Lutheran Worship and Resources

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Trinity 17 - Ephesians 4:1-6

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn #  44                    Ye Lands             2:41
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 #203            Morning Breaks            2:70     

Seven One’s of the Reformation

The Communion Hymn # 315            I Come O Savior             2:66
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 # 467     Built on a Rock                   2:83

KJV Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

KJV Luke 14:1 And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him. 2 And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy. 3 And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? 4 And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; 5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? 6 And they could not answer him again to these things. 7 And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, 8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity

Lord God, heavenly Father: We beseech Thee so to guide and direct us by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may not exalt ourselves, but humbly fear Thee, with our whole hearts hear and keep Thy word, and hallow the Lord's day, that we also may be hallowed by Thy word; help us, first, to place our hope and confidence in Thy Son, Jesus Christ, who alone is our righteousness and Redeemer, and, then, so to amend and better our lives in accordance with Thy word, that we may avoid all offenses and finally obtain eternal salvation, through Thy grace in Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God. world without end. Amen.

The Seven One’s of the Reformation

Luther’s Sermon on Ephesians 4

KJV Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

1) First, doctrine which consists of the clear statement of the divine facts on which alone faith rests. Next, admonition which presents the obligations involved in the faith that relies on the doctrine and thus deals with life and conduct in detail. The two stand in a vital connection, which fact also appears where the admonitions are supported by brief doctrinal additions.
After having set forth the great doctrine of the Una Sancta‚ Paul now tells his readers how their lives should be shaped in order to accord with the facts of this doctrine. This is very fitting after having shown that by faith in Christ they are all one in Christ in the Una Sancta although they were formerly Jews or Gentiles. Paul’s first admonition to the Ephesians is an exhortation that they keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (v. 1–3). He elucidates and strengthens this first admonition by an explanation of the organism of the church which is so fitted together as to constitute a great unity in its members, their activity and work producing and conserving unity (4–16).
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. 504.

Lutherans tend to stir themselves a bit and remember the Reformation with a few formalities, now that October has arrived. This passage from Ephesians teaches the unity of the true Church, using a total of seven one’s to define this unity.

The lesson falls into two parts. The first one is an exhortation about the Christian life.

KJV Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

The second part defines the unity of  Christianity with seven one’s.

4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Verses 4-6 could be a confession or hymn, perhaps one with a few words added. For example, Paul would first be urging the conduct of their lives as believers, then reminding them of their early catechism, something easily memorized or even sung as a hymn.

One body,
And one Spirit.
One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.
One God the Father of all,
Above all, through all, and in all.

One Body

The Lutheran Reformation emphasized the Biblical view of the true Church, as the Body of Christ, invisible, made up of all sincere believers in the Gospel of Christ.
This view was emphasized in Augustine’s great classic – The City of God. In Civilization IV, Leonard Nimoy read Augustine’s summary –

There are two cities. The City of Man is built upon love of self. The City of God is built upon love of God.

“The Heavenly City outshines Rome beyond comparison. There, instead of victory, is truth; instead of high rank, holiness; instead of peace, felicity; instead of life, eternity,” 
― Augustine of Hippo, City of God

The Biblical view of the true Church is often distorted by the institutional churches. During the Middle Ages the papacy and priesthood filled in the power structure when the Western Roman Empire fell apart around 400 AD. The government officials abandoned their posts. The Christian Church had educated people who all spoke the same language – Latin. They filled in and did not like giving up their worldly power and luxuries, just like today.

The true Church is made up of people all over the world. They belong to various denominations or none at all.  One Roman Catholic member passed all the doctrinal questions for being a Lutheran. The institutional types say, either, Hurray, she is a Roman Catholic, so we don’t care what she believes. That is a papal attitude. Or – the institutional Lutherans – “She would have to join our church body to be recognized as one of us.” That is the Lutheran papacy.

I belong to Sam’s Club and the American Auto Association. Those organizations should not be the model of the true Church or mold our attitudes toward the Church.

This is significant for the Reformation because the Book of Concord is not a user’s manual for a brand name, but the confession of truth for all Christians, all eras. That is why Augustine, Jerome, and Ambrose are quoted in the Book of Concord, to show everyone that this confession is not new, not contrary to Christian orthodoxy.

It was Rome that merged the City of God concept into the City of Man. Therefore, everyone must agree with their latest findings, discoveries, and inventions – a common problem with the Lutheran synods of today. They say, “We alone voted on it, after lots of politicking, so this will be true and established doctrine, even if it is only a few years old.”

I have the old books that go with The Lutheran Hymnal. There the references are to loyalty to the “Evangelical Lutheran Church,” which was not a denomination then and is not one now (as far as I know). This is a telling detail because children being confirmed or pastors being ordained and installed were not sworn to visible church organization but to the true, invisible Church.

Today, when there is conflict, WELS leaders say, “But you have sworn loyalty to the synod.” I have that from many sources. Their swaggering interpretation of the Book of Concord has turned the Lutheran Symbols into Roman Catholic canon law – not that anyone needs to believe, teach, or confess its truths.

