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

Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Bethany Lutheran Worship on
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Thanksgiving Eve - 7 PM Central Time.

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
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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Sunday after Christmas:
Galatians 4:1-7




The Sunday after Christmas

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn # 85:1-8 From Heaven Above 4.55
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       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #85:9-15 From Heaven Above 4.55

 Redemption, Atonement, Forgiveness

The Hymn #657            Beautiful Savior                    4.24
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 #83     Hark! What Mean Those Holy Voices  4:40

KJV Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

KJV Luke 2:33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. 36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

Sunday After Christmas

O almighty and everlasting God, mercifully direct our ways, that we may walk in Thy law, and be made to abound in good works: 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.

The Meaning of the Gospel


KJV Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

This passage is part of a brief but powerful letter where Paul attacked the attitude of salvation through the law, showing that one cannot mix the law with the Gospel and still have the Gospel.

Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;

This analogy is so clear that everyone should grasp it at once. Nevertheless, one could easily show that much of Christendom remains under the law, seeking comfort and salvation from man-made law rather than from the Gospel. This is not a letter aimed at Jews but at Christians tempted by combining the Gospel and the Law.

One branch of my family fell into this, when they were part of the Seventh Day Adventists in Battle Creek. (Kellogg’s cereal was part of this movement, although he broke with them.) It is tempting to think of Jews as heirs of the Promise, therefore following the Old Testament Law would be the perfect combination of the Law and Gospel.


When that part of the family moved to Iowa to farm, they found that the SDA laws prevented them from making a living, so they changed to an Evangelical congregation. Later, a SDA minister impressed me with how obsessed he was with all Old Testament details. Strangely, the Adventists wanted to duplicate the false view Galatians was written to oppose.

The comparison is clear, because the child of a wealthy lord is still very much a servant as long as he is young, even if he is the heir. The tutor is appointed to direct the child and give him training. So the promise of a title is there, but the reality is not.

2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

Lenski:
Paul himself states what he has in mind. Just as a slave has his superiors who control him and his affairs, so this young heir. Paul thinks of a large inheritance as befits the great spiritual inheritance which he is illustrating. Hence he names two classes of superiors, tutors and governors, which some regard as identical. But the former are those who are placed in charge of the young heir himself, call them guardians; the latter are those who manage his estates, stewards. The latter were often slaves yet were competent men, one being placed over this, the other over that estate of the owner. In our estimation the “guardians” were those who, among other things, attended to the boy’s education.
Since Paul is writing to Galatians who are not merely Roman citizens, it is doubtful whether he refers to Roman law. This provided for a tutor (or several) until the age of puberty, the fourteenth year, was reached, after that for a curator until majority was attained, which occurred at the age of twenty-five years. The “guardians” of whom Paul speaks do not seem to be the tutor and the curator but those whose duty it was to provide the necessary teachers for the young heir. The point is that the minor heir is under others and that of necessity because he is still a minor.
The other point is the length of time he is under others, which is thus again mentioned, but now more specifically: “until the time set in advance by the father.”
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. Columbus, O. : Lutheran Book Concern, 1937, S. 193


That is even more true of a young king, who has the title but not the rule. One influential relative or official is the real king as long as the child is too young to be free of adult tutors. Queen Victoria became the most powerful monarch in the world as a teenager, so she depended on adults to guide her in politics.

This is so clear in human government, but people fail to see it at work in the difference between Law and Gospel. The Law says “must” and “ought to” while the Gospel says “want to” and “glad to.”

The exact same thing can be done as a child under the Law or as an adult freed by the Gospel. As children, we always responded to chores with, “Do I have to?”
As long as we were ordered to do it, we did so, but reluctantly.

We can all remember our childhoods enough to recall that we were dependent upon others, chafing against rules but needing them, and wishing we could be grown-ups.

One couple told me about an older teen who complained about being treated as a child. I asked some questions. Does he do his own laundry? No. Cook for himself or you? No. Pay for his housing? I suggested they lay that on him so he could be an adult.
The worst college students are the ones coddled by indulgent parents or special programs where everything is paid. The best are the ones paying their own way and making sure they get their money’s worth.

3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:

Being under the Law is the same as being children. While it was true that the Jewish people were given the Promise of the Messiah, that was already realized, so there was no reason to go back to the Law, which kept them together as a nation. Neither was there a reason to blend Law and Gospel, to make believers into Jews with ritual law (kosher, circumcision, and traditions).

All the Jewish traditions and worship practices prepared them for Jesus as the Messiah. That is why conversions to Christianity continue to this day. Everything leads up to the Promise being fulfilled because the Old Testament is filled with references to Christ and justification by faith in Him. My catechism students soon learned that everything in the Exodus pre-figured Christ. As one said, “I am not sure if the answer is Jesus, but all the other answers have been.”

