The First Sunday after the Epiphany
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time
The Hymn # 277 I heard the voice 4:57
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 Romans 12:1-5
The Gospel Luke 2:41-52
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 657 Beautiful Savior 4:24
The Divinity of Christ
The Hymn #130 O Jesus King of Glory 4:49
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 #40 The God of Abram Praise 4:94
KJV Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
KJV Luke 2:41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. 44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? 50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
First Sunday After Epiphany
Lord God, heavenly Father, who in mercy hast established the Christian home among us: We beseech Thee so to rule and direct our hearts, that we may be good examples to children and servants, and not offend them by word or deed, but faithfully teach them to love Thy Church and hear Thy blessed word. Give them Thy Spirit and grace, that this seed may bring forth good fruit, so that our homelife may conduce to Thy glory, honor and praise, to our own improvement and welfare, and give offense to no one; 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.
The Divinity of Christ
This story is one of my favorites. I remember going to church and seeing the well known painting of Jesus in the Temple. I knew the likelihood of a group of elderly men listening to a boy talk about religion. It was and still is fascinating to think about.
This should remind us of how little we know about the childhood of Jesus. The fake Gospels try to fill in the details with fables, but they were invented centuries later. The Holy Spirit chose to tell us relatively little because the central story of the Bible is the cross and resurrection.
There are several main themes in this story. One is the divinity of Christ. Another is the burden Mary and Joseph had to bear because they were raising the eternal Son of God. Finally, this story also shows how God took the Gospel to the temple (again) to prepare the religious leaders for the Messiah.
Divinity of Christ
Luke 2:46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.
I often dwell on the laborious journey, uphill all the way, to Jerusalem, and the search for Jesus everywhere. That gives all parents a clear picture of the agony that Joseph and Mary must have felt for days.
However, we should also consider the long stretch of time Jesus spent with the elders, teachers, leaders of the Temple, asking them questions and teaching them about the Word of God.
It says about the Jewish leaders “And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.”
There are two approaches to such matters. Some people tell everyone how much they know and offer their own authentication. I knew someone who went to Yale and told a story about how he graduated with highest honors, because his diploma said so in Latin. I looked at mine and saw “second honors” and asked a doctoral student at Yale about “first” being highest honors. She said, “Nonsense. First honors means it is a bachelor of divinity degree, the first degree. Yours means it is a master’s degree, the second degree.”
The second approach is to know matters so well than no one can dispute it. Sometimes I play a trick on people, because I was trained inadequately in network engineering. There is a phrase they use all the time – “check the physical layer.” There are some others that others do not know. When network engineers discuss something, not knowing me, or they give me needed advice involving the wiring and switches, I add “Start with the physical layer.” That creates astonishment. But of course, a few pointed questions would expose how little I remember after that.
Jesus spoke with the leaders for three days, we may suppose, and they were still astonished at what He said and the questions he asked.
Some of you may be thinking, “If I had been there. I would have listened to every Word for three days.”
But we have that opportunity all the time. The entire Bible is God’s Word. He speaks to us directly and His Word has the power to move us accordingly. It is both the direction and the power to follow that direction.
Recently an agnostic college student wrote to me about some matters on the blog. I urged him to forget about human institutions and read the Gospel of John, where Jesus speaks the most and teaches us in the clearest possible terms.
We can see from this episode in the Temple how much God did to convert Jews to the Christian faith.
1. He prepared the way with the Old Testament prophets and the greatest of all prophets – John the Baptist.
2. Jesus was circumcised and Temple leaders witnessed about His mission.
3. The Savior spoke with the Temple leaders for three days.
Jesus spent almost all His ministry among Jews and ventured into Gentile lands only for a short time. Likewise, St. Paul’s mission was “to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles.”
In God’s plan, this kept the Old Testament and New Testament together as One Gospel. From Lenski I came to realize that the earliest era of Christianity was an overwhelming success among Jews, so much that that excommunications and persecutions began in earnest. The Talmud also had its beginning at this time, according to Chemnitz, to cloud over the Scriptural witness to Christ.
So early Christianity was Jewish Christianity and then became Gentile Christianity as well. But the Gospel message to Jewish people has never stopped, and there are many Jewish Christian believers today because of it. One of the ironies of life is that I had a non-Jewish student who went to one of the Jewish Christian churches in Phoenix. So the mission to the Jews reversed itself and reached a Gentile.
This story displays the agony Joseph and Mary felt. There is no secret about it. Mary said:
“Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.”
Jesus did not apologize but responded, “Did you not realize that I must be about my Father’s business?”
