Sunday, February 22, 2009

Quinquagesima Sunday

Sunflower by Norma Boeckler

Quinquagesima Sunday

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time

Mid-Week Lenten Services will be Wednesdays at 6 PM – starting this week.

The Hymn #657 Schoenster Herr Jesus
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 Cor. 13:1-13
The Gospel Luke 18:31-43
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #376 Toplady

The Scriptural Meaning of Love

The Hymn #310 St. Michael
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 #50 New Ulm (by Reuter)

KJV 1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

KJV Luke 18:31 Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. 32 For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: 33 And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. 34 And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. 35 And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way side begging: 36 And hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. 37 And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. 38 And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 39 And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 40 And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, 41 Saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. 42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. 43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.

Quinquagesima Sunday

Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst manifest Thyself, with the Holy Ghost, in the fullness of grace at the baptism of Thy dear Son, and with Thy voice didst direct us to Him who hath borne our sins, that we might receive grace and the remission of sins: Keep us, we beseech Thee, in the true faith; and inasmuch as we have been baptized in accordance with Thy command, and the example of Thy dear Son, we pray Thee to strengthen our faith by Thy Holy Spirit, and lead us to everlasting life and salvation, through Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Scriptural Meaning of Love

Love is one of the most abused terms in our time, and this passage deals with love, or charity. Our perception of this chapter is not helped by its reading at weddings, including that of Prince Charles and Princess Diane, leading people to believe that the greatest of all the theological virtues is romantic love. The best known philosophers of the 20th century, the Beatles, sang, “All you need is love,” but they could not stay together.

First we need to ask about the setting of this lesson. Few people notice that it is placed between two chapters, 1 Corinthians 12 and 1 Corinthians 14, dealing with charismatics or tongue-speakers. Another term we use for tongue-speakers is Pentecostals. I remember being at a Baptist camp as a child and hearing someone put down as “Pentecostal.” All I knew at the time was that Pentecost was a religious event in the Christian Church.

The three chapters, 1 Corinthians 12-14, are an extensive criticism of Pentecostal claims then and now. We can see that embedded in this chapter.
“If I speak in the tongues of angels…”
“Tongues shall cease.”
“When I was a child, I spake as a child.”

Although Pentecostalism is a problem for many Lutherans, I think it is important to address a greater danger, which is foundational, common to all forms of false doctrine: the separation of the Word and the Holy Spirit. This is called Enthusiasm in the Book of Concord.

"And in those things which concern the spoken, outward Word, we must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one, except through or with the preceding outward Word, in order that we may [thus] be protected against the enthusiasts, i. e., spirits who boast that they have the Spirit without and before the Word, and accordingly judge Scripture or the spoken Word, and explain and stretch it at their pleasure, as Muenzer did, and many still do at the present day, who wish to be acute judges between the Spirit and the letter, and yet know not what they say or declare. For [indeed] the Papacy also is nothing but sheer enthusiasm, by which the Pope boasts that all rights exist in the shrine of his heart, and whatever he decides and commands with [in] his church is spirit and right, even though it is above and contrary to Scripture and the spoken Word."
Smalcald Articles, VIII., Confession, 3-5, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 495. Tappert, p. 312. Heiser, p. 147.

We confess as Lutherans that all false doctrine begins with separating the Word from the Spirit, since the Scriptures always weld them together. The Word never operates without the Spirit and the Spirit never without the Word. That is sound doctrine. (Hoenecke’s Dogmatics. Vol. IV is now available from NPH.)

That is the key to the love, which is the main theme of this chapter. Love is the fruit of the Gospel. When Paul wrote about the Law and Gospel to the Galatians, he pointed out the difference between the WORKS of the flesh and the FRUITS of the Spirit. We work strife, envy, and hatred in ourselves—these are works of the flesh. The Law works wrath, so one does not stop hatred by saying, “Stop being so hateful. I despise that. It is evil.”

In contrast, love is a fruit of the Spirit. (Some distinguish between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God here. I fail to see the difference. The Spirit of God must produce the fruit before the spirit of man enjoys it.) When we say fruit, we mean that God produces it, unlike the works of the flesh. So the answer to hatred is not merely denouncing it, which is the Holy Spirit’s work through the Law. The only way to produce love is through proclaiming the Gospel of forgiveness.

What does the Word of God do? It proclaims that the eternal Son of God became man, being born of a Virgin, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Jesus the Incarnate Word, taught, performed miracles, and died on the cross for our sins, rising from the grave to be the firstfruits of all those who would rise from the dead.

The world stands condemned for its unbelief without the Gospel. The preaching of the Word has always been God’s method for imparting His grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. It is true that some read the Scriptures and are converted, but they are in the minority. All infant baptisms are the preaching of the Word, for every baptism is water with the Word.

