still live in this mortal life, you still possess precious gold with which you can purchase your eternal wealth; buy, buy during this lifetime so that you will not have eternal regrets. "Redeem the time, because the days are evil."

My dear hearers, this last call is the call of the apostle in our to day's Epistle; we wish to occupy ourselves with its important content in this present hour of devotion. Let us beseech God with a believing Lord's Prayer that he let this call penetrate our hearts. First of all, we sing the third verse of, "Now richly to my waiting heart," of hymn 343, "How lovely shines the Morning Star!"

The text. Ephesians 5:15-21.

The word of the apostle in our text: "Redeem the time!" is, my hearers, a word often purposely misunderstood and misused by false Christians. Sad to say, many think that there are times when one could not strictly follow God’s Word and succeed; when in such cases one Must yield something of his Christianity, as they say, and deal wisely according to the times and circumstances which no one can change. But this is not acting wisely in Christ but according to the world. According to the context the apostle intends to tell us the very opposite, namely this: Christians should be so wise and understanding, that in spite of all the hindrances of time and circumstances, they remain with God's Word and Christ; in everything which happens to them, they should learn so to act that they do not lose their treasure, but that everything should really serve to promote their eternal salvation. Therefore, hear now the word of the apostle:

"REDEEM THE TIME!"

This word contains a threefold admonition:

1. The Time Is Short And Uncertain; Therefore. Hurry That You Do Not Waste It:


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2. The Times Are Evil And Dangerous; Therefore. See That You Walk Circumspectly, and

3. The Times Are Precious And Must Be Accounted For: Therefore. See To It That You Make The Most Of It.

Eternal and living God, we have all sinned and by our sine have become unworthy of your grace and forfeited eternal life. But in your infinite mercy you have given us your dear Son and through his reconciliation and redemption our whole lifetime is a period of grace during which we can again find you and become your dear children. You have indeed sworn in your anger that your disobedient people should not come into your rest, but you have again appointed a day and said: "Today, if you will hear my voice, harden not your hearts." Oh most faithful God, you have permitted us also to live to see this precious day, this day of salvation; therefore, help us so that we do not neglect the promise of entering into your rest and be left behind. Therefore, teach us to redeem the time, that we may pass through time into eternity, that we may hear and accept your holy Word, and persevere in faith in your dear Son, Jesus Christ, until our blessed end through the same our Lord and Savior. Amen.

I.

My dear friends, as long as it is still called today, so long no person should doubt that he can find grace. Through Christ's life our entire life became a time of grace. If God has not yet taken a person away in his sins, if he has not yet called them from time into eternity, that is clear proof that God has not yet completely rejected him. Even to the greatest sinner, if he still lives, God says: "Turn again, look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." Is 45:22. As long as a person still belongs to the world, so long the verse applies to him: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Jn 3:16. God's mercy is new every morning. Every time the sun rises upon all men, so often the rays of a day of grace again shine upon all.

Though the time of grace is so full of grace, it is nevertheless short and uncertain. Moses says: "The days of our years are threescore and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." Ps 90:10. God often sends the messenger of death even to children, to young men and women, hales them suddenly and unexpectedly for the eternal accounting.

"The world that smiles when morn was breaking May change for me ere close of day;

For while on earth my home I'm making,

Death's threat is never far away." (598,2)

So, because of the shortness and uncertainty of our life the apostle cries out in our text:  Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is." Vv.16.17.

Sad to say, that men do not consider the shortness and uncertainty of their time of grace and, therefore, continually postpone their concern for their salvation from one day to the next, that is part of the natural corruption of all men. There are few who never want to be converted but every day most think: To morrow, or next year, or after this or that event has passed. The first reason why so many do this is without a doubt the delusion that this step is not very practical now; they must wait for a more opportune time.

Most children and young people deceive themselves; they suppose that


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it is too difficult to tear themselves free from the world in the happy time of youth; they think that when they enter upon the more earnest years of adulthood, then they would find a more opportune time; but when they enter upon these years they see that these hindrances have not lessened but increased. Thus many deceive themselves in the time of poverty and want; they think: Now they actually have no time to seek heaven, first they must try to get out of their troubles; after they have acquired rest, calm, and all the necessities of this life, then they will begin to take thought of the salvation of their soul; but see! the trouble has scarcely eased when they find again in the good days given them a new difficulty to their conversion; one day, one week, one month, one year after the other goes by and they still are waiting for the opportune time to be converted, but it always seems to them never to have come.

Therefore, most wait for their last sickness; then, they suppose, earthly things and love of sin will leave their heart of itself, and there will be nothing hindering Christ from entering into their heart and finally taking them into his heavenly kingdom. So it is that youth always considers adulthood, the poor the time of wealth, the wretched the time of joy, the healthy the time of sickness, the sick the time of health, yes, almost any other time but the present one as the opportune time for becoming a disciple of Christ. Is not this a terrible deceit of Satan and our own corrupt heart? Can there be a more inopportune time for conversion than old age and sickness? -- And yet, most wait for those times!

Ah, you who feel struck by these words, you who know that you are not in the right relationship with God, you must become an entirely different person before you can appear before God's throne; but you who always think that the opportune time has not yet come: Recognize the terrible deceit of your heart. The opportune time for which you wait will not come; it will never come; for our flesh and blood there is absolutely no opportune time for conversion. Though it may now appear to be difficult for you to tear yourselves free from all bonds, do not believe that a time will come when it will be easier for you; on the contrary, the longer you wait the deeper will sin's roots grow, the more tightly earthly things will embrace you, and the more your heart hardens itself. Ah, believe me, that waiting for a more opportune time is a snare which has already dragged millions into eternal ruin.

Therefore, if you hold your soul's salvation dear, then listen to the words of the apostle in our text: "Redeem the time!" The apostle cries out to you: Oh, if you perceive God's voice in your heart, if God's Word shows its power in you, if you perceive that matters are not right with you, if your conscience is awakened so that you feel your sins and with a restless heart recognize that you do not have a gracious God in heaven; and if now through the working of the Holy Spirit a secret sighing and yearning arises within you for grace, for mercy, for help for your soul, for redemption from sin and for eternal salvation, ah, then redeem, redeem these times; this means: "Today, today, if you hear God's voice, harden not your heart;" do not wait then for a more opportune time; the opportune time has already come; seize this time, without delay cast yourself with your misery down before God, confess to him your sins, and seize that grace in Christ which is offered you in the Gospel and the matter will be settled. But now you must cherish the little spark of faith which is kindled in your heart, continue to use the Word and exercise yourself in prayer; in this way your faith which now is weals will soon become stronger and stronger and nothing will be able to tear you again from the hands of him who has mercy upon you.

Yes, yes, my friends, that is what it means to redeem the times; this is what it means to seize the opportune time: If from God's Word one can recognize his wicked state, then immediately to humble himself and seek grace and


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accept grace; when God knocks immediately to open to him; when God calls in one's heart immediately to hear and follow. Oh, it is evidence of great grace when one is struck through God's Word, recognizes his misery with a restless heart, and reaches out for grace! These are hours of the gracious visitation of the Lord who wants to turn our soul about and rescue it from all its corruption. All who hear and use God's Word experience such hours; but unhappy are they all who despise such gracious visitations, continually resist God's Spirit, and constantly wait for a more opportune time. Ah, that is indeed the opportune time and you must then seize this one.

If you let God pass by, if you do not open your heart to him when he comes, if you do not listen when he calls, then you can easily let God's grace slip by forever; then if God does not call us, we can not by our own powers come to him; if God does not open our eyes, we cannot see our danger by ourselves; if God does not turn us about, we cannot turn ourselves about with our own power. Therefore, if God comes to your heart, do not lock it; he might not return again. He who permits himself to be awakened often and shown his wretchedness and constantly resists it, what belongs to his peace will finally be hidden from his eyes.

The example of Felix serves as a warning. When Paul preached to Felix of righteousness, and of chastity, and of the judgment to come, he became frightened; God's Word pierced his heart; he recognized that he was a child of death; ah, if Felix had then only hurled himself down before God as a poor lost sinner, as did that Jailer at Philippi, and asked: "What must I do?" he also would have heard the word of comfort: "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved;" and he would have been helped for time and for eternity. But he resisted the Holy Ghost and said to Paul with an agitated conscience: "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee." Acts 24:25. Where is that unhappy Felix now? Did a more convenient time come? No! And thus his soul was lost; for he had let God pass by when he through his Word and Spirit came to him. So it also happened to Jerusalem which did not recognize the time of its visitation.

Therefore, seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near; open to him when he knocks; hear him when he calls, so that you need not say as did that bride in the Song of Solomon: "I opened to my beloved; but my beloved had withdrawn himself, and was gone; I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer." 5:6. I, therefore, repeat: "Redeem the time:" for he who seeks the Lord during this time, by him will he let himself be found, and who calls upon him during this time, him will he hear.

II.

And yet, my dear hearers, when the apostle cries to us in our today's Epistle: "Redeem the time." he intends not only to admonish us not to waste this short, uncertain time of grace; he in the second place, also adds: "She then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Vv.15.16.

With these words the apostle warns all Christians never to figure on good, cheerful, comfortable days in this life either for the flesh or for the Christian life but always to expect evil, dangerous, troubled days. Where Christ is, there is also the cross. The moment, therefore, a person has turned to Christ, he dare not think that as a child of God's grace all will now go well for him; no, he must the rather expect that the cross will be his inseparable companion until his death. For Christ says: "And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." Lk 14:27. And so it was that


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when a scribe said to Christ: "Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest," he answered: "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." Lk 9:58.59.

The moment a person has known time as a time of grace, he must also know its hardship under the banner of Jesus Christ. The moment a person has joined the army of Jesus Christ he has broken peace with the world and Satan, and they now arm themselves to overtake this soul which has escaped them and to overpower it. The moment a person through Christ's grace has conquered his wicked heart, he must begin the struggle with the wicked times. From God's standpoint the times are always times of grace, but from man's viewpoint they are evil. "The days are evil!" is the way the apostle cries not only to the Ephesians for their day, but these words are written with imperishable letters in Holy Writ for all times. As long as there are Christians in the world, so long will they also have to cry out constantly with Scripture: "The days are evil;" yes, at the very time when the children of the world rejoice over good days, Christians universally must complain the hardest that they are so evil.

But why do Christians consider the times so evil? Because if they during these times have found grace they must always struggle with three powerful foes until their death, who seek day and night to rob them of their treasure. They still have their wicked heart within them which always wants to go the way of error; they still have the world next to them which sometimes through the enticements of wealth, honor, and lust, sometimes through threats, mockery, and persecution tries to fell them; and they still have Satan with his invisible helpers around them who sometimes assails them through evil thoughts, seeks to weary their soul through all manner of misfortune, and everywhere awakens false teachers, sects, and offences through which he seeks to cause them to lose the truth and piety, their soul and salvation.

That is why the apostle says in our text: "Redeem the time, because the days are evil." Above all things Christians should not be offended at the evil times; in spite of the greatest offences, which they must see in this world, they must not go astray as far as the truth of the divine Word is concerned; in spite of all the hindrances to their faith and Christian life, they must not become discouraged, but recognize that for wise purposes God does not immediately take them into heaven but first wants to test their faith during evil days, try their love to the truth, test their steadfastness, strengthen their hope, awaken their zeal, and through the fire of tribulation and temptation ever more purify and cleanse them like a piece of impure gold from all the dross of error, unbelief, and sin. The Christian then redeems the time when he clings the more firmly to the truth the more there are who fall away from it; when he confesses Christ the more joyfully the more there are who deny him; when he the more practises love the more there are who grow cold in love; when he the more denies the world and its vanity the more there are who surrender completely to it; when he burns and glows the more in his zeal for God's honor and the salvation of his neighbor the more all Christendom becomes a lukewarm Laodicea.