This shows us the vast gulf between our perception and God’s, which was preparation for the future. Jesus’ role was not something He would debate with Joseph, Mary, and the extended family. Doubtless few of them had any grasp of the nature of His work, until after the resurrection. Mary knew best of all.
There had to be this gulf because no one could imagine that the Only-Begotten Son would die on the cross to atone for our sins, to redeem us from sin, death, and the devil.
The clearest part of the Gospel, that this forgiveness is distributed through the Word and Sacraments, is still lost on people today. Either they do not know exactly how people are forgiven—although believing is forgiveness—or they declare everyone is forgiven in advance.
The seeming uncaring nature of Christ is His divinity. But this story lets us see our own doubts and reflect upon what is happening. We can see that Jesus in the Temple is a perfect example of God’s mercy. Could He have asked permission and received it, to stay for days? Instead, He did what God the Father commanded and brought the Gospel to the Temple itself. As a result some of the earliest Christians were from the highest levels of leadership, as shown by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.
So, when God seems indifferent to our troubles and anxieties, God is allowing such things to happen for our ultimate good and to glorify His Name.
Efficacy of the Word Quotations
"Despised and scorned, they sojourned here
But now, how glorious they appear!
Those martyrs stand a priestly band,
God’s throne forever near.
So oft, in troubled days gone by,
In anguish they would weep and sigh.
At home, above the God of love
For aye their tears shall dry.
They now enjoy their Sabbath rest,
The paschal banquet of the blest;
The Lamb, their Lord, at festal board
Himself is Host and Guest."
Hans A. Brorson, “Behold a Host, Arrayed in White,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #656, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941.116
"But Christ was given for this purpose, namely, that for His sake there might be bestowed on us the remission of sins, and the Holy Ghost to bring forth in us new and eternal life, and eternal righteousness [to manifest Christ in our hearts, as it is written John 16:15: He shall take of the things of Mine, and show them unto you. Likewise, He works also other gifts, love, thanksgiving, charity, patience, etc.]. Wherefore the Law cannot be truly kept unless the Holy Ghost is received through faith... Then we learn to know how flesh, in security and indifference, does not fear God, and is not fully certain that we are regarded by God, but imagines that men are born and die by chance. Then we experience that we do not believe that God forgives and hears us. But when, on hearing the Gospel and the remission of sins, we are consoled by faith, we receive the Holy Ghost, so that now we are able to think aright."
Augsburg Confession, Article III, #11, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 159. Tappert, p. 125. Heiser, p. 42.
Effective in Galatia
KJV Galatians 2:8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
In this passage Paul is presenting his case against the Judaizers in Galatia, establishing his status as the apostle to the Gentiles and destroying the necessity of circumcision. While Peter worked among the Jews and Paul among the non-Jews, God was actively at work in both men, because the effect of the Gospel does not depend on man. Therefore, the argument of the false teachers, that Peter alone worked miracles, is false.
Clark's translation: "For he who infused the supernatural spirit for Peter in order that he might authoritatively preach among the Jews, infused me too with that same spirit, so that I might as authoritatively preach among the pagans."
Kenneth W. Clark, "The Meaning of Energeo and Katargeo in the New Testament," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 54, 1935, p. 94.
KJV Galatians 3:5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
The question posed by Paul about the circumcision party offers a comparison that needs no answer.
1. God provided all of the effort in giving you the Spirit. The verb form is related to the act of outfitting a chorus, that is, providing all of the expenses of a drama or pageant. God provided all of the cost in bringing the Spirit through the Word to the Galatians, sending His Son and commissioning the apostles.
2. God also worked (erg is the root for work) great miracles, which are recorded in Acts 14:3. “Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”
3. Did He work miracles (energon dynameis) through the works (ergoi) of the Law or the preaching of faith? The Judaizers could not teach the Gospel, could not therefore provide the Spirit, and could not perform any miracles or wonders. The works of the Judaizers do not work.
“Since Paul, then, clearly testifies that he did not even wish to seek for the confirmation of Peter [for permission to preach] even when he had come to him, he teaches that the authority of the ministry depends upon the Word of God, and that Peter was not superior to the other apostles, and that it was not from this one individual Peter that ordination or confirmation was to be sought [that the office of the ministry proceeds from the general call of the apostles, and that it is not necessary for all to have the call or confirmation of this one person, Peter, alone].”
The Smalcald Articles, Of the Power and Primacy of the Pope, IV, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 507. Tappert, p. 321. Heiser, p. 150.