The questions involved the innocent lamb slain for the Passover, the manna, the burning bush, the water from the rock, and so forth.

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

This is another example of the Two Natures of Christ being, teaching His humanity (made of a woman, under the law) and His divinity (God sent forth His Son). The skeptics want us to think that Paul never mentioned the Virgin Birth of Jesus, but this verse and the opening of Romans both teach the Two Natures clearly. Jesus, in John’s Gospel, often referred to Himself as sent from the Father. And how was that done, except through the Virgin Birth?

What skeptics choose to ignore is the way arguments are made based upon current issues. Paul was not addressing the Virgin Birth but salvation through the Law. Nevertheless, the basics of the Gospel came through in a very short letter. I challenge anyone to make such powerful statements about the Christian faith in so few words. That by itself is testimony to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration.

At the perfect time, God’s own time, God sent His Son to reveal the complete Gospel, the atoning sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension. Hundreds of eye-witnesses were available to preach the risen Christ at the time of Paul. They saw and heard the risen Christ teach. Before that, many miracles confirmed Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.

5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Lenski:
The whole thought is a refutation of the Judaizers. God’s Son set free all those who were under law; this purpose, being objective, was achieved. Furthermore, it was achieved in order that we Jews should receive the sonship. This was a subjective purpose that was also achieved, but only in the believing Jews, the unbelieving were hardened and cast away (Rom. 11:7). “The sonship” is modified by the context (v. 1–3) and thus signifies the status of sons who have advanced from their minority to their majority, to the status of full-grown sons who are no longer under guardians and stewards. “Adoption” is not the proper word, for it may apply to a babe, a minor son and heir.
This eliminates the question as to whether regeneration as well as justification is included in this “sonship.” In their minority, before Christ came all the heirs were both regenerated and justified although they were still under the guardianship and the stewardship of the Mosaic law (v. 2). When Christ came, when their majority was attained, this involved the end of the guardianship and stewardship of law for them. Ever after that time they were entirely free of it.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. Columbus, O. : Lutheran Book Concern, 1937, S. 204

To redeem (and Galatians 3:13) is from the verb to purchase for a price. The other word we translate as redemption is to release, as in releasing from slavery.

The idea of blood sacrifice prepared Jews for the atoning death of the Lamb of God. All those sacrifices for centuries were a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ.

This is where people get confused, when they do not comprehend the Means of Grace. Christ paid for the sins of the world. Redemption and atonement are synonyms. Propitation and expiation are also words used the in the New Testament for the atonement.

Luther anticipated what the Concordists faced after the Book of Concord. The redemption or atonement is the Gospel treasure. No one needs to say, “What can I do to make up for my sins?” The payment has been made.

But that is not the same as saying

LCMS Brief Statement of 1932:
Scripture teaches that God has already declared the whole world to be righteous in Christ, Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 4:25; that therefore not for the sake of their good works, but without the works of the Law, by grace, for Christ's sake, He justifies, accounts as righteous, all those who that is, believe, accept, and rely on, the fact that for Christ's sake their sins are forgiven. Thus the Holy Ghost testifies through St. Paul: "There is no difference; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," Rom. 3:23, 24. And again: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law," Rom. 3:28.

All the Scripture examples above are wrong, and some are outrageously in error.

God’s declaration of forgiveness is what we call justification by faith. That is always through the proclamation of the Gospel (the Means of Grace) and faith in Jesus.

6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

This is a classic passage in the New Testament, often quoted to show us that the Spirit works through the Word to plant faith in our hearts, to move us to say Abba, Father – the Lord’s Prayer.

Because Christ makes us a brother, a member of God’s family, we are able and willing to call upon Him in every time of trial or need. We do not live in bondage to the Law but in freedom through the Gospel.

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.

Isaiah 65:21 And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. 22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them. 24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.


Hedonists
The hedonists misunderstand this. They imagine they can do whatever they want and use the Gospel as an excuse, saying, “I know I am a sinner, so I know I am forgiven.” Paul disposed of this lame approach in Romans 6, but the idea has great attract for the Old Adam. 

New Law-Givers
Rick Warren and his disciples are good examples of returning to the Law. At first Pietists emphasis the small group, prayer, and Bible study. But because they do not teach the Means of Grace, they think something is lacking. They return to the Law by saying they have to transform society and make the world a better place. Every denomination that embraces Pietism goes from the small group to the new laws – with Moses as the Savior. Soon they see how there are many others who also want to transform society, so they lay aside all differences and join in union efforts to transform society. We are far worse off today than we were before people were transforming society.  

