The Twenty-second Sunday After Trinity
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time
The Hymn #259 by Luther Denby
The Confession of Sins
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 Phil 1:3-11
The Gospel Luke Matthew 18:23-34
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #261 by Luther Erhalt uns Herr
The Reformation Gospel
The Hymn #314 by H. Jacobs Herr Jesu Christ, du
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 #294 Munich
KJV Philippians 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, 5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; 6 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: 7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. 8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
KJV Matthew 18:23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Twenty-Second Sunday After Trinity
O almighty, eternal God: We confess that we are poor sinners and cannot answer one of a thousand, when Thou contendest with us; but with all our hearts we thank Thee, that Thou hast taken all our guilt from us and laid it upon Thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and made Him to atone for it: We pray Thee graciously to sustain us in faith, and so to govern us by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may live according to Thy will, in neighborly love, service, and helpfulness, and not give way to wrath or revenge, that we may not incur Thy wrath, but always find in Thee a gracious Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
The Reformation was like the raging forest fires which we have witnessed in the last few years. Some years ago an article warned that the forest service was letting too much kindling build up in forests, by putting out so many small fires. The small fires do not hurt established forests. Natural fires clean out the underbrush. But people like to live in and around the forests, so they want the fires extinguished, an understandable concern. As the article warned, the build-up grew so great that the entire forest burned. I recall the warning of “crown fires,” where the largest trees burst into flames and left the area wiped out of all vegetation.
The Reformation happened after centuries of false doctrine building up. Instead of dealing with doctrinal issues by addressing them with the Word, as Chemnitz showed in his Examination of the Council of Trent, the Medieval Church of the West built up the office of the pope and made him a monarch. Pope-king is a hyphenated term often used and still promoted today in some quarters.
The pope was a king with territories, an army, and secular power. When all the kindling caught fire at once, Medieval Europe was ablaze and the powers trembled. The Peasants War, for instance, brought Germany to a halt and ended in a slaughter.
The cause belonged to God, and God caused the right people to come together for comparing sound doctrine to false doctrine. Luther was the most significant of the reformers, but he was not alone. Many people made it possible for him to have enormous influence. The Elector and the Muslim menace made it possible for Luther to live and the Reformation to take root.
The Medieval Church had a wonderful money-making scheme, which continues today. First of all, the Law was taught in all its severity. Everyone was well aware of sin. Medieval shows displayed the horrors of burning in Hell for eternity. People wanted relief from the burden of sin, so the Church offered them Purgatory. The concept began in pagan Greek authors, as the Church of Rome admits today. A cleansing after death appealed to human reason. At first people were supposed to be purged in Purgatory in a few weeks. The length of stay increased over the centuries. A famous scholar denied that Purgatory could be short, because they would make the visions of certain saints fraudulent. The longer Purgatory became, the more people wanted relief from this mini-Hell for the semi-saved.
The solution may seem to involve many responses, but it amounts to one – good works. Indulgences are just one form of good works. Some good works for reducing time in Purgatory include: paying for a Mass (or endowing many masses), attending Mass (daily communicants are the best), praying for the departed (the origin of the services called The Suffrages), all works of charity, paying reparations (repayment, literally) for sins, various worship services for Mary, the Queen of Purgatory, and saying the Rosary (named after the rose, the flower of Mary). My favorite good work is to donate all good works to those in Purgatory, but I am not sure if this heroic donation retains a residue of efficacious good works or is efficacious by itself to spring someone from Purgatory.
An indulgence is a grant of release from Purgatory, often a specific amount of time. Apparently it also applied to certain acts, since that issue made Luther angry enough to attack indulgences openly. Indulgences are still offered, such as a notice I saw at Notre Dame, for reducing time in Purgatory if the faithful watched the pope’s broadcast. There is a book on indulgences offered but I do not own it.
As we can see with the Rosary, prayer is very important as a good work for Catholics. Praying earns grace. Justification by faith means faith with works added (fides formata).
These good works of Catholics are all transactions, as any good work must be – one thing for another. The Reformed use good works in a similar way, and some admit it. Many Reformed will say, “God has done this for you (a presentation of the Gospel precedes). Now you must complete the transaction by making a decision. Life or death. Heaven or hell.” The work is making the right decision. Grace comes from prayer, and it is the only means of grace. The more one prays, the more grace available. In some cases, the Reformed argue that God is unable to act without prayer providing the energy
In contrast, the Gospel teaches that salvation is a gift, not earned by good works of any kind. The Gospel message itself produces faith, and that faith receives and hold fast the Promises of God. Gospel motivation is rather rare because Law motivation is much easier, to move people by threats or rewards. Law motivation is limited because someone has to promise better rewards all the time or stir up deeper fears.