Faith Works by Love, Galatians 5:6
KJV Galatians 5:6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.
"But after man has been justified by faith, then a true living faith worketh by love, Galatians 5:6, so that thus good works always follow justifying faith, and are surely found with it, if it be true and living; for it never is alone, but always has with it love and hope."
Formula of Concord, Epitome, III, #11. Righteousness of Faith, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 795. Tappert, p. 474. Heiser, p. 220.
This verse refutes the error of Roman Catholics, who damn to Hell those who teach that faith means trust in God, that faith alone receives God’s forgiveness.117
"If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than trust in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is this trust alone by which we are justified, let him be anathema [damned to Hell]." [Session Six, Canon XII]
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 460.
"If anyone says that a man is absolved from sins and justified because of this that he confidently believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except he who believes that he is justified, and that through this faith alone absolution and justification is effected, let him be anathema [damned to Hell]." [Sixth Session, Canon XIV]
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 551.
The law-merchants win if we think the energy of God’s salvation comes from circumcision or non-circumcision. They can even turn faith into a work of the Law, by making trust in God into a “decision for Christ,” or cooperation with God (synergism), or as the Church of Rome teaches, faith requiring good works to make the believer pleasing to God. Although the Roman concept seems to be the worst perversion, any addition of the Law to the Gospel destroys salvation by grace alone. The proper understanding of Galatians 5:6 is that the justified sinner, receiving forgiveness through faith, will be active in the works of love, in the spirit of gratitude rather than obligation toward God.118
“Therefore justification does not require the works of the Law; but it does require a living faith, which performs its works.”
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 721.
“He that hears the Word of Christ in all sincerity, and adheres to it in faith, will also soon be clothed with the spirit of love.”
Martin Luther, 8, 1572, cited in P. E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, New Testament, 2 vols., St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, II, p. 251.
"At this point, Paul uses the antonym katargoumai, in the aorist passive, of which notice may be taken here. All of you who seek to be pronounced dikaios through the Law, he says, katergethete apo christou, i.e. 'have been deprived of the efficacious spirit of Christ.' No longer is He in you, nor you in Him; you have been exorcised from him."
Kenneth W. Clark, "The Meaning of Energeo and Katargeo in the New Testament," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 54, 1935, p. 99.
To Will and to Do God’s Will, Philipians 2:13
KJV Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Kittel considers Philippians 2:13 the only instance of the word-group being used for human activity.119 Non-Lutherans have trouble with this verse, since they think in terms of the Arminian position of free will or the Calvinistic position of double predestination.120 However, Lutherans understand that the Holy Spirit works in the Word and Sacraments not only to make us love His will, but also to move us in serving Him willingly. Therefore, good works done by Christians are motivated by the Triune God and also activated by divine power. Walther: “We are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling for the very reason that our heavenly Father must do everything that is necessary for our salvation.”121
"Paul is not using law but Gospel. He is assuring his Christian readers that, in their complete dependence on God for their salvation, this God will never, never disappoint them but by working in them by means of Word and Sacrament will ever bring them to keep on in their willing and to keep on in their working, both object infinitives being present and durative."
R. C. H. Lenski, Philippians, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House: 1962, p. 800.
"And Paul, Philippians 2:13: It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. To all godly Christians who feel and experience in their hearts a small spark or longing for divine grace and eternal salvation this precious passage is very comforting; for they know that God has kindled in their hearts this beginning of true godliness, and that He will further strengthen and help them in their great weakness to persevere in true faith unto the end."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II, #14, Of Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 885. Tappert, p. 523. Heiser, p. 242.
“And although the regenerate even in this life advance so far that they will what is good, and love it, and even do good and grow in it, nevertheless this (as above stated) is not of our will and ability, but the Holy Ghost, as Paul himself speaks concerning this, works such willing and doing, Philippians 2:12. As also in Ephesians 2:10 he ascribes this work to God alone, when he says: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II, #39, Of Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 895. Tappert, p. 528. Heiser, p. 245.
Effective in Transforming, Philipians 3:20
KJV Philippians 3:20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.
Here Paul contrasts the city to which we belong, in Heaven, to the earthly nature of those who are sworn enemies of Christ (verse 19) whose God is their belly, whose end is destruction, whose glory is their shame, because they think only about the things on the earth. Believers, in contrast, belong to the City of God, where our Savior will come from at the end of time. He will call our bodies from the dead, (John 5), giving believers a glorious body which is like His glorified body, through His activity in subordinating every created thing and all powers to Himself.