Lenski:
This translation assumes that the sonship of the Galatians is now to be proved, and that the possession of the Spirit is the proof. But the sonship is proved in v. 4, 5, and what is now added is the result of this sonship, the corroboration of it, exactly as is done in Rom. 8:14, 15, which treats the possession of the Spirit as one of the great results of justification. A result may, of course, be used to prove its cause; but here Paul does not reverse matters in this way, he states the cause and then its result. In 3:2 he inquires for the source of the effect and thus does reverse the two.
The moment we note that “sons” means sons who are no longer in their minority but in their full majority, we see how Paul has, indeed, proved the Galatians to be such sons: God’s Son has abolished all minority, no minor heirs now exist, all guardians and stewards over minors are now and forever abolished. It is in this sense that the Galatian believers are “sons” also with the evident result of such mature sonship and freedom from superiors, namely that God commissioned the Spirit of the Son with the cry of sons, “Abba Father.”
Note the close parallel: “God commissioned forth his Son” (v. 4)—“God commissioned forth the Spirit of his Son.” These are the two great historic acts. All the promises of Jesus regarding the sending of the Spirit apply, John 14:16, etc.; 15:26; 16:13, etc.; Acts 1:8. The fulfillment came on Pentecost and remained for all believers of all time. The things to be noted are not the outward miraculous signs which occurred at the time of Pentecost, which are like the angels singing at the time of the nativity; but all the statements of Jesus that the Spirit could not come to the disciples until Jesus had gone to the Father. When redemption was entirely complete, the Spirit came, “commissioned forth” as Jesus had been. Then all the guardians and the stewards were dismissed, the Spirit took their place, for the heirs’ minority was ended, the Galatian believers were “sons” in this full sense.
We need scarcely say that the Spirit wrought in the Old Testament, that the faith of the Old Testament believers was produced by the Spirit. To think that the Old Testament believers were devoid of the Spirit is to imagine an impossibility. Pentecost ushered in a new era, the era when the Spirit is able to glorify Jesus as one having come, to take all that Jesus has achieved, to declare it unto us, John 16:14; this is his world-wide mission. And this means: no longer minor heirs waiting for this era. “You are sons.”
For such “sons” the Spirit of God’s Son is intended. When Paul says that he is in “our” hearts and changes from the second person plural to the first, we must go on to v. 7 where he changes to “thou,” the singular, every individual. These different pronouns are not stressed over against each other; they merely turn the thought in every direction. “Our” hearts thus include Paul and the Galatian believers. Paul himself and the great mass of Jewish believers in the Christian Church had come to faith after the Son brought redemption. This includes the 3,000 who came to faith after the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost. Like the Gentile believers, all of them at once became “sons.” Do not forget that among the 3,000 there were not a few proselytes (Acts 2:10), former Gentiles. All of them were not minors but sons in their majority. There was no further waiting for the testamentary promises to be fulfilled, no further supervision for minor heirs.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. Columbus, O. : Lutheran Book Concern, 1937, S. 205.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Isaiah Mighty Seer





"Isaiah, Mighty Seer, in Days of Old"
by Martin Luther, 1483-1546

 Isaiah, mighty seer, in days of old
The Lord of all in Spirit did behold
High on a lofty throne, in splendor bright,
With flowing train that filled the Temple quite.
Above the throne were stately seraphim,
Six wings had they, these messengers of Him.
With twain they veiled their faces, as was meet,
With twain in reverent awe they hid their feet,
And with the other twain aloft they soared,
One to the other called and praised the Lord:
"Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!
Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!
Holy is God, the Lord of Sabaoth!
Behold, His glory filleth all the earth!"
The beams and lintels trembled at the cry,
And clouds of smoke enwrapped the throne on high.

Hymn 249
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Is. 6: 1-4
Author: Martin Luther, 1526
Translated by: composite
Titled: "Jessia, dem Propheten, das gescha"
Tune: "Jessia, dem Propheten"
Composer: Martin Luther, 1526


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Day Sermon, 2011


Christmas Day Sermon


Luke 2: 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Luke 2: 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.


The second part of Luke’s nativity is the application, where the Holy Spirit reveals this great miracle to ordinary working people. Sheep were a mainstay for the economy at that time, providing many different products and clothing. The Bible contains 500 references to sheep and shepherding. God chose to show them the greatest miracle of all, the Incarnation, the Word made flesh, and to do so with an angelic light show and chorus.