The Gospel does not set limits since it is based on thankfulness rather than limitations. If people ask what they have to do, they will select the minimum they have to do. If they understand that God has accomplished everything so we can have forgiveness for free, then there is no limit to our responses.
When churches raise money by selling cakes, cookies, and pencils, they rejoice at their profits. This works so well that people send kids out with cheap junk to sell in the name of charity. The kids and the companies make money. It’s easy to see, easy to measure. Several Jewish families have been shocked that Protestant churches do not have membership dues. One man said, “We give newlyweds a deal. We lower the dues for the first few years so they get used to being members. They pay the full amount later. How can you do any planning, any budgeting without dues? You mean to tell me that you build a budget on some people pledging? I can’t figure that out.”
Gospel giving is entirely different. No one buys a pencil for a large sum of money, even if it is overpriced for these charity sales. But people gladly give generously because that is the effect of the Gospel. That applies to all areas of life. Responding in thanks to God is quite different from doing the minimum, which is a Law response.
Luther saw that the greatest danger of salvation based on works was the despair caused by this demonic doctrine. First of all, salvation by works taught that Christ did not do enough for our salvation, to win forgiveness through His innocent blood. Secondly, salvation based on indulgences meant that man could complete what God was unable to do. By paying enough money or doing enough good works, man could eventually earn eternal life without pain and sorrow, and be grateful he did not end up in Hell with the Lutherans.
Catholics have always been especially antagonistic toward Lutherans because of the tradition of comparing sound doctrine to false doctrine. One little girl invited herself to our Vacation Bible School in Columbus. Then she asked which denomination. She was Catholic and knew I was Protestant. When I said, “Lutheran,” she responded, “No, I can’t go to a Lutheran VBS.”
What makes the Biblical position so alien to people who call themselves Christian?
The Word of God takes salvation away from rationalism. Christianity is taught from faith to faith.
As a child I thought the apostles had the best vantage point. They traveled with Jesus, were taught by Him, and saw His miracles. However, the Gospels show that being eyewitnesses was not the same as being loaded with faith based on proof.
The famous definition of faith is supposed to include the Greek version (evidence o things not seen) and the Hebrew version (substance of things hoped for).
KJV Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. 4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. 5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
Rationalism cannot prove the mysteries of the Christian faith because they are hidden from the eyes of most and revealed to those who trust in God’s Word.
Rationalism supports buying forgiveness with good works and money. That is why Luther said people purchase Hell (thinking they can buy forgiveness) when they can have forgiveness for free.
Faith is not making a decision, because making a decision is a rational process. The Reformed reveal this in the way they talk about the order of salvation. They skip Law and Gospel. They imagine that making the Gospel appealing will lead someone to make a decision.
One book about Creation and dinosaurs ended this way, “Now that you know the truth about dinosaurs, it is time to make a decision about Christ…”
Faith is a gift of God, created by the Holy Spirit distributed the Gospel message to people, among babies in infant baptism, among adults through the Word. The generation is passing away where a large share of children were trained in the Bible. Now they know pop culture but not the most basic Biblical passages.
The Gospel message was once sown among most Americans as they were growing up. Now they are mostly dead to Christ when they become young adults.
The content of the Biblical message is the power of the Holy Spirit. As the lesson is remembered the work of the Holy Spirit continues. Proper teaching is essential. Every Biblical story is distorted by someone.
The Sower and the Seed teaches us to broadcast the seed, which is the Word. The lesson has become a pun, because word for sowing has become the word for transmitting over the airwaves (via Internet, radio, TV). Church Growth people say the parable means we should “study the soil.” The parable says just the opposite.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us about Christ being the Good Samaritan, who finds us left for dead on the road, heals us, and provides for our continuing spiritual care. The vast majority of sermons I heard about that Gospel were Law lessons about doing good deeds, aimed at making everyone feel guilty for not doing enough. The same characters are in both versions. The first version is Luther’s – Gospel. The second one is Protestant and Catholic – teaching good works leading to salvation.