However, the apostle says in our text not only: "Redeem the time!" but he also gives Christians an important rule which especially they should keep in view during evil days when he says: "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise." The moment a person becomes a Christian his heart is filled with hatred toward all ungodly ways and with zeal for God's honor and the salvation of his neighbors; if a Christian is inexperienced he supposes that he must let this hatred and this zeal, run its full course in all places without reserve or consideration. Indeed, the Christian should not let fear, or men, nor the wish to please men guide him, when he struggles for God's cause; however,


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only he redeems the time in a Christian way who permits himself to be guided in all things by Christian prudence and wisdom. If you wish to please God and sow a blessing, then be zealous against all ungodly ways; but with prudence and wisdom: It is not enough that you try to suppress the weeds; you must also be concerned that you do not tear out the wheat with the weeds nor destroy God's work with human work. Confess the truth but with prudence so that by the way you confess it you do not hinder the course and acceptance of the truth more than promote it. Reprimand your brother; but with wisdom, so that you do not destroy his soul trying to deliver it. Use every means by which you hope to make an improvement; but be prudent, so that you do not become an offence to the weak. Before you offend a weak person, rather give up the most innocent and harmless thing; remember that St. Paul would rather not eat meat throughout his entire life than in so doing offend a weak brother. One must often endure and bear a smaller evil in order to guard against a greater one. "A word fitly spoken," says Solomon, "is like apples of gold in pictures of silver," Prov 25:11; but remember Solomon says: A word spoken at the right time. In evil days it often is good to keep silence as Amos says: "Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time." Amos 5:13.

III.

The apostle admonishes us in our Epistle: "Redeem the time!" not only because it is so short and uncertain, not only because it is so evil and dangerous, but also in the third place, because, it is so precious and one must give account of it. for he adds: "And be not drunk with wine, töterein is excess: but be filled with the Spirit: sneaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart unto the Lord: giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Vv.18-20

There, my dear hearers, you see how Christians are to live out the time given them by God; not with sinful and vain things but with that which can serve to the praise and glory of their God. Christians should know the great worth of their time of life; therefore, they should not take part in the time-consuming amusements of the world; they should hold their time too precious to be wasted in jesting and tomfoolery. Christians should not sit where the mockers sit, where one kills his convictions with spirituous drinks or loosens bands of chastity and piety from his tongue. Yes, you who pass your precious time, hours and days at a time, in sitting where they gather who offer the flesh its idolatrous worship, how will you answer God for this waste of time? Once when a certain heathen emperor could not at the close of day recollect having done a single good deed, he usually exclaimed: "I have lost another day!" how much more should Christians consider their time as precious, costly goods, a precious pound with which they should seek gain and of whose use they must some day give account! That day, that hour, Christians should recognize as a time in which they must sow, so that they may find this day, this hour, again in eternity with a rich harvest.

Oh, would that our merciful God would let this truth become truly alive in our hearts. For tell me, where are the Christians among us who according to God's will buy up their precious time as they should? What fruit can we expect in eternity from the many hours of our life? We go visiting and of what do we speak? Does it concern the one thing which is needful, or is it not rather mostly the things of this world, or quarreling and fighting? Let me be frank! There was a time when the rights and duties of the spiritual priesthood was almost unknown amongst us; now they are upon the lips of all of us; but must we


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not admit that the rights which are praised by us all are now used less than before? Whence does this almost universal silence about what the Lord has done for our souls come from? Whence does this time-killing talk about bad times, small profit, and the like come from? Why do we not speak with one another, as we read in our text: "In psalms and hymns and spiritual songs"? The apostle gives us the answer when he says: "Be filled with the Spirit!" The life of the Spirit is extinguished in so many and at least mightily suppressed in others; out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

My friends, there was a time when, sad to say, many placed their entire Christian life in church-going, in praying and reading, and particularly, in the outward exercises of piety; but now many seem in danger of even abolishing the right use with the wrong. Ah, my dear brethren, if you have little time, then do not let your concern for the salvation of your soul be the first thing to go by the board! You use so many hours for sleeping, for eating and drinking, for friendly visits; if you only wanted to, could you not find time for prayer and praising God and for studying his saving Word? How much time the children of the world spend upon the service of their idols, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, and somehow they manage; will not you children of the Most High use a little time for the service of your gracious God and Father? Even the first Christians lived in most distressing times and yet we read that they were with one consent with one another with prayers and intercessions. Therefore, "redeem the time" and purchase its full value! Do good and do not become weary! Then you will some day reap without ceasing. May Jesus Christ help us all do that, give us the true faith, and through that faith the forgiveness of all our sins, bestow upon us his Holy Spirit and through that Spirit work in us a new life; finally, may he grant us a blessed of death and take us into the kingdom of his glory. Amen.

20TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2     Ephesians 5:15-21  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 hearers.

Times of severe persecution are times of great blessing for the Church, that is, for the communion of Christians. They are like stormy days during which nature seems to be in an uproar; it seems as though heaven is angry at the earth and would like to rain down death and destruction; but after the storm the pastures always smile the more joyfully, and the heaviest rains leave behind fruitfulness, life, and blessing. Likewise, persecutions often seem to bring about the destruction of the Church, whilst in reality it merely grounds the Church so much the more firmly and grows the more gloriously. The beautiful expression is known which Tertullian, a teacher of the Church, uttered: "We Christians," he says, "increase in numbers the more we are cut down; the blood of the Christian is a seed."

At no other time does the Christian grow more in faith than in times of persecution. During such times faith sustains the severest test which it must endure; by this exercise it becomes strong. Then Christians grow up to become men in Christ and heroes of faith. The same is true in respect to love to the brethren. As the herd tightens up its circle when the wolf approaches,


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so Christians in times of general persecution, as those who are suffering together, draw more closely together inwardly; they become more conscious of their holy fellowship in faith and hope; they feel as servants of one Lord, wanderers toward one goal, and fighters for one treasure, ever more closely united in one holy bond; this stirs up the fire of brotherly love's leaping flame.

Times of persecution have also this blessing for Christians: They are preserved from security, from love of the world, from false friendship with it, and from loving its treasures, joys, and honor; rather, the yearning to be out of the sinful world and in their true homeland with Christ their Lord awakens in them. They are preserved from satiety of God's Mord; they for the first time really taste and discover its divine, almighty comfort, and the spirit of confession awakens. The prayer of the Christian becomes zealous and ardent; as incense cast upon fire, their common supplication ascends to God as a God-pleasing odor. And far be it that in times of great persecution no one would want to become a Christian; often during such times many are so deeply convinced of the divine power of the Gospel by the example of Christian courage and steadfastness which Christians present, that in the very midst of the most dangerous war they join the banner of the Crucified.

The history of the persecution of Christians throughout all ages shows this. At no time did the Church groan under more severe oppression and more gruesome persecutions than in the first three centuries of the Christian era; but we see that never were Christians stronger in the faith, never were they more ardent in love, never more free from illicit intercourse With the world, never more hungry for the Word of God, never more zealous in prayer, never more outspoken in confession, in short, never did the Christian Church shine more gloriously in its divine beauty than in those centuries of war and bloody persecution; the more thought was given to wiping them out, the more quickly, the more miraculously did their numbers increase. Often those who were assigned the task of carrying out the sentence of death were suddenly converted. When they saw how confidently Christians looked death in the face, how happily they despised all torment, how unflinchingly they confessed their faith, how completely they did not hate their murderers and even dying prayed for them, they often lost the courage to lay their hands on such persons who had come as though from another world; convinced of the heavenly power of Christianity, they often besought the Christians to accept them into their midst and teach them the mysteries of their wonderful faith and declared themselves ready to live, suffer and die with Christians as Christians.

But what a change we see take place in the fourth century in the Christian Church, when they received rest from their foes and could grow in peace under the rule of a Caesar who became a Christian! In the beginning under the blessings of peace the Church really bloomed more wonderfully than ever before as a land watered by the dew of heaven; but alas', faith soon declined, love grew cold, and security, love of the world, pride, and satiety entered into the Church amongst teachers and hearers. Is peace in the Church then only ruinous? No, my friends; as the time of persecution has its advantages and also its dangers and temptations for Christians, so does also the time of rest and peace. Since at the celebration of peace we held a few days ago I lacked time to speak to you a word of instruction, encouragement, and warning about this, permit me to make up for it today.

The text. Ephesians 5:15-21.

As you have heard, in this Epistle St. Paul admonishes Christians to redeem the time wisely. The apostle adds this as the reason: "Because the days are evil;" but we dare not think that he meant only days of persecution. No,


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as every period, even the time of persecution, is in a certain sense good, a day of grace, for Christians, so in another sense every age, even the time of peace, is evil. Therefore, permit me to show you:

WHY CHRISTIANS MUST WISELY REDEEM THE TIMES EVEN IN DAYS OF PEACE

1. Because The Days of Peace Have Such Great Advantages From Whose

Enjoyment God Will Demand A Strict Accounting, and

2. Because The Days Of Peace Also Have Such Great Dangers And Tempta

tions During Which The Christian Could Easily Fall.

I.

Though it is obvious that the time of oppression and persecution has always been a time of blessing for the Christian Church, however, continual, uninterrupted persecution must beyond a doubt finally be the ruin of the Christian Church. It is with the Church as with individual Christians. It is hard for a person to remain a Christian unless he experiences cross and tribulation; but if God would give him no time for rest and refreshment, he would succumb; that is why St. Paul says: "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.

And that applies to the Church as a whole. What, for example, would have happened to our German fatherland had not God 200 years ago ended the Thirty Years War by bending the hearts of kings toward thoughts of peace and permitted the Peace of Westphalia to be signed? Apart from the physical misery, Germany would have become a dreadful wilderness and the blessings of the Reformation would finally have disappeared completely. For at that time faithful teachers were being persecuted more and more, increasingly were good books taken out of the hands of Christians, increasingly were churches closed, universities had to close their doors, schools for the youth had to shut down. Thus most of the youth grew up amid the sight of offences which surrounded them everywhere in the most shocking ignorance; institutions for the spreading of the Gospel were not to be thought of in such misery; in the Christian Church in Germany unbelief and superstition, cursing and blasphemy, sins against the Sabbath Day, robbery, unwillingness to work, unchastity, and wickedness of every description gained the upper hand with terrifying speed.

So can we be surprised when the heralds of peace were received throughout all Germany as messengers of heaven, when the TE DEUM LAUDAMUS, or the "We Praise Thee, Oh God," was then sung in many thousands of churches with the deepest feeling, and when everywhere people shed tears of joy? Certainly not; for the advantages of peace are so great that even the most eloquent mouth cannot extol it sufficiently.

What a blessing it is when Christians during times of peace need not anxiously hide from their persecutors in woods and caves every time they wish to refresh their souls with the Gospel and Sacraments; on every Sunday and festival they can, as David wishes for himself, go "with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday." Ps 42:4. When they can take refuge from the cares and worries of this earthly life in the lovely mansions of the Lord Sabaoth, and there undisturbed are able to hear his Word with one another which shows them the way to heaven, which gives them light in all darkness, power for every conflict which they must fight, and the comfort of heaven for all misery, anguish of sins,


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poverty, sickness, shame, temptation, and the fear of death, and when as the seal of these things they are able to eat and drink the true body and blood of their holy Mediator!

What a blessing it is for Christians when during times of peace they can choose their own shepherd and teacher who will preach God's pure Word publicly and privately to them, and watch over every individual in particular and the congregation as a whole so that the doctrine, faith, and confession are preserved in their purity and each may walk as it suits him in his calling! What a blessing it is for Christians when during times of peace their children can be educated unhindered in the fear of the Lord, when they can send them to a Christian school, there to be led to their Savior, and even in their tender age to have the foundation of saving knowledge laid in their hearts!

What a blessing it is for Christians when during times of peace they are able to found a congregation without any obstruction, in which they can start everything according to God's Word and make all possible provisions whereby the kingdom of darkness Is broken down while God's honor and the salvation of souls is furthered! What a blessing it is for Christians that during peacetime they can also do something, so that the Gospel is preserved for their descendants and that it can be brought to those who still sit in heathenish darkness and in the shadow of death by training and sending out orthodox pastors and self-denying missionaries filled with heroic faith and the love of Christ! What a blessing it is for Christians that in days of peace they can conduct their family devotions, read, pray, and sing the Scriptures with their families according to the desires of their soul! What a blessing it is for Christians that in days of peace they can cultivate brotherly fellowship without danger, and each serve the other with his gifts, teach, encourage, admonish, reprimand, and comfort them!

Yet who can mention all the blessings which Christians enjoy in days of peace? Where this peace is properly used, the Church blooms like a garden after a severe storm has passed, and a rainbow amid the laughing of a cloudless sun erects its colorful bridges over the freshly watered valleys and mountains.