Lenski:
The shepherds were out in the open because of their flock, and the probability is that they did not live in the town at all but somewhere in a valley in the hills. The place shown to tourists should deceive no one. So also the deduction that Jesus could not have been born in December, which is fortified by Talmudic notices to the effect that some time between April and November must be referred to. This conclusion is valueless, for in a climate such as Palestine has sheep could be kept out-of-doors all winter. While December 25 is only traditional and goes back to the celebration of the nativity at Rome on that date in the fourth century, it is at least traditional and better than deductions that have no basis and only assail the old date without furnishing even the inkling of a new one. Only one conclusion is sound, namely that Jesus was born at night—otherwise the angel would not have appeared to the shepherds “at night.”
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Luke's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 128.

Any history fan knows that people make up details, and those details often stick for a long time. However, human tradition often remembers what is not written down. Religion is quite conservative in preserving the past, so I am always inclined to favor the traditional remembrance if no data contradicts it. Those who have never been to the Holy Land say, “It had to be in the spring because that is the only time shepherds are out in the fields at night.” Grand statements like that are difficult to hear without laughing. I would like to poll the farmers in Illinois and see if all of them infallibly do the same thing all the time.

The anti-Christians like to say that Christmas was invented to get believers away from the winter solstice (when the sun threatens to go even lower in the sky and begins rising again each day).  In fact, the first Christians in Rome were won away from drunkenness and orgies by the Gospel, not by an alternative celebration. That sounds like Guys and Dolls, where mobsters have to decide between a prayer meeting and a card game.

Not even the greatest expert on the culture of a time can say exactly what happened because 99% or more is lost to history.

Any believer would conclude that Christmas was celebrated because of the unique message of the faith, that God became man, that Jesus—a real person—was born of a virgin. Pagan Rome had gods and goddesses from all over the world, but they were not real. Jesus was a person known to history, seen and heard by many, someone whose effect left a permanent mark on the population, although His travels were limited to a minor and troublesome province in the Roman Empire.

One of the ironies of history is that the Empire identified the Christians with the Jews. They were just another brand of Jews, they thought. That only added to the persecutions that erupted from time to time.

So these shepherds were minor figures in an outlying province of the Empire, yet they played an essential role in the birth of the Christian Church. They were the earliest evangelists.



We know this happened at night –

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

God created light before the heavenly spheres, separating light from darkness. God is the ultimate judge of truth and falsehood, so Paul and John both use light and darkness to represent good and evil. That is also found throughout the Bible

KJV Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Therefore, the angelic host was spectacular because of the light (glory) shining all around and also because they were light, truth, in the midst of darkness and untruth.

Still, divine appearances are terrifying at first. The shepherds were afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

When people face judgment of any type, fear is the first response. The greater the power encountered, the greater the fear. God knows all so the appearance of the angel is going to penetrate the conscience of each person witnessing the event.

But the angel said, “Stop being afraid.” The reasons are threefold:
  1. Good tidings – the Gospel literally.
  2. Of great joy – the effect of the Gospel.
  3. To all people – applied to all people. The Gospel will not go out to a limited group of people but will be shared with the world.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Here is the explanation – so much is said in one simple sentence.
  1. Unto you – This happened for your benefit.
  2. Is born – A real person, not god from mythology.
  3. This day – You are there to witness this event.
  4. In the City of David – The Messianic prophecies are fulfilled.
  5. A Savior – He will rescue His people.
  6. Christ – He is the King, anointed with oil, the Messiah.
  7. The Lord – He is Lord of all.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 

There is only one baby like this in the whole area. Verse 12 is a beautiful parallel to Verse 7 –

KJV Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Doubtless many babies were born that night but only One was lying in a manger. He was wrapped in pieces of cloth, swathed, as Lenski wrote.

Sidebar - This term is used in Latin for the earliest printed books, incunabula, Latin for “wrapping in swaddling clothes.” The great and glorious bindings for printed books came later. I saw many jewel encrusted bindings for Dante’s Divine Comedy, lying about at Notre Dame’s library, before the rare books collection was finished up. I imagine the school got tired of getting them as gifts – another Dante from the cardinal of Padua, what a cad you are.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

This means the sky was filled with thousands of angels praising God and chanting this poetry, made famous by the miraculous event.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.




This is the application of the Gospel, so clear and yet so clearly evading many ministers today. The energy of God’s Word is so great that the Holy Spirit moves people to do what is God pleasing. The power of the Word is directly related to the purity of the Word. The angels proclaimed the Gospel, moving the shepherds to visit the Child – with haste – not making any excuses or stopping along the way. And, once they had seen God Incarnate, they told everyone about it, verses 17 and 20.

“And they returned”

They went back to their flocks, but with new experiences and emotions. Nothing was the same after that.

Mormon missionaries told me about the imaginary visions of Joseph Smith, a noted con man. They said, “If that happened to you, wouldn’t that change your life?”

I said, “I wouldn’t start a new religion.”

The shepherds did not start a new religion. They renewed their understanding of Judaism transforming into Christianity. They began laying the foundation of the Church that grew so rapidly at Pentecost.

