Lutheran Worship and Resources



Traditional Lutheran worship services, using The Lutheran Hymnal and the KJV.

Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

The Lutheran Library Publishing Ministry

Bethany Lutheran Worship on
Ustream - Sunday, 10 AM CDT.


Midweek Lenten - 7 PM Central Daylight.

Saved worship files and Greek lessons are at the live worship link.

email: greg.jackson.edlp@gmail.com,
which works asgregjacksonedlp@gmail.com too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
Book of Concord Selections
Martin Chemnitz Press Books

Norma A. Boeckler Author's Page

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson's Author's Page

Sunday, September 28, 2008

TLH Available For Free



The Second Martin



The Lutheran Hymnal


If you need The Lutheran Hymnal for the Bethany services, our Distribution Center can mail one or more to you for free. Just send your name and address to my email address.

The user name is the same as the primary editor of the Formula of Concord. The provider is cox.net.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity



"Rev. Kelm, you can copy my sermons all you wish. Public domain."


Luther's Sermons Scanned Here

The Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #195 by Luther Christ lag in Todesbanden
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual Eph 4:22-28
The Gospel Luke Matthew 9:1-8
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #191 Llanfair

Be of Good Cheer – Your Sins Are Forgiven

The Hymn #369 Wenn wir in hoechsten Noeten
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #370 Magdalen

KJV Ephesians 4:22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

KJV Matthew 9:1 And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. 2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7 And he arose, and departed to his house. 8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.

Nineteenth Sunday After Trinity: The Collects of Veit Dietrich
O mighty and everlasting God, who by Thy Son Jesus Christ didst mercifully help the palsied man both in body and soul: We beseech Thee, for the sake of Thy great mercy: Be gracious also unto us; forgive us all our sins, and so govern us by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may not ourselves be the cause of sickness and other afflictions; keep us in Thy fear, and strengthen us by Thy grace that we may escape temporal and eternal wrath and punishment, through Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
(A Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, Treatise Compiled by the Theologians Assembled at Smalcald - 1537
Magister Veit Dieterich of Nuernberg subscribed)
Be of Good Cheer – Your Sins Are Forgiven
Matthew 9:2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

There are many important elements in this miracle story. I often read Luther’s sermon on the text, which is available in the seven-volume set. Here is a link from CBD:

http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=11997&netp_id=200578&event=ESRCN&item_code=WW&view=covers

Seven volumes sell for $35, the approximate cost of one hard-cover novel.

From Luther I have learned to see different doctrines emphasized in similar stories. A new reader (or young pastor) may see just another miracle story here in this text. But there are two things at work here.

One is the brevity of the Gospels. Each Gospel is so short that the inclusion of a passage must mean that God considered it vitally important. We should too.

I told this story before, but it fits what I am saying. One time we left New Ulm for the Mayo Clinic. I forgot to bring my wallet. I did not realize it until we were there, 140 miles from home. Chris did not bring hers. We had $3 in quarters for the day. We ate lunch and that was sparse. Chris got the sandwich because I forgot the money. I ate the crusts. They were so good because I was not going to have anything else. I had a little change, so I bought a box of cough drops. Each one was like a ruby. I enjoyed it and savored it. I was glad for every calorie. On the way home we bought food with my Amoco card at a gas station mart. That was no so good because we could have any amount of junk food they sold.

So we should savor every phrase of the Gospels and Paul’s letters because of the brevity of the Scriptures.

The second thing at work is our appreciation for the same text as we hear it and study it, year after year. Variety is the reason for people abandoning the simple, plain truths of the Word of God. They itch for something new and superficial instead of hungering for something old and satisfying.

In this text we see the example of faith – first of all. “Lo” or “Behold” means – this was that famous miracle. The friends believed in Christ and brought the man with palsy to see Jesus. The crowd was impossible so they went up on the roof with him. This was the man lowered down from the roof. The roofing tiles were pulled away and he was let down, a terrifying experience for someone tied into a cot. They had faith and the palsied man had faith in Christ’s healing power.

As Luther mentioned, no request of Jesus was ever declined. When we stumble over difficult passages (like the Canaanite woman) we should remember that.

Jesus’ reputation spread far and wide. He healed people and multitudes were drawn to Him by His personality, His kindness, and His powerful preaching. This also made powerful enemies.

Jesus saw the faith of the men and said, “Child, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven.”

Lenski has said, “There are sermons in the grammar,” and by that he meant the exact meaning of the word can be parsed because Greek is so precise. The moment Jesus pronounced those words, the man’s sins were forgiven. Lenski says in Matthew, p. 346:

“No man’s sins are forgiven without faith present in his heart.”

The religious opponents knew the meaning of this absolution. Only God can forgive sins. They howled, “He is blaspheming! – speaking against the majesty of God by assuming that divinity himself!”

In that respect Jesus earned a confession of sorts from his opponents, just as He did from the demons who possessed people: “We know who You are – the Son of the Blessed!”

When Jesus saw the Pharisees reacting against Him, He asked, “Which is easier, to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Take up your cot and walk’?”