However my friends, the greater the advantages are which peace brings to Christians, the mote also the admonition of the apostle in our text applies to them: "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise but understanding what the will of the Lord is." Vv.15-17,

Every time God graciously grants Christians such times of peace he gives them a pound with which they are wisely to make the most of their opportunities, that is, which they are to use for his honor and for their own and their brother's salvation. During such times God visits the vineyard of the Church, through his Word plants the most superior grapes, surrounds it through peace as though with a fence, and within it builds congregations as towers with alert watchmen. But the time will come when the Lord will visit his vineyard again and look for that fruit which should have grown during this wonderful time. What do you think the Lord will do when the vineyard has produced the bitter and sour grapes of a faithless and loveless Christianity, instead of the sweet grapes of faith, love, and good works he hoped for? He tells us what he will do when he says in Isaiah 5: "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard; I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down; and I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no more upon it," Is 5:4-6.


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A fearful threat of God upon congregations and churches who did not perceive and faithfully use God's visitation in grace during times of peace to bring God the upright fruits of repentance, faith, and a new life! Sad to say we see God's threats fulfilled in our poor fatherland. God gave this land the peace it desired and along with it once again the blessings of the Reformation. But the pound was kept tied up in the napkin, no watch was kept, no use was faithfully made of the gifts given them. What has happened? The vineyard of the Church of our fatherland was given up by God to the ravages of the foe; the most wicked blasphemers finally took over the office of preaching, wolves are the shepherds of the flock, murderers of souls have become the leaders of souls, and even now they are hard at work erasing the last signs of Christianity and laying everything waste to the very foundation.

How important that is for us! We enjoy a peace, perhaps, such as no Christian nation today has any more upon the whole world. Here we have found a more beautiful Zoar than Lot, a more beautiful Goshen than Israel, a more beautiful Pella than the first Christians. God has poured out upon us a glorious time of peace almost without equal with all its blessings; we must call ourselves fortunate that God has done great things, yes,truly great things to us. But let us also remember that the time is coming when the Lord will look for fruit also in the vineyard of our congregation; woe to us if he finds sour grapes instead of ripe grapes! As great as his grace was toward us at first, so great will his wrath then be over us. Therefore, this holds true that we wisely redeem the time during this period of peace, buy up this time with its wonderful opportunities to care for our souls, promote God's honor, and also be a blessing to others.

To redeem the time wisely is also necessary because such times also have such great dangers and temptations into which Christians can easily fall. Permit me to speak to you of this.

II.

My friends, the dangers are very many; I will,therefore, remind you only of the most important ones.

Periods of persecution have this good result that during these times Christians are awakened to find increasingly greater joy in God's Word; the greater the lack of the bread of life is the greater the hunger for it becomes. If God grants times of peace during which Christians have God's Word not only in its purity but also richly, in overflowing abundance, the great danger for them is that satiety, weariness, and loathing will creep up and overpower them; they will no longer treasure the most precious gift of all so highly; neither will they hear, read, search in it, and discuss it so zealously; rather, they will come to think that they already know everything very well. The result is that even Christians become indifferent toward purity of doctrine; they lose their old zeal for it, do not earnestly fight for it, and if their teachers are zealous for it consider them quarrelsome persons who want to damn others.

If we examine ourselves on this basis, must we not confess, that during these last days of peace almost all of us have fallen into this danger? Has not in most the zeal to hear, read, and speak of God's Word waned greatly? Do not many reveal satiety, loathing, and weariness? Did not many during the past festival rather remain at their earthly labors, even though they could have had this time free? Do not many consider it too much to hear God's Word twice on the day of the Lord? Do we not lack greatly in that thing to which the apostle in our text exhorts: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual


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songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Vv.19.20. Does not also very little zeal for preserving purity of doctrine show itself ever and again among us? Oh, that God would have mercy on us and rekindle the first love in all who have become lukewarm and lazy! Otherwise God will certainly and soon take the lamp from its place, and then woe to us if we must appear before God as unfaithful servants!

We continue. Periods of persecution also have this good result that during these times Christians are drawn and torn away from the world, its friendships, its joys, treasures, and honor; then this world becomes a torture chamber. If God grants days of peace during which the world meets also the Christian as a friend, and during which Christians can very often obtain this world’s joys, treasures, and honor, then the great danger is that they will love the things of this world, strive to become rich, want to have its pleasures, and be honored in the world.

If we examine ourselves accordingly, must we not blush? Does not conformity to the world, the fashions of the world, its love of finery, its vanities, its pride, the visiting of worldly societies and places of amusements, its attachment to earthly things, its wanting to become rich, press into our congregation like a deluge? Oh my dear brethren, it is time that we stop doing these things and pray God for repentance, pray that the heavenly mind and the seeking first for the kingdom of God fill our souls and be seen among us again.

Finally, my friends, periods of persecution also have this good result that during them Christians are united by the deepest bond of inner brotherly love; they follow the finely admonition of Paul in our Epistle: "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God." V.21. If God grants times of peace during which Christians are not driven together by a common trouble, the great danger for them is that they may lose the consciousness of their divine relationship and brotherhood. The danger exists that the one will pass the other by as a stranger, that the one will exalt himself over the other, that because the one is despised by the world, or because he is a weak sinner, or because he has no gifts and is simple, or even because he is poor in this world's goods, the other will despise him. There is the danger that the one will squabble with the other, not let himself be reprimanded and admonished, or that one of them will speak evil of the other behind his back, and the like. Would to God, that I would not have experienced that, sad to say, even mutual brotherly love abates and cools, that mutual, humble submissiveness is lost, and that merely a worldly, friendly association wants to gain the upper hand among us!

Oh, let us then know what belongs to our peace; let us recognize the danger in which we hover during our glorious periods of peace; let us earnestly think that God's gracious visitation by the gift of his pure Word in rest and peace may not be misused by us, that we do not become secure but bring forth even richer fruits of faith and love, so that some day those who received less grace but persevered more faithfully in it do not rise up against us and condemn our unfaithfulness. For he who knows the Lord's will and has not prepared himself, nor even done his will must suffer many stripes. For to whom much is given of him much shall be required.

Now may the Lord, who ascended on high and has received gifts for men, yea for the rebellious also, cover all our sins with his grace and fill us with new life; may he strengthen our weak hands and tired knees, so that we may take straight paths for our feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed. Finally, may he bring us to the end of faith, namely the soul's salvation. Amen.


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21ST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-1      Ephesians 6:10-17  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

To hope that before Judgment Day there will come a time when the Church will have peace and rest from all its enemies is a vain, groundless, and foolish hope. True, the prophets have predicted that there would come a time when swords would be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. However, the time which these things announced has come long ago; it dawned when more than 1800 years ago the angels sang: "Peace on earth;" this is the time of the Mew

Testament, the time of the Gospel, which preaches peace and brings peace, not an earthly peace but a peace which is higher than all understanding, a spiritual and heavenly peace, which stands firm even in the midst of war, peace of heart and conscience with God in spite of sin, Law, death, judgment, and hell.

Nonetheless, Christ's Church on earth is and remains until the end of days a militant Church. It is God's army which conducts the Lord's war on earth. Christ its Lord and Head is also its leader, its general. The moment a person wants to become a member of the Church, that is, a Christian, he must first of all swear allegiance to the Triune God in Baptism, let himself be enrolled in the host of God's soldiers, and place himself under the blood-red flag of the crucified Lord of Glory, the Prince of Life who was killed.

The entire world, wherever there is a Christian, is a battlefield. The entire Church on earth with all its spiritual and heavenly treasures is the Holy Land whose boundaries he has to defend; every Christian congregation and every Christian family to which he belongs is a fortress, and every revealed truth and Bible passage an entrenchment which he must defend with his blood.

In this conflict no one dare plan on being neutral; for it is a conflict for the most holy and righteous causes, God's honor, one's own salvation, and the salvation of the whole world. Neutrality is betrayal. He who does not want to join God's army and fight belongs to the enemy. Be you man or woman, young or old, young man or young woman, gray-head or child, strong or weak, healthy or sick, rich or poor, king or beggar, all must fight, all must serve in this conflict, all must bear arms.

In this spiritual war there dare be no armistice, no peace made with the foe until death. Here this is true: "He that shall endure unto the end the same shall be saved." Mt 24:13. Here this is true: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Rev 2:10. On his deathbed the Christian must be able to say with Paul: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith," that is, I have not broken the oath sworn to Christ in Baptism, "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.

This is also true as Paul writes: "And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully." 2 Tim 2:5. He who indeed fights but not lawfully, that is, whoever lets himself be overcome in the fight, whoever does not gain the victory, will also not pass from the Church militant into the Church triumphant. He will not share in the eternal feast of peace and victory in the high cathedral of heaven; he will depart empty when the booty is divided, and no unfading victor's crown of honor will adorn his brow.


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Well now, my friends, is there no book in which we are shown how we can carry on this conflict to victory? Yes, there is such a book, and this book is the Holy Bible, and in the Epistle of today all the means are indicated which Christians must use if in the conflict appointed as theirs they want to resist in the evil day, do everything well; and hold the field. It contains the well-known "Martial Sermon for Christians," as Luther so beautifully calls it. Let us now hear it.

The text. Ephesians 6:10-17.

After the apostle has shown the Christians at Ephesus what they should believe and hope and how everyone in his station and calling should live and walk, he still could not close. He has one thing on his heart which he could not silence, and it is that which our Epistle contains, which he begins with the words: "Finally, my brethren." And what is this last point? It is instruction on how they (should and must carry on the fight, if they again do not want to lost everything which they had already received and even be lost.

Let that which Paul holds before the Christians at Ephesus be said also to us, for it applies to Christians of all ages, also to us. Permit me then on the basis of the words of the apostle to show you briefly:

THE THREE IMPORTANT MEANS WHICH CHRISTIANS MUST USE IF IN THEIR CONFLICT THEY WANT TO DO EVERYTHING WELL AND HOLD THE FIELD

1. The First Means Is, That They Are Strong In The Lord And In The Power Of His Might:

2. The Second Means Is That They Know The Foes Against Whom They Have To Fight;

3. Finally. The Third Means Is That They Put On The Armor Of God And Use It.

I.

My friends, it is a truth confirmed by the experience of all ages, that if an army goes against the foe without courage no victory will be gained, even though the army is huge in number, is ever so well armed, and led by ever so skilled a general. If the soldiers lack courage, if they have an evil conscience and, therefore, also a cowardly heart, then as the Lord says through Moses a rustling leaf scares them and ten thousands flee before a hundred. Thus 135,000 cowardly Midianites fled before Gideon's 300 brave soldiers when they appeared among them with the battle cry: "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!" Courage, bravery, is, therefore, the first and most necessary virtue of a true soldier. This applies also to Christians for the spiritual conflict which they must wage. For the first thing which the apostle says in his martial sermon to Christians is: "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." V.10

"Be strong." he says and means to say: If Christians want to arrive at the end of faith, namely their soul's salvation, they must fight and wrestle; if they will do this, the first thing necessary is that they dare not be cowardly, nor downhearted, nor fearful, but they must rather be of a strong manly spirit, brave, yes, courageous even in the face of death.

Among Christians, Paul means to say, it must be a foregone conclusion: He will not let himself be frightened by anything, flee as a coward in the face


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of the foes of his soul, faithlessly forsake the army of the Church and the banner of its confession, treacherously surrender the fortress of God's Word which has been entrusted to him to the foes, and surrender to them, or even become a deserter to the foe; as far as a Christian is concerned it is a foregone conclusion that he will follow Christ, the Lord of his salvation, his heavenly General, wherever he calls him, remain with his army the Church, and with the banner of its confession; if necessary he has decided that he will go to meet the foe himself and bravely fight until death, defend the fortress of God's Word, and rather die than surrender even one little town of doctrine or one little verse, or even yield just one foot; briefly, for the Christian it is self-understood that he will fight until he wins and if he has to gain the victory by his blood and life.

But, you will say, who can be that strong? Are we not all poor, weak creatures, are we not all helpless dust?

