The Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time
The Hymn # 245 God Loved the World 4:6
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 2 Peter 3:3-14
The Gospel Matthew 25:31-46
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 290 We Have A Sure 4:89
Age of Apostasy
The Hymn # 305 Soul Adorn Thyself 4.23
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 # 463 For All the Saints 4:31
Twenty-Sixth Sunday After Trinity
O almighty, eternal and merciful God, who by Thy beloved Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, hast established the kingdom of grace for us, that we might believe the forgiveness of our sins, in Thy holy Church on earth, since Thou art a God who hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live: We beseech Thee, graciously forgive us all our sins, through the same, Thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
KJV 2 Peter 3:3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
KJV Matthew 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Age of Apostasy
The lessons for the last Sundays in the church year focus on the end times and final judgment. The Gospel for today teaches about the relationship between faith and works. The epistle describes the Age of Apostasy.
Apostasy means “a falling away,” or - people who once believed in Christ no longer do.
One of the smokescreens used by false teachers is a deep, feigned concern for unbelievers around the world, especially those who can be visited after a stopover in France or Rio. The mission executives are so concerned that they travel all over the world for conferences to express their concern and oversee their workers. I know one ELCA pastor from Canada who felt it necessary to visit every country in the world to make sure no one was hungry. Meanwhile, millions were siphoned off to fund political lobbyists in DC, every state in the union, and in Canada.
The smokescreen works well because the end times are marked by apostasy, and no one wants to address, for instance, the anti-Lutheran dogma regularly taught by college and seminary professors, church officials, and magazine editors. The same attitude can be found in all the denominations. The older it is, the greater the percentage of leaders who oppose the confessional stance of that denomination. Ergo, the denominational leaders work together well, because they are united by the same unbelief. And they make sure that no one remind them of their origins.
When the Boston scandals erupted in the Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Law was promoted to Rome, even though (or because) he was the central figure in creating the abuse prosecutions and lawsuits. The only one who was punished in the entire affair was the priest who said his church body was wrong. He was pilloried and kicked out of the priesthood.
The example is given to show that apostasy is worldwide and not just something for Lutherans to notice among their own.
So by mentioning “the lost” all the time, the apostates are able to keep attention away from their antagonistic doctrine and their abusive behavior.
KJV 2 Peter 3:3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
This is an era of scoffing and evil desire. Like the days of the Flood, people do whatever they wish. Many of the so-called conservatives are just as bad, and they are excused for it.
I reminded people that Creation is an “antiquarian” topic, according to the CG guru Paul Kelm (WELS). He warned pastors not to get “painted into a corner” on such topics when teaching the Word to prospects. Ockenga, the Evangelical leader behind the Billy Graham Crusades, Christianity Today, and Fuller Seminary said almost the same thing.
"Don't let the world paint us into a corner of antiquarianism on subjects like a six-day creation or verbal inspiration." Rev. Paul Kelm, WELS, "How to Make Sound Doctrine Sound Good to Mission Prospects," p. 13.
"The evangelical believes that Christianity is intellectually defensible but the Christian cannot be obscurantist in scientific questions pertaining to the creation, the age of man, the universality of the flood and other moot Biblical questions." Rev. Harold J. Ockenga, 12-8-57, news release quoted in William E. Ashbrook, Evangelicalism, The New Neutralism, Columbus: Calvary Bible Church, 1963, p. 8.
"Many Catholics hold what is known as 'moderate evolutionism,' that is, the theory that the human body evolved to a certain point from animals, and then God intervened directly and breathed into this living, animal body a human soul and so produced the first man and the first woman. Such a theory does not seem to be contrary to Catholic teaching, and Catholics are free to hold it." Kenneth Baker, S.J., Fundamentals of Catholicism, 3 vols., San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1982, II, p. 142.
Creation and the Genesis Flood are two topics deeply embarrassing to conservative Christians today (Protestants and Catholics alike). They want to affirm their basic beliefs, but these two topics expose them to the scorn of the unbelieving world. Evolution and man-caused global warming are assumed facts today, from the National Geographic to the casual comments of students.
Avoiding the splinters of the cross, Christians back away from the foundation of the Scriptures – the efficacy of the Word, clearly taught in this epistle.