The self-appointed miracle workers want nothing to do with the pure Word of God. They have programs, which water down the Word. They have personalities, goals, objectives, and exciting new movements. They are the religious leaders being left behind, because they are too blinded by their own arrogance to know the treasures of the Gospel.

As Luther noted, God placed the Savior in a manger, not in a palace. He give the honor of the first visit to shepherds, not to scribes and Pharisees. And yet He gave them another chance when Jesus stayed days at the Temple, and another chance when Jesus was tried for treason and blasphemy, and yet another chance when the Apostles taught on Pentecost and afterwards.

The Gospel Word keeps going forth. There so many examples I could tell, but many would involve personal details that I would rather keep private. One young man never had a saving knowledge of Christ until we took him to church every Sunday. Now that is the most valuable thing to him, knowing Christ.

We should trust God so much that we let Him accomplish His will through His Word rather than force results through our goals. He has managed quite well up to now and should continue to do so as well, as Luther observed.



Quotations
"Here are no learned, no rich, no mighty ones, for such people do not as a rule accept the Gospel.  The Gospel is a heavenly treasure, which will not tolerate any other treasure, and will not agree with any earthly guest in the heart.  Therefore whoever loves the one must let go the other, as Christ says, Matthew 6:24:  'You cannot serve God and mammon.'"
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., I, p. 154. Luke 2:1‑14.      

"The preachers are to be angels, that is God's messengers, who are to lead a heavenly life, are to be constantly engaged with God's Word that they under no circumstances preach the doctrine of men.  It is a most incongruous thing to be God's messenger and not to further God's message."
Sermons of Martin Luther, I, p. 153. Christmas Day Luke 2:1‑14.
          
"Whoever does not receive the Word for its own sake, will never receive it for the sake of the preacher, even if all the angels preached it to him.  And he who receives it because of the preacher does not believe in the Word, neither in God through the Word, but he believes the preacher and in the preacher. Hence the faith of such persons does not last long.  But whoever believes the Word, does not care who the person is that speaks the Word, and neither will he honor the Word for the sake of the person; but on the contrary, he honors the person because of the Word, and always subordinates the person to the Word."
Sermons of Martin Luther, I, p. 162. Luke 2:15‑20.
   
"Therefore God must lead us to a recognition of the fact that it is He who puts faith in our heart and that we cannot produce it ourselves.  Thus the fear of God and trust in Him must not be separated from one another, for we need them both, in order that we may not become presumptuous and overconfident, depending upon ourselves.  This is one of the reasons why God leads His saints through such great trials."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 21. Luke 2:41‑52.


Boxing Day: What is Boxing Day? Why is it Called Boxing Day

Boxing Day: What is Boxing Day? Why is it Called Boxing Day:

Learning British culture. Boxing Day was just as quiet as Christmas Day in Ontario. Nothing was open. Everyone stayed home.

'via Blog this'

Christmas Eve Service.
7 PM Central

By Norma Boeckler



Christmas Readings and Hymns

Holy Communion
December 24, 2011 – 7 PM Central
Bethany Lutheran Church
Bella Vista, Arkansas
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Hymn 77:1-6            All My Heart This Night Rejoices                                             2.25

The Invocation, Confession and Absolution                                          p. 15

The First Gospel

Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

KJV Isaiah 40:1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins. 3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. 8 The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9 O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!

The Place of Jesus’ Birth

KJV Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

#102                           O Come All Ye Faithful                                    1:7

KJV Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Virgin Birth

KJV Isaiah 7:10 Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. 13 And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

Incarnation

KJV Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

#109                           While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks               1:35

KJV Matthew 1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. 24 Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: 25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.


Sermon – No Modesty about the Truth


Luke’s Account – Sermon Text

KJV Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

No Modesty about the Truth

One of my classmates reminded me of a famous quotation when she wished everyone Merry Christmas, “even though we are not sure exactly when Jesus was born.”

I wrote back, “We know more about the time and place of Jesus’ birth than we do about Obama’s.” I should have added – and more about His Father, too.

In the midst of the various Christmas greetings, one Leftist classmate wrotre, “Merry. Merry.”

I simply added “Christmas” to the next line, because I am tired of people pretending it is not Christmas but just happy-time, or winter, even though no one buys winter presents for anyone. Neither does anyone yell, “Merry Winter” to various strangers and friends.

Needless to say, both of my faux-innocent comments led to dustups, with people offended and admonishing me (not a new experience).

In light of that, Chesterton’s quotation about modesty is appropriate:

“Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth: this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert-himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason... The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping: not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.”
― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

There is such a thing as truth, but this basic concept is denied as a foundational assumption. If there is no truth, there is nothing to argue about, especially religion, so “every truth is God’s truth,” as someone cheerfully said in a class I took. The Christian professor said “Amen” with great gusto and fervor.