Yes, my friends; but that is the very reason why the apostle says in our text not only: "Be strong!" but he says even more; he says: "Be strong IN THE LORD AND IN THE POWER OF HIS MIGHT." The apostle means to say: I know very well, my Christians, that by nature you have no power confidently and joyfully to join Christ in the struggle. Neither is it my wish that you should be strong in yourselves and in the power of your might; rather, it is my wish that you despair completely of your own power, might, strength, bravery,and courage, and seek your strength alone in Christ, that is, rely completely upon him as your leader. You need but firmly believe that if you follow Christ the victory is assured, since he is eternal wisdom whom no one can outwit, and the eternal power, whom nothing can overcome; to have a happy conscience you need but firmly believe that this Jesus Christ is your Savior who has erased all your sins, and that he alone does the actual fighting and you stand under his shield and you will never lack courage, power, and strength. Thousands and millions of Christians have indeed fallen and become deserters, because they relied upon their own power, but all who were strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, all who built alone upon Jesus have also in the end done well, held the field, and at last died as blessed victors. For

With might of ours can naught be done,

Soon were our loss effected;

But for us fights the Valiant One,

Whom God Himself elected.

Ask ye, Who is this?

Of Sabaoth Lord,

And there's none other God;

He holds the field forever. (292,2)

Therefore: Hopeful, cheerful, and undaunted

Everywhere They appear

Who in Christ are planted.

Death Itself cannot appal them,

They rejoice, When the voice

Of their Lord doth call them. (523,4)

II.

However, my friends, according to our text, if in their conflict Christians want to do everything well and hold the field, they must not only be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, but secondly, they must know


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the foe against whom they fight.

In war how important it is to know against whom one must fight, what plans the foe might follow, what stratagems of war he might attempt to use, how much strength he has, and who his allies are; according to world history the experience of all times teaches this, without this knowledge even the bravest and strongest army is in great danger of being tricked into ruin and defeated; but with this knowledge the victory is already half won.

And who is the foe with whom Christians have to fight and whom the apostle teaches us to know in our Epistle? He says: "Put on the whole armor of God.

that ye mav be able to 3tand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Vv.11.12.

From this we see first of all: They are not "flesh and blood", not human beings with whom we as Christians have to fight. Rather, as far as it concerns people, we as Christians should not fight against but only for them. We should love them as ourselves and love not only our friends but also our enemies. We should, therefore, wish them no evil but only good, not think about their destruction but of their temporal and eternal salvation.

Entirely different are the foes with which God's Word confronts us, namely, the "devil" and his angels, this "spiritual wickedness in high places." They are God's sworn enemies who have been cast out of heaven forever; therefore, they are also the implacable enemies of all children of God. Already in Paradise they tempted man who was created in God's image and caused him to fall from God, and after God again reconciled fallen mankind with himself and redeemed him, their striving and endeavors day and night are now to deceive us also concerning our reconciliation and redemption.

According to the apostle, the true enemies of our souls are invisible, for they are evil spirits. What a powerful, urgent warning the apostle gives us never to be secure! If our foes were visible, we could always be calm and secure if we saw the foe before us. But since our enemies are invisible, we must constantly be armed, for they are even at the place where our eyes see nothing. If our foes were creatures which have flesh and blood, we could by fleeing into a strong fortress successfully resist them; but whither can we flee in order to prevent spirits from having access to us? We also know from other passages of God's Word that theirs is a counties host, so that often thousands lie in wait for one human soul in order to subvert and ruin it.

Our text teaches us to gain even deeper insight about them when it says: "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye mav be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." V.ll. The evil spirits, therefore, are not the kind of foes who wish us only evil and have only evil in mind against us, but they even use the most cunning "wiles" against us. These wiles consist chiefly in this that, when Satan intends to overcome us, he does not meet us in his recognizable form, but transforms himself into an angel of light. That is, if he wants to hurl us into error, he presents it as truth and uses God's Word to that end; if he wants to hurl us into sin, he presents the sin as a virtue, or as something permitted, innocent, insignificant; if he wants to persuade us to fall from God, he presents this, as he did to the first people, as simply coming closer to God and becoming like God.

When we think we are farthest away from Satan, e.g., when we pray, when we hear and read God's Word, or when we are among upright Christians, then Satan


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is the closest and tries to take the seed of the Word from our hearts and nullify the blessing of fellowship. He does not attack us in the points where we are strong, but where we are weak and where he detects a breach in the wall surrounding our heart, there he forces his way in. The one he, therefore, tempts with pride, another with lust, a third with greed and worry about food, a fourth with wrath and irreconcilableness, a fifth with envy, a sixth with dishonesty and unfaithfulness, a seventh with false doctrine, and so forth. Thus he accommodates himself exactly to the different inclinations which he perceives in the poor Christian. The one he attempts to draw into his net by riches, happiness, honor, and good days, another by poverty, unhappiness, disgrace, and misery of all kinds. The one he does not disturb for a long time and then suddenly falls upon him with even more fearful might in order to hurl him unexpectedly into a great sin; another who has just conquered him and rejoices over this fact he immediately assails again from a different side in order to make him torpid and tired with a second, third, fourth cunning attack in quick succession and thus still draw him into the abyss.

Now, the apostle says of these foes of the Christians not only that they are cunning; he also called them "principalities and powers." Great power is also joined to their cunning; they are entire armies of hellish giants. Against them we men are helpless dust. Therefore, if we men wanted to fight against them in our own power, it would be just as if an unarmed child wanted to oppose an entire well-armed army, as though a withered leaf wanted to fight against the hurricane, yes, as though a blade of straw wanted to fight against fire.

And finally, how does the apostle further describe these foes of ours? He calls them: "the rulers of the darkness of this world." In these words the apostle also reveals to us the strong allies of our foes; their allies are the whole world which is dominated by Satan and ruled and led According to his will. All unbelievers, all unconverted, all the godless who still belong to the world are, therefore, simply the tools which our invisible enemies use in order to take our faith, our love, and our hope from us, to mislead us into unbelief, false faith, sin, and shame and thus finally hurl us into eternal damnation. Yes, since also Christians still have something of the Old Adam, of flesh and blood, in short, since they carry something of the world in their hearts, the evil foe has the ally most dangerous to us like a secret traitor even in the very midst of the fortress of our heart.

You see, these are the foes of Christians, against which they must battle: The evil spirits over and under them, the world next to them, and flesh and blood within them. Oh, blessed, therefore, is the Christian who is strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, otherwise he is surely lost!

III.

My friends, the Holy Ghost, who once spoke and wrote through the Apostle Paul, knows better than we do the great distress and danger in which our souls are; therefore, in the third place, he has also mentioned the armor which we must put on and use, if we want to do all things well and hold the field. So let us examine this armor a bit.

At one time the well-equipped soldier wore six different pieces of armor. First he had to buckle on a belt in order that the long clothing usually worn would not hinder his movements; then he had to don a breastplate, that is, protect his chest with armor; thirdly, to cover his feet he had to put on boots


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reinforced with iron. After doing this, he had to cover his whole body and head with a shield and helmet, the chief weapons of defense, and finally have a sword, the chief weapon of offense.

So also a Christian should make provisions for his spiritual struggle with all these parts of a complete complement of armor.

First of all, how is the Christian to be girded? The apostle says: "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth." V.l4a. Here by "truth" one must without a doubt not understand the evangelical truth, for this is really the sword, but that truth in which Christians are to walk, that is, an upright unhypocritical life. For hypocrites are not capable of fighting the holy Christian fight, but, as David says, only those in whose spirit there is no guile.

Moreover, what is the Christian's breastplate? The apostle says: "And having on the breastplate of righteousness." V.14b. Here also by righteousness we must not understand the righteousness of faith which is rather the shield, but the righteousness of life, the upright, unoffending life toward every person. For he who still serves unrighteousness cannot fight against the unrighteous world.

Thirdly, how is the Christian shod? The apostle says: "And your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace." V.15. The third piece of the Christian's armor is, therefore, a walk in peace over against everyone, being real confessors of the Gospel of peace.

Oh, blessed is the Christian who is thus thrice armed with truth, righteousness, and peace! But, my friends, these three pieces are held only in great weakness by every Christian.

Therefore, the apostle continues thus: "Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." Vv.16.17.

Oh, precious, comforting closing! "ABOVE ALL" the apostle says, we are to take "the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit." Of course, he wants to say, we should be diligent in being truly godly and pious toward God and men, yet this is not so much one of our weapons as comfortable clothing in the struggle. Our real weapons of protection against all the fiery arrows and wiles of the devil are faith and salvation by grace in Christ Jesus seized by faith; and the only weapon of attack is God's Word, the written Word of the holy prophets and apostles. He who remains in this faith and clings firmly to this Word fights successfully and stands firmly, even if all the devils, the entire world, and his own flesh rage against him.

Oh my dear Christians, rejoice, therefore, that the Holy Spirit has given you such a brief, blessed, and certain guide for the fight. Oh, do not let go of your faith in your salvation in Christ, and do not throw away the weapon of the Word; then, at all times, even during evil days, you will be able to resist, carry out everything well, and hold the field.

May Jesus Christ, praised to all eternity, grant this to us. Amen.


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21ST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY-2      Ephesians 6:10-17  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.

The moment one becomes a true Christian he makes many enemies for himself. Christ has already predicted this. He says in Matthew 10 to his disciples: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." Mt 10:34-36. How can this be? Does he who becomes a true Christian become proud, unsociable, and quarrelsome, and thus by his own fault, yes, at Christ's command, makes enemies? Far be it! Christ does not mean to say that with his Gospel he intends to disturb the peace and sow the seeds of discord among men; rather, he means to say that people are so corrupt that nothing else can happen but that wherever his Gospel is preached and accepted by a few, hatred and hostility will arise.

If upon hearing the Word of Christ preached a person is moved in his heart, if he is convinced that he is a lost sinner who can receive forgiveness of sins, God's grace, peace of conscience, peace of soul, and some day salvation only in Christ the Savior of the world; therefore, if he who has been seized by God's Word turns in faith to Christ as his only refuge; if with his whole heart he relies upon him and finds in Christ his joy, his happiness, his hope, his salvation, then he has become a Christian in the true meaning of the word. But when one becomes such a true Christian, a great change also takes place in his heart and life. He can no longer live as he had lived before he became a Christian; he has lost not only pleasure in the joys of the world but has a horror of them as well, and everything which the world considers a small sin which makes no difference he now considers a great sin which he hates and detests as he does all sins.

He, therefore, forsakes the way which the world, the great majority, goes; he forsakes not only the taverns, dance halls, theaters, and other pair aces of pleasure of the frivolous children of the world, but he also does not want to use the sinful means which the whole world uses to enrich himself; he no longer wants to practice usury, nor acquire his neighbor's money and goods by false ware or dealing or with a show of right; in short, he renounces and frees himself from all the ungodly ways in which most people live, and frankly and freely reproves sin whenever he is called upon to do so. See, that is the first, the real reason why he who becomes a true Christian has from that moment on so many people, yes, the whole world, as his enemy. The world is offended that the Christian no longer goes the way of the great host with it but wants to go another way, that he reproves and condemns its way; they are offended that a Christian, as they think, wants to be something better than they. Therefore, the Apostle Peter in his First Epistle says to true Christians: "Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you." 1 Pet 4:4.

However, true Christians forsake not only the ways and habits of the great majority of the world, but they also walk in a new life according to God's Word. They are conscientious and faithful in their dealings, attentive in public worship and family altar, zealous in prayer and pondering God's Word, candid in the confession of their faith, diligent in all the works of love and piety, upright and friendly toward everyone, faithful toward their friends, forgiving toward their enemy, charitable toward those suffering want, in short, they show


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in their deeds that through God's Word a person can indeed so walk as God's Word demands

When the children of the world see this, they are reprimanded in their conscience; they try to convince themselves that Christians are not pious but bigots, not holy but hypocrites, not those inspired only by zeal for God's honor but hateful, ambitious fanatics, or at least not those enlightened by God but blind and feeble-minded enthusiasts who deceive themselves. Christians are, therefore, as far as the world is concerned the subject of its deepest contempt, their mockery and ridicule, often also real persecution. If he who previously clung to the world makes motions of becoming a Christian they immediately say: Do you also want to become one of those pious ones? And if he carries out his intention in spite of all persuasion and sarcastic remarks, in spite of all flattery and threats, publicly swears allegiance to that despised crucified Christ, to the despised Bible, to that despised Gospel, to those despised Christians, then woe to him! His former friends turn into his bitterest enemies; father, mother, wife, husband, son, daughter, in short, his closest relatives and family, are often his most violent opponents. Christ, therefore, says: "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." Jn 16:19.