5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
As someone noticed, Creation was not always taught correctly in the early Church. (We can say the same thing about all doctrines, since false teachers were actively engaged from the beginning.) These variant teachings might be used as an argument that there are many versions, so any version is tolerable.
Creation and the Genesis Flood are Biblical doctrines only when understood as examples of God’s Word always being effective. And that is also a confession about Christ, since the Son of God is the creating Word of Genesis 1 (see John 1). Denial of the Six Day Creation is a rejection of John 1 and Christ’s power.
If we cling to the rationalistic concept of the universe slowly developing over billions of years, the Genesis Creation is embarrassing and the Flood is ridiculous. As one “conservative” minister said to me, before he joined the United Church of Christ, “How could God create in six days?” That deeply troubled him, someone rather enchanted by his own cleverness.
Already in the 19th century, Evangelicals fell all over each other to embrace a modified evolution, saying God created the world in six epochs, which lasted millions (later billions) of years. The evolutionists did not compromise. To this day they proudly get rid of any academic who believes in Creation. When the established Protestants gave up on Creation, they began the erosion process. What began as typical for liberal Protestants (anti-Creation, anti-Flood) became normal for the conservative Lutherans.
Creation and the Flood are the symptoms of the real issue, which is the power of the Word.
5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
Two striking phrases stand out for us – they are willingly ignorant of… This means that the apostates choose to forget that God does all His work through the Word and never apart from the Word. This willing ignorance is the basis for the problems of today.
God created the heavens and the earth through the Son of God and Holy Spirit, for the Spirit brooded (soared) over the waters, Genesis 1. That revelation leaves no room for evolution. The day is clearly defined in the Old Testament. One Yale professor became known as “Old Yom” because he defended the concept of the “yom” – (day in Hebrew) being a 24 hour day only, and not an epoch of countless years. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” was true, but man’s work cannot be compared to God’s work. Once we measure God’s work by man’s reason, nothing is left of God. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.
6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
The Genesis Flood cannot be completely denied. Scientists allow only for local flooding in Biblical times and glaciers in North America. (Glaciers flow slowly downhill, but somehow they move rocks from valleys to the top of mountains, according to scientists. A flood, in contrast, can deposit an ocean liner on a mountain.) The Genesis Flood is frightening in its reality because the mountains themselves were covered with water. No land creatures survived, apart from the Ark. I mention, from time to time, that dinosaurs still exist in the ocean, as proven by the Japanese experience within our lifetimes. Too bad they dumped the smelly thing back into the ocean. Willing forgetfulness is the key.
This one verse is a reminded that God has the power to do what He accomplished before – by the Word. Man wants the honor, so God is forgotten.
7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same Word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the Day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
The fear of Judgment Day remains. My wife asked me about a new year being cited. Why is that year being named? There is always a new year. My Adventist relatives were in that denomination because a man named Miller predicted the end of the world twice, and he was wrong twice. He lost a lot of followers each time, but enough stayed to form a new denomination based on his error. And they still predict the end of the world from time to time. And they are still wrong and keep many followers.
8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
This verse alone shows how foolish it is to predict an exact time for the end, because God can shorten time or delay the Coming of Christ. Jesus warned too that no one knows the time except God the Father. The more Biblical and literal a sect pretends to be, the more likely it is that they will predict an exact date of the Coming of Christ.
These warnings are in the Scriptures so we do not grow lazy and inert about the Word. The fulfillment of the prophecies wake us up:
KJV 1 Timothy 4:1 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; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
KJV 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.
KJV 2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
God wills that we have more time for repentance. “Not willing that any should perish” is a reminder that God’s will is gracious and merciful. The evil in this world is brought about by man, who often blames God. In contrast, God calls us to repentance, reminds us of His many promises, and justifies us by faith because of His grace in Christ.
10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 14 Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.
Because the Coming of Christ is like a thief in the night, with no warning, the Biblical warnings are given so that we are always alert, always awake. This lesson concludes with hope and the promise of “new heavens and a new earth,” where righteousness dwells.
Until that day comes upon us, we have the Means of Grace to convey Christ and His righteousness to us.