Saturday, January 24, 2009

Third Sunday after Epiphany

Cover for Liberalism, by Norma Boeckler

The Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

The Hymn #339 Coronations
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 Romans 12:16-21
The Gospel Matthew 8:1-13
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #423 Hyfrydal

The Effective Word

The Hymn #341 Diademata
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 #401 Freu dich sehr

KJV Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

KJV Matthew 8:1 When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. 2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. 5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, 6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. 8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 13 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

Third Sunday After Epiphany
O almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all dangers and necessities stretch forth Thy mighty hand, to defend us against our enemies; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Effective Word

This Gospel lesson gives us two healings, and we should remind ourselves of a basic lesson in all these healings. No matter how Jesus responded at the moment He was asked, He always answered the prayers of the petitioners. All were healed. This alone is reason to take our troubles to Him.

The second healing is especially worthwhile to note at this time. The most basic doctrine of the Bible is under attack by Lutherans who were trained by false teachers at heretical institutions.

The basic doctrine is the efficacy or effectiveness of the Word.

Sad to say, the Lutherans of the last 100 years or so have built upon a weak foundation – their own. They have largely neglected or attacked this basic doctrine. For example, when I decided to study the efficacy of the Word for Thy Strong Word, I found almost no scholarly literature at all. In contrast, I found hundreds of Luther quotations where he made it absolutely clear that God’s Word alone is effective – nothing else. The same message is emphasized throughout the Book of Concord and elsewhere among the great Lutheran theologians.

There are 19th century Lutherans who taught the same, but the 20th century saw a growing embarrassment over God working through His Word alone. Perhaps the growth of evolution and shame about Creation generated this apathy or neglect.

The Old Testament makes it clear that God works through His Word. I ended up studying Hebrew and Judaism more than most, and I know this concept has carried through to this day. Whatever God commands happens. That is even applied to rabbis. For example, when a rabbi said, “He must be dead,” his son-in-law fell over and died. That story was told to illustrate the power of the rabbinic Word. Once spoken, it must be true.

The story of Creation in Genesis 1 is one of the Word creating. Clearly, if the power of the Word is removed through evolution, all perspectives are changed. That is why all the miracles were explained away with rationalism. If man cannot do something, then God cannot. Soon God is out of the picture altogether and man is the measure of all things.

There is no difference between the Old Testament and New Testament views. The more someone is an authentic Jews, the more he realizes that the New Testament is a continuation of the Old. There is no gap or contrast because the New Testament takes the Old as the authority, the very Word of God.

When the liturgical service is ending, the Trinitarian Aaronic blessing is used.

KJV Numbers 6:24
The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

That is God speaking, even when an ordinary person is saying those words. God is actually blessing each believer as the Lord God Father and Creator, the Lord God Jesus Christ, the Lord God Holy Spirit, the unity of the Three, the three-ness of the One.

I often mention Isaiah 55:8-11 as a key passage about the Word. That passage shows how the Word’s effect is just as inevitable as the effect of rain and snow.

Paul addresses the same issue in Romans 10

We preach the Word of faith –
KJV Romans 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

The Apostle made it very clear, first of all, that salvation itself is simple and clear. (Remaining in the Faith is very tough.)

Then he explained in reverse how the Word works:

KJV Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? [GJ - report could be translated as preaching, meaning the hearing of our preaching]

Unless Paul was hiding pop music, marketing methods, Seeker Services, Friendship Sundays, grinning greeters, and how-to messages [no sermons!] from this formula, the Apostle was relying upon the Word alone to bring salvation to all those who heard and believed.

To teach Biblical theology correctly, it is necessary to say the Word of God alone, because all the sects yak about the Word, but they have their little additions, such as the Word and obedience, the Word and sanctification, the Word and witnessing, the Word and marketing.

In the same way, we often need to say the Means of Grace alone, to speak about how God’s grace comes to us. The false teachers speak about grace, but apart from the divinely appointed instruments of grace (the Word and the visible Word of the Sacraments). The Reformed generally make prayer the only way in which God’s grace comes to people, confusing people in the worst possible way. Prayer is the fruit of faith, not the cause of salvation.

Once again I received a message, anonymously, from someone who insisted that God declared the entire world forgiven, quoting this passage:

KJV Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. [judgment came, the free gift came – both phrases are added to the original text]

That seems convincing on surface, like many other tricks of these people. They insist this means every single person received grace without the Word, without the Means of Grace, without faith.

But what about Romans 5:19?

KJV Romans 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

The many are not all, and there is no possible way to turn “the many” into “God declared the world righteous.”

In fact, as Lenski shows with great clarity, verse 17 states exactly how this happens:

KJV Romans 5:17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

Those who receive the abundance of grace will reign with Christ. The repeated use of one is to show that by one (Adam) all inherited sin and death, so also by One (Christ) will grace come to all who believe.