The Law is especially effective with those who maintain a works-righteous attitude, which is our natural state until we know the Gospel and believe the entire message of the Word.
For instance, one member stopped coming to church. I asked him why. He said, “There are all those hypocrites in church.”
I said, “What is a hypocrite?”
He said, “It is someone who says one thing and does another.”
I replied, “Well, that fits me too.”
Old Russell dropped his head, “I guess that fits me too.” Russell never missed church after that.
There were others who nursed grudges going back for years. They loved the grudges and would not give them back. The grudges were more important than the Gospel.
The Law also catches up with people who think the eternal commands of God do not apply to them. They are lucky if everything falls on them at once, because they realize then that they have no excuse before God. Then they are like the man beaten and robbed on the way to Jericho. They know they hurt everywhere. They have nothing but pain and poverty. They want real relief.
The Gospel message is simple, plain, and easy to understand. The Gospel creates faith as the Promises are heard, unless someone hardens his heart against the Word.
Christ the Savior has died for the sins of the world. There is a price to be paid for sin, but He has already paid for it. My brother and I tried to check out of a motel and paid for the rooms after a family reunion. The clerk could find no bill. Finally the matter was resolved. My mother already paid the bill. How can someone pay the bill when it is already paid?
That is where people insult the Gospel message, by attaching a debt to be paid when Christ has paid the bill in full by His innocent death on the cross. Any doubt about forgiveness can only point to the cross. All sins have been paid for – except rejection of the Gospel up to the moment of death. That is the sin against the Holy Spirit. Universalists would take that away from the Word and say everyone is forgiven, everyone is saved, everyone is going to heaven. They take the Good News and turn it into No News, appealing to everyone except believers.
Faith, created by the Gospel Promises, receives and holds onto the Gospel Promises. The Means of Grace are the instruments giving us that forgiveness promised in the Scriptures. Holy Baptism begins the journey for most. Holy Communion strengthens and sustains our faith with another visible sign of the Gospel. The Word deepens our understanding and faith throughout life, so we continue to receive and enjoy the blessings of the Christian faith.
Quotations - Epitome, Formula of Concord, Book of Concord
Pure Doctrine of the Christian Churches concerning This Controversy.
5] For the thorough statement and decision of this controversy our doctrine, faith, and confession is:
6] 1. That good works certainly and without doubt follow true faith, if it is not a dead, but a living faith, as fruits of a good tree.
7] 2. We believe, teach, and confess also that good works should be entirely excluded, just as well in the question concerning salvation as in the article of justification before God, as the apostle testifies with clear words, when he writes as follows: Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin, Rom. 4, 6ff And again: By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast, Eph. 2, 8. 9.
8] 3. We believe, teach, and confess also that all men, but those especially who are born again and renewed by the Holy Ghost, are bound to do good works.
9] 4. In this sense the words necessary, shall, and must are employed correctly and in a Christian manner also with respect to the regenerate, and in no way are contrary to the form of sound words and speech.
10] 5. Nevertheless, by the words mentioned, necessitas, necessarium, necessity and necessary, if they be employed concerning the regenerate, not coercion, but only due obedience is to be understood, which the truly believing, so far as they are regenerate, render not from coercion or the driving of the Law, but from a voluntary spirit; because they are no more under the Law, but under grace, Rom. 6, 14; 7, 6; 8, 14.
11] 6. Accordingly, we also believe, teach, and confess that when it is said: The regenerate do good works from a free spirit, this is not to be understood as though it is at the option of the regenerate man to do or to forbear doing good when he wishes, and that he can nevertheless retain faith if he intentionally perseveres in sins.
12] 7. Yet this is not to be understood otherwise than as the Lord Christ and His apostles themselves declare, namely, regarding the liberated spirit, that it does not do this from fear of punishment, like a servant, but from love of righteousness, like children, Rom. 8, 15.
13] 8. Although this voluntariness [liberty of spirit] in the elect children of God is not perfect, but burdened with great weakness, as St. Paul complains concerning himself, Rom. 7, 14-25; Gal. 5, 17;
14] 9. Nevertheless, for the sake of the Lord Christ, the Lord does not impute this weakness to His elect, as it is written: There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, Rom. 8, 1.
15] 10. We believe, teach, and confess also that not works maintain faith and salvation in us, but the Spirit of God alone, through faith, of whose presence and indwelling good works are evidences.