Alas, only too many who wanted to become Christians have let themselves be restrained even in this first struggle which they must endure; they could not bear to be despised by the world for the sake of Christianity and themselves deemed fools by their own, ridiculed as hypocrites, and hated and persecuted as unfriendly people. Christ, therefore, adds this warning: "He that loveth father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." This is the time to conquer one's own heart and separate completely from the world, or be forever conquered and separated from Christ.

But, my friends, those who want to become true Christians make still more enemies and even more dangerous enemies, not only visible but also invisible ones against whom he must fight, if some day he wants to receive the crown. And of this struggle of the Christian against his invisible enemies permit me now to speak to you.

The Text. Ephesians 6:10-17.

On the basis of this apostolic admonition which Luther very fittingly called "a martial sermon for Christians" let me now speak to you on:

THE CONFLICT OF THE CHRISTIAN AGAINST HIS INVISIBLE FOES

I will describe to you:

1. The Christian's Invisible Foes And The Dangers With Which They Threaten Him, and

2. The Christian's Arms With Which He Can Victoriously Fight Against These Foes.

Lord Jesus Christ, you have appointed for us all a great earnest conflict before we will receive the crown; reveal to us through your Word our foes, their power and cunning, their bulwarks and counsels, and show us how we can conquer them and thus receive the crown. Above all, awaken and kindle in us a holy zeal to follow you valiantly in the struggle and never to rest until you place upon our head the crown of victory. Oh Savior of all sinners, you know our weakness, our helplessness, our complete corruption; therefore, come to our help, be thou our strength, and do thou conquer in us; then we will eternally praise you on the day of triumph. Amen.


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I.

My friends, if the Christian had only the world and his own corrupt heart as his enemies, he would in fact have enough to fight against. However, as the apostle says in our today's Epistle, a Christian has other and even more fearful enemies. He says: "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Vv.11 .12

In order to understand these words correctly, we must know the following.

When God created the world, he created not only the earth with its visible firmament and the people dwelling on it, but also an invisible world with its countless myriads of angels. Before the angels or men were to be confirmed in the state of perfect glory, they had to stand a test. The first ones who could not pass this test and fell from God were the angels; not all but only a certain large number of them unknown to us at whose head stood one who formerly was the greatest angel, who now became a devil, that is, a slanderer, or Satan, that is, adversary. And the moment they had fallen they were all rejected from seeing God's glory, robbed of their heavenly principalities and cast out of their dwelling place, and especially out of the heaven of light and blessedness down to hell in the chains of darkness, as Peter and Jude clearly describe this.

What happened? Satan with all the angels who fell with him now founded a kingdom, a kingdom of darkness and sin, from which he resolved to storm .God's kingdom, the kingdom of light and righteousness, constantly and if possible to destroy it. The first step he undertook for this purpose was to try to seduce mankind which had just been created in God's image to fall from God. And behold! his plan succeeded; man fell from God and fell into sin and enmity against God, and through sin Satan now became the lord of man and the whole world of men a part of his great fearful kingdom; that is why in Holy Writ Satan is often called a prince and god of this world, and that is why we read in our text of "spiritual wickedness in high places;" they are the "rulers of the darkness of this world."

After his blessed kingdom on earth was destroyed through the fall of man, first through promise, then through the sending of his only begotten Son into the world, God founded by his Son's life, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension a new kingdom, a kingdom of grace, in which all fallen mankind was to be accepted again through faith in the Son of God sent for him, and from which they were to enter some day into the kingdom of perfect glory; however, even though all who return to Christ's kingdom of grace in order to escape the dominion of Satan, the ruler of darkness, nevertheless Satan has the power to tempt, assail, and persecute Christians as long as they still live in this world, in this hostel of Satan.

Therefore, the danger to their soul and salvation which threatens Christians is great and terrible, and this is true because first of all these foes are invisible. If Christians could see how Satan lies in wait for them everywhere, they could be easily on guard; but without Christians being able to notice it, he sneaks after them; invisibly he causes the whole mob of hell to surround them and accompany them, lays invisible nets and snares for them, lies unseen in wait for them, digs invisible pits, and sets unseen traps for them. As dangerous as it is for the physical life of man to walk in the dark of night through a region where one cannot see abysses, deep water, rock lying in the way,


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and ravening animals in the brush threatening on every hand, just so dangerous are our wanderings through the world for the spiritual life and the soul of Christians, because the evil foe and his associates are invisible.

However, the danger which threatens Christians from these invisible foes is so great and terrible because, secondly, Satan is much more desirous to harm Christians than non-Christians. The non-Christian Satan already has in his power; he, therefore, is glad to let them rest, yes, he tries most of all to convince them that there is absolutely no devil, so that they do not fight against him and without suspecting it let themselves be blinded, driven, and ruled by him. But because the Christian has escaped his traps, he hates them as his enemy and traitor and plots day and night how he might get them back into his power. He, therefore, does not forsake them but is near them at every place; he greets them in the morning, he goes with them to work, he is at their side at the table, he goes with them to social gatherings, he goes with them into church, he creeps after them into the chamber, he is at their side even when they pray and when they read God's Word, when they are happy and when they weep, and burns with eagerness to tempt and seduce them.

And still more! The danger which threatens Christians from these invisible enemies is so great and terrible, because, thirdly, they are so mighty and powerful; for the apostle says: We Christians "wrestle not against flesh  and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of this world." The apostle means to say: Our invisible foes are not weak men but hellish princes who already have subjected the entire world. He means to say: Though human emperors and kings with fleshly weapons fight against us Christians, this is nothing in comparison to the fight in which we must enter against him to whom all unconverted emperors and kings with their unconverted people are subject; his might far surpasses all the power of mortal men.

Yet another reason the apostle mentions why the danger threatening Christians from their invisible foes is so great and terrible; it is this: For the overthrow of the Christian they use so many different "wiles." Because Satan is so sly and crafty, he does not use one and the same means to seduce Christians; no, as a true conjurer he in all his attacks accommodates himself exactly according to the nature of him against whom they are directed; sometimes he tries this, sometimes that; he changes his form a thousand times; often he transforms himself into an angel of light and tirelessly carries on until he fells the Christian or he has finally left the world through a blessed death.

Above all, Satan tries to lead Christians from the Word of God and hurl them into doubt, false faith, and unbelief. To that end he employs not only false teachers but stirs up even in the very heart of Christians thoughts which are against God's Word. For that even Christians often think: Did God really say this or this? and that they often in spite of all proof persevere in their false thoughts and finally found heresies and sects, that is always the work of Satan. However, if Satan cannot bring a Christian to the point that he lets God's Word be falsified, he tries to seduce him to satiety, loathing, and weariness of it and get him to think that he already knows everything. If Satan cannot attain this goal in him, he often lets him hear add read God's Word diligently but he makes him lazy and sleepy in praying and watching, so that in spite of the diligent use of God's Word he does not understand it and does not let it enter his heart. If Satan cannot prevent even this, he thinks of other ways of robbing the Christian of the blessing of God's Word.

If a Christian is inclined by nature to worry about temporal things, he prevents him from getting food, smites him with sicknesses, let him be robbed of his property by his tools, and fills him with the spirit of dejection and sadness, and does not rest until he has sunk the Christian into it and thus again robbed


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him of faith, soul, and salvation. On the other hand, if a Christian is inclined by nature to lust, or greed, or ambition, Satan above all attacks him from this weakest side. That is, he provides for the one an opportunity to appease his evil lust, for the second the acquiring of earthly treasures, for the third the attainment of a high degree of honor and respect; in so doing he pictures to them all that the sinful thing is so small and of such little consequence, on the other hand, the enjoyment which they expect and the glory of the world and its children so great, so glorious, yes, like a heaven on earth, that poor Christians are often at last as though intoxicated and bewitched to serve one or the other idol of the world and turn their hearts away from God.

If by nature the Christian is inclined to be frivolous, Satan points out every day how unnecessary it is to apply his Christianity with such great earnestness and zeal; how many thousands also hoped to be saved who were not serious about it; how Christ has already done everything for us; how everything is grace; how a person cannot merit anything before God anyhow; how great God's love, forbearance, and patience is, and the like; and with such inspirations Satan continues until he has sunk the Christian into his old fleshly security and thus into death and ruin. If by nature a Christian is inclined to be fearful, Satan incites the children of the world against him; they have to ridicule, threaten, persecute him until from fear he forsakes and denies the Savior.

On the other hand, if none of these things avail and do not lead Satan to his goal, he at times even tries to stir up in the Christian's heart the fires of despair; he magnifies the greatness and seriousness of his sins; he shoots disgraceful, blasphemous thoughts like fiery arrows into the Christian's heart and then cries to him: See, what a scoundrel you are! How dare you hope for grace? You are not a member of the body of Christ; you are mine, and nothing, nothing can deliver you out of my hand; you have only one way of redeeming and freeing yourself from your torment: Take your life! Fearfully Satan then struggles against the despairing Christian for whom it often is as though the army of hell is already rejoicing over his certain damnation.

Oh, it cannot be expressed how manifold the cunning wiles of the devil are by which he tries to fell the Christian! Everything must serve his fearful purposes: Sometimes the world, sometimes other Christians, sometimes the Christian's own heart, reason, remembrance, illusion, conscience, senses, and all members. All this Satan uses to open windows through which he can climb into the Christian's soul in order to murder faith, this birth from God. And alas1, how often he has done this! Did not our first parents fall through sin, when he said to them: "Yea, hath God said?" Did not David fall when Satan suggested that out of pride he take a census of the people? Did not Judas fall when Satan proposed to him to deny Christ for the sake of a few dollars? Did not Peter fall when Satan sifted him as wheat, attacked him with fear of men, and suggested to him to save his life by denying Christ? Did not Ananias and Sapphira fall when Satan filled their heart so that they lied to the Holy Ghost in order thus to keep some of their earthly goods?

II.

My dear hearers, should not Christians be excused, if they fall, since they have such embittered, powerful, and cunning invisible foes, who cause them to fall? No! For no matter how great the conflict against such foes is, and no matter how great the dangers are with which they threaten Christians, there is armor which the Christian should and can put on and with which he also should and can be victorious against these foes. Secondly, permit me to speak to you of these.


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Two things are we told in our Epistle of the Christian's correct weapons, first, their general nature, and secondly, their individual pieces.

At the beginning of our text the apostle says: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Vv. 10.11. Further on the apostle continues: "Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." V.13. The first thing, which the apostle says in general of the weapons of the Christians, is that they are the armor of God and not of men. You see, my friends, it naturally would be completely impossible for a poor, weak Christian to win the victory in the conflict against his invisible foes, if he had to conquer through his own power, wisdom, works, perseverance, and the like. One could more easily oppose a whole corp of well-armed soldiers with a wooden sword and armor of straw than for a Christian to oppose a spirit of darkness in his own power. If the Christian were directed to his own ability, then he would have to despair in advance, lay down his arms, and surrender his soul a captive to his foes.

But blessed are all Christians! Not in themselves but "in the Lord, and in the power of his might" are they to be strong, not in the armor of their own power but in the "armor of God" are they to fight, be victorious, and daily triumph. That is, therefore, the first thing which is demanded of all who want to fight under Christ's banner and with him hold the field; they are to despair of themselves completely, of their wisdom and prudence, of their righteousness and piety, of their faithfulness and constancy, of their reason and power, and rely alone upon Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts, upon the Prince of their salvation, their heavenly Prince of Peace Jesus Christ. Whoever builds upon himself, whoever trusts somewhat in himself, whoever considers himself strong and unconquerable, can not only be easily conquered by the invisible foe, he is already conquered by them, he has already fallen; for self-trust, pride, and arrogance comes before the fall.

However, our Epistle also names the individual pieces of the armor of God which a Christian is to put on and with which he can and should conquer all his invisible foes. According to our Epistle there are boots for the feet, the girdle for the loins, the breastplate for the chest, the shield for the entire body in the left hand, and the sword in the right hand, and finally the helmet for the head.

"Stand therefore." says the apostle first of all, "stand therefore having your loins girt about with truth." The apostle means to say: As the soldier must wear a girdle about his loins in order to shorten his garment and take a solid, unhampered stance, so must the Christian also be girded; his girdle, however, is truth. Without it he will be like a reed which the wind blows hither and yon; without it he could not successfully resist doubt which Satan wants to stir up in him; therefore, in the end he would have to fall in the conflict. But if he is girded about with truth, then he will not be blinded by any seeming sound appearance of false doctrine but stand firmly in the conflict, even though thousands fall at his right hand and ten thousand at his left.