The next section is very powerful:

Matthew 9:6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7 And he arose, and departed to his house.

That is why Matthew wrote “Lo” – because everyone knew that story. And who could forget a man lowered from the roof and walking away with his cot in his strengthened arms?

Lenski has good insights about the plight of the man. His sinfulness did not cause his paralysis, but the palsy brought out his sinful nature. I have known people trapped in useless bodies who raged against their fate. One man refused to take communion because of his anger. He blamed God for his problems, which were apparently caused by bad surgery. He kept saying, “I once swung a sledge-hammer all day.”

We do not have exact details about the palsied man, but we can see Jesus healed him both in body and soul.

The Pharisees saw that only God can forgive sins. And how did this happen? The Word of God, spoken by Jesus, conveyed this forgiveness to the believer, the palsied man.

The absolution (beautifully described in TLH #331) accomplishes the same, with the pastor repeating the Word of Christ: “Your sins are forgiven.”

Some consume this Gospel without knowing or experiencing what it means. The Pharisees heard the Gospel promise and it hardened their hearts even more, showing how effective the Word is. (Blinding or enlightening, hardening or converting)

Jesus taught in great detail about people who experience forgiveness, believe in Christ, and then let go of the Word and become worse than ever before. Others see the Gospel as a way to improve their living or their reputations. They may come for the wrong reason and become converted. Or they may become worse as they harden themselves against the Word.

There is one story of an organist who never came to communion for decades. Finally, one day he appeared at the altar to take communion with the rest. The Word finally penetrated his heart.

One unfortunate affliction of theologians and church historians is reading too many books. So many times I recall those idiotic passages of well-educated people who rail against the plain meaning of the Word. They would climb into heaven and advise God. Why so many instruments of grace (Means of Grace)?
Perhaps man needs the Word spoken and taught, the Word visible in baptism and communion, the absolution, and the mutual consolation of the brethren.

G. K. Chesterton said that man does not need absolution so much as a complete confession. I take that as a description of the sinful state of man. Because of our weakness, our frailty, God has given us many ways to receive complete, full, and free forgiveness of our sins.

Forgiveness does strengthen us. Nothing is so disabling as bearing a burden of sin. Worse than this burden is the thought of man paying for this sin, redeeming himself by acts of contrition. As Luther said, “People purchase Hell for themselves when they can have heaven for free.”

Lack of forgiveness wears us down, either with depression or anger. Some say anger and depression go together. Because of our sinful nature, we act according to wrong assumptions. The most basic concerns forgiveness. Once we grasp the Gospel forgiveness offered to us so freely and generously, we cannot be stingy with others in any way. If we wait to forgive until everyone pleases us, we will torture ourselves.

That is what often happens in families. There is an attitude of “I will be happy when things go my way.” If the ministry of Jesus had been like that, we would still be heathen worshiping trees and sacrificing human beings. Instead, we should generate happiness by making others happy. Blessings and misery multiply, but blessings are easier to generate as the fruit of the Gospel Promises.

Here is one question, “How can I make this a memorable day for you?” Then wait for then answer and act on it. That can have multiple effects of forgiveness, joy, love, warmth, and happiness.

The Gospel is so powerful that it can affect the people closest to us, starting with us.

---

From Luther's sermon on this text:

THE POWER ON EARTH TO FORGIVE SINS.


28. The Pharisees knew very well that to forgive sins was the work of God, and belonged to him alone. For this reason they regarded Christ as a blasphemer, who as a man pretended to forgive sins. The forgiveness of sin is of two kinds: The first is to drive sin from the heart and infuse grace into it; this is the work of God alone. The second kind is the declaration of the forgiveness of sin; this man can do to his fellowman. But here Christ does both. He instills the Spirit into the heart and externally he declares forgiveness with the word, which is a declaration and public preaching of the internal forgiveness.


Page 209 ---------------------------


29. All men who are Christians and have been baptized, have this power. For with this they praise Christ, and the word is put into their mouth, so that they may and are able to say, if they wish, and as often as it is necessary: Behold, 0 Man! God offers thee his grace, forgives thee all thy sins; be comforted, thy sins are forgiven; only believe and thou wilt surely have forgiveness. This word of consolation shall not cease among Christians until the last day: "Thy sins are forgiven, be of good cheer." Such language a Christian always uses and openly declares the forgiveness of sins. For this reason and in this manner a Christian has power to forgive sins.


30. Therefore if I say to you: Thy sins are forgiven, then believe it as surely as though God himself had said it to you. But who could do this if Christ had not descended, had not instructed me and said that we should forgive one another our trespasses? As when he says, John 20, 22-23: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained unto them." And at another place, Mat. 18, 19-20, he says: "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them." The word penetrates and performs it.


