The Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 2011
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time
The Hymn # 387:1-4 by Luther, 3:41
The Confession of Sins
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 370 3:11
Righteousness of Faith or Pharisees
The Communion Hymn # 307 Draw Nigh 3:72
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 # 209 Who is This 3:33
Sixth Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father, we confess that we are poor, wretched sinners, and that there is no good in us, our hearts, flesh and blood being so corrupted by sin, that we never in this life can be without sinful lust and concupiscence; therefore we beseech Thee, dear Father, forgive us these sins, and let Thy Holy Spirit so cleanse our hearts that we may desire and love Thy word, abide by it, and thus by Thy grace be forever saved; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
KJV Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. 10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11 Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
KJV Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. 21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Righteousness of Faith or Pharisees
This is one of those lessons where the law salesmen can go on and on, and they often do. My main experience of this took place at Hybel’s Willow Creek Community Church in a Chicago suburb. We had trouble finding it, and a gas station nearby did not know it was a stone’s throw away. One reason was – the building does not look like a church at all, more like a mall. More importantly, no crosses mark the outside of the church in any way (sign, roof). No crosses were found in the worship area. “Woe to me if I preach not Christ crucified.”
Normally I would not have bothered with Willow Creek, but I felt obliged to go there. The Wisconsin Synod and Missouri Synod were both sending their pastors to Willow Creek to be trained in how to be better pastors. All the denominations do. So much to learn!
Hybels gave the message – not a sermon. He used this text. He began with a good section on the Law but never left the Law. Instead he continued with the Law of Pietism. He complained that not enough people were coming to the Wednesday night service, where they had “communion.” He said, “That is where we really worship.” He also bragged about a professional football player who vacuumed the carpets. Everyone had to have a menial servant role.
They also had a dizzying multi-media presentation on all the ways people could volunteer at Willow Creek. The rationale for all the activity is that people who help out also finance the church and attend services. There are statistics for creating busy-work for people to keep them happy and supporting the parish.
Needless to say, since this was a Seeker Service (imitated by WELS and Missouri, aka Emergent Church, like The CORE, Latte Lutheran, CrossWalk, and many others), there was not a real worship service to observe. There was no real hymn singing by the huge crowd there. They were passive observers. LI was with us, so he listened to Bach later to get over the bad experience.
When he criticized Willow Creek in a Northwestern College class, the professor said, “Have you ever been there?” (As if one must be physically present to offer an opinion on something widely discussed in the press!) LI said, “Yes, recently.” The professor changed the subject immediately.
Like Hybels, many are tempted to move from the righteousness of the Pharisees to the righteousness of Pietism, some system of works performed by man. Creating a man-made atonement based on works has been the life-blood of all false religion. The legal answer is quite popular and will never go away, because our default attitude is earning righteousness.
Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The trouble with exceeding the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is this – they really had that system perfected. They were pious and observant of all the commandments, traditions, and unwritten rules. The modern Pietists (TV religious leaders and many clergy) are hedonists who put on a show when they have to. When they are with their select group, the never-tell buddies, they are quite different.
The question for all the Law people is how to be even more observant of the Law. Do they double-tithe mint?
One of them main themes of the Sermon on the Mount is the impossibility of man to claim perfection through the Law, since the Teaching (Torah) of God includes both the outward act and the inward motivation.
So Jesus gave examples from various stages of anger. Each one is greater than the next one, although the terms seem confusing. These are legal differences from that time, similar to manslaughter (causing a death carelessly) versus murder (causing a death on purpose) and special circumstance (lying in wait, carefully planning the murder).
21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Thus Jesus takes up the sins of the heart against the Fifth Commandment, namely anger and its most common manifestation of calling ugly epithets. 1 John 3:15 shows us what Jesus has in mind: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” The usual exegesis regards this word of Jesus as a presentation of three sins and three penalties, the second being graver than the first, and the third graver than the second: for anger alone, the judgment of the court; for calling an ugly name in anger (“Raca!”), the court of the Sanhedrin; and for an angry curse (“Thou fool!”), hell-fire. But Jesus cannot have either such distinctions in the sins or in the penalties in mind. What about other sins such as to strike a person in anger, to wound him, finally also to kill him? What greater penalty could be inflicted beyond hell-fire? In v. 21 “the judgment” is evidently that of a civil court, remanding the murderer for execution. To what graver penalty could the Sanhedrin remand? What court of law could possibly try a case of anger, to which no expression had been given, and order execution for anger? And who would think that the great Sanhedrin would try a man for angrily calling an ugly name? The first two mentioned are civil courts, yet Jesus is evidently not repeating the folly of the scribes and Pharisees by making this commandment a mere civil law. What court could send a man to hell? These questions are not answered by the usual exegesis. No mention is made of the fact that in God’s sight anger is equal to murder and makes us worthy of hell.