The apostle continues: "And having on the breastplate of righteousness." He means to say: As the soldier must have a strong breastplate so that that portion of his body is covered where the heart,the seat of life, is, so must also the Christian wear a breastplate upon his chest; however, his armor is righteousness, that is, Christ's righteousness which is given him through faith in Christ. Without the comfort of this righteousness of grace a Christian simply cannot live, without it he must despair; however, if he knows and can say:


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"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth," Rom 8:33, he can confidently enter the conflict with Satan and the whole hellish army; nothing can overcome him.

The apostle says further: "And your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace." The apostle means to say: As a soldier must be shod so that he can make the difficult marches over unbeaten roads, through thickets and swamps, and over mountains and steep rocks, and even over snakes and scorpions, so must also a Christian be shod; however, his shoes are the he is ready "with the preparation of the Gospel of peace." Without this constant spreading of the Gospel, without this constant clinging to the peace of God which is preached in it, the Christian cannot proceed over the rough road through this world; but if the Gospel is the light unto his feet and the lamp for his way, then he will never despair no matter where his heavenly general leads him; confidently he will follow him; for says David; "I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart." Ps 119,32.

The apostle continues: "Above all, taking the shield of faith, where with ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked." V.16 He wants to say: As a soldier needs a shield above all in order to catch and extinguish the arrows of the foe which often were kindled with fire, so also the Christian needs above all a spiritual shield, and that is his "faith". that is, faith in Christ. Without this faith the Christian is lost, but having it he can resist all the temptations of Satan. Even though the ''evil foe shoots the most shameful thoughts into his heart, the moment he says from his heart: "I believe!" he has conquered; for where faith is, there is grace, forgiveness, life, and salvation.

The apostle says also: "And take the helmet of salvation." He wants to say: As a soldier needs a helmet in order to protect his head, so also the Christian needs a helmet; however his helmet is "salvation." salvation in Christ. If the Christian clings to this, then he despises all the enticements of the world with its glory and says: I have a better treasure, I have salvation. Then in even the greatest suffering he is confident and undaunted and says: "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Rom 8:18.

Finally, the apostle says: "And take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." He means to say: As a soldier dare not let go of his sword, so neither the Christian; however, his sword is "the Word of God." With this trustworthy sword the Christian is invincible. Though the most plausible lies may approach him ever so coaxingly, with the Word of God he defends himself against them; though his faith may become ever so weak, with the Word of God he strengthens it again; though sorrow may increase in him ever so greatly, through God’8 Word he can again become confident and happy; though he himself may have already stumbled and fallen, by the Word of God he rises again; though in the hour of death all the devils may press in upon the Christian, with the Word of God he conquers them and goes as the victor from the battlefield of this world to his eternal victory feast.

There you see, my friends, the glorious armament which the Christian has and in which he puts all his invisible foes to flight. Therefore, do not feel secure for the devil as a roaring lion goes about seeking whom he may devour; do not despair but seize the armor of God, take as your girdle truth, as your breastplate righteousness, as your shoes the Gospel of peace, as your shield faith, as your helmet salvation in Christ, and as your sword the Word of God; then you will also "be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all to


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stand." May Jesus Christ grant this to us all! Amen.

22ND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY     Philippians 1:3-11.  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.

The Reformation, the commemoration of which we celebrated the past week, was a work of such universal salutary results, that at the present time one can scarcely point to one land or nation of Christendom where one cannot clearly detect traces of its mighty influence. Through the Reformation the entire Christian Church received a new form; yes, with it a new period in the history of mankind begins. Even many notable members of the Roman Church had had to admit that their church as well has to thank the Reformation not a little. Of course, the so-called Protestants above all are the ones who have reaped and enjoyed the precious fruits of that work, and there is hardly a Protestant who possesses only a bit of the knowledge of history who will not grant that the blessings of the Reformation are incalculable, and that a Protestant is surrounded by them until this hour as he is by the air.

However, what is usually prized today as the glorious fruit of the Reformation? Most eulogies which today deal with this work point to this, that by it the night of superstition lasting more than a thousand years was driven away, the church service which in the past consisted only of external ceremonies and observed in a foreign language abolished, the disgraceful domination of the pope and priests and the spiritual regimentation of the laity ended, the intolerable compulsion in matters of faith set aside, and the bloody abomination of the inquisition, that is, the secret court for heretics and especially the spirit of all religious persecution stopped; on the other hand, enlightenment in every regard was demanded, the right of one's own search for acceptance, and art and learning flourished, and thus freedom of religion and conscience and religious tolerance toward those who believe differently became the accepted rule.

To be sure, these are all the fruits of the Reformation, and indeed such glorious fruits for which we cannot thank God sufficiently; however, the most precious, yes, the true, the real fruit of this work has not yet been mentioned. First of all, one would err greatly if one were to think that Luther was drawn into the work of the Reformation because he had yearned for freedom from the oppressive yoke of papal dominion and things directly connected with it. No, the real cause was this: Luther was eager to be certain of God's grace and be saved, but he still did not know how he could receive God's grace and salvation. He had tormented himself for a long time, and tried to obtain rest and certainty for himself through his own works, through strict living in the monastery, through constant prayer, fasting, vigils, and other mortifications and expiations, but he had found no peace in his own works and sufferings; rather, by them he had often been led to the brink of despair; finally, by the reading of the Bible, which through God's amazing dispensation had come into his hands, it gradually became clearer and clearer to him that according to the Gospel not by his own works but through faith given him by God, not through his worthiness but


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alone by grace, not through his own righteousness but through the righteousness of another, not through his efforts and suffering but through the work and suffering of Jesus Christ the Son of God and Savior of sinners, is man to become righteous before God and be saved.

This discovery made Luther not only happy toward God (he himself writes that it has been as though the gates of paradise suddenly opened to a hopeless person), but this also made him so happy and bold over against men that he also had to preach the saving Gospel which had given him such great comfort, such heavenly refreshment, such living hope and rock-firm certainty, to the whole world; he did not let himself be frightened from this task even though the pope, emperor, and empire rose up against him, a weaponless monk, and threatened him with excommunication, the bann of empire, fire, and sword.

As the real understanding of the Gospel of God's grace in Christ was the real treasure which Luther had first found only for himself, so it was also the most precious, the true, the real fruit which the entire work of the Reformation brought to Christendom. Therefore, all who extol only freedom of religion and conscience which was returned to us through the Reformation rejoice only over the shells and forget the kernel it held; they find delight in the beautiful glittering frame and overlook the valuable picture mounted in it. Only he knows and enjoys the fruits of the Reformation who has, knows, enjoys, and thanks God for the pure doctrine of the Gospel. My friends, of this, that we are the very ones who owe God this thanks our today's Epistle bids me speak to you.

The text. Philippians 1:3-11.

This fellowship in the Gospel in which the Philippians once stood and for which the apostle in the words of our text thanks God is a blessing which we also enjoy as a fruit of the Reformation. Therefore, let me now speak to you on:

THE THANKS WHICH WE OWE GOD THAT HE LETS US ENJOY FELLOWSHIP IN THE GOSPEL AS A FRUIT OF THE REFORMATION

Let me show you:

1. Why We Are Obligated To Express Ardent Thanks To God For It. and

2. How We Should Show God Our Thanks For it.

I.

St. Paul begins our today's Epistle with the words: "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now." Vv.3-5.

We dare not suppose that the apostle tells the Christians at Philippi how he from the beginning and even now in his imprisonment at Rome thanks God that they came to the fellowship of the Gospel in order to praise himself. No, he did this in order to convince the Philippians how worthy of thanks the blessing of enjoying the fellowship in the Gospel is, that is, to have the Gospel and to have come to the right knowledge of it.

The correct application of the apostolic prayer of thanks in our Epis-


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tle is, therefore, also for us that we are to let ourselves be awakened to ponder why also we are obligated to thank God ardently for the fellowship in the Gospel which we enjoy as a fruit of the Reformation.

But where should I begin, where end, if I wanted to present to you the greatness of this blessing? The doctrine of the Gospel is that certain, true, and precious word that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world to make sinners righteous and save them, and that every sinner is righteous and is saved who believes in this Son of God and Savior of the world from his heart. This doctrine of the Gospel is the heart and center of all the teachings of Christendom. This doctrine separates the Christian religion from all other religions in the world. This doctrine alone makes a person a Christian. Without this doctrine all the other teachings of Holy Scripture help us not at all. Without it, it does not help to know that God is Triune, God created the world, God is love, God wants to lead all men to salvation, God became a man and this incarnate God is Christ, he lived on earth and suffered and died on the cross, on the third day he arose again and finally ascended into heaven. All these glorious doctrines with their blessed mysteries, as was said, help us not at all, if in addition we did not have the doctrine that all this took place for us and that through faith in it we are saved by grace. With this we would lose the key to all the others and they would be a useless treasure lying the depths of the sea. With the doctrine, as we might say, the precious diamond is taken out of the golden ring of Christian doctrine and the latter is thus of little or no value. With this doctrine the whole body of divine revelation loses its heart so that its other dead members cannot help us. Yes, nothing else is possible but that all other important doctrines of revelation can not only not help us in the least but must even be gradually lost, if the pure doctrine of the Gospel of the justification of the sinner through faith is lost. Therefore, if the Reformation has brought us nothing but freedom of religion and conscience, if it had even as many now claim brought us the new enlightenment which really is nothing but unbelief, rejection of the Gospel, renouncing all the bonds of the Word and commandments of God, and the idolization of man, then the Reformation would not have brought us out of ship of the piratical papacy safe to shore but cast us into the sea.

But blessed are we! It brought us to fellowship in the Gospel, as once the Philippians had it. In all eternity we will never be able to thank, praise, and extol God sufficiently for it. For he who has the Gospel and the true knowledge of it has the greatest treasure which a person can possess in this world. He need not despair in his sins; for the Gospel tells him that they are and will remain forgiven if he believes in it. He need not be terrified at the demands and threats of the Law; for the pure doctrine of the Gospel tells him that if he believes in it, God looks on him as though he had never transgressed the Law but kept it perfectly. He need not despair if his own heart and conscience accuse and condemn him and he sees nothing in himself and feels nothing in himself but sin and unrighteousness; for the pure doctrine of the Gospel tells him that if he believes in it the righteousness which he has and which avails before God is not in him but outside of him, not his own which he produced but another's, that is, Christ's righteousness. He need not be frightened at death; for the Gospel tells him that if he believes in it, and thus clings to Christ's Word, he shall never see death, since Christ tasted death for him and brought life and immortality to light. Finally, he need never be afraid of the final judgment, hell, and damnation; for the Gospel tells him that if he believes in it, he will not enter into judgment and will not be lost but shall have eternal life.

He who has the Gospel and the correct understanding of it lives, as it were, under the open heavens, into which he can enter any moment; he has the key to all of God's grace, to all comfort, and to all the treasures of salvation; he can unlock it for himself every time he needs it. And what is the most won-


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derful, he who has the comfort of the Gospel, need never fret with doubt even though he remains in this blessed state and reaches his goal; for the Gospel gives him the gracious assurance which the apostle gives the Philippians in our text when he continues: "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." V.6. Accordingly, who is able to describe the greatness of the blessing which they enjoy who possess the pure doctrine and the correct knowledge of the Gospel! They know the way to heaven on which even fools could not possibly go astray. They have in the pure doctrine of the Gospel of grace a touchstone, so that no glimmer of false doctrine, and if it would shine as the light of angels, can mislead them. In no distress can they despair, by no temptation be conquered; even in the hell of the anguish of sin and death they have heavenly comfort. Rightly, therefore, Luther writes: "If we understand this article correctly and rightly we have the true sun of heaven; but if we lose it, we also have nothing but pure hellish darkness."

