The Feast of the Holy Trinity
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time
The Hymn # 246 Holy, Holy, Holy 3.35
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
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Athanasian Creed p. 53
The Sermon Hymn #245 God Loved the World 4.6
Born From Above by the Word
The Communion Hymn # 378 All That I Was 4.4
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 #27 Oh, Bless the Lord 4.21
KJV Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
KJV John 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
O Lord God, heavenly Father: We poor sinners confess that in our flesh dwelleth no good thing, and that, left to ourselves, we die and perish in sin, since that which is born of the flesh is flesh and cannot see the kingdom of God. But we beseech Thee: Grant us Thy grace and mercy, and for the sake of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, send Thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that being regenerate, we may firmly believe the forgiveness of sins, according to Thy promise in baptism; and that we may daily increase in brotherly love, and in other good works, until we at last obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
Born From Above by the Word
The work of the Holy Spirit is the work of the Word, so this significant passage teaches us about how God creates a New Man in believers. Because this passage is so important, it has been distorted by false teachers.
For a long time, the most familiar phrase in Protestant America was “You must be born again.” For many, that only meant an adult conversion experience.
The passage itself does not emphasize what people are trying to say. Nicodemus was a Jewish religious leader who became a believer in Christ. We know that from the latter part of John.
KJV John 7:50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?
KJV John 19:39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
The Gospel writer was intent on showing us that this Nicodemus was the same man who came stealthily to Jesus. Does anyone wonder why we have such clear details about the trial of Jesus? Naturally the Holy Spirit could reveal everything, but God also had eye-witnesses there in addition to Jesus Himself. I believe that is because their report had that much more credibility for the general masses later, when the Gospel was first preached among the Jews.
Born Again or Born From Above?
The key distinction here is between “born again” as an adult conversion experience and “born from above” as the work of the Holy Spirit in the Word. This is one of those passages where Greek grammar really matters.
The primary meaning of the Word is “from above,” and that is significant. Jesus is the One from above.
KJV John 3:31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.
KJV John 19:11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.
The word “from above” can mean “again,” but the idea of the dialogue is to show that Nicodemus did not understand the primary meaning of Jesus’ words. By the way, this also shows Jesus teaching in Greek, in spite of the ongoing myth that He spoke in Aramaic (a form of Hebrew), and that the Gospels were written in Aramaic at first (no evidence at all for this).
Helen of Troy is a pun in Greek, but not in English. Another pun has to be invented to make sense of the Homeric pun, “a snarer of men.”
The point of the dialogues in John is to show the wisdom of Jesus compared to the earthly misunderstandings of various people, who think primarily in terms of the flesh. The woman at the well (John 4) wanted that water Jesus promised, to save her the labor of drawing water. Peter wanted more than a footwash, once Jesus explained it to him.
So in John 3 we see Nicodemus understanding the word in a fleshly, materialistic way, as if a man could be born of a woman all over again. Even a child is going to say, “He is way off.” So we listen to what Jesus says to straighten Nicodemus out.
Born from above is the true meaning, because this gives God the glory in converting man with the Holy Spirit working through the Word. It is a spiritual rebirth and it is not limited to adults.
Born again is necessarily tied to “making a decision for Christ.” That makes man an active participant in conversion and also eliminates infant baptism as a sacrament and baptismal regeneration.
When I posted on Facebook that I found a favorable reference to Luther on the Net, someone immediately began attack that message about infant baptism. The opponent was baptized as a baby in the Lutheran Church. And she had many posts about it. I was going to say, “I rest my case. Lutherans do not read or accept Luther,” but I did not want to prolong the posts.
On the positive side, let’s look at what Jesus is teaching us about being born from above.
Jesus answered Nicodemus’ incredulous and foolish response this way:
KJV John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
This is another grammatical point. Water and Spirit are linked together in a special construction, which is more like this – Water/Spirit. They are not two separate births (or baptisms, since the Pentecostals invented a second Spirit baptism). They are one and the same.
Since God’s work is always through the Holy Spirit’s divine energy in the Word, the formula also means – Water/Word baptism, which is just what we say in the Catechism.
IV. The Sacrament of Holy Baptism
As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household.
What is Baptism?--Answer.
Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God's command and connected with God's Word.
Which is that word of God?--Answer.
Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
What does Baptism give or profit?--Answer.
It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.
Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.
Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
How can water do such great things?--Answer.
It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.
What does such baptizing with water signify?--Answer.
It signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
Where is this written?--Answer.
St. Paul says Romans, chapter 6: We are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, that, like as He was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
KJV John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
This is a great irony. Today the wolf-preachers preach the flesh and attract people who want more of the same. Whatever is born of flesh-preaching is flesh. That is why the great religious leaders of the moment leave behind wreckage, divided families (their own), and atheism.
As some of us know, time moves much faster in senior lane. We have the chance to reflect back on how quickly someone went from being a CG hero to a godless zero. It is sad, but all the warnings are there. The Gadarene swine are willing to jump off the cliff for more of the same. Many are called, but few are chosen.
KJV John 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth [wills], and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
This is another pun, both in Greek and Hebrew, where the word for Spirit is the same as that for wind. The Holy Spirit is like the wind, powerful but invisible. God’s work is a mystery. God can overturn a powerful empire in five minutes.
The Battle of Midway is a good example. The Japanese wanted to draw our navy into a battle where we would be crushed. They had all the advantages, it seemed.
The Americans kept coming after the Japanese carriers and losing all their planes. The result was that the Japanese fighters were down on the waves when the last assault came. The Japanese lost three carriers in five minutes, the fourth carrier a few hours later. Japan never recovered from those five minutes.
This harmonizes perfectly with the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13, Mark 4). We do not know the final results of sowing the Word. We do know God is always at work in the Word. Whether babies are converted by infant baptism (the Visible Word) or adults are converted by preaching and teaching (the Invisible Word), we know that God creates and sustains faith by the Word.