Christmas has a special claim upon truth, because God became man, and Jesus was born of a Virgin. This is revealed as truth in the Scriptures, but people still want a Christian philosophy of some type that avoids and denies this truth.

All mainline groups (including the Lutheran franchises) deny and oppose the Confessions – especially their own. The greatest energy has been devoted to working with all other denominations and even such heretical churches as the Salvation Army. At the same time, which is even great proof of unbelief, there is a demonic energy for persecuting those who do believe in the basic articles of faith. And this does not matter which denomination, which I have taken great pains to prove.

The Gospel seed is thinly sown, as Luther remarked. The outward trappings often hide the inner apostasy.

Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

Governments are good at taxing people and business. They even use taxes to control people, keeping them too busy to rebel against the oppression.

The Roman Empire’s taxation was denied in books that I read in the 1970s, but Lenski knew about supporting evidence decades before. I also read Ramsay in seminary and knew about the astonishing accuracy and precision of Scriptural trivia. This is trivial because the census is not doctrine, but nevertheless the trivial fact is true, showing that God’s Word is accurate in doctrine, history, and geography. Man argues against one or the other because of his unbelief.

Lenski:
Until a few years ago the critics had things pretty much to themselves, and all one could do was to trust to the reliability of Luke. But now a mass of papyri and several inscriptions have reversed the situation. The evidence is now at hand that Augustus did issue the decree of which Luke speaks, that it was a new, epoch-making measure, and that it inaugurated a periodic enrollment in the empire which continued for over two centuries at intervals of fourteen years. See the writings of W. M. Ramsay.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Luke's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 116.

Like the Star of Bethlehem, the census was one part of the picture. Some would like to set aside the Star of Bethlehem too, but that has worked its way back into the picture, simply because we have the tools to recreate it and to view it exactly as the Wise Men saw it – in planetariums. And the skeptics deeply resent that fact.

2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

I remember the chortles from the Left. “Now we have Luke in the crosshairs. Cyrenius was not governor then.” He was serving in that capacity. He was governing. When we conquered Japan, McArthur became the military governor of Japan. He carried himself as an emperor, which is what the people expected. He was not a governor in the American sense, far from it, but he governed. That is the point.

Lenski:
Acting in a governing capacity in Syria, and having broader powers than those of the regular governor, Quirinius managed the enrollment also in Herod’s domain.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Luke's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 118.

3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

The fact of the census caused the pathos of the Nativity. With everyone crowding the roads, inns, and homes, there was no room for Joseph and Mary. Homes were tiny then, something we can hardly imagine. If you see photos of crowded busses, ferries, or markets in the Third World, that gives a better impression than imposing our need for space upon the Roman Empire. The ultra-rich had palaces, but everyone else was crowded together.

Here we see that God enters history contrary to man’s expectations. Instead of great pomp and glory – humility and poverty and yieldingness. Joseph and Mary could not even claim a spare room at a relative’s home. Sure there was something available. The problem at the inn is a good indication, because it should have been an alternative.

4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

As we all know from Christmas pageants, these verses from Luke flow elegantly as phrases in a poem. The best passages to memorize are those which are poetic in form, with simple descriptive phrases. I can imagine this being memorized by children in the earliest congregations, adults reciting it as the narrative of their Savior’s birth.

Not to be missed in the long, uphill climb from the low-lying territory of Galilee to the mountainous Jerusalem. Similar would be the journey from the desert valley of Phoenix to the high country of Flagstaff and beyond. Only we went by auto, not by foot. I keep seeing graphics of Mary on a donkey. There is no beast of burden mentioned in the Scriptures. Even with one, the trip was arduous.

Joseph’s lineage caused him to report to Bethlehem for the census. Therefore, when we read about that shepherd boy, David, in Bethlehem, we already have an inkling of the story of the Savior. Saul was an unfit king, so the reign passed over to David, and David became the example, the ideal of the Messiah – the king anointed with oil.

The prophecies said the Savior would be born in Bethlehem, and the Roman Empire made this happen. This alone shows us how God works in history. The clever philosophers want to divorce a charming story from the facts of history, but believers see how God declared and then fulfilled every promise from the Old Testament.

These Messianic promises are woven into the Scriptures, so that anyone reading them before or after the event could see those details, not as a platform, but as a thread running through the Old Testament books. Where one detail might be overlooked, many more cannot be. The Old Testament is certainly a cradle that holds the baby Jesus. Once the Holy Spirit has opened the eyes of faith, that cannot be missed.

