Sunday, December 14, 2008

Third Sunday in Advent

David Chytraeus was an important, but often overlooked, editor of the Book of Concord.

The Third Sunday in Advent

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn # 102 adeste fidelis
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 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
The Gospel Matthew 11:2-10
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 109 Bethlehem

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

The Hymn #66 Chesterfield
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 #87 Antioch

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

KJV Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. 7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

Third Sunday In Advent
Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst suffer Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to become man, and to come into the world, that He might destroy the works of the devil, deliver us poor offenders from sin and death, and give us everlasting life: We beseech Thee so to rule and govern our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may seek no other refuge than His word, and thus avoid all offense to which, by nature, we are inclined, in order that we may always be found among the faithful followers of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him 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.

Stewards of the Mysteries of God

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

This advent epistle teaches us about the pastoral office in light of the coming of Christ. The season of Advent focuses on the birth of our Savior, but also our need to be always be ready for His return.

Someone may think, “Now he is only going to talk about pastors.” But let’s look at what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through Paul. He uses two parallel phrases, which help us, since one is equal to the other. The two phrases are “ministers of Christ” and “stewards of the mysteries of God.” We seldom use the term minister in the sense of the Scriptures. It did not mean “an ordained clergyperson” then, but a household servant. A minister of Christ is someone who serves Jesus the Lord and Savior. If someone comes to our home and US West is repairing a phone, no one thinks to say to the repairman, “Are you the head of the household?” The repairman does only what he is told to do. He may do a good job or a bad job, but he is not the owner of the house. He has a work order and fulfills what that order tells him to do.

God teaches us through Paul that the apostle himself had exactly the same role. He was a servant of Christ, not a tyrant over the believers. The phrase he used is the same we would use for accounting or an audit. “What am I?” says Paul. “Consider me a household servant of Jesus the Messiah.”

This is important, because the apostle’s role is defined as serving Christ. Paul had a responsibility toward all the congregations he served. Not everyone is called to serve in the role of preaching, as Luther wrote:

"All Christians serve God but all are not in office."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 65. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

The current trend among Lutheran synods would have us believe otherwise.

In the broadest sense, every Christian has AN office. If a man is married and has children, his calling is to serve his wife and children according to the Scriptures. His office is not the same as that of a wife and a mother. Then too, the children also have an office or place in life, one appointed by God. The duties are clearly taught in the Small Catechism.

Luther often called pastoral work: “the preaching office” or Predigtamt. The person called by the Holy Spirit through the congregation has the responsibility to preach the Word of God faithfully. Someone may substitute for him, but he still has the responsibility. The pastor may sign a check (generally not a good idea) or help with the books (also to be avoided) but he is not the treasurer. That is not his office.

This does not keep the members from learning about Christian doctrine, debating Christian doctrine (with the proper attitude toward the norms of the Word and the Confessions), or sharing in the teaching that takes place. But they do not have the office, that is, the responsibility. The responsibility of the preaching office means absolute subordination of pastor to Christ. The phrase we use from The Lutheran Liturgy is: “called and ordained servant of the Word.” It can be seen as a restricting burden or as a joy. Lutheran ministers know that every result of the Word is God’s will, whether apparently good or bad. (We cannot and should not judge.) If he sees preaching as preaching his own personal opinions, or whatever research has shown to be effective, then he is not a servant of the Word and will be damned for his error and for the souls he has destroyed.

"Thus this text also strongly opposes all human doctrine; for since the Word of God is the light in a dark and gloomy place, the conclusion follows that all besides it is darkness. For if there were another light besides the Word, Peter would not have spoken as he did. Therefore look not to how gifted with reason they are who teach any other doctrine--however grandly they set it forth. If you cannot trace God's Word in it, then doubt not that it is mere darkness. And let it not disturb you at all that they say they have the Holy Spirit. How can they have God's Spirit if they do not have His Word? Wherefore they do nothing else but call darkness light and make the light darkness, as the prophet Isaiah says, in Isaiah 5:20."
Martin Luther, Commentary on Peter and Jude, ed. John N. Lenker, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1990, p. 248. 2 Peter 1:19.

If the same man told a cleaning crew to clean his house and they painted it purple and pink instead, he would be furious. Yet God tells him to teach the truth and a mere man substitutes his own ideas.

"Paul does not speak of opposing or antagonistic doctrines, but of those placed beside the true doctrine; they are additions, making divisions. Paul calls it a rival doctrine, an addition, an occasion of stumbling, an offense and a byway, when on establishes the conscience upon his own goodness or deeds. Now the Gospel is sensitive, complete and pre-eminent: it must be intolerant of additions and rival teachings."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 376. Romans 16:16-17.

