The Feast of the Holy Trinity, 2011
Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time
The Hymn # 236 Creator Spirit 1:9
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Athanasian Creed p. 53
The Sermon Hymn #237 All Glory Be 1:12
Born by the Word
The Communion Hymn # 341 Crown Him 1:70
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 #261 Lord Keep Us Steadfast 1:93
KJV Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! 34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? 35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? 36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
KJV John 3:1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: 2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. 3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? 5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. 9 Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
O Lord God, heavenly Father: We poor sinners confess that in our flesh dwelleth no good thing, and that, left to ourselves, we die and perish in sin, since that which is born of the flesh is flesh and cannot see the kingdom of God. But we beseech Thee: Grant us Thy grace and mercy, and for the sake of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, send Thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that being regenerate, we may firmly believe the forgiveness of sins, according to Thy promise in baptism; and that we may daily increase in brotherly love, and in other good works, until we at last obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
Born by the Word
This discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus is especially important. First of all, this long lesson is unique to John’s Gospel, so it was very significant. The value of the narrative is enhanced by the knowledge that Nicodemus was a leader among the Jews and helped in the aftermath of the crucifixion. In other words, he risked a lot by speaking with Jesus, then risked everything later.
KJV John 19:38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
This shows us the continuity between the teaching of Jesus and its effect on one of His students. This also means that the Gospel entered the center of religious life in Jerusalem. When the disciples preached on the Day of Pentecost, there was a background of support from the top to the bottom. This means that, like Jesus appearing as a boy in the Temple, God allowed for every believer to be called into the Kingdom by the Gospel.
When people ask, “Why are some saved and others not?” they are ignoring the fact of the preaching of the Gospel to all Creation. While humans seem to live on shunning others and avoiding them, God showers His grace on everyone. Many believe a short time and fall away. Others listen to false teachers and find themselves led away. Others steadfastly reject the Word, seeing only anger and condemnation where God offers the forgiveness received in faith.
The festival of Holy Trinity reminds us of the unique nature of the Christian faith. The Trinity is a mystery revealed by the Holy Spirit through the Word. So powerful is the Word of God that people understand and believe it to be true, without being convinced by man’s logic or material evidence. One Evangelical wrote that the Trinity can be proven with math. I wondered how little he trusted in the Word. Higher math is quite a key to science and technology, not that I have any knowledge of it myself. But to give all glory to math means that the Word is diminished.
The Gospels emphasize the Father-Son relationship, which we know through the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Father sent the Son to redeem this fallen world, so this relationship is all important. The Son obeyed the Father and we see the result in the Gospels. When people spoke with Jesus, they heard Him speaking in harmony with the Father. His miracles were also directed by the Father.
This wonderfully preserved record of God’s work is given to us by the Holy Spirit, who witnesses to the Father and the Son.
Luther said that the Bible is a book for heretics, and John's Gospel has been especially favored in promoting false teaching. Nevertheless, the Fourth Gospel clearly teaches Christian doctrine in the simplest language. People have misused the Gospel from the beginning because its clear message.
The Gospel of John has the clearest apostolic authority, assuming the use and knowledge of the first three gospels. The other gospels have more narrative, while John's gospel has more of Jesus' teaching.
Knowledge of the original text of the Gospel can defeat many false views, but a proper understanding of the English will also defeat the wolves. English alone is enough, but when Greek is used to advance a phony argument, Greek is needed to defeat it. For instance, Lutheran feminists would have us believe that the Greek word anthropos (the root for anthropology and misanthrope) can only refer to humankind in general and never to a man. For that reason, they cannot confess that the Son of God "became man," only that he became "fully human." But let's read the first phrase of this lesson again, ” There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus…"
The word for "man" in this phrase is anthropos! It is impossible to translate the word in any feminist form and make it sound like English. Examples:
1. There was a fully human from the Pharisees named Nicodemus.
2. There was a human being from the Pharisees named Nicodemus.
3. There was a person from the Pharisees named Nicodemus.
4. There was an individual from the Pharisees named Nicodemus. (We use "individual" when we want to hide the gender and ordination status of someone. Confessions are not meant to hide information.)
I recall someone who wondered a bit about having a woman preacher at his Pentecostal church. I said, "The Bible clearly precludes women preaching to men and teaching men. And how can she be "the husband of one wife" when she is the wife of one husband? The man answered, "She says the passage doesn't mean that."
We would have funny looking homes if every builder and contractor had a different concept of one inch. The canon of Scripture means "measuring rod." The standard is unchanging. Otherwise we must argue that God's Word is infinitely flexible and constantly changing.