One Spirit

The Spirit is mentioned twice in these verses. The previous verse says – “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

In many places in the Scriptures we can use Spirit or Word, one for the other, because the Spirit works only through the Word and the Word is never lacking in the Holy Spirit. To claim that God acts otherwise is Enthusiasm, which Luther and the Confessions condemn as the foundation of all error, in all religions.

Half-educated Lutheran leaders like to say that “Luther restored the Scriptures,” trying to use Luther for denominational one-upmanship. That is a smokescreen, because everyone saw the Bible as God’s Word at that time. There is definitely a great divide between those nominal Christians who see the Bible as just a book about God and those who teach that God’s Word is inerrant and infallible. However, that does not define the issues well and misses the point about Luther. We attended the Chicago Inerrancy conference, decades back, which included many denominations. “The only thing they agreed on was inerrancy.”

The real issue is the Word/Spirit unity, because all error comes from divorcing the two. When the Roman Catholic pope or the Lutheran District Pope claims authority for what he thinks, says, and writes – that person is an Enthusiast. The Pope is the lawgiver who makes something true, in his opinion, because he has said so. The District Pope is a lawgiver too, when he says his authority makes any declaration to be true, especially when he teaches about God and against God.

The lowliest sheep in the Kingdom, who trusts in the Word, has more knowledge about God than the most powerful leader in the visible church.

Baseball is a good analogy here, since some specialize in watch sports all through school. A baseball game is easy to watch, even though a lot of players are on the field every moment. Nothing happens without the baseball present: strikes, fouls, walks, base runs, outs, scores. Imagine the baseball being grabbed by the ref because it is worn and scruffed. He puts it away and gets another out of his supply. During that, someone says, “Two strikes, one ball, and four outs.” Impossible. There was no ball and therefore no action.

Yet people say, without the Word, everyone is forgiven, justified, and saved – without the Word. A Hindu is worshiping several of 300 million gods in his culture – he is forgiven, justified and saved, although he has never heard the Word of God in his life. A woman is lecturing on atheism at The Ethical Society in St. Louis. She is forgiven, justified, and saved, even though she makes a career out of repudiating the Word of God.

Meanwhile, the Pope in Rome says, “Five hundred years are taken off your punishment in Purgatory because you witnessed a papal mass in St. Louis. This is God’s word from the shrine of my heart.”

The division in the Christian Church has come from Enthusiasm, from people divorcing the Spirit from the Word. Therefore unity comes from viewing them together, treating them together, and repudiating any variation upon that truth.

In these two passages alone, along with many others, the power of the Holy Spirit is always present and active in the Word. Sadly, that is not taught among many Christian today.

KJV Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

KJV Hebrews 4:12 For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

This Spirit/Word unity tells us why the Word is always effective, clear, powerful, and authoritative. That is also why one person armed with the Word is more of a teacher than an entire faculty armed with degrees but lacking this knowledge.

One Hope

Because there is one truth, there is also one hope – everlasting life. My wife and I were talking about that yesterday. Suddenly everything changes when death is a constant reminder of how frail we are.

This one hope teaches us about our purpose in life, to be faithful to the Word and enjoy the spiritual benefits of the faith. The one holy (justified by faith) Christian and apostolic Church is united by salvation through Christ alone, receiving God’s grace from the Means of Grace (the Spirit always at work with the Word).

One Lord

Although man divides and falls into factions and heresies, there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ. As Paul said to the Corinthians, Jesus is not divided.

The great heresy of today is saying that your truth is just as valid as my truth, deriving unity from a supposed tolerance that denigrates God’s Word. One journalism student said, “All truth is God’s truth and all paths lead to God.” But Luther said, “The Roman Empire worshiped every god but the One True God.”
The Pantheon in Rome is testimony to that. The architectural wonder venerates every religion on earth, but that same Empire persecuted the Christian faith and killed its adherents, including most of the apostles.

This one Lord, Jesus Christ, divides between believers and unbelievers. The unbelievers cannot abide this one truth and must persecute and silence it at all costs. This is the cross He bore, which He lets us bear in pale imitation of His life and death. Because falsehood hates this one truth of the Gospel, the cross we bear from teaching the Word is always at work purifying us from the dross of materialism and making the truths of the Scriptures more apparent.

But this one Lord, Jesus, is the source of all forgiveness and all blessings. He sent the Holy Spirit so the Word would convey Him and His blessings to us in the Gospel. When there is confusion, division, and dismay, the entire Book of the Holy Spirit is ours to study, to learn from, to divide truth from error. Nothing makes that study more interesting than an effort to take it away.

One Faith
There are only two approaches to “one faith.” The favored one is gathering everyone into the same organization and letting various opinions exist no matter what. Those people teach that it is a scandal that everyone is not gathered into the same visible organization or at least worshiping together. The Roman Catholic Church is not so much interested in agreement as submission to its ultimate authority.