The parallel phrase used by Paul is “stewards of the mysteries of God.” Once again, steward is a fine secular word never found in today’s English in the same way. A steward was a household manager.

KJV Luke 16:3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.

In that parable we can see that the household manager is supposed to do his job to benefit his lord, or he will be fired. He is being fired, in fact, so he makes friends with the men who owe his master money, so they will hire him. His master sees how clever he is and commends him. It is a strange parable, but we can see in the portrayal of the Lord/steward relationship that the steward is absolutely accountable to the master.

So the term “steward” is fairly obvious. But what are the “mysteries of God.” Some people have tried to create false parallels. This has nothing to do with the mystery religions of paganism. Also, the term mystery is not the same as sacrament. That is, the term is not limited to “sacrament.”

Mysteries apply to everything revealed by the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is a mystery revealed by God, not something we deduce by math or science or prove with logic. That is why we rely on the Word to convert people rather than reason and logic. A person without faith cannot see or understand the mysteries of God. That is why it is so important that the underling of Christ, the pastor, be a faithful household manager of these mysteries.

Can a pastor say to God, “While you were gone, I decided that evolution was better than Creation, a flow of ice better than the Flood. The 10 Commandments are a burden. I declared them obsolete. I am all Gospel. We are all Gospel. I will give Holy Communion, the sacrament you established through the death of Your Son, to anyone who strolls into my church, whether they believe it or not. God, I have a vision for my congregation. One day it will have 8,000 communicants. 8 THOUSAND. And our parking valet ministry will be known throughout the world.”

You are saying to yourselves, “He is making that up to prove a point.” No, I am stating the open and public confession of a WELS pastor who had the support of the district president, vice president, and the friendship of synodical leaders, even the mission board chairman. No effort was spared to protect his position and keep him in the pulpit. Finally, the members had to say, “You must retract your errors.” He said, “I will resign first.” The congregation responded, “Resignation accepted.” He was not a faithful steward. Nor were the synod officials. The members finally accepted their office, which is to discern the spirits, to judge between sound doctrine and evil doctrine.

Oh well, they got away with it for a long time. And everyone has forgotten. Except One.

"On that day every false teacher will wish that he had never been born and will curse the day when he was inducted into the sacred office of the ministry. On that day we shall see that false teaching is not the trifling and harmless matter that people in our day think it is."
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 88.

So much is said by Paul about this very subject. He could not be judged by any man. He was not above it all. Ultimately what a minister has done can only be judged by God. Man looks at huge buildings, huge parking lots, and huge budgets, and says, “They are doing well.” God looks at the heart. We cannot do that. We can see certain outward characteristics. For instance, the most successful pastor, in the worldly sense, in Columbus, Ohio, was in the paper. A painter wanted the good reverend to pay for the painting of his mansion. The Pentecostal minister and his father held down the painter and beat him up, according to the news account. That suggests a lack of humility and honesty. But perhaps he will repent before he dies.

On the other hand, someone may be completely orthodox for many years and yet fall away from the faith before dying. Many temptations come along. Probably the obvious sins come after a loss of faith, but the obvious sins end the call. That is why we should not be hasty to judge. Liberals grow into the historic faith and we know many people trained properly fall away completely. I know a pastor who hated all the radical liberal tendencies of the Lutheran Church in America. He joined the LCMS. Then later he joined the United Church of Christ, a group that makes the LCA look staid and hidebound.

At the end, everyone will have his due praise from God. That is another unfair aspect of the Christian faith. The person who believes in Christ alone for his salvation does not have his sins held against him. They are wiped from the account books by the atoning death of Christ. The believers places all his trust in the great exchange made by Christ, who became sin (while without sin Himself) to give us His righteousness. The believer receives this blessing each and every day. His sins are forgiven and forgotten. God moves all believers to do good works to glorify His name. The motivation to follow God’s will and to do God’s will comes from God alone, yet God will praise believers for being His servants and doing His will, even though tainted by sin. The sin is set aside and the good works are rewarded. That is not fair. God is not fair. He is gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

The last verse is a great comfort for those believers who sacrifice a great deal, or endure great hardships, or patiently take on thankless jobs (such as being a mother). Nothing that belongs to God is highly regarded by the world. And yet God will praise these things in the end. He knows and he will reward people. And God will show how little He values what the world esteems. Many Christian paupers will suddenly find the treasure laid up in heaven, where moth and rust do not corrupt.