The use of John's Gospel by heretics can be clearly seen in this lesson. As we know from this familiar passage, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, probably because of his fears, since he was a religious leader of the Jews. Jesus converted Nicodemus to faith in Him by teaching him the Word, as we see from the Gospel.
He spoke up for Jesus when the leaders wanted to kill the Son of God:
John 7:50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them…
In the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, the Savior said, "You must be born from above." This is a pun, because the same word can be used for again, and Nicodemus in his confusion asked how a full-grown man could be born all over again.
We might ask, "Why didn't Jesus speak more clearly?" But whenever Jesus spoke of spiritual matters, people misunderstood Him. This happened with the woman at the well and when Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. It reminds us that when God speaks to us about matters of eternal salvation, we worry about the daily concerns of this earthly life.
When parents take children on a long car trip, they will ask, "When are we going to eat?" The father or mother is tempted to say, "Do you think we are going to let you starve to death? Don't be so anxious."
In the discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus defined what He meant by "You must be born from above." The decision theology people say that He meant we must make a decision for Christ, defining that moment when we decided to accept Jesus, an act of the will. This is so important that some denominations have made that a requirement, giving the date in which the person made a decision.
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Here we must mention Greek again, because the original text is our standard. "Born of water and of the Spirit" is often mumbled by Baptists. Once a radio sermon by a Baptist, passed over this phrase very quickly. The actual phrase completely destroys their anti-Sacrament argument. Non-Lutheran Protestants deny that baptism grants forgiveness of sin, planting faith in the heart of the baptized person. Some of them baptize infants; some refuse to, although they dedicate them with the Word. But they agree together that baptism is not God acting upon us.
By taking this away, these same people have paved the way for Pentecostals, who separate water baptism and Spirit baptism, by saying, "I was a baptized Christian for many years, but I was not a real Christian until I was baptized by the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues." False teaching about baptism leads to confusion, two or more baptisms. Many are baptized again and again. Many tongue-speakers look for ever increasing signs of God's blessing upon them.
Jesus does not separate water and Spirit baptism. Neither should we. The phrase " Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit" lacks any articles. The Greek New Testament is very generous with its use of the word "the." Therefore, when "the" is lacking, the words can be seen as hyphenated. Except a man be water/Spirit born. This is the real meaning of the phrase. Water baptism is Spirit baptism because the Gospel promises are linked to the earthly form of water.
Luther's opponents wanted to make fun of water accomplishing anything, but they ignored the role of the Word of God connected with baptismal water. A dog or a cat would look into a baptismal font and see only something to quench their thirst. We are not to listen to God's Word and hear no more than an animal would.
Being water/Spirit born teaches us that God is indeed involved in each and every true baptism. Birth itself suggests an image of a new person. The apostle Paul also wrote of washing and rebirth. Washing is the clearest possible image of sins being forgiven. Rebirth means a new life has started.
Jesus distinguished between the carnal and the spiritual. The apostle wrote: 1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
The "natural man" is used by the Greeks to describe the noblest aspect of man. Whoever is considered a great hero for all his virtues - he cannot receive Spiritual things. They are comical to him. He sees no more than a cow or a horse. Many wise men of the ages have said that the Bible is nothing but foolishness to them.
No one can believe unless the Holy Spirit has planted faith in that person's heart through the Word. Adults are converted and receive baptism as God's sacrament of forgiveness. Children hear the promises of God through baptism and are converted to faith. Their parents, then, must nurture this faith. One does not plant a seed and then let it dry up and wither away. People spend more time nurturing their gardens than nurturing their children's faith.
The comfort of baptism cannot be overstated. No baptized person need doubt his standing with God. All despair can be answered by this, "God has baptized you into His kingdom. He has done this because of His gracious, kindly and forgiving nature." If someone has fallen into deep and terrible sins, he can nevertheless rest forgiveness upon his baptism. Through faith we receive the Gospel message of Jesus redeeming us from sin, death, and the devil.
Parents also have the comfort and blessing of baptism in their children. They have no reason to question whether their baptized children are in fact in the Kingdom of God. It is a sad day when we have to plead for the innocence of children when their lives are cut short by accident or diseases. The most helpless child can be proud, obstinate, jealous, and even vindictive. The Old Adam does not wait to arrive until a convenient time. We inherit this sinful nature. But when we lose a child, we can say, "God made him a member of His kingdom through baptism."
The blessings of baptism are infinite. Children grow up with faith and hear the Word of God with great love and confidence. They have their little distractions but they do not have the skills of adults in rejecting what they hear in the Word. They are dry sponges, absorbing what they hear. One girl cried and begged her family to take her to Sunday School, when they wanted to sleep in all weekend. This does not come from the flesh, because kids like to goof around too. It comes from the Holy Spirit.