When obstinate rejection closes the eyes of faith, nothing can be seen at all. My apostate Roman Catholic friends came back from a famous lecturer’s talk, happy that all the Old Testament miracles were set aside as “symbolic.” Someone asked, “What about the New Testament miracles?” The man responded, “Oh, those are all true.” This made the two theology students (now professors) furious.
I contacted them as alumni, by email. They found communicating with me difficult, even though I only said hello after all these years – 29 in all.

The Bible is not a cafeteria line where we pick out what we like.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

These verses indicate that Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem and were there a period of time before Jesus was born. The Bible is very strict with details, because we do not need to know everything. Compare this to an essay I graded, where a woman took six typed paged to describe her dog’s illness. In fact the story the sinking of a famous ocean liner (Normandie) took up more space in the New York Times than the entire account of the Flood in Genesis.

This concise narrative is good, because we reflect upon the essentials rather than all the other details that intrigue us without edifying us.

Many like to dwell on morbid descriptions of how terrible this was, to give birth in such a way. If anyone suggested it advance to a couple, they would be astonished at the lack rather than the abundance – except for one thing. God would surely take care of His Son’s birth and provide all needed assistance. His angels announced it, so they did not leave the family without help or comfort.

The message here is that they trusted in God to provide what was needed. A German Gerhardt hymn makes that point about all believers. God provides special care, comfort, and protection at all times.

So, as humans, we look at the birth in the animal shelter as the opposite of our wishes for anyone, but God presents it as a scene of peace and joy.

The Gospel comes to the humble and poor, those who hunger for the righteousness of God. The people who consider themselves great intellects are too proud to read the Word of God as a direct revelation. They place themselves above it.

But here we see the Savior born in the midst of the decaying Roman Empire, turmoil everywhere. Hundreds of Old Testament prophecies begin to be revealed in scene after scene, as the true drama of salvation unfolds.

For those who believe the Word of God and trust in its promises, the Bible is a constant source of wonder and wisdom. If someone asks, How can my own sins be forgiven?, he only need to look at the census bringing the Holy Family to Bethlehem, the Wise Men following the Star of Bethlehem, the shepherds told in the fields by angels while King Herod faced the end of his power and life.


#646                           Silent Night                                                   4:38

Heavenly Host

Luke 2: 8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

Holy Communion                                                                           p. 24


The Prayers and Benediction


#87                 Joy to the World                                                        1:20

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mid-Week Advent Service, December 21, 2011

The Means of Grace, by Norma Boeckler


Mid-Week Advent Vespers


The Christmas Eve service will be at 7 PM Central.
We will be traveling south to be with our son’s family on Christmas Day,
so there will be a printed sermon but not a service on Christmas Day.

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/bethany-lutheran-worship

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 7 PM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #81                 Jesus Thy Manger            3:60
The Order of Vespers                                             p. 41
The Psalmody                   Psalm 92                    p. 143
The Lection                            John 15:1-10

The Sermon Hymn #90            Come Your Hearts            3:83

The Sermon – In the Likeness of Sinful Flesh

The Prayers
The Lord’s Prayer
The Collect for Grace                                            p. 45
 The Hymn # 558     All Praise to Thee               2.9

KJV Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

In the Likeness of Sinful Flesh
Lenski:
It is easy to follow the thought of v. 1–11: 1) because of our connection with Christ, the Spirit freed us for living in the spirit, v. 1–4; 2) we differ entirely from those who live in the flesh, v. 5–10; 3) the Spirit will bring even our bodies to spiritual perfection, v. 11. This objective elaboration is followed by a statement of obligation and by a promise, v. 12–17.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's Espistle to the Romans. Columbus, Ohio : Lutheran Book Concern, 1936, S. 493.

The Bible clearly distinguishes between two groups at all times. Those who believe in Christ are forgiven their sins, justified by faith. Those who do not believe in Christ are condemned for their unbelief.

The Gospel of John is plainly teaches that we exist in condemnation until the Gospel plants faith in our hearts so that we rely entirely on Christ for forgiveness and salvation.

That is one of many places where people like to take the wrong turn. This forgiveness through the Gospel is used as an excuse for any kind of sin. I remember the LCA saying, “They are sinners like any other,” in talking about homosexuality. I have heard that same concept repeated in WELS lately. Like all falsehoods, that is a half-truth that is more deceptive for being partially true. While we remain in sin as long as we live, the sin of Sodom is constantly mentioned as the worst kind. Paul, in Romans 1, gives that the example of the primary degradation of mankind, when God “betrays” or turns over man to his own base desires.

The smart-aleck apostate answer to that is – Paul had hang-ups about this. But it applies to the entire Bible, not just to Paul. He converted the dregs of society and reminded them what they used to be – so salvation was not an excuse to “sin more that grace may abound.”