"When the time comes that the worldly shall gnash their teeth, they shall witness all the elect and angels saying to God: 'This man has been a faithful minister and teacher. He has proclaimed the saving Word of God to a world of castaways. On yonder earth he was despised, persecuted, and maligned, but he shines now as a star with imperishable luster.'"
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, trans., W. H. T. Dau, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, p. 402. Daniel 12:3.

This does not apply to pastors alone, but to all believers who have endured hardships because of the Word and have faithfully served in whatever office God has given them.


"The second charge raised by Calvinists and Synergists against the Formula of Concord is its failure to harmonize 'logically' what they term 'contradictory doctrines': sola gratia and universalis gratia,--a stricture which must be characterized as flowing from rationalistic premises, mistaking a divine mystery for a real contradiction, and in reality directed against the clear Word of God itself."
F. Bente, Concordia Triglotta, Historical Introductions to the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, 065 p. 205.

"Thus the Lutheran Church not only admits, but zealously guards, the mystery contained in the doctrine of grace and election. It distinguishes between God in as far as He is know and not known; in as far as He has revealed Himself, and in as far as He is still hidden to us, but as we shall learn to know Him hereafter. The truths which may be known concerning God are contained in the Gospel, revealed in the Bible. The things still hidden from us include the unsearchable judgments of God, His wonderful ways with men, and, in particular, the question why some are saved while others are lost. God has not seen fit to reveal these mysteries."
F. Bente, Concordia Triglotta, p. 206.

"For Scripture never calls either Baptism or the Lord's Supper mysteries or sacraments. Therefore this is an unwritten (agraphos) appellation."
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986, II, p. 29.

"The sins which militate against the Third Commandment are the profanation of the Sabbath through neglect and contempt of the ministry, through Judaic and superstitious observance of the Sabbath, or through a shifting of the ministry into the kingdom of this world. The faithfulness of those who teach is the virtue by which the ministers of the Church, aware of their modest skill in Christian doctrine, carefully and zealousy discharge and steadfastly protect all the duties of the faithful dispenser of the mysteries of God in teaching, debating, comforting and setting their hearers an example of true devotion and of all the virtues. The other extreme are faithlessness, heedless teaching or negligence in office, or deserting the ministry because of excessive anxiety or concern over one's own weakness."
David Chytraeus, A Summary of the Christian Faith (1568), trans., Richard Dinda, Decatur: Repristination Press, 1994. p. 71f.

"So when we see a bishop assuming more than this text gives him warrant for, we may safely regard him as a wolf, and an apostle of the devil, and avoid him as such. Unquestionably he must be Antichrist who in ecclesiastical government exceeds the authority here prescribed."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 65 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

"All Christians serve God but all are not in office."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 65. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

"To make himself clearly understood in this matter of service, or ministry, Paul carefully adds to the word 'ministers' the explanatory one 'stewards,' which can be understood in no other way than as referring to the office of the ministry."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 66.

"Thus we arrive at the apostle's meaning in the assertion that a minister of Christ is a steward in the mysteries of God. He should regard himself and insist that others regard him as one who administers to the household of God nothing but Christ and the things of Christ. In other words, he should preach the pure Gospel, the true faith, that Christ alone is our life, our way, our wisdom, power, glory, salvation; and that all we can accomplish of ourselves is but death, error, foolishness, weakness, shame and condemnation. Whosoever preaches otherwise should be regarded by none as a servant of Christ or a steward of the divine treasurer; he should be avoided as a messenger of the devil."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 73. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5,

"Christ, in the saying we have quoted from Matthew (24:45), tells us further, the servant of the household should be not only faithful, but also wise, able to discern between the mysteries of God and the mysteries of the devil, that he may safely guard and keep himself and those committed to his care. For, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:13-14, false apostles sometimes fashion themselves into true apostles of Christ, even as the devil transforms himself into an angel of light."
Sermons of Martin Luther, VI, p. 77.

"Hollazius (992) thus sums up the doctrine: 'The Word of God is the most efficacious means of salvation, for its power and efficacy are not only objective, but also effective; not consisting in moral suasion, but in supernatural operation, not external and coming to it when used by men, but intrinsic in the Word; not accidental, but necessary, by a divinely ordained necessity, and therefore not separable, but perpetual, inherent in the Word itself extra usum, as the first act. This efficacy is truly divine, producing the same effect as the Holy Spirit, who is perpetually united with the Word, which (effect) the Spirit influences together with the Word, by the divine power which belongs to the Holy Spirit originally and independently, but to the divine Word communicatively and dependently, on account of its mysterious, intimate, and individual union with the Spirit.'"
Heinrich Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House, 1899, p. 507.

No comments: