The Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time
The Hymn # 199 Jesus Christ Is Risen 1:83
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 Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 261 Lord Keep Us Steadfast 1:93
The Whole Armor of God
The Communion Hymn # 308 Invited, Lord, by Boundless Grace 1:63
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 # 49 Almighty God 1:81
KJV Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
KJV John 4:46 So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50 Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52 Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. 54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.
Twenty-First Sunday After Trinity
Almighty and everlasting God, who by Thy Son hast promised us the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and everlasting life: We beseech Thee, do Thou by Thy Holy Spirit so quicken our hearts that we in daily prayer may seek our help in Christ against all temptations, and, constantly believing His promise, obtain that for which we pray, and at last be saved, through Thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
The Whole Armor of God
KJV Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
I liked verse 11 so much that I added it to the bottom of Ichabod and the Bethany blog.
This passage is one of the classics in the Bible, perfect for the month where we remember Luther and the Reformation, because it concerns the souls of individual Christians and the Church Militant.
Professor Reu (ALC, Iowa Synod) clarified the relationship between unionism and doctrinal indifference. They go together so well that one causes the other, to paraphrase Aristotle, one is either the mother or daughter of the other. (Aristotle said that of patience and courage.)
When people work together in spite of doctrinal differences, they put those differences aside and no longer care about them. Also, when people become neutral about doctrine, they look for ways to work with other confessions of faith.
One example is rather plain to see. When churches get together to host a Vacation Bible School, and various denominations are included, no one wants to contact the unchurched for fear of offending their fellow churches, even when the group includes Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Episcopalians.
Also, when a denomination is completely apostate, there is little interest in special programs and people avoid responsibility for anything laborious. So they say, “Why not have a community VBS, so we can fill this enormous barn with children?”
Union efforts have a strange math, just like congregational mergers – 1 plus 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals a little more than 1.
ELCA, WELS, and LCMS worked together on a huge, lavishly funded evangelism project, to restore membership, and membership in all three groups declined even more rapidly!
All three still work together through Thrivent and Lutheran World Relief. Denomination headquarters of each synod could safely be called branch offices of the One Big Generic Lutheran Church. No wonder WELS gave money to the United Nations.
The worst church bodies in doctrine and practice are those with the most mergers in their history:
1. The United Church of Christ.
2. The United Methodists.
3. The Presbyterians.
4. The ELCA.
5. The Disciples of Christ
6. The big Baptist groups.
7. The Church of Rome, which practices “big tent” ecclesiology – believe whatever you want as long as you belong.
In contrast, during a time of doctrinal crisis, when groups are militant against error, the battling groups produce - books and essays which become doctrinal classics, great hymns, and a rebirth of spiritual life.
To quote Mother Angelica, the liberals do not produce anything – offerings, vocations, or any kind of growth. What she said about Catholics was just as true about other confessions of faith.
The Biblical Passage
6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
This passage is the climax of the letter, followed by personal notes, which we still use as a PS (for those who remember).
The Apostle Paul urged his brothers to be strong “in the Lord” and for emphasis “in the power of His might.” Our strength as Christians does not come from within but from God, through the Word.
As Luther said, we poor, frail mortals enrage Satan because we are so weak, yet we are protected from him by the Word of God. That does not make Satan give up, but stirs him up to try even more of his arts against us.
Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Satan
People often mix up their terminology with Luther, referring to the Two Kingdoms as church and government. He used the term “regiment” for that distinction. The Two Kingdoms in Luther are – God’s Kingdom and Satan’s. These kingdoms are at war with each other. Satan never gives up while we are still alive. We are born in the Kingdom of Satan, but Holy Baptism rescues us from sin, death, and the devil. Once a soul is included in God’s Kingdom, Satan wants him back.
Paul used a familiar figure to remind his fellow believers of what God provided them for the battle against Satan. The Roman Empire controlled the entire civilized world, more than most people imagine. There are Roman ruins in Lebanon, for example, and military camps in England from those days – complete with flush toilets and hot tubs. The soldiers built a wall across the entire country, East to West, to keep out illegal aliens from across the northern border.
The Armored Soldier
Paul used the armored soldier as his image, because everyone saw them at outposts and marching through town. (Also see Is. 59:17)
11 Put on the whole armour (panoply) of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
The weapons against Satan are combined, to show how a soldier would employ all his equipment, not just one or two parts of it, before going into battle. Satan has many arts, many tricks. One trick may work against one person and not against another, so he has many at his disposal.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
I remember when a pastor friend walked up to a Church Growth professor and warned him, using this passage. He wanted to warn him that this was not just a political game, but one where God and Satan were contending. The young pastor was forced out of the ministry, which was the one thing he wanted to do his whole life, following the footsteps of his father. Evil does not want to be warned.
Flesh and blood contend, but the ultimate victory is never one involving life and death. The martyr who dies for the faith has more power than the people who murder him. These killings are going on all over the earth, especially in Africa, but also wherever the Christian faith is hated.
One father was asked if he would kill his son for becoming a Christian. He said, “Not in America.” What a horrid religion, to say – Not where I would get caught and punished, but definitely in a safe place for my pagan practices.