What thanks we would, therefore, owe God if now the whole world enjoyed this blessing of possessing the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and if we only were not excluded! But God has done infinitely more for us. Many hundreds of millions of people next to us still sit in darkness and in the shadow of death and are without God and without hope in this world; and in the midst of Christendom countless numbers suppose they have the Gospel, they use it, they speak of faith, of justification, of grace, and the like; but having eyes to see they do not see, and having ears to hear they do not hear nor do they understand, and without noticing it, by their teaching of repentance, of the rebirth, of the signs of the state of grace, and of sanctification they make so many unevangelical principles, that because of them they have lost the purity of the Gospel and with it the true, unshakable comfort for poor sinners. On the other hand, among us God has let the light to shine forth out of darkness and has shined into our hearts with the brightness of God in the face of Jesus Christ, so that we can well distinguish Law and Gospel, justification and sanctification, grace and merit, so that every hour we know the source from which we can draw light, grace, comfort, and hope in all the distresses and sickness of our soul.

Oh truly, my friends, to thank God properly that he without any merit or worthiness on our part has so richly endowed us in preference to millions of others, our life is not only too short, but even in endless eternity we will find no end in doing this.

II.

My friends, we can and should give God some thanks and love by his grace for his blessing; therefore, secondly permit me to show you how above all we are to show God our thanks for it.

Paul indicates this in our text when he writes to the Philippians: "And this I pray, that your love may abound vet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, that ye may approve things that are excellent." Vv.9.10a. The apostle lets petition follow thanks; as he by thanks wanted to awaken the Philippians to thank God, so by the content of his prayer he wants to show them how they should show God their thanks for their fellowship in the Gospel. And accordingly, what is the first thing which they should do? They are to try to grow more and more in the knowledge and insight of the blessed Gospel. Far be it that this should be superfluous; rather they are to strive more and more zealously to try to enter every deeper into it and learn more and more of its divine power.


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With such thanks the Gospel was accepted 300 years ago by many thousands in Germany and other countries. When at the beginning of the Reformation a Venetian professor had received a copy of Luther's explanation of the Lord's Prayer in Italian and read it through, he exclaimed, delighted at the content of this little book: "Oh blessed hands which have written this most holy book! oh blessed eyes who will read it! oh blessed hearts who will pray it!" Again in the year 1539, shortly after Easter, one of the greatest foes of the Reformation, Duke George of Saxony, died and now the Lutheran Duke Henry ruled; Immediately throughout the entire dukedom the work of the Reformation was begun. Only a few weeks later, on Second Pentecost Day, Luther preached in the city of Leipzig, in which previously the Lutherans were severely oppressed by George, some executed, some exiled from the country. Great was the eagerness with which they heard the blessed Gospel of the justification of faith preached; the impression which Luther's sermon made was so deep that after he finished preaching, his hearers publicly in church sank to their knees and with hands lifted on high and tears streaming from their eyes loudly thanked God that he counted them worthy to hear this blessed, comforting teaching. But among them all, Luther himself was the one who by an untiring, sleepless zeal in reflection upon his Gospel thanked God for it. In the preface of his exposition of the Epistle to the Galatians he writes: "In my heart rules only and also should rule this one article, namely, faith in my dear Lord Christ, who is the only beginning, middle, and end of all my spiritual and divine thoughts which I may ever have day and night."

See here, my friends, how we are also to show our thanks for the Gospel which is given us; the Gospel is to become ever more dear, beloved, valuable, and precious to us; we should hear, read, and study it ever more eagerly, let it more and more fill end move our entire heart and mind, more and more enlighten our understanding, more and more change our will; in short, we are to walk in the light of the Gospel as the moon in the light of the sun.

Finally, the apostle adds: "That ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God." Vv.10b.11. We see from this: Our love for the Gospel and our zeal, study, knowledge, and insight should then also prove fruitful by a pure, unblamable, holy walk before the world and by all manner of good works, namely, by faithfulness in our calling and its affairs, by patience under the cross, by works of love toward our suffering neighbor who needs our help, and by gifts for the spread of the blessed Gospel among those who do not yet enjoy this blessing.

If we examine ourselves as to how we have thanked God for his beloved Gospel, what must we say? Are there not many among us who by their wretched attendance at the Lord's house and by their laziness in reading and studying the Word of God in their homes show that they are already satiated with the Gospel, that they are already tired of it; that they are like the Israelites who at first greedily gathered up the sweet manna but in a short time exclaimed: "Our soul loatheth this light bread"? Num 21:5. Yes, must we not all reproach ourselves with indolence? And how do matters stand if we ask about the purity and unblamableness of our whole walk and about our fruitfulness in all good works? Do not very many of us show that they are a stone of offence in God's kingdom and unfruitful trees who indeed stand in the garden of the church but now encumber the ground? Yes, when the question is asked, must not all without exception smite our breast and cry: "Lord, enter not into judgment with your servants"?

Come, then, my dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, let us today awaken from the sleep of indolence into which the evil foe would gladly lull us, so that we would sleep away salvation on the bright day of grace and lose for us


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and our children the treasure granted us! For there is no greater sin than unthankfulness for the blessings of the Gospel, for which punishment certainly will not be long in coming.

Look about you; on how many places the. light has once shown as now upon us; but they became indolent and lukewarm, sated and weary, and brought forth no fruit; thus they lost what they had before they were aware of it and now the night of false faith, yes, mostly of manifest unbelief has fallen upon them. The same thing we can also experience. God can take from us what we have and give it to other more thankful hearts, and without us being aware of it let us sit in darkness whilst the light of Goshen shines upon others.

Therefore, turn to us Lord Jesus; you have promised to complete the good work begun in us until your day. Have mercy upon us! Give us wakeful eyes which never slumber in the light of your Gospel, ardent hearts which are never lukewarm and cold, and strong hands and feet which never become weary and tired; bring your counsel to bless us and our children and through us also our fellow- redeemed to a glorious end. We beseech you to hear us for the sake of your grace and truth. Amen! Amen!

23RD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY      Philippians 3:17-21  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

There was a time when the cross was an object of universal horror, an instrument of the cruellest execution of criminals; it defiled the place where it stood, as does the stage of the hangman now. Particularly among the Jews he who hung on the cross was for that reason accounted cursed and the site of his execution a desecrated place, a place cursed by God.

However, after Christ died on the cross for the reconciliation of the sinful world, the cross has been sanctified; for Christians it has now become an object not of veneration but holy amazement, an object of their joy and comfort. Christians consider the cross a holy altar upon which the Lamb of God who carried the sins of the world offered himself; a precious symbol of their Christian faith and hope; an emblem of the reconciliation which the God-man and Mediator Jesus Christ established between God and men; and the victory banner of the Redeemer which is now planted upon the reconciled world after his conquest of sin, death, and hell; upon it is written with the blood of the reconciliation: "Under this banner is grace, victory, and salvation."

Now the cross no longer defiles the place where it is erected but rather dedicates and sanctifies it. With the sign of the cross the Christian identifies himself in order to remind himself of the salvation bestowed upon him and thus arm himself against all the foes of his body and soul. With the sign of the cross the breast and forehead of those baptized are marked, the elements of the Lord's Supper consecrated, the absolution imparted, and every Christian


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benediction pronounced. The emblem of the cross, sometimes made of wood, sometimes of stone, sometimes of metal, beautifies the Christian's breast, his living room, the altars, and pinnacles of their houses of God for the worship of the Trinity.

Above all, the Christian carries the cross in his heart. He can say that within his inmost heart Christ's name and cross are the only things which shine; this is his joy. The Christian sees in the cross the support upon which the fallen world relies that it might not sink, and which is also given him to raise him from his fall. He, therefore, says to Christ from the depths of his soul with that poet:

Thy cross shall be my staff in life,

Thy holy grave my rest from strife

Lord, in Thy nail-prints let me read

That Thou to save me has decreed. (148,6)

In the cross the Christian again sees the tree of life in the garden of the Church, after man, having eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, brought death and God's displeasure upon himself and shut himself out of paradise. A Christian with his whole heart agrees with the words of the Apostle Paul: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." Gal 6:14.

What? Should there be people in the midst of Christendom who despise the holy cross, who are ashamed of it and still wipe it off their foreheads as a defiling stain? Alas, yes! As Paul once had to complain of Israel which was proud of its Law, and the heathen who were proud of their wisdom: "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness," 1 Cor 1:23, so in Christendom must now those complain who preach the Word of the cross, that is, the Gospel of the crucified Savior of sinners. In the midst of Christendom -- alas, that I must say it -- there are enemies of Christ, enemies of his cross! The Epistle for today reminds us of this; permit me, therefore, to present this to you.

The text. Philippians. 3:17-21.

In this text just read Paul in great earnestness pronounces the sentence of damnation upon certain false prophets whom he calls enemies of the cross of Christ. That the apostle is not to be accused of having a loveless and heartless thirst for vengeance we conclude from the fact that at the same time his tears over them fall upon this same seemingly harsh Epistle directed against false prophets. "I tell you even weeping." he writes. Our text is, therefore, convincing evidence for the fact that in spite of all the earnestness with which a faithful teacher can preach judgment and damnation to false teachers, yet the tenderest love can be in his heart and tears of pity in his eyes.

With such a mind let us now ponder

THE ENEMIES OF CHRIST'S CROSS

1. Who They Are, and

2. What End Is In Store For Them.

Lord Jesus, you were obedient to your Father until death, even the death of the cross in order to atone for our disobedience; we beseech you to preserve us against the enemies of your cross; do not let our souls fall under


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their counsel nor let our end be the same as theirs. Grant us grace so that we may daily and hourly embrace your cross with the arms of our faith and thus, oh Crucified, impress your image so deeply upon our hearts that nothing in heaven and on earth can erase it. Let it appear to us in our anguish of death to comfort us, and if the cross should appear in the clouds as your sign when you will return, oh Son of man, whether we may still be alive or arise from our graves, grant that it will not be a witness of our hatred toward you but a symbol of grace under which we with all your elect will gather at your right hand, and, following it as your victory banner, enter with you into your eternal home. Amen. Amen.

I.

"Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ.) Vv. 17.18. These words begin our Epistle. The first question which we must answer is: Who are the enemies of the cross of Christ against whom the apostle warns? In the explanation closest to this point we read that in contrast to the enemies of the cross of Christ the apostle directs the Philippians to his own example. In the preceding verses Paul had stated that as a Pharisee he was blameless according to the Law, yet what things he counted for gain he for Christ's sake counted as loss; for he counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord; yes, for his sake he counted all things for dung "that I may," he continues, "win Christ and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith," V.9. Then the apostle calls upon the Philippians to follow him and look to those who also walk in such a way that they also are saved from the enemies of Christ's cross, we see, that by the enemies of Christ's cross the apostle means those who were enemies of the teaching that man is not saved by the Law and its works but through faith in Christ the Crucified.

That this is the correct explanation we clearly see, partly from the reports which Luke recorded in his Book of Acts of apostolic times, partly from other letters of the apostle. In the Acts we are told: Whenever the apostle had founded a congregation in a city through the preaching of the crucified Christ, diabolical Jews followed right behind him, who pictured the apostle as a blasphemer of the Mosaic Law and tried to convince the Christians just converted from Judaism, that no one could be saved who did not keep Moses' Law, that not faith in the Crucified but works make one righteous before God.

From the letters to the Corinthians and Galatians we see that in apostolic times even those teachers prowled about who pretended also to believe in Christ, yes, who called themselves the only true servants of Christ, on the other hand, tried to cast suspicions on the apostles as preachers of a false, fleshly Gospel; who alleged great zeal for the Law, for a pious life, and for good works, who absolutely demanded that the law of circumcision be observed by Christians at the risk of losing their salvation, and thus attempted to tear faith in the Crucified from the hearts of those converted by the apostles. With their semblance of holiness with which they knew how to surround themselves these false brethren also found ready admittance; they caused the entire congregation at Galatia to fall and provoked great disorder among the Corinthians; for at that time nothing was more difficult to endure for many Christians than the disgrace which among Jews and heathen lay upon the teaching, that man is righteous before God and saved without works, only by grace through faith in one who was crucified. Therefore, the apostle writes of these false prophets: "As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be cir-


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cumcised only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ Gal 6:12.

Far be it, however, that this generation of the enemies of the cross of Christ should have died out in our day; we are now living in the very days of which it is written: "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils," 1 Tim 4:1; and: "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts." 2 Pet 3:3. Yes, it is clear that these times have descended upon us; for now not only does one enemy of Christ's cross prowl about here and there, attempting to beguile and deceive the congregations; no, Christ's enemies have gotten control in the midst of Christendom.