Naturally, once grace is divorced from the Means of Grace, everything and everyone is forgiven. That is why people fall into the Antinomian (anti-law, there is no Law) attitude that prevails all over the West today.

Paul, following Christ, does not exterminate the Law in teaching the Gospel. Paul’s exposition here shows that the righteousness of faith is the answer to our sinful nature.

8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Flesh versus Spirit means unbelief versus faith in the Gospel. The Pentecostals may think that Spirit means their kind of Spirit-baptism, but it combines faith in Christ which can only come through the Spirit working in the Word. Faith begins with the Spirit working in the Word and faith is sustained by the Spirit at work in the Word.

When Paul says “Spirit,” he is including the Word of God, justification by faith, and the Sacraments.

Many people miss the connection between the Spirit, the efficacious Word, the Means of Grace, and justification by faith. Therefore, they also miss the point of sanctification – the Christian life – which is fueled by the Gospel and led by the Spirit. We are not converted to live the life of unbelief.

The hedonists (pleasure-seekers) or Antinomians (no law) use the Gospel to live as if there is no Word of God, using grace as an excuse.

Walking after the Spirit means following the Word. Jesus said, “Guard the Word.” He did not say, “Now that you are forgiven, do whatever you want in the name of grace.”

2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Lenski:
The Holy Spirit is thus significantly called “the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus.” This is the life we live with Christ, which makes us alive (6:8, 10, 13), the end of which is life eternal (6:22, 23). So its creator, the Spirit, is called “the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus,” for the fact that we have it “in Christ Jesus” is shown in 6:1–11, and is stated in 6:11. This spiritual life constitutes the life of our inner man and animates our “mind” and moves our will to will the good law of God and not to will the base things of the sin power (6:15, etc.).
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's Espistle to the Romans. Columbus, Ohio : Lutheran Book Concern, 1936, S. 496.

The life of the Gospel is constant forgiveness, blessings, and the energy to do what pleases God.

Paul used himself as the example as the chief of sinners, since he persecuted the early Christians. Note that this also makes unbelief the most heinous sin of all, the foundational sin.

When people are indifferent about faith in Christ – as if all religions are equally good – it is an incitement to fall into unbelief again. Tolerance of the wrong kind becomes indifference and atheism. At some point the tolerance is expressed by condemning anyone who claims salvation in Christ alone.

3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

This is a great Christmas text, especially for those who say Paul did not teach the Virgin Birth of Christ.

If you ever doubt the clarity and conciseness of the Word, then consider the doctrinal lessons in this one verse. I will simply outline some of the themes that could be developed into separate chapters or books:

  1. What the Law could not do – The Gospel at work in the Means of Grace, overcoming our inherent weakness, original sin.
  2. God sending His own Son – the divinity of Christ and His sinless life, which meant He died as the Redeemer and not as a sinner. Pre-existence of the Son.
  3. In the likeness of sinful flesh – the humanity of Christ, therefore the Two Natures, divine and human, in the One Person. Incarnation. Virgin Birth.
  4. And for sin – The Atonement, the Two Natures of Christ defeating sin by Christ becoming sin to redeem mankind.

Lenski:
“In likeness of flesh of sin” is one of those exact Scripture phrases which admit of no change. “The likeness of flesh” would be Docetism, Christ would then be without real flesh; “the flesh of sin” would be Ebionitism, Christ would then have had sinful flesh; but “likeness of flesh of sin” is gospel doctrine, Christ assumed our flesh but not its sinfulness. Paul has just used the term “flesh” (the law was weak through the flesh) in the sense of our corrupt nature; if he had continued in this strain and had written that God sent his Son “in the flesh,” the sense would be that Christ appeared in our sinful nature. This thought he avoids by writing: “in likeness of flesh of sin.” The likeness of the flesh of sin is the flesh without sin, John 1:14.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Paul's Espistle to the Romans. Columbus, Ohio : Lutheran Book Concern, 1936, S. 500.

These three verses in Romans 8 illustrate what Luther said about the Epistles being more concentrated Gospel than the Gospels themselves are. Of course, we need the Gospels to be that narrative about Jesus so we know about His birth, baptism, ministry, miracles, atoning death, and resurrection. Because those narratives involve historical detail, we have more words devoted to establishing the foundation.

The Pauline epistles are great teaching devices. We should never be so intimidated by the depth of his writing that we neglect reading his inspired letters over and over. The Holy Spirit teaches us through the Word, never apart from the Word. The most reliable commentary on the Bible is – the Bible. Let one passage explain the other.

Second to the Bible is the Book of Concord and Luther’s Sermons. It is better to read a few reliable books than to be immersed in a sea of mediocre works.