Zahn is correct. Jesus is satirizing the casuistic method of the scribes and Pharisees. They would make such distinctions in transgressions, and these distinctions would turn out a farce when it came to designating the penalties. Since anger is equal to murder in God’s sight, the angry man would have to be executed by a civil court—if this commandment is to be considered in the superficial manner of the scribes and Pharisees. Well, then the man who uttered the angry epithet would have to be taken to a still higher court, say the Sanhedrin, which, however, could do no more than the lower court. If the angry epithet should be a trifle different, well, then hell-fire might be decreed. But by whom? There was no court higher than the Sanhedrin. According to this casuistry, what would be left for the crimes of striking, wounding, and actual killing? The purpose of this satire is to demolish the entire Jewish treatment of this commandment as a mere civil law. Civil courts cannot possibly consider the infractions that start in the heart and break out in ugly names. That is why the scribes and Pharisees omitted all these infractions and never instructed the people regarding them. They even taught as though Moses himself did no more for the ancients to whom, at God’s command, he gave the law. Against this gross perversion Jesus hurls his satire. By saying that anger is equal to murder and worthy of the death penalty and an angry epithet likewise Jesus shows how God judges these sins; and when for a similar epithet he decrees hell-fire, he shows that in the judgment of God hell is the penalty for all these sins, beginning with anger and on through to murder.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 218.
Luther has a funny example of this after discussing how all people are guilty under this description of wrath.
Here is man’s prayer, paraphrased, “O Lord. My neighbor has said things to dishonor me. And he has done some damage to my property. Therefore I am very angry and would cheerfully have him killed for this.”
The world is full of rage and revenge. We see the effects of it everywhere, especially in the visible church. Luther’s point is this – We have ways to address wrongs done to us. The government has the sword and the justice system to take care of those who do wrong.
That may not satisfy us. However, we do not have the right to get even and create our own system of justice. That violates God’s laws, because the soldiers and police and courts are there to accomplish this (without wrath) – fairly and evenly.
As he says, if they fail in their duty, as we see it, we do not have the liberty to set aside God’s universal justice for our petty claims.
Thus when I had a boy breaking into our home, stealing things, and engaging in petty vandalism, I phoned the police. They investigated and the damage grew. More things happened. There was not much I could do legally - without a lot of expense. I talked to law enforcement people who told me that the boy would be in deep trouble soon, because starting young is a very bad sign.
Vengeance and retribution is in God’s hands, not ours. We cannot take over from God and have harmony in this world.
Luther said, “Our petty complaints cannot be allowed to overturn God’s universal justice.”
Wrath in the Visible Church
This Gospel lesson was not recorded for unbelievers, who pay no attention to it. The spirit of revenge is a constant and is highly respected. It was explained in the movie “The Sting”, when con men rob the mobster. “If I let these con men rob me, and my associates find out, I will have to kill all my associates, or they will kill me for being a weakling.”
I kept explaining to my wife Chris during the English history movies, the ruler had to be aggressive and unforgiving of all foes--even a brilliant young woman like Lady Jane Grey. Otherwise, the frailest opponent became a rallying point for all the opposing forces in the kingdom or across the Channel.
The visible church is always engaged in hurting people in various ways. The extremes are the abusive cults, which do this in the Name of Christ. Sometimes they are abusive entities within a larger organization. I know of famous cases in all denominations, each one beyond belief.
The practice of hurting people does not excuse it in any way whatsoever. Unfortunately, the worst offenders are the most respected or feared clergy for being able to get their way. Some do it by being bullies. Others accomplish what they want by being toadies.