For what is the doctrine which now is preached from the pulpits of most so-called Protestant churches? Now without the least hesitancy most preachers teach and their hearers gladly hear, that Christ is not the true God, equally eternal and almighty with the Father, but a son of God as are all good people, only more enlightened, wiser, more pious; Christ's death is, therefore, merely a martyr's death, a death to seal the truth of his doctrine; man is not cleansed by Christ's blood, he is not reconciled by Christ's death, Christ has not atoned for our sins by his suffering and death; therefore, nothing depends upon a person's faith but his virtues , his upright way of thinking, his good works, his blameless life; in this way alone a person makes himself acceptable before God, thus alone he is righteous before God, thus he must make himself worthy of salvation and earn a claim to heaven.

This is what thousands of preachers who call themselves Christian, Protestant, evangelical, yes, even Lutheran, now teach. Though such preachers with their teaching may often hypocritically praise Christ ever so highly, though they may summon people to follow in his steps and ever so sanctimoniously call on them to imitate his wonderful example, they are all nothing else but enemies of Christ's cross over whom the apostle weeps in our text: "Whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things." V.19. If you examine the life of those who are constantly talking of virtue instead of faith, praise man's dignity instead of grace, and extol man's noble deeds instead of Christ's merit, suffering, and dying, I say, if you examine the life of such preachers, you will discover that they indeed speak of virtue, human dignity, and good works but deny these things by their whole life and betray themselves as belly servers and earthly minded children of this world. They lead the way on the broad road of the majority and their hearers imitate them in the passionate lust of the world.

My friends, these are only the known enemies of Christ's cross; they uphold and strengthen the godless world in its unbelief, in its contempt of God and his Word, and in its earthly mind, but their hatred of Christ is too plain to deceive true Christians. There are in addition less easily known, more subtle enemies of Christ's cross with a holier air. They are those who also teach that Christ is the only begotten Son and that this death was a substitutionary, reconciling death; they also teach that man does not become righteous before God by his works but through faith; yet they deny grace and salvation to everyone who believes their teaching implicitly and wants to take comfort in God's grace and salvation without any merit and worthiness on their part, only in trust in the word of the Gospel which is sealed to them through Baptism and the Holy Supper. Indeed, they constantly preach about repentance, conversion, the rebirth, sanctification, but do not want to take pity on poor sinners and give no comfort to those who can say of themselves only that they are poor, lost sinners. They describe the faith and justification and pardon of man in such a way as if even


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the Gospel had been given to man to show him only how he must get grace by his efforts and climb to heaven with an unbearable burden. They call even the Savior a harsh, stern man, a Moses with thunder and lightning, yes, a king difficult to pray to, ruling over his followers with a scepter of iron.

Though such stern teachers and their friends and defenders may seem to have great substance, for awakened consciences they are nevertheless the most dangerous enemies of Christ and his holy, gracious cross. Without saying it, they frighten the sinner away from Christ and keep him away; without coming right to say it, they teach Christians to build their state of grace and salvation upon their own efforts; they chase the sheep of the Good Shepherd from the sweet meadows of the life-giving Gospel and drive them into the desolate wilderness of the Law which kills, and thus are the cause that thousands wander around their entire life seeking grace and certainty without finding it, yes, that thousands who have toiled hard to work out their salvation nevertheless die in despair without comfort.

II.

You see, my friends, they are the gross and subtile enemies of Christ's cross; let us secondly hear the end which is in store for them.

The answer which our text gives to this question is brief; it reads thus: "Whose end is destruction."

What a fearful verdict! My dear hearers, do not imagine, as was said, that this verdict comes from a hard heart or a secret grudge. Oh, no, we hear, as was already mentioned, that as the apostle wrote down this verdict, his heart broke and tears rolled down cheeks wrinkled by concern over these misled souls. However, not only could he not be silent about the truth, but his love to the foes of Christ's cross and the people whom they had already seduced wrung this frightful word from him. For he did not intend to say that an enemy of Christ's cross never could be converted nor be saved, but that if he remains an enemy until his end, then his end would be damnation.

And dare we perhaps be surprised at this verdict? Of a truth, no! Bear in mind: Because of sin every person is by nature an enemy of the holy God. But what did God do? In spite of our enmity toward him he did not lay aside his love toward us; rather, he used our enmity against him to reveal even more wonderfully the greatness of his love toward us. He himself became a man and by bleeding and dying on the accursed tree he atoned for our sins in order in this way to reconcile us with himself again. For, says the apostle: "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."

2 Cor 5:19.20.

What should and can God now do with a person who not only is God's enemy because of his holy Law and its stern demands, but who even behaves as an enemy of his reconciliation, as an enemy of his redeeming love, as an enemy of his saving grace, as an enemy of his mercy which pities all sinners, in brief, as an enemy of the cross on which his God and Savior bled and died for him? Tell me, what can, what should God do with a person who not only tramples on the blood of the reconciliation, not only reviles the Spirit of grace, not only wants no Savior, no Mediator, no Redeemer, but in order to fill his belly on earth, or appear very holy expresses his enmity against the teaching of the cross and grace in Christ, leads others away from Christ, and again tears them from the arms of their Good Shepherd, the one who shows mercy upon them, from arms into which


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they had been placed by Baptism? Who can measure the mountain of guilt which piles up every day to heaven which he places upon his conscience? The “end" of such an enemy of God can be nothing else but fearful, nothing else but most frightful, in short, nothing else but eternal "damnation."

Therefore, though the enemies of Christ's cross may always be highly esteemed in the world; though people may run to them like water; though they may be praised as men of freedom, light, enlightenment, progress; though they may enrich themselves with the generous gifts of their poor deceived hearers; though every day their life may be a wonderful one, one of joy, that is no reason to envy or mock them; they should be wept over. For alas, when this brief time will be passed when they were still under divine patience, they will have to appear before Christ as enemies of his cross, before the judgment throne of him whose divinity they denied, whose majesty they ridiculed, whose grace they reviled, on whose blood they trampled, whose Gospel they falsified, out of whose arms they tore dearly bought souls and dragged with them into the pool of unbelief and blasphemy. Then Christ will say to them: Where are those Souls which you should have led to me? What have I done to you, you wretch, that you have persecuted me? And behold! hell will suddenly open beneath them and swallow them, and they will be tormented and the smoke of their torment will ascend forever and ever.

Oh be warned, my dear people, who now live in a time when even in this city you hear from all sides the deceitful voice of the enemies of Christ's cross. Do not be misled by their good fortune in this world, as was Asaph; but enter the sanctuary of God, his Word, and there see their end. "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castest them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors." Ps 73:18.19. Therefore, embrace the cross of your Savior the more firmly in faith and let nothing tear you free. There lay down your sins, there lay down your righteousness, there lay down all your worries and wishes and learn to say from your heart: My Love is crucified; for he who is on the cross is my love,

my righteousness, my comfort, my life, my salvation, my all. Then though death may come, yes, though the world may be destroyed, the anchor of the cross will not crumble; by it you will be led up over this wretched world with its miseries into heaven where the Crucified sits upon the throne of his eternal glory and all his followers around him. All of them can and should, therefore, say with Paul at the close of our text: "For our conversation." that is, our citizenship, "is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." Vv.20.21. Amen.

24TH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY      Colossians 1:9-14.  TOP   (German, Archive)

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

In our beloved Redeemer, my dear hearers.

That there is a natural religion or knowledge of God which man can


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out of himself simply cannot be denied, whether we consult the Bible, or reason, or experience. That there is a God, only one God, a good, righteous God, and that man is obligated to serve and honor this God are truths which every person in part actually knows also without Scripture, in part can discover.

"Because that which may be known of God," writes Paul of the heathen in the first chapter of his Letter to the Romans, "is manifest in them, for God hath showed it unto them." V.19. When God created man, he gave him a soul and a heart into which the image of God had been impressed so deeply that God presented himself to man in the clearest light. By becoming spotted with sin man lost this divine image; however, even in fallen man a little spark of the knowledge that there is a God still remains. This knowledge about God is still implanted in every man and impressed to a certain degree upon his soul, his heart. That is why there is no people on earth, though they may be the most uncivilized and uneducated, which has not had its religion and worship; and that is also why even the most powerful tyrants, who had denied God by word of mouth and had feared no other human being, were after a life full of shameful deeds for the most part tortured by the most fearful torments of conscience, by an inner anguish and restlessness of an unknown, higher Judge. For whence would this secret, gnawing fear come had it not been indelibly written in man's heart: "There is a God!"?

However, the natural knowledge of God does not arise only in a consciousness of God which forces itself upon man with irresistible power, because it was created and remains in all men; a second way by which a person without the Scriptures can arrive at the conviction that there is a God is by a study of the world.

In his Letter to the Romans Paul testifies also to this when he writes in the first chapter: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." V.20. He testifies to this again publicly before the heathen in the market places in Lystra and Athens where he said: In times past G0d let all heathen walk in their own ways; however, he did not leave himself without a witness, having done much good to them, giving them rain from heaven and fruitful seasons and filling their hearts with food and joy, so that they should seek the Lord if they might feel for him and find him. David also expresses the same thought in the words: "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Ps 19;l-4.

If a person would study the great edifice of this world, his reason would tell him that it could not possibly have originated by itself; there must have been a great Architect who was in existence before it was founded, an eternal, almighty God who built it and created everything. Moreover, if he would study the amazing laws which are in operation amongst all the millions of different beings and by which they are harmoniously united into one large whole; if he would study only the organism of the human body, the human eye, yes, the most insignificant insect, he would find so many millions of the most miraculous works of art which no human mind is able to fit together; his reason, therefore tells him that there must be an all-wise, higher Being who has called into existence, ordered, and united all with amazing wisdom.

Again, if a person would study how the well-being of all living beings in the world is provided, how food, clothing, joy, protection is provided for each one, and heaven and earth is full of wonderful good things, his reason


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would tell him: There must be a good God who administers the duties of a father in his great, broad, infinite creation. Finally, if a person notices how his conscience sometimes accuses him, sometimes excuses him, how it particularly scolds him and his heart beats faster every time he intends to transgress the Law of holiness, his reason must tell him: There is a God who is holy and righteous and demands righteousness from you. Paul writes plainly enough: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the Law," that is, the Law given by special divine revelation, "do by nature the things contained in the Law, these,having not the Law, are a law unto themselves; which show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another." Rom 2:14.15.

Hence, my dear hearers, as certain as it is that even according to the judgment of reason only fools can say in their hearts: "There is no God;" as certainly as every person has by nature received the consciousness of God in his heart, and as certainly as the study of the works of creation leads to a definite knowledge of God, this natural knowledge, however, is not enough for man's salvation. This requires a greater knowledge which cannot be drawn from the book of nature but only from the books of a direct, supernatural revelation, the Holy Scriptures. Permit me to speak to you during this hour of this knowledge of God.

The text. Colossians 1:9-14.

The Colossians to whom Paul's letter was directed from which today's Epistle is taken, I say, the Colossians were not converted by Paul but by a certain Epaphras. When Paul was in prison at Rome, he received news from this Epaphras that through him a Christian congregation, distinguished in faith and love, had been gathered in Colosse. Therefore, Paul begins in our text with the words: "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it. do not cease to pray for you." V.9. What above all was it which the apostle who so zealously provided for all congregations asked of God? He himself tells us when he adds: "And desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will." and a little later he adds: "And increasing in the knowledge of God." Growing in the knowledge of God and his will was, therefore, the chief thing which Paul did not cease obtaining for the converted Colossians through prayer. Upon the basis of this Epistle permit me to speak to you on:

THE SAVING KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND HIS WILL

1. Its Essence, and

2. Its Results.

Lord Jesus Christ, no one knows the Father but you, oh Son of God, and he to whom you want to reveal the Father. We, therefore, beseech you, arise as the true Morning Star in our hearts so that we may recognize the Father in you and in this knowledge love and serve him and be saved. To that end bless also this sermon of your blessed Gospel in all our hearts. Amen.

I.

The Apostle Paul speaks with the Colossians as though they had known absolutely nothing of the Gospel before they became Christians,as though not until now had they come to and could they grow in the knowledge of God. Paul speaks the same way to the Ephesians; he writes: "Remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, at that time ye were without Christ, having no


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hope, and without God in the world." Eph 2:11.12. That is true. The na