"From this earthly city issue the enemies against whom the City of God must be defended. Some of them, it is true, abjure their worldly error and become worthy members in God's City. But many others, alas, break out in blazing hatred against it and are utterly ungrateful, notwithstanding its Redeemer's signal gifts. For, they would no longer have a voice to raise against it, had not its sanctuaries given them asylum as they fled before the invaders' swords, and made it possible for them to save the life of which they are so proud."
Augustine, The City of God, Garden City: Image Books, 1962, p. 40.
Active in Colosse; 1:28, 2:12
KJV Colossians 1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
Paul had to strive against Judaizers in Colosse, so he preached the Gospel and also warned against the false teachers. He could present every soul perfect in Christ only if the leaven of salvation by the Law was completely removed in all respects. His task is not easy; for he speaks of hard labor and agonizing according to the divine energy God has given him to work miracles. We can see that the old Pharisaical pride of Paul in being such a hard worker is now converted into praising God for working through him. The style of self-congratulations is still present, but Paul is now only the instrument.
KJV Colossians 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.
The monergism of the Bible is repeatedly connected to this word-group. In this passage we have the utter defeat of synergism, that is, any notion that man cooperates with God in salvation, even if it only means to complete what God has begun. Baptism is symbolic, but the Sacrament is not merely symbolic. Baptism is the energy of God in burying the old Adam and raising up the new Creation. Water represents our burial, our washing, our rebirth, but the power of Baptism comes from the Holy Spirit at work in the Word. We are raised through the faith worked by God who raised Him from the dead. The creation of faith by One so powerful cannot be denied, especially since the actual resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone of our faith.122
"Luther heads the list of those who regard the genitive as a genitive of cause: 'the faith which God works,' etc., 'of the operation of God' (KJV), i.e., produced in us by His work. So this passage has come to be a dictum probans against synergism. The fact that faith is in toto God's production is the teaching of all Scripture."123
R. C. H. Lenski, Colossians, Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1937, p. 109f.
“Just as Paul says to the Colossians, 2:12, that faith is efficacious through the power of God, and overcomes death: Wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God. Since this faith is a new life, it necessarily produces new movements and works. [Because it is a new light and life in the heart, whereby we obtain another mind and spirit, it is living, productive, and rich in good works.”
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article IV, #250, Justification. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 191. Tappert, p. 143. Heiser, p. 53.
“Paul almost everywhere, when he describes conversion or renewal, designates these two parts, mortification and quickening, as in Colossians 2:11: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, namely, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh. And afterward, v. 12: Wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God. Here are two parts. [Of these two parts he speaks plainly Romans 6:2, 4, 11, that we are dead to sin, which takes place by contrition and its terrors, and that we should rise again with Christ, which takes place when by faith we again obtain consolation and life.”
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XII, #46. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 263. Tappert, p. 188. Heiser, p. 81.
Effectual in Acknowledging, Philemon 1:6
Philemon 1:6 That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.
Communication (koinonia) is used exclusively in the New Testament for fellowship with God. The English term, koinonia, has degenerated into a name for socializing and cell groups. In the New Testament, koinonia means fellowship with God:
KJV 1 Corinthians 10:16 “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion (koinonia) of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion (koinonia) of the body of Christ?
When we understand that koinonia means fellowship with God, then we can see how Philemon’s faith can become energetic, divinely active, in being aware of all worthwhile things in him in Christ. The letter is a Gospel-centered plea by Paul to a rich man, Philemon, to accept back his runaway slave, Onesimus. The request in Philemon 1:6 is for Philemon to show mercy, which will then be influential among all the Christians, when they see someone give up his rights under the law in order to show forgiveness through Christ. This would also be a way of acknowledging the good things, the blessings, of Christian fellowship. In contrast, non-believers “lord it over one another (Matthew 20:25).”
Synoptic Energy, Matthew 14:2; Mark 6:14
KJV Matthew 14:2 (parallel: Mark 6:14) And said unto his servants, This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead; and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.
Herod the Tetrarch, in a guilty panic after he murdered John the Baptist, claimed that Jesus was John come back to life. While others saw wonderful miracles attesting the divinity of Jesus, God’s only-begotten Son, Herod saw a haunting memory of a dead prophet. If we did not have the efficacious verb in this passage, we would still be struck by the terror induced in Herod by the presence of the Savior. The mighty works active in Christ have the effect of the Law for Herod, because he only knows the agony of the unrepentant sinner who has hardened his own heart against the Gospel. Proverbs 28:1 “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.”