(When I teach confirmation, I heat up a wire and set fire to paper with it. The wire paper clip glows with heat and energy, a comparison used by the orthodox Lutherans. We do not separate the red glow of the heat from the metal. We see both. In the same way, with baptism and communion, we see the elements but we know the power is in the Word. The Word imparts the Holy Spirit’s energy to the recipient in granting forgiveness.)

Therefore, if we want an abundance of love, we should first desire an abundance of orthodox preaching. Otherwise we are demanding apples where there are no trees. The tree is the Word of God. Love, joy, and peach are the fruits that grow from this tree. Gospel preaching is both Law and Gospel, since our Old Adam never goes away. Justification by faith means that the Holy Spirit proclaims what Christ has done for us on the cross, paying for our sins, and we receive this decree of pardon by faith. A forgiven sinner knows and experiences God’s love, so the Gospel love of God bears fruit in the believer as love toward God and toward our neighbor. We love because He first loved us.

This is important because the false teachers want us to believe they are the apostles of love. First of all they pose as men who are more loving than the rest of us. Their great love gathers disciples to their cause and proves how valuable they are to the Kingdom of God. That alone should make the alarm bells go off, as we will see shortly. But the second part of their love message is even more dangerous. They claim that their false doctrine may not be opposed because it is unloving to do so. In fact, the proto-liberals of the LCMS made their case in a booklet called Speaking the Truth in Love. That phrase has become a rallying cry for the false teachers among the conservative Lutherans. Let’s look at the context.

KJV Ephesians 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Clearly the context of “speaking the truth in love” is in opposing false doctrine. Love is not an excuse for tolerating false doctrine, because false doctrine belongs to man and ultimately Satan. Orthodoxy simply means teaching exactly what the Bible reveals to us, as confessed through the Book of Concord. The more I read the Book of Concord, the more I see how the controversies of the past have been resolved with the pure Word of God. Orthodoxy means clinging only to the truths of the Scriptures.

As Lenski points out, the meaning behind “speaking the truth in love” is a double accusation against the false teachers. They engage in all kinds of deceit and trickery to have their way and they are anything but loving. Luther wrote: “They flay their disciples to the bone.” For example, some Evangelicals, after getting 10% of everyone’s income, will say, “Ten percent is not an offering. An offering is what you give after the required 10%.” I heard one famous minister, who was having an affair and teaching about his lovely marriage at the same time, “I am going back to my congregation to preach about the double tithe.” Motivating with the Law is not enough for these wolves. They must double the Law. The adulterous pastor was given another church job, then called back to his congregation where he had the affair.

The apostle is also exhorting the Ephesians not to be children about doctrine. An endearing trait of children is their eagerness to be taught and led. One can also mislead and deceive them easily. (I offered children a gold coin or a huge token worth $1. Most of them took the token rather than the gold.) Adult believers should not be childish in allowing themselves to be drawn away from the Word of God and the Confessions. No one has the power to take us from the truth. We must give up the truth willingly in the name of some other loyalty, to a person, a family, a tradition, a building, or a church body. You would be amazed at how cheaply the Gospel is bartered away by pastors and church leaders. One said, in effect, “I will never let that adulterer speak at my church, but I will take his $50,000.”

Our love of God should be primary. The catechism says we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. If we have to choose between man’s favor and God’s truth, our fear of God should be greater than our fear of rejection by man. If we love our possessions, we should love God more, so that we would gladly give them up rather than give up God. We look for people and companies we can trust, but we should trust in God most of all.

Trust is the key element in our love of God. Oh, I love God, but can I trust in Him to provide when I have to make decisions according to His Word. One thing is very clear—there is a lot more money, prestige, and friendship in abandoning the Word than in insisting on the truth of the Scriptures and acting upon that truth.

Another Excuse
Love is also used as an excuse for lawlessness. It would be unloving to identify something as a sin. “I wouldn’t do that but I won’t JUDGE anyone who does.” Of course, that is a condemnatory statement. There is an implied condemnation in the claim that “I won’t JUDGE anyone who does.” Someone who judges something to be wrong is condemned for being wrong according to the spirit of this age.
I have never seen someone abandon the Law, although they may sound like anti-Nomians. What they really do in their lawlessness is transfer man’s law into God’s Law. They deny God’s Law and replace it with man’s law. They are far more censorious with their law than God is with His Law.

It is far more loving to identify sin as a sin, according to God’s Word. If something is a sin, then it is contrary to God’s commandments, which are good and loving. The Holy Spirit alone can create true contrition, sorrow for sin, by working through the Law. No one wants to hear the Law, but the Law prepares us for the comfort and forgiveness of the Gospel.

Proper Love
The proper love of God, according to the Scriptures, means that we will never accept any trifling with the truth of the Word, because it belongs to God alone.