This is consistent with the message of Romans 10 that preaching the Word creates faith, that faith in Christ brings forgiveness and salvation.

The marketing salesmen keep saying, “Don’t you want to know how all this works?” – as if it has never been revealed by the Holy Spirit. These windbags offer every single thing except that which really does work – the Word of God in its truth and purity.

The word for effective or efficacious in the New Testament is the root for our word energy. And energy simple means – works in. Or, to use the lingo of Fuller Seminary – the Word alone works.

Centurion’s Servant
The miracle of the centurion’s servant shows us that a Roman soldier understood and believed in the power of the Word. That is, someone does not have to be an Old Testament Jew to understand.

The soldier asked Jesus to cure his servant, who was still at home. The officer knew all about commands. He had the power to order a decimation, where the other soldiers killed 1 out of 10 soldiers. That was used to enforce discipline. If he commanded it, the soldiers obeyed.

Rome tested bridges by having the engineer stand under it while loads were brought across it. That reduced the number of incompetent engineers and increased the motivation of the builders.

No one sued Rome or said, “That’s not fair.” Orders were orders and obeyed.

So when Jesus offered to visit the centurion’s place, the officer said it was not necessary.

Matthew 8:8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

Jesus marveled at the man’s faith, but He also warned that many would come into the Kingdom of God from outside of Judaism, while the heirs of Abraham would face eternal torment.

He encouraged the centurion by saying the servant would be healed just as the officer believed. So the Word of Christ took effect from a distance – no surprise to children. As they say, “He is God. He can do anything.”

How do we apply this?

We are so surrounded by how-to books that it is no surprise that we think everything is up to us.

How can God, so far away, take care of our problems? We have to compromise here, finagle there, do whatever it takes.

I find it amazing that few seem to realize that the Church grew the most when under persecution and the least when fat and spoiled.

When the Christian faith was hounded, banned, and driven from place to place, the Gospel spread across the earth. Now, with all the money from the wealthiest nation in history, the Gospel is shrinking in the face of Buddhism, Hinduism, and materialism. In many cases, the guardians of the Gospel have traded the Faith for anti-Christianity: spirit guides taught (the occult), Christian Buddhism (impossible), Yoga taught (the basis for all Hinduism), and Feng Shui taken seriously (magic, but really dumb magic at that).

Is it possible to rely on the Word alone and accept what God brings with His Word? Or must we rely on a little of God’s Word with a lot of man’s superior reasoning powers?

As Professor Deutschlander shows so brilliantly in his new book, The Theology of the Cross, the Gospel without the cross is not the Gospel at all.

Those who reject the cross as part of the Christian faith, subsequent to faith, are rejecting the Christian faith altogether. The two cannot be separated. That is why Luther often used the term “the dear cross.” Chytraeus, an editor of the Book of Concord, taught that a mark of orthodoxy was “opposition.”

So when leaders tell a pastor, “Make everyone happy. Avoid conflict,” they are saying “Remove the cross from the Gospel, the Gospel from the church.”

Just a little listening will show how the religious leaders teach the institution, not the Gospel. That is why they fell for marketing and management. If the object of worship is material, then material means are needed. If the object of worship is Christ, then people concern themselves with the Means of Grace alone.

Most congregations would be better off if they got rid of all their activities and just offered worship, education, and pastoral visitation.

The Bible does not teach against the basic elements of common sense. The Book of Proverbs is full of practical knowledge. But the Word elevates God’s role and blesses man with the knowledge and hope of God’s mercy.

God may delay His answer for a long time. He may seem to have forgotten. My cousin was married 25 years before he had his first child. He said, “We wanted to see if our marriage worked out first.” He must have felt like Abraham at that point.

God always listens and answers according to His wisdom. We can rest easy at night because the troubles we trust to Him are answered in the morning. Gerhardt’s beautiful hymn says it so well. My translation is literal and not poetic; the German is clear, simple, and powerful:

2. Der unser Leben, das er uns gegeben,
in dieser Nacht so väterlich bedecket /
und aus dem Schlaf uns fröhlich auferwecket:
Lobet den Herren!

He who our life has given,
in this night has covered us so fatherly
and wakes us joyfully from sleep,
All praise the Lord.


Efficacy Quotations

"The Word of God is efficacious not only when it is being read from the Bible, but also when it is being spoken or preached, and when it is recalled by memory. The Word of God, properly speaking, is really not the letters which we see or the sound which we hear, but the divine thoughts, the truths designated by these signs."
E. Hove, Christian Doctrine, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1930, p. 27.