A child who grows up in the Christian faith will be blessed in many ways and be a blessing to everyone as well. His impact will be impossible to determine, but God knows.
As adults and as children, we are united by what God has done for us, so that we are water/Spirit born.
"If the question is put, 'Why did God ordain so many means of grace when one suffices to confer upon the sinner His grace and forgiveness?' we quote the reply of Luther who writes (Smalcald Articles, IV: 'The Gospel not merely in one way gives us counsel and aid against sin, for God is superabundantly rich in His grace. First through the spoken Word, by which the forgiveness of sins is preached in the whole world, which is the peculiar office of the Gospel. Secondly through Baptism. Thirdly through the holy Sacrament of the Altar. Fourthly through the power of the keys and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, Matthew 18:20.'"
John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, A Handbook of Doctrinal Theology, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p. 447.
"For now we are only half pure and holy, so that the Holy Ghost has ever [some reason why] to continue His work in us through the Word, and daily to dispense forgiveness, until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people, full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body."
The Large Catechism, The Creed, Article III, #58, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 693. Tappert, p. 418.
Dr. Luther, Large Catechism: "Again: With this Word you can strengthen your conscience and say: If a hundred thousand devils, together with all fanatics, should rush forward, crying, How can bread and wine be the body and blood of Christ? I know that all spirits and scholars together are not as wise as is the Divine Majesty in His little finger. Now, here stands the Word of Christ: 'Take, eat; this is My body. Drink ye all of this'...Here we abide, and would like to see those who will constitute themselves His masters, and make it different from what He has spoken."
Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article VII, Lord's Supper, 22, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 979. Tappert, p. 573.
"The objection that absolution is God's prerogative (Mark 2:7) is beside the mark, since the minister forgives sins not in his own name, but in God's name."
Th. Engelder, et. al., Popular Symbolics, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p. 113.
"Wherever the means of grace are present, there the Lord Himself is present, and where the Lord rules there is victory. The true doctrine of justification is intimately bound up with the true doctrine of the means of grace. In order to keep the doctrine of justification in all its purity, one must ever maintain that the forgiveness of sins which Christ earned for mankind can never be appropriated by man through any other means than the Word and the Sacrament. Therefore, Walther said, the correct doctrine on justification stands or falls with the correct doctrine concerning the means of grace."
Edwin E. Pieplow, "The Means of Grace," The Abiding Word, ed., Theodore Laetsch, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1946, II, p. 327.
"If we call Sacraments rites which have the command of God, and to which the promise of grace has been added, it is easy to decide what are properly Sacraments...Therefore Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and Absolution, which is the Sacrament of Repentance, are truly Sacraments. For these rites have God's command and the promise of grace, which is peculiar to the New Testament. For when we are baptized, when we eat the Lord's body, when we are absolved, our hearts must be firmly assured that God truly forgives us for Christ's sake. And God, at the same time, by the Word and by the rite, moves hearts to believe and conceive faith, just as Paul says, Romans 10:17: 'Faith cometh by hearing.' But just as the Word enters the ear in order to strike our heart, so the rite itself strikes the eye, in order to move the heart. The effect of the Word and of the rite is the same..."
[Luther, Bab Captivity, 3 sacraments] Article XIII, Number/Use Sacraments, Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 309. Tappert, p. 211.
"These are the last and mad times of a world grown old."
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 50.
"Contrition is altogether necessary in those who truly and earnestly repent. For there can be no true repentance in those who, persuaded of their own holiness, dream that they are without sin, or who disregard, minimize, excuse, cloak, and defend their sins, despise or ridicule the divine threats, do not care about the wrath of God, are not moved by His judgment and displeasure, and therefore persevere and continue in sins against their conscience, delight in sins, and seek and seize occasions for sinning and for whatever they intentionally heap up without the fear of God--in them, I say, there can be no true repentance...."
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986, II, p. 581.
"We have now sowed a little of the Word, and this the devil cannot stand, for he never sleeps; the worms and the beetles will come and infect it. Yet so it must be, Christ will prove His Word, and examine who have received it and who not. Therefore let us remain on the right road to the kingdom of Christ, and not go about with works and urge and force the works of the law, but only with the words of the Gospel which comfort the conscience: Be happy, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 201.
"Regret, the little black dog of a belated repentance, does not stop barking and biting the conscience, even though you know your sins are forgiven."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, III, p. 1214. Genesis 37:18-20.
"But the sinners who confess their sins, and are repentant, who wish they had not so angered God, who find all their concern and sorrow in the fact that they have offended God and have not kept His Commandments and, therefore, pray for grace--these sinners shall find grace."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 694.