31. Now if there were no man on earth to forgive sins, and there were only law and works what a weak, and miserable thing a poor troubled conscience would be. But now when God adequately instructs every one, so that he is able to say to others: Thy sins are forgiven thee, whereever thou art; the golden age has arrived. On this account we are to be defiant and boastful against sin, so that we can say to our brother, who is in anxiety and distress on account of his sins: Be of good cheer, my brother, thy sins are forgiven; although I cannot give thee the Holy Ghost and faith, I can yet declare them unto thee; if thou believest, thou hast them. They who thus believe these words, praise and glorify God, even as they do here in the Gospel.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity




Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #40 Yigdal
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
The Gospel Luke Matthew 22:34-46
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #199 Easter Hymn

God at Work

The Hymn #331 Old Hundreth
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #200 Duke Street

KJV 1 Corinthians 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

KJV Matthew 22:34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. 41 While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42 Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. 43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? 46 And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.
Eighteenth Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father: We are poor, miserable sinners; we know Thy will, but cannot fulfill it because of the weakness of our flesh and blood, and because our enemy, the devil, will not leave us in peace. Therefore we beseech Thee, shed Thy Holy Spirit in our hearts, that, in steadfast faith, we may cling to Thy Son Jesus Christ, find comfort in His passion and death, believe the forgiveness of sin through Him, and in willing obedience to Thy will lead holy lives on earth, until by Thy grace, through a blessed death, we depart from this world of sorrow, and obtain eternal life, through Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The God of Abram Praise

Jewish Christians understand better than anyone:
that Christianity began before time;
that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are portrayed through out the Old Testament;
that the entire Old Testament is beginning of the New Testament Gospel story.

There are two entirely different responses by Jewish believers to the Gospel. One response is found in many different written sources. An example was about this passage – Jesus gave an answer that can also be found among the famous Jewish rabbis. The Torah can be summed up as love God, love your neighbor. The same sources go on to say that other rabbis miraculously healed people. (In fact, miracle rabbis are commonly discussed in the modern novels of Isaac B. Singer.)

The other response is quite different. Many Jewish believers realize that everything in the Old Testament points to Christ, that the Trinity is taught throughout the Old Testament, that the Son of God appears everywhere in the Old Testament.

The questions being asked in this passage are part of Jewish Passover tradition. The male leader of the meal (the rabbi, if he is there) is asked three questions, each question designed to stump him. Then he asks a question to stump his audience. This is part of the Jewish intellectual tradition, which serves them so well in different fields.

This Gospel passage shows Jesus asking the final question, stumping his hearers.

What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. 43 He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45 If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?

This is a passage to stump anyone, especially a non-believer. It seems to be a word play, so many people just dismiss it as unimportant. But it features a theme found in the book The Jewish Trinity, about the Trinity in the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament and New Testament, God the Father is Lord, God the Son is Lord, God the Holy Spirit is Lord. Each person is addressed as Lord, but there is one God.

All the three-part passages of the Bible make sense, when we find God’s attributes described in groups of three, or God revealed in threes.

What can be more Trinitarian than the Aaronic blessing?

The Lord (Father) bless you and keep you.
The Lord (Son) make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you.
The Lord (Holy Spirit) lift up His countenance and give you peace.

KJV Numbers 6:22 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 23 Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, 24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. 27 And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.

So the passage from the Psalms used by Jesus makes perfect sense when the names of God are used:

KJV Psalm 110:1 {A Psalm of David.} The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

The Father said to the Son, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.

KJV Philippians 3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 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.
KJV Hebrews 1:13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?

KJV Hebrews 10:12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; 13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

This is expressed in different words, but with the same theme (total submission to Christ at the end):

KJV Philippians 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So when Jesus asked about this passage from the Psalms, the Jewish opposition was silenced. As someone once pointed out, there are three levels of response to a thought:

1. The audience agrees. So there was already general agreement.
2. The audience is angry. This means that something new has been said, so everyone is stirred up and thinking about it, discussing it among themselves.
3. The audience is silent. The idea has such an impact that no one can talk.

The silence does not mean that no one was converted by the Word. We know from many different sources that large numbers of Jews became Christians, creating a crisis in Judaism. Chemnitz has an interesting note that the Talmud was begun to stop the inroads of Christianity. Nevertheless, Christianity has had great appeal to Jews throughout history.

What does this passage mean for us?

The Holy Spirit is always at work, bringing Christ to us and us to Christ. Every phrase from the Word is Jesus coming to us, bringing forgiveness, hope, strength, and comfort to us.

The righteousness of Christ comes to us through the Word. Believers receive the blessing of complete and full forgiveness each and every day (Small Catechism, Creed).

In giving us His righteousness, Christ gives us some of His nature. Original sin means we are still selfish and self-centered, but the Gospel leaven works in us to make us more loving, patient, forgiving, and generous with others. The New Creation (the believer) takes over from the Old Adam and subdues, as much as possible, that sinful nature.

Repentance and faith in the Gospel is that constant renewal taking place to fulfill the will of God. Sin is suppressed, but never extinguished. Nevertheless, we must always emphasize that the Gospel is the cure for besting sin. The Law cannot be. The Law performs the diagnosis but does not heal or give the power to resist temptation.