The other approach is see unity only through teaching the same truth of the Scriptures, which are authoritative. Today, that assertion alone is radical and dangerous. If church leaders believed it, they would have the same message in all circumstances, but they do not. They contradict themselves at every turn, seeking to take advantage of each opportunity. They see themselves as managers of a business that needs to be kept calm and peaceful.

This one Faith is taught clearly in the Word of God. Every single point is offered so plainly and so simply that everyone can understand it. The Gospel transcends all cultures and classes because it teaches that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins. Because all believers receive forgiveness through the Gospel, we are given the hope and promise of eternal life.

One Baptism
Our entry into the Kingdom is through Holy Baptism. Babies and adults are given this sacrament of unity. As a Means of Grace, the Word is united with the universal symbol of cleansing. The Word is never without the Spirit, so baptism gives us the Spirit. That is why a baptized child loves to hear the Gospel. That is also why adults long to hear, once again, the comforting message of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.

As Luther says, our imperfect faith receives the perfect righteousness of Christ.

One God the Father of all,
Above all, through all, and in all

The Holy Trinity is a mystery, revealed by the Holy Spirit. We can see how clearly the Spirit teaches this to us in these few verses. Each member of the Trinity is mentioned, unity is emphasized, and this triadic structure is used for God the Father – emphasizing the Trinity once again.

Or – the Threeness of the One God, the unity of the Three Persons. This cannot be reduced to human logic. It is God revealed as He is.

We can start at any passage in the Word of God and trace its message throughout the Bible, unified by the same concepts, the same doctrine, across the ages.

Justification by faith is the same in the Old Testament as the New Testament, except the promised Savior is completely realized and described in the New Testament.  Isaiah 53 is just as much the Gospel as Paul’s letter to the Galatians or the Gospel of John.


“The ground of all doctrine, of all right living, the supreme and eternal treasure of him who is a Christian in the sight of God, is faith in Christ. It alone secures forgiveness o£ sins and makes us children of God.
Luther’s Trinity 17 sermon, Lenker edition.

“24. But they are not members of the true Church of Christ who, instead of preserving unity of doctrine and oneness of Christian faith, cause divisions and offenses — as Paul says ( Romans 16:17) — by the human doctrines and self-appointed works for which they contend, imposing them upon all Christians as necessary. They are perverters and destroyers of the Church, as we have elsewhere frequently shown. The consolation of the true doctrine is ours, and we hold it in opposition to Popedom, which accuses us of having withdrawn from them, and so condemns us as apostates from the Church. They are, however, themselves the real apostates, persecuting the truth and destroying the unity of the Spirit under the name and title of the Church and of Christ. Therefore, according to the command of God, all men are under obligation to shun them and withdraw from them.
Luther’s Trinity 17 Sermon, Lenker edition

"Since, therefore, so much depends upon God's Word that without it no holy day can be sanctified, we must know that God insists upon a strict observance of this command-ment, and will punish all who despise His Word and are not willing to hear and learn it, especially at the time appointed for the purpose."
            The Large Catechism, Preface, #95, The Third Commandment, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis:  Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 607. Tappert, p. 378. Exodus 20:8‑11.                

"Since it is God's gracious purpose to remove every hindrance to conversion by the means of grace, and it is still possible for a man at every point to continue in his opposition to God, a man is never without responsibility over towards the grace of God, although he may mock and say that, since God is the one who does everything for our salvation, then a man has no responsibility himself, as we see in Romans 9:19.  Cf. Theses 17 and 18."
            U. V. Koren, 1884, "An Accounting," Grace for Grace:  Brief History of the Norwegian Synod, ed., Sigurd C. Ylvisaker, Mankato:  Lutheran Synod Book Company, 1943, p. Romans 9:19.              

"It is God the Holy Ghost who must work this change in the soul.  This He does through His own life‑giving Word.  It is the office of that Word, as the organ of the Holy Spirit, to bring about a knowledge of sin, to awaken sorrow and contrition, and to make the sinner hate and turn from his sin.  That same Word then directs the sinner to Him who came to save him from sin.  It takes him to the cross, it enables him to believe that his sins were all atoned for there, and that, therefore, he is not condemned. In other words, the Word of God awakens and constantly deepens ture penitence.  It also begets and constantly increases true faith.  Or, in one word, it converts the sinner."
            G. H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, Philadelphia:  Lutheran Publication Society, 1887, p. 145f. 
 Law Causes Contrition          
"In like manner Moses must precede and teach people to feel their sins in order that grace may be sweet and welcome to them.  Therefore all is in vain, however friendly and lovely Christ may be pictured, if man is not first humbled by a knowledge of himself and he possesses no longing for Christ, as Mary's Song says, 'The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away,' Luke 1:53."
            Sermons of Martin Luther, ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 149.

Gospel Only for Humble Sinners
"All this is spoken and written for the comfort of the distressed, the poor, the needy, the sinful, the despised, so that they may know in all times of need to whom to flee and where to seek comfort and help."       
Sermons of Martin Luther II,  p. 149.

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