"'When the Word is read at home it is not as fruitful or as forcible as in public preaching and through the mouth of the preacher whom God has called for this purpose.' (Luther, Erlangen edition, 3:401)."
Henry Eyster Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith, Philadelphia: General Council Publication House, 1913, p. 290.

"The efficacy of the Word, unlike that of the seed, always has a result. The man to whom the Word of God comes, and who repels it, is not as he was before. Where long and persistently refused, hardening at last comes, Exodus 8:15; 9:12; John 12:40; Hebrews 4:1, and the Word becomes a 'savor of death unto death,' 2 Corinthians 2:16. Every word heard or read, every privilege and opportunity enjoyed, leaves its impress either for good or for evil. It is not so properly the Word, as man's abuse of the Word; not so much the efficacy of the Word, as the sin taking occasion of the efficacy that produces this result, Romans 7:8."
Henry Eyster Jacobs, Elements of Religion, Philadelphia, Board of Publication, General Council 1919 p. 155. Exodus 8:15; 9:12; John 12:40; Hebrews 4:1; 2 Corinthians 2:16; Romans 7:8

"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: Concordia Publishing House, II, p. 292. Ephesians 6:17

"God has chosen despised and frail human beings for the ministry of the Word that the divine power of the Word might become apparent—
a power impossible to suppress even in the weakest of persons. Moreover, if the mighty of the world were to preach the Gospel, people would be captivated more by the authority of the person preaching than by the Word itself."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed. Ewald M. Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House 1959 III, p. 1118 W 25, 255; SL 6, 484; brief comments in 1532-34 #3571; Isaiah 40:10

"Quenstedt (I, 170): 'Whether the Word be read or not, whether it be heard and believed or not, yet the efficacy of its spiritual effects is always intrinsically inherent in it by the divine arrangement and communication, nor does this divine efficacy only come to it when it is used. For the Word of God, as such, cannot even be conceived of apart from the divine virtue and gracious working of the Holy Spirit, because this is inseparable from the Word of God.'"
Heinrich Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans., Charles A. Hay and Henry E. Jacobs, Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House, 1899, p. 506.

"Hollazius (993) uses the following figures: 'It possesses and retains its internal power and efficacy even when not used, just as the illuminating power of the sun continues, although, when the shadow of the moon intervenes, no person may see it; and just as an internal efficacy belongs to the seed, although it may not be sown in the field.'"
Heinrich Schmid, Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans., Charles A. Hay and Henry E. Jacobs, Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House, 1899, p. 506.

"Only little weight is attached to the ministry of the Word, to worship services, the Sacraments, to confession and absolution, and to the observance of Christian customs; a thoroughly regenerated person does not need these crutches at all. Pietism stressed the personal element over against the institutional; voluntariness versus compulsion; the present versus tradition, and the rights of the laity over against the pastors."
Martin Schmidt, "Pietism," The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church, 3 vols., ed. Julius Bodensieck, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1965, III, p. 1899.

"But if ordination be understood as applying to the ministry of the Word, we are not unwilling to call ordination a sacrament. For the ministry of the Word has God's command and glorious promises. Romans 1:16 The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Likewise, Isaiah 55:11: 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 is of advantage, so far as can be done, to adorn the ministry of the Word with every kind of praise against fanatical men, who dream that the Holy Ghost is given not through the Word, but because of certain preparations of their own...."
Apology Augsburg Confession, XIII. #11. Number/Use Sacraments Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 311. Tappert, p. 212. Heiser, p. 95. Romans 1:16; Isaiah 55:11.

"And it is of advantage, so far as can be done, to adorn the ministry of the Word with every kind of praise against fanatical men, who dream that the Holy Ghost is given not through the Word, but because of certain preparations of their own, if they sit unoccupied and silent in obscure places, waiting for illumination, as the Enthusiasts formerly taught, and the Anabaptists now teach."
Apology Augsburg Confession, XIII. #13. The Sacraments. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 311. Tappert, p. 213. Heiser, p. 95.

"This power {the Keys} is exercised only by teaching or preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, according to their calling, either to many or to individuals. For thereby are granted, not bodily, but eternal things, as eternal righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal life. These things cannot come but by the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, as Paul says, Romans 1:16: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Therefore, since the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not interfere with civil government; no more than the art of singing interferes with civil government."
Augsburg Confession, XXVIII. #8. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 85. Tappert, p. 82. Heiser, p. 23. Romans 1:16

"Know, therefore, that you must be concerned not only about hearing, but also about learning and retaining it in memory, and do not think that it is optional with you of no great importance, but that it is God's commandment, who will require of you how you have heard, learned, and honored His Word."
The Large Catechism, The Third Commandment, #98. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 609. Tappert, p. 378. Heiser, p. 175. Exodus 20:8-11.

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