The reason is that the Old Adam can be frightened into being outwardly good, but the New Creation, the believer, wants to serve God and loves the Word. The Gospel moves people to love the Son, to love His Word, to love following Him as the Good Shepherd, as “anxious for Him as He is for us.” (Luther)

---

David Chytraeus, Concordist


J-554

"How is a person justified before God? This occurs solely by faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ; that is, freely, not because of any works or merits of one's own but only because of the one Mediator, Jesus Christ, who became the sacrificial victim and propitiation on our behalf. By this sacrifice, man obtained forgiveness of sins and became righteous; that is, God-pleasing and acceptable. His righteousness was imputed to man for Christ's sake, and man becomes an heir of eternal life when he believes with certainty that God gives him these blessings for the sake of His Son."

David Chytraeus, A Summary of the Christian Faith (1568), trans., Richard Dinda, Decatur: Repristination Press, 1994. p. 105.



"Christian righteousness is the forgiveness of sin, the imputation of the righteousness of Christ and acceptance to eternal life. It is free, not the result of any virtues or works but is given solely because of Christ, the Mediator, and apprehended by faith alone."

David Chytraeus, A Summary of the Christian Faith (1568), trans., Richard Dinda, Decatur: Repristination Press, 1994. p. 106.



"Scripture therefore uses these words, 'We are justified by faith,' to teach both: 1) What the reason (or merit) for justification is, or what the blessings of Christ are; to wit, that through and for the sake of Christ alone we are granted forgiveness of sins, righteousness and eternal life; and 2. How these should be applied or transferred to us; namely, by embracing the promise and relying on Christ by faith alone."

David Chytraeus, A Summary of the Christian Faith (1568), trans., Richard Dinda, Decatur: Repristination Press, 1994. p. 107.



Martin Chemnitz, Concordist


J-555

"But when we are speaking of the subject itself, it is certain that the doctrine of gracious reconciliation, of the remission of sins, of righteousness, salvation, and eternal life through faith for the sake of the Mediator is one and the same in the Old and in the New Testament. This is a useful rule which we must retain at all costs: The doctrine, wherever we read it, in either the Old or New Testament, which deals with the gracious reconciliation and the remission of sins through faith for the sake of God's mercy in Christ, is the Gospel."

Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., trans. J. A. O. Preus, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989, II, p. 459.



"Therefore God, 'who is rich in mercy' [Ephesians 2:4], has had mercy upon us and has set forth a propitiation through faith in the blood of Christ, and those who flee as suppliants to this throne of grace He absolves from the comprehensive sentence of condemnation, and by the imputation of the righteousness of His Son, which they grasp in faith, He pronounces them righteous, receives them into grace, and adjudges them to be heirs of eternal life. This is certainly the judicial meaning of the word 'justification,' in almost the same way that a guilty man who has been sentenced before the bar of justice is acquitted."

Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., trans. J. A. O. Preus, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989, II, p. 482. Ephesians 2:4



"Yet these exercises of faith always presuppose, as their foundation, that God is reconciled by faith, and to this they are always led back, so that faith may be certain and the promise sure in regard to these other objects. This explanation is confirmed by the brilliant statement of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:20: 'All the promises of God in Christ are yea and amen, to the glory of God through us,' that is, the promises concerning other objects of faith have only then been ratified for us when by faith in Christ we are reconciled with God. The promises have been made valid on the condition that they must give glory to God through us."

Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., trans. J. A. O. Preus, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989, II, p. 495. 2 Corinthians 1:20



"Therefore this apprehension or acceptance or application of the promise of grace is the formal cause or principle of justifying faith, according to the language of Scripture."

Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., trans. J. A. O. Preus, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989, II, p. 502.



"We must note the foundations. For we are justified by faith, not because it is so firm, robust, and perfect a virtue, but because of the object on which it lays hold, namely Christ, who is the Mediator in the promise of grace. Therefore when faith does not err in its object, but lays hold on that true object, although with a weak faith, or at least tries and wants to lay hold on Christ, then there is true faith, and it justifies. The reason for this is demonstrated in those lovely statements in Philippians 3:12: 'I apprehend, or rather I am apprehended by Christ' and Galatians 4:9: 'You have known God, or rather have been known by God.' Scripture shows a beautiful example of this in Mark 9:24: 'I believe; help my unbelief.'"

Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., trans. J. A. O. Preus, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989, II, p. 503. Philippians 3:12; Galatians 4:9; Mark 9:24.



"For we are not justified because of our faith (propter fidem), in the sense of faith being a virtue or good work on our part. Thus we pray, as did the man in Mark 9:24: 'I believe, Lord; help my unbelief'; and with the apostles: 'Lord, increase our faith,' Luke 17:5."

Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., trans. J. A. O. Preus, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989, II, p. 506 Mark 9:24; Luke 17:5.



"But because not doubt but faith justifies, and not he who doubts but he who believes has eternal life, therefore faith teaches the free promise, which relies on the mercy of God for the sake of the sacrifice of the Son, the Mediator, and not on our works, as Paul says in Romans 4:16: 'Therefore it is of faith, that the promise might be sure according to grace.'"

Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., trans. J. A. O. Preus, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989, II, p. 507. Romans 4:16



"Thus when we say that we are justified by faith, we are saying nothing else than that for the sake of the Son of God we receive remission of sins and are accounted as righteous. And because it is necessary that this benefit be taken hold of, this is said to be done 'by faith,' that is, by trust in the mercy promised us for the sake of Christ. Thus we must also understand the correlative expression, 'We are righteous by faith,' that is, through the mercy of God for the sake of His Son we are righteous or accepted."

Melanchthon, Loci Communes, “The Word Faith.” Cited in Martin Chemnitz, Loci Theologici, 2 vols., trans. J. A. O. Preus, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989, II, p. p. 489.



Jacob Andreae, Concordist



"Concerning the article on the justification of the poor sinner in God's sight, we believe, teach, and confess on the basis of God's Word and the position of our Christian Augsburg Confession that the poor, sinful person is justified in God's sight—that is, he is pronounced free and absolved of his sins and receives forgiveness for them—only through faith, because of the innocent, complete, and unique obedience and the bitter sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, not because of the indwelling, essential righteousness of God or because of his own good works, which either precede or result from faith. We reject all doctrines contrary to this belief and confession."

Jacob Andreae, Confession and Brief Explanation of Certain Disputed Articles. Cited in Robert Kolb, Andreae and the Formula of Concord, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1977, p. 58.



"Indeed, it has been proved more than sufficiently from the Scriptures of the prophets and apostles in the Old and New Testaments that the righteousness which avails in God's sight, which poor sinners have for comfort in their worst temptations, cannot and should not be sought in our own virtues or good works; nor will it be found there, as was proved above against the papists. Instead, it should be sought only in Christ the Lord, whom God has made our righteousness and who saves all believing Christians and makes them righteous through knowledge of Him."

Jacob Andreae, The First Sermon, On the Righteousness of Faith in God's Sight. Cited in Robert Kolb, Andreae and the Formula of Concord, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1977, p. 67.



"That is enough on the first article concerning which the theologians of the Augsburg Confession have quarreled with each other. Although it was a very scandalous controversy, nonetheless God, who lets nothing evil happen if He cannot make something good out of it, has produced this benefit for His church through the controversy: The chief article of our Christian faith, on which our salvation depends, has been made clear, so that there is not a passage in the Old or New Testament which has not been considered and discussed."

Jacob Andreae, The First Sermon, On the Righteousness of Faith in God's Sight. Cited in Robert Kolb, Andreae and the Formula of Concord, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1977, p. 76.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity




Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #44 by Koren, Gude Menighed
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual Ephesians 4:1-6
The Gospel Luke 14:1-11
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #467 by Grundtvig, Kirken den er

Unity in Truth

The Hymn #330 Wenn wir in hoechsten Noeten
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #44 Guide Me


KJV Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

KJV Luke 14:1 And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. 2 And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. 3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? 4 And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; 5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? 6 And they could not answer him again to these things. 7 And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, 8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father: We beseech Thee so to guide and direct us by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may not exalt ourselves, but humbly fear Thee, with our whole hearts hear and keep Thy word, and hallow the Lord's day, that we also may be hallowed by Thy word; help us, first, to place our hope and confidence in Thy Son, Jesus Christ, who alone is our righteousness and Redeemer, and, then, so to amend and better our lives in accordance with Thy word, that we may avoid all offenses and finally obtain eternal salvation, through Thy grace in Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God. world without end. Amen.

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [7 ones follow]
4 There is one body,
and one Spirit,
even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord,
one faith,
one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all,
who is above all, and through all,
and in you all.
[Verses 4-6 each have a triadic structure and name the Trinity as Spirit, Lord, God the Father.]


UNITY OF FAITH, ONENESS OF GOD

Those who look down upon the Scriptures, as if they could write better themselves, should examine two verses of the six in this lesson. In verses 5 and 6 St. Paul confesses the Three-ness of the One God with a series of ones, seven in all. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are named, although not in that order. The ones not only include the members of the Trinity and the One God, but the ones also associate in that unity the body (the Christian Church), the hope we all have for eternal life, our unity of faith, and our common baptism.

The Scriptures not only reveal the unity of God, but also the Three-ness of the One God. We cannot explain it using our human reason. It is a mystery revealed by the Word of God. Man rebels against it, as he does with every aspect of God’s Word. The Socianians named in the Book of Concord were early Unitarians, denying the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The ELCA dogmatics book, by Braaten and Jenson, claims, and I paraphrase, that the Trinity is “merely the Father, the man Jesus, and the spirit of the believing community.” That statement is Unitarian and contrary to all Christian confessions. I knew an LCA pastor who said, “The book was written to counter the wild radicals who wanted to toss everything out.” Something was left after Braaten and Jenson? Yes, they saw their effort as conservative and confessional, making anyone wonder what those words were supposed to mean.

St. Paul wrote this passage to emphasize a unity in the church that was based upon the unity of God. That unity can be experienced all over the world, as we do in our little congregation. The sermon broadcast and sent around the world. Those people read or hear the sermon because of a common desire to read the Word of God. The Word called every single one of us to faith.

The Holy Spirit, through the Gospel of Christ, called us to faith by proclaiming the promises of God, the promise of forgiveness and eternal life. God is One, so there can only be one truth. This unique truth creates unity in a world torn apart by divisions: racial, gender, class, age, and economic.

We experience that unity when people from all walks and all classes are brought together by the Gospel. The true Christian Church is invisible, not identified by synodical or denominational signs, or by independence, but by faith in salvation through the merits of Christ alone. It is ironic that man seeks unity by merging visible organizations. Unity can only come from a common confession of the truth of the Gospel.

One of the main sources of confusion today is derived from a lack of confidence in the unique truth of God’s Word. Truth is reduced to a patchwork of opinions, supposedly of equal value. However, once the concept of truth is reduced, one person’s peculiar version is promoted, at gunpoint if needed, and defended at all costs.

Confusion is closely allied with arrogance. Man creates confusion and then uses chaos to rule over other people.

In contrast, God’s truth is humbling. First of all, the Sword of the Spirit, sharper than any two-edged weapon, pierces into the joints and marrow, judging our thoughts and intentions. (Hebrews 4) When we repeatedly discover from the mirror of the Law that our hearts are dead toward God, that we rebel against Him in every way, that all our efforts are tainted by the Old Adam.

This judgment seems too harsh. We would rather do away with the Biblical doctrine of original sin. So it is not surprising that those who would diminish God would also deify man. They make man inherently good, or basically good, although Jesus said, “No one is good but God.”

We are all unified by original sin. No one is better than anyone else. The best we can do is pretend to be better and thank God we are not like others, like tax collectors and open sinners. In that regard we share the same judgment. God who is holy and just must punish sin. Eternal punishment is the payment for sin, even a single sin against God’s commandments.

We know that we rebel against the Law, even our own invented Law. We will say, “I must do this. I have to do this. I will do this by a certain time or else.” But we cannot muster enough will power to do what we claim we must do. If someone else tells us we must do it, we feel compelled not to. This is especially hard on children, who refuse to do what they have to do, on principle.

God’s Law produces a stronger reaction, as the Holy Spirit revealed through Paul in Romans. The Law works wrath. Sin becomes even more obvious, but the Law by itself cannot produce any remedy for sin or any strength to fight sin, even to resist temptation. The Apostle said, “The good that I would do, I do not. The evil that I would not do, that I do.”

All world religions provide a solution for this: more Law. They condemn the sinner for falling short of the Law and then command the sinner to perform certain works to make up for the sins. These works salesmen will never go out of business, because there are not enough works to make up for one’s sins. Each person is like the man who sold furniture at a loss. “We make up the difference on volume.”

But God provided for our great failings and weaknesses at the very beginning. When Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise by their disobedience to the Word of God, our gracious heavenly Father promised them and us a Savior. The contrast could not be greater. Adam and Eve not only lost Paradise for themselves, but condemned us to live under the shadow of their sin as well. No one deserved more wrath and condemnation than they, but God promised the seed of a woman, the Messiah, who would crush the head of Satan.

God saved people through faith before the crucifixion and after the crucifixion. For thousands of years, the Messianic promise of Genesis 3 was enlarged and clarified. The Gospel of forgiveness was proclaimed long before people saw the baby Jesus. They heard salvation, Yeshuah, throughout the Old Testament, and Yeshuah is the Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent of the name Jesus. Many promises were foreshadowed or explained. At first people knew about the “seed of the woman,” which we can see now as foreshadowing the Virgin Birth prophesy of Isaiah 7:14 – Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son…Immanuel. The Gospels clarified that Mary was that Virgin and Jesus that son, God With Us, Immanuel.

As Luther wrote, it was easier for people to believe in a Messiah they had not seen. It was hardest of all for John the Baptist to point to an ordinary looking man and say, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Generations of skeptics have examined every verse of Scripture, every hare-brained theory, to reduce Jesus to being fully human, only human, even if He is better than average in their myopic eyes. We should stop and meditate upon this mystery of God’s Word each and every day – true man and true God, the only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary.

The apostle rests his request to the Christian church upon their call to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The doctrinal unity of the Bible calls for the humility and longsuffering of the believers. The Holy Spirit has built the Christian Church upon the rock which is Jesus, the Son of God. Our status as forgiven saints draws us together and gives us the peace that passes all human understanding.

The military might of Imperial Rome was not enough to squash the weak and driven Christian Church. The city of Rome is filled with ruins of that mighty empire which built thousands of miles of roads across Europe, united tribes, conquered and subdued enemies. The Coliseum, standing in ruins, was the site of the sacrifice of Christian martyrs, who provided fun for the crowds as they died. The more they died, the faster the Church grew, not through programs but through the Word.

The Word of God multiplied, as Luke wrote in Acts. One believer spoke to others. The converts spoke to more. Soon the Gospel was proclaimed across Europe and into India. It reached more people through persecution than through ease and comfort, when it was briefly “the Church at rest.”

So the Christian Church exists today only to proclaim the promises of God, the Gospel. The true church never tires of speaking about forgiveness. Our need for repentance never changes. No other knowledge compares to the knowledge of the surpassing riches of Christ Jesus, whose atoning blood washes away our sin.

Pride can keep us from accepting the doctrine of original sin, proof by itself of our sinful nature, when we try to deny it. Pride can also keep people from receiving the Gospel in faith. The Gospel is not for proud, arrogant, secure Law-saints. The Gospel is for humble sinners, their bones broken by the Law (Psalm 51) but rejoicing in the knowledge of God’s will. “Rock of Ages” expresses it in the simplest words, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

Therefore our unity, in families, among friends, even in the congregation, comes from gathering around the treasure of the Gospel. Most treasures make people fight for the pile, to take the lion’s share. But this treasure puts people at ease, giving them comfort and balm for their wounds, forgiveness for their sins, hope for their worries, and the promise of eternal life.

Quotations

"Since, therefore, so much depends upon God's Word that without it no holy day can be sanctified, we must know that God insists upon a strict observance of this commandment, and will punish all who despise His Word and are not willing to hear and learn it, especially at the time appointed for the purpose."
The Large Catechism, Preface, #95, The Third Commandment, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 607. Tappert, p. 378. Exodus 20:8?11.

"Since it is God's gracious purpose to remove every hindrance to conversion by the means of grace, and it is still possible for a man at every point to continue in his opposition to God, a man is never without responsibility over towards the grace of God, although he may mock and say that, since God is the one who does everything for our salvation, then a man has no responsibility himself, as we see in Romans 9:19. Cf. Theses 17 and 18."
U. V. Koren, 1884, "An Accounting," Grace for Grace: Brief History of the Norwegian Synod, ed., Sigurd C. Ylvisaker, Mankato: Lutheran Synod Book Company, 1943, p. Romans 9:19.

"It is God the Holy Ghost who must work this change in the soul. This He does through His own life?giving Word. It is the office of that Word, as the organ of the Holy Spirit, to bring about a knowledge of sin, to awaken sorrow and contrition, and to make the sinner hate and turn from his sin. That same Word then directs the sinner to Him who came to save him from sin. It takes him to the cross, it enables him to believe that his sins were all atoned for there, and that, therefore, he is not condemned. In other words, the Word of God awakens and constantly deepens ture penitence. It also begets and constantly increases true faith. Or, in one word, it converts the sinner."
G. H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1887, p. 145f.

Law Causes Contrition
"In like manner Moses must precede and teach people to feel their sins in order that grace may be sweet and welcome to them. Therefore all is in vain, however friendly and lovely Christ may be pictured, if man is not first humbled by a knowledge of himself and he possesses no longing for Christ, as Mary's Song says, 'The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away,' Luke 1:53."
Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 149.

Gospel Only for Humble Sinners
"All this is spoken and written for the comfort of the distressed, the poor, the needy, the sinful, the despised, so that they may know in all times of need to whom to flee and where to seek comfort and help." Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 149.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity




The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #267 by Luther – Waer Gott nicht mit uns
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual Ephesians 3:13-21
The Gospel Luke 7:11-17
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 479 Fahre Fort

God at Work

The Hymn #307 Old 124th
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 376 Toplady

KJV Ephesians 3:13 Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory. 14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 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, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

KJV Luke 7:11 And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people. 12 Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. 14 And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. 15 And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother. 16 And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people. 17 And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about.

Sixteenth Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst send Thy Son to be made flesh, that by His death He might atone for our sins and deliver us from eternal death: We pray Thee, confirm in our hearts the hope that our Lord Jesus Christ, who with but a word raised the widow's son, in like manner will raise us on the last day, and grant us eternal life: through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

God at Work

Ephesians 3: 20 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, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.


People think of St. Augustine (354-430) as a religious leader of the distant past, but he was once a famous, hedonistic pagan. His mother Monica gave him Christian instruction as a child and prayed for his conversion to the faith. Augustine’s unique intellectual gifts made him a powerful intellectual leader and the finest orator at a time when rhetoric was the pathway to fame. He was so brilliant that he felt the Scriptures were beneath him. In addition, Christianity was one of many religions of his day and not very successful in the marketplace of ideas. Monica never ceased her prayers. Another burden in her life was an unbelieving husband. One day, as Augustine felt the weight of his sins, he was overwhelmed with a sense of contrition. Weeping under a fig tree, he heard a child’s voice sing out a Latin song, “Tolle, lege. Take and read.” The song had no religious content, but Augustine felt compelled to pick up the Scriptures where he read the damning words of the Law and the comfort of the Gospel:

KJV Romans 13:13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

J-131
Augustine wrote: “I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.” Augustine then went to tell his mother Monica, who “leaped for joy triumphant, and she blessed Thee, Who art ‘able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.’” (Ephesians 3:20) [24]

Monica prayed to have a believing son, but God gave her something she never imagined, a son who became one of the greatest of all teachers of Christianity. Augustine became a bishop and served the African church, writing such classics of the faith as his Confessions and The City of God. It is impossible to study Christian thought apart from Augustine or find a topic he did not write about, using the gifts abundantly given him by God. At the last bookstore I visited, not long ago, I saw a well known highly respected biography of Augustine in paperback, a testimony to the kind and loving Father Who blessed Monica far beyond her ability to think or ask. That power gave her, like many heart-broken mothers afterwards, the faith to pray, the hope to find comfort in waiting, and the patience to wait for the effectual working of the Triune God, who can use a child and a secular song to fashion a bishop and theologian out of a rogue.