Rome and Constantinople parted ways, on one occasion, when one leader pinned a note of excommunication on the other’s robe, in the back. When the note was read, the pinned leader responded with his own excommunication. Eventually the tension between the two caused the fall of Constantinople and all of Europe was then under the threat of Muslim invasion.
Jesus is teaching us that we must be different from the scribes and Pharisees, from all unbelievers, who gladly help their friends and never stop getting even with their opponents.
We cannot do this through works or by an act of will. The Gospel alone gives us the power to resist the temptation to be angry and vengeful. As Luther wrote in one sermon on this text, no harsh words are excused, even if we feel wronged. Violence is not the way the Christian faith is advanced.
Nevertheless, there are many who think they are doing God a favor by driving people out of the church, by excommunicating them, by shunning them, by heaping all kinds of verbal abuse on them.
The reason why big synodical meetings are so dull is this – they have endless unwritten rules about who must be honored and absolved for anything done and said. No one can question these rules. Getting excited about doctrinal error is a terrible sin. Thus the First Table of the Ten Commandments is set aside for the unwritten rules of man.
According to the Scriptures, which is a sin – attacking the Word of God, or questioning the institution?
Clearly it is a sin against the Holy Spirit to divorce the divine power of the Godhead from His Word, to say that man is required. Blasphemy is the worst sin of all, sinning against the majesty of God. Yet clergy and professors blaspheme in print and are rewarded for it, even after being challenged about their errors. They steal sermons from others and lie about, yet their superiors are ready to jump to their defense. “Lots of ministers are copying sermons today.”
There is no better job description on a clergy resume today than “heretic.”
Luther’s approach was simple – teach the Word and apply the Word, then accept the consequences. When people do not accept the consequences or fear the consequences, they water down the Word and change the revelation of God to fit the times and the leaders. For a short period of material security they give up the eternal peace that comes from the pure Gospel. Sometimes they hedge and modify so much that they ease themselves into the realms of atheism, having a hatred for the faith they once professed. God knows. Perhaps no one else saw it coming, but God did.
The wrath of man soon follows the application of the Word, because Satan cannot bear the true Gospel anywhere. If it takes root, he immediately begins to persecute it. Often the majority will side with their Father Below and drive out orthodoxy. That has happened many times before, without the name Lutheran attached to it.
When orthodoxy is driven from one location, it arrives in another. If God is indeed all powerful, as the Word teaches, this cannot happen without His permission. God allowed John Bunyan to publish most of his work from prison rather than from a denomination’s headquarters. But can anyone even read the bilge from a denomination’s headquarters?
Calming Our Wrath
The Gospel calms our wrath, because we do not have the power to do so. If that seems in doubt, consider what has provoked anger in the last month or so. Many times it is the least little thing, often a misunderstanding. Many causes are within us, because we are tired, hungry, sick, or in pain.
The Gospel leaven does its work. When we recognize how faith lays hold of the righteousness of Christ, works fall to the wayside. “He said this to me” is no longer something we need to have exact payment for, because all our similar sins are paid through the Atonement and forgiven through faith.
I content that all this universal absolution nonsense from the UOJ Pietists has caused enormous spiritual and emotional harm to people. First they are forgiven without faith, then they are excommunicated for questioning the teachings of man. The Bereans were praised for searching the Scriptures, but that is forgotten.
Because the Gospel creates and sustains faith, God is at work whenever the Means of Grace are applied, taught, extolled, practiced. Eternal life springs up in the midst of death, and no one can predict how this will happen, how people will become believers and love Him who first loved us.
"In this epistle lesson Paul gives Christians instruction concerning the Christian life on earth, and connects with it the hope of the future and eternal life, in view of which they have been baptized and become Christians. He makes of our earthly life a death--a grave--with the understanding, however, that henceforth the risen man and the newness of life should be found in us."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VIII, p. 141. Rom. 6:3-11.
"He [Paul] says: It is not the intention of the Gospel to teach sin or to allow it; it teaches the very opposite--how we may escape from sin and from he awful wrath of God which it incurs. Escape is not effected by any doings of our own, but by the fact that God, out of pure grace, forgives us our sins for His
Son's sake; for God finds in us nothing but sin and condemnation."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VIII, p. 142. Rom. 6:3-11.
"Paul does not teach that grace is acquired through sin, nor that sin brings grace; he says quite the opposite--that 'the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,' Romans 1:18. But because the sins of men which are taken away are so grievous and numerous, the grace which drowns and destroys them must be mighty and abundant also. Where there is a great thirst, a great draft is needed to quench it. Where there is a mighty conflagration, powerful streams of water are necessary to extinguish it...But these facts do not give us authority to say:...Let us injure ourselves and make ourselves ill that medicine may do us more good. Still less does it follow that we may heap us and multiply sins for the purpose of receiving more abundance grace."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols.,VIII, p. 142f. Romans 6:3-11; Romans 1:18
"On the other hand, we are outwardly oppressed with the cross and sufferings, and with the persecution and torments of the world and the devil, as with the weight of heavy stone upon us, subduing our old sinful nature and checking us against antagonizing the Spirit and committing other sins."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VIII, p. 145. Romans 6:6.
"But the fact is, all Christian doctrines and works, all Christian living, is briefly, clearly and completely comprehended in these two principles, faith and love. They place man as a medium between God and his neighbor, to receive from above and distribute below. thus the Christian becomes a vessel, or rather a channel, through which the fountain of divine blessings continuously flows to other individuals."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VIII, p. 145. Rom. 6:3-11.
"But if you possess faith, your heart cannot do otherwise than laugh for joy in God, and grow free, confident and courageous. For how can the heart remain sorrowful and dejected when it entertains no doubt of God's kindness to it, and of his attitude as a good friend with whom it may unreservedly and freely enjoy all things? Such joy and pleasure must follow faith; if they are not ours, certainly something is wrong with our faith."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 146. Titus 3:4-8
"Your first desire will be that all men may obtain the same knowledge of divine grace. Hence your love will not be restrained from serving all to the fullest extent, preaching and proclaiming the divine truth wherever possible, and rejection all doctrine and life not in harmony with this teaching. But take
note, the devil and the world, unwilling that their devices be rejected, cannot endure the knowledge of what you do. They will oppose you with everything great, learned, wealthy and powerful, and represent you as a heretic and insane."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 147. Titus 3:4-8
"Since the Word of God is this weapon [sword], it behooves us to make use of it at all times and to this end become acquainted with it both by means of public preaching and by earnest Bible study at home. Cursory reading must be supplemented by careful memorizing of proof-texts and strong passages. Only in this way shall we be able to make the proper use of the Word of God as a true weapon of offense at all times."
Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the New Testament, 2 vols., St. Louis: CPH, II, p. 292. Ephesians 6:17.
"The reference [the Votum] is simply to a disposition to trust and love God sincerely, and a willingness of heart and mind to serve God and man to the utmost. The devil seeks to prevent this state by terror, by revealing death and by every sort of misfortune; and by setting up human devices to induce the heart to seek comfort and help in its own counsels and in man. Thus led astray, the heart falls from trust in God to a dependence upon itself."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 111. Philippians 4:7.
"Take heed, then, to embrace the message of these words presenting the love and kindness of God to all men. Daily exercise your faith therein, entertaining no doubt of God's love and kindness toward you, and you shall realize His blessings. Then you may with perfect confidence ask what you will, what your heart desires, and whatever is necessary for the good of yourself and your fellow-men. But if you do not so believe, it were far better you had never heard the message. For by unbelief you make false these precious, comforting, gracious words. You conduct yourself as if you regarded them untrue, which attitude is extreme dishonor to God; no more enormous sin could be committed."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 146. Titus 3:4-8.
"Good works are to be performed without any thought of merit, simply for the benefit of one's neighbor and for the honor of God; until the body, too, shall be released from sin, death and hell."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 151. Titus 3:4-8
"This is the situation with him: the greater his external restraint from evil, the greater his inward hatred of him who restrains. His character is in the scales; when one side goes up, the other goes down. While outward sin decreases, inward sin increases. We know from experience that those youths most strictly reared are, when given liberty, more wicked than young men less rigidly brought up. So impossible it is to improve human nature with commandments and punishments; something else is necessary."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 268. Gal. 3:23-29
"Why do so many people in our country fall in with the preachers of fanatical sects? Because these sects spread the glamor of great sanctity about themselves. Alas! man regards the works of God as trifling, but esteems the works of men highly. That is nothing but one of the sad results of man's fall
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, St. Louis: CPH, 1928, p. 372.