The spiritual wickedness in high places refers to the transcendent power of evil. It is not simply located in wicked individuals but is driven by a higher power, a power which has motivated Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Margaret Sanger. It explains why a cancer fund in memory of a dead cancer victim – Susan Komen – can donate $700 million to Planned Parenthood, the chief provider of abortions in America. All the Lutheran synods are in on this genocide, working with Thrivent, LWR, and ELCA.
13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
We can imagine ourselves strong, until everything is thrown against us. Then we are like the gladiator, hammered down to the ground by multiple strikes from all directions. The easiest one to land is from a friend. At that point we realize how we need the panoply of God’s weapons, all of them rather than one, our own strength too diminished to prevail against so much hatred and deception.
I know many who have gone through this, and they know better than anyone how powerful God’s Word is. I have also watched the great and wise ones engage in betrayal. Although they seemed to have everything on their side, their betrayal of the Word unhinged them and they fell. One official was sowing hatred in a meeting. A few months later he was thrown out of the ministry, for cause, and looking for work at a hardware store, still lying to his own family, still deceiving others.
God has a way of punishing people according to their own vanity. He humbles the great and proud. But Satan helps too. Satan blinds people in their wrath and hatred, but takes off the blinders to let them see their folly.
14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
There can only be one truth. People love to juggle with words and downplay religious differences especially, as if we were talking about liking French fries more than mashed potatoes.
If people do not fight for the truth, they lose their concept of it and stop valuing it as well. At that point they will have a two hour meeting over where to hang the banners but dismiss talk about false doctrine as a matter of taste.
The leather or metal breastplate on the soldier was vital to him because it protected against sword thrusts to his heart and lungs. Weapons were also used to bash in the chest area. Even in athletics, the heart can be bruised and a life threatened from the injury.
Our breastplate is the righteousness of Christ, which comes from the outside (extra nos, like the blog) through the Means of Grace. That means we are protected against the emotional assaults of Satan. That is, he would rather drain our emotions than spill our blood. He would rather have us listless and despairing than awakened by physical pain.
When Satan attacks us as weak, fallible, and sinful, we can say, “All true, but Christ is my righteousness. He has paid for my sins. He has given me grace through the Word and Sacraments.”
Christian refused to be employed by Satan again, because he did not like the wages, saying to Apolyon (The Destroyer): “The wages of sin is death.”
15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
What soldier will go to battle bare-footed? I would rather be, but if there is anything worthwhile to be done, the shoes have to go on. Bare feet outside or in the garage can make us very timid and careful. I had three meetings with a foot specialist to remove glass from my foot, because the tiniest piece causes pain with every step. (I now wear combat boots in the kitchen.)
The Gospel of peace is preparedness. Knowing the Gospel Promises arms us in the battle. Notice how the weapons are defensive against Satan but also take the offensive as well. Wherever the Gospel goes, Satan is defeated.
16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
I agree with Lenski in taking the shield to be the Shield of The Faith. While individual faith also works well as an interpretation, making it more inclusive is fitting. The Christian Faith, Law and Gospel, Word and Sacraments, Blessings and Promises, shields us against the arrows of Satan.
That leads us to the main weapon of defense and offense.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
Without being too literal, the helmet protects our head in the way that our thoughts protect us from our emotions. If we know the Biblical basis for our faith, then we can control our emotions with the intelligence God has given us. For instance, remembering Biblical verses, the catechism, and hymns will protect us – knowing our salvation comes from Christ rather than from our own virtue.
The passage ends with the Sword of the Holy Spirit, which is the Word of God. In ancient times the sword was a major weapon, sharp as a razor and used both to hold off attacks while thrusting and cutting to finish the enemy. Few realize today that Luther’s own sword cut him severely in that thunderstorm where he made his vow to serve God.
He was in pain and could have bled to death in that storm, having no shelter and no aid.
The Word of God is our protection against all the wiles of Satan and defeats him by attacking his palace of evil. Nothing stirs up wrath more than saying, “This is false doctrine. This is contrary to God’s Word.” It is worse than kicking over a hornet’s nest. It is more like jumping into a den of hungry wolves. Nevertheless, the Word of God makes them cringe, yelp, and hide.
Luther said it best when addressing the First Table of the Ten Commandments:
The Large Catechism, Preface
10] Besides, it is an exceedingly effectual help against the devil, the world, and the flesh and all evil thoughts to be occupied with the Word of God, and to speak of it, and meditate upon it, so that the First Psalm declares those blessed who meditate upon the Law of God day and night. Undoubtedly, you will not start a stronger incense or other fumigation against the devil than by being engaged upon God's commandments and words, and speaking, singing, or thinking of them. For this is indeed the true holy water and holy sign from which he flees, and by which he may be driven away.
12] And what need is there of many words? If I were to recount all the profit and fruit which God's Word produces, whence would I get enough paper and time? The devil is called the master of a thousand arts. But what shall we call God's Word, which drives away and brings to naught this master of a thousand arts with all his arts and power? It must indeed be the master of more than a hundred thousand arts. 13] And shall we frivolously despise such power, profit, strength, and fruit-we, especially, who claim to be pastors and preachers? If so, we should not only have nothing given us to eat, but be driven out, being baited with dogs, and pelted with dung, because we not only need all this every day as we need our daily bread, but must also daily use it against the daily and unabated attacks and lurking of the devil, the master of a thousand arts.