J-131
"In like manner, St. Paul says that God's ability is thus proved, in that He does exceeding abundantly above and better than we ask or think. Ephesians 3:20. Therefore, we should know we are too finite to be able to name, picture or designate the time, place, way, measure and other circumstances for that which we ask of God. Let us leave that entirely to Him, and immovably and steadfastly believe that He will hear us." [25]
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p.179f.

J-132
"A very fine example of the power of prayer is provided by Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. She asked for nothing in her prayer for her son except that he might be liberated from the madness of the Manichaeans [pagans] and be baptized...But the more she prayed, the more stiff-necked and stubborn the son became, and her prayer seemed to her to have become a sin. But when the time for hearing her solicitous prayer had come (for God usually defers His help), Augustine is not only converted and baptized but devotes himself entirely to the study of theology and turns out to be such a teacher that he shines in the church to this day, teaching and instructing the church. Monica had never asked for this. It would have been enough for her if her son had been freed from error and had turned Christian. But God wants to give us greater blessings than we can ask for, as long as we do not weaken in our prayer."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald M. Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959 II, p. 1094. Genesis 17:19-22.


In world religion class we have discussed the problem of emphasizing the institution rather than the Gospel.

If we step back and look at the preaching of the Apostolic age and the Reformation, the only concern was the Gospel. There certainly were factions and groups, as Paul said there must be, but the emphasis was upon the Gospel.

The Christian faith is simple, plain, and easy to learn. Someone can study the Scriptures all his life and never learn more than a fraction of what God says, but the basics are clear.

God shows us the way we really are through the preaching of the Law. If the Law is taught clearly, according to God’s Word, we see ourselves in a mirror. That destroys our self-righteousness, our claims to be perfect, or the idea we can earn favor with God through our good works.

Just like medicine, we first need a proper diagnosis. I just read about Robert Novak hitting a biker and not knowing it. He said a mob started to form. Novak was taken to a hospital and learned he had a mass in his brain. Several other things happened before he realized what his diagnosis was. Until he accepted that, he did not consider surgery and the possible healing required.

Non-sinners (in their minds) may hear the Gospel and find it interesting, but they hear without comprehending, like Novak at first. When they know the true nature of man, they want the comfort of the Gospel.

The Gospel teaches us that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary for one reason only – to die for our sins and be our Savior.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believed in Him might not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Paul says in this verse (Eph 3:20) – The power of the Gospel is at work (effective) in all who believe.

The Gospel is always at work in believers, moving them to pray and do good works.

As I said many times before, God urges us to pray but also moves us to pray with His Gospel promises.

One is here in this lesson, which is one of the best known about prayer.
God is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think”

The hesitation everyone has in praying has its foundation in doubt, doubt about His Word, doubt about His power, doubt about His love.

Can human reason rise about these doubts? – not at all. Human reason and experience are the reasons for the doubt. We think we know and we draw conclusions based on our limitations and experience.

God extinguishes doubt with His Promises.

First of all, God is able to accomplish exceeding abundantly… Normally we would say that is not very good writing. Paul does a lot of that. But he does so in expressing how God is above anything we can imagine, in grace, in forgiveness, in love, in mercy, and in power.

There is nothing impossible for God’s Word.

The best example is God taking someone dead to the Gospel and producing a new Creation, a believer, given kinship with Jesus, and the promise of everlasting life that goes with the forgiveness of sin.

God does not stop with those abundant blessings, but promises far more in this verse alone.

How can someone not pray when God promises so much. How much from our perspective? “Above all that we ask or think.”

The power is at work among believers because the Holy Spirit dwells in every Christian. The Holy Spirit accompanies the Word in reaching people. No one becomes a believer except through the Holy Spirit. Preaching takes place through the Holy Spirit guiding the minister and the audience both.

The Holy Spirit’s work draws attention to the Father and the Son, moving the believer to prayer and good works. The Holy Spirit moves people to pray and helps people pray.

When we ask God for anything, the Holy Spirit urges us through the Gospel Promises.

Are we not worthy to ask? Christ has made us His worthy brothers, so that God sees His beloved Son when we ask in His name.

Is God not able? The more we understand, the more we see what God has already done and can do.

Does God love us? Yes, the Word tells us that God loves us because we love His Son. His chief quality is to love and forgive us. So we should always expect the best from Him, even when things seem grim at the moment.

"A third answer to our enemies is: We are certain that wherever the Word of God is proclaimed, the fruits of the same must exist. We have the Word of God, and therefore the Spirit of God must be with us. And where the Spirit is, faith must obtain, however weak it may be."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids Baker Book House, 1983, VIII, p. 274. Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity Ephesians 3:13-21,