The proper love of man, as revealed in the Scriptures, is shown in our willingness to accept the failings and shortcomings of others, to make allowances for them, and be eager to forgive, as God forgives us.

KJV John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.


1 Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

Ephesians 2:2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

2 Timothy 2:26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

"Of Free Will they teach that man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Corinthians 2:14; but this righteousness is wrought through the Word."
Augsburg Confession, Article XVIII, Freedom of the Will, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 51. Tappert, p. 39. 1 Corinthians 2:14.

"Now, although both, the planting and watering of the preacher, and the running and willing of the hearer, would be in vain, and no conversion would follow it if the power and efficacy of the Holy Ghost were not added thereto, who enlightens and converts the hearts through the Word preached and heard, so that men believe this Word and assent thereto, still, neither preacher nor hearer is to doubt this grace and efficacy of the Holy Ghost, but should be certain that when the Word of God is preached purely and truly, according to the command and will of God, and men listen attentively and earnestly and meditate upon it, God is certainly present with His grace, and grants, as has been said, what otherwise man can neither accept nor give from his own powers."
Solid Declaration, Article II, Free Will, 55-56, Formula of Concord, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 903. Tappert, p. 531f.

"Why is so much assumed about the ability of human nature? It has been wounded, hurt, injured, ruined. It has need of a true confession, not of a false defense." [Augustine, De natura et gratia, chap. 53; quoted with approval by Chemnitz]
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1971, I, p. 411.

"Moreover [On the other side], both the ancient and modern enthusiasts have taught that God converts men, and leads them to the saving knowledge of Christ through His Spirit, without any created means and instrument, that is, without the external preaching and hearing of God's Word."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II. 4. Free Will, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 881.

"Against both these parties the pure teachers of the Augsburg Confession have taught and contended that by the fall of our first parents man was so corrupted that in divine things pertaining to our conversion and the salvation of our souls he is by nature blind, that, when the Word of God is preached, he neither does nor can understand it, but regards it as foolishness; also, that he does not of himself draw nigh to God, but is and remains an enemy of God, until he is converted, becomes a believer [is endowed with faith], is regenerated and renewed, by the power of the Holy Ghost through the Word when preached and heard, out of pure grace, without any cooperation of his own."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II. 5. Free Will, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 881.

"Hence the natural free will according to its perverted, disposition and nature is strong and active only with respect to what is displeasing and contrary to God."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II. 7. Free Will, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 883. John 8:34; Ephesians 2:2; 2 Timothy 2: 26.

"For, first, although man's reason or natural intellect indeed has still a dim spark of the knowledge that there is a God, as also of the doctrine of the Law Romans 1:19ff., yet is is so ignorant, blind, and perverted that when even the most ingenious and learned men upon earth read or hear the Gospel of the Son of God and the promise of eternal salvation, they cannot from their own powers perceive apprehend, understand, or believe and regard it as true, but the more diligence and earnestness they employ, wishing to comprehend these spiritual things with their reason, the less they understand or believe, and before they become enlightened and are taught by the Holy Ghost, they regard all this only as foolishness or fictions. 1 Corinthians 2:14..."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II. 9. Free Will, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 883. 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 4:17f.; 1 Corinthians 1:21

"And, in a word, it remains eternally true what the Son of God says, John 15:5: Without Me ye can do nothing. And Paul, Philippians 2:13: It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. To all godly Christians who feel and experience in their hearts a small spark or longing for divine grace and eternal salvation this precious passage is very comforting; for they know that God has kindled in their hearts this beginning of true godliness, and that He will further strengthen and help them in their great weakness to persevere in true faith unto the end."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II. 14. Free Will, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 885. Philippians 2:13; John 15:5.

"Thirdly, in this manner, too, the Holy Scriptures ascribe conversion, faith in Christ, regeneration, renewal, and all that belongs to their efficacious beginning and completion, not to the human powers of the natural free will, neither entirely, nor half, nor in any, even the least or most inconsiderable part, but in solidum, that is, entirely, solely to the divine working and the Holy Ghost, as also the Apology teaches."
Formula of Concord, Thorough Declaration, II. 25. Free Will, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 891.

"Today's Gospel also teaches by this parable that our free will amounts to nothing, since the good seed is sowed only by Christ, and Satan sows nothing but evil seed; as we also see that the field of itself yields nothing but tares, which the cattle eat, although the field receives them and they make the field green as if they were wheat. In the same way the false Christians among the true Christians are of no use but to feed the world and be food for Satan, and they are so beautifully green and hypocritical, as if they alone were the saints, and hold the place in Christendom as if they were lords there, and the government and highest places belonged to them; and for no other reason than that they glory that they are Christians and are among Christians in the church of Christ, although they see and confess that they live unchristian lives."
Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John N. Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, II, p. 103. Matthew 13:24-30;

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