Cantate, The Fourth Sunday after Easter
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time
The Hymn #197 Where wilt thou go 1:2
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 James 1:16-21
The Gospel John 16:5-15
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 192 Awake, My Heart 1:22
Holy Spirit Convicts Us – Of Unbelief
The Hymn #195 Christ Jesus Lay 1:46
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 #187 Christ Is Arisen 1:45
Fourth Sunday After Easter
Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst through Thy Son promise us Thy Holy Spirit, that He should convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment: We beseech Thee, enlighten our hearts, that we may confess our sins, through faith in Christ obtain everlasting righteousness, and in all our trials and temptations retain this consolation, that Christ is Lord over the devil and death, and all things, and that He will graciously deliver us out of all our afflictions, and make us forever partakers of eternal salvation, through the same, Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
KJV James 1:16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. 19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
KJV John 16:4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. 5 But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? 6 But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. 12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.
Holy Spirit Convicts Us – Of Unbelief
The Epistle and the Gospel both teach a lesson so significant that either one should embarrass Lutherans into teaching the original message of Christ instead of trying to market a produce.
Epistle of James lesson
There are two gems in this short lesson. Both teach the same unified message of truth, but in different words. James has been called weak on the Gospel and more law-oriented than any other epistle. The Gospel message is subtle but not watered down. The language is different from the Pauline epistles.
James 1:18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth,
The non-Biblical language of the non-Lutherans will always makes us think in terms alien to that of the Scriptures. Y’all hear things like, “I won souls for Christ,” or “We need disciples because disciples are soul-winners.” And – “I decided to dedicate my life to reaching 1 million souls for Christ.”
The effectiveness of God’s Word is based upon God’s will alone. God has determined what He will do, and that will be only through His Word. This verse says that He gave birth to us, that He did this according to His own will. This verse glorifies God alone and proves once again that the Word alone is effective in accomplishing God’s will.
For those who wonder how we fit in – God has given us the privilege of handling His Word so we see its power and how God accomplishes His will. God gave birth to us through His Word. Human involvement is not mentioned because this is a reminder of God’s work, which we always want to turn into our work. One reader said to me, “I don’t think that…” I responded by saying it is not for us to judge. God does His work through His Word. When we stop to judge whether that is effective, we are tempted to start trusting in our own wisdom.
Many have said to themselves, “This is alienating people. Look how angry they are. I should be gentle and never rebuke false doctrine.” They are correct in saying this always works best – at first. But it is like leading sheep to pasture to fatten them for the wolves, without protecting them from the wolves. The disturbances people are facing now are all God’s judgment for the failures of the past. The price must be paid, and it will be worse if few learn from it.
On a national scale, someone mentioned that our last three presidents (Clinton, Bush, O.) have had major problems with illegal drugs. Is it any wonder the country is awash in the violence and corruption caused by the illegal trade?
On a synodical scale, since this audience is Lutheran, the old institutions are failing rapidly. Well established pastors are facing unemployment right now, and schools are closing (right now at the parochial level). God is punishing people for loving false doctrine and wolf-preaching. As Luther said, the people who resent giving Christ a penny will be forced to give the wolves a dollar, because they are always flailing their disciples for more.
And it revolves around these simple passages. First of all, without any possibility of contradiction, God alone gives birth to us through His Word alone. The only possible conclusion is to offer the Word in abundance and to teach the Word with perfect clarity – as it is and not tamed or watered down by human wisdom.
I used to read the Luther sermon set (the cheapest theology set in the world, available for almost nothing) and say, “There he goes again, ranting about the pope.”
Now that I see how the Antichrist has invaded the Lutheran Church, with the help of Lutherans, in the name of peace and harmony, I no longer resent those passages. Rome and Constantinople teach that Christ did not do enough when He died on the cross for our sins. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox teach that we must appease God with our good works to earn a chance for heaven, after being tortured in Purgatory for centuries.
People adore and worship visible institutions, but did those institutions give birth to Christians? No, the Word alone can do this and continues to do this. However, people abandon the Word for the institution and prop up the institution by abandoning the Word alone.
NKJ James 1:21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
Our temptation is always to say – Stop being bad – staying with the Law alone. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. This verse is quite different. It says, Stop sinning and believe in the Gospel which is grafted onto your body and able to save your soul.
Most gardeners work with grafted plants all the time. Our favorite flower is the rose, and almost every rose has at least one graft. The wild rose roots below are grafted onto the hybrid rose above. This gives the plant the vigor of the wild rose and the beauty of the hybrid. We never say, “This is a Peace/wild rose,” or “This is a Queen E./wild rose.” We say, “This is a Peace rose.” And “That is a Queen Elisabeth, created (in a manner of speaking) by a Lutheran creationist.”
Faith alone has the power to fight against sin. The Law rebukes and damns us. The Law crushes our pride and breaks our bones. But the Law alone stirs up wrath and increases temptation. The Gospel is alive and grows in us. Receive with meekness is another way, a concrete way to say – Believe in the Gospel, which alone saves your soul. Sin and pride go together quite well. Faith and meekness are also companions. When we see what God has done and can do, we are meek rather than proud. Believing in Christ displaces the temptation to sin, just as sin displaces Christ.
Why is this text so important? This passage tells us in one verse what the Holy Spirit will do. The world is filled with books about the working of the Holy Spirit. Everyone seems to have an opinion without consulting the Holy Spirit Himself. The Gospel of John was written by the Apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit. To use the analogy of one pope, the Gospel has two natures, the human nature of the author and the divine nature of the Holy Spirit, and yet it is without error or contradiction. We should listen to these simple words with complete confidence that God is speaking to us through the Fourth Gospel, accurately transmitting the words of Christ about the future work of the Holy Spirit.
Also, if we have problems with the text, we should ask that the Holy Spirit inform our reason with faith in the Scriptures, and not judge the Word of God with our human reason.
These are the key verses:
8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
“Reprove” the world is a little old-fashioned. We are more likely to say “convict” the world. It is more than simply accusing or indicting the world. The Holy Spirit will bring judgment against the world for its unbelief.
I would like to digress on this topic a little. Notice that God Himself is judging on the basis of unbelief. Many false teachers and their fellow-travelers will say, “I do not believe all of the Scriptures, and I interpret them my way, but that is fine, because I am doing good work. Christians do not have the time and energy to agree on doctrine. It is better for them to work together and be tolerant of minor differences in belief.” This feeble excuse is nonsense. Man may say it does not matter if people deny baptismal grace, or the Real Presence, or the efficacy of the Word, but God does not tolerate and overlook doctrinal indifference. How can someone baptize a baby one week and pay money to learn from those who deny infant baptism the next? There are two stories being told by the same person – which one is true? If the Baptists can teach Lutherans about evangelism and the Gospel, then the Baptists are also correct about babies not having faith, about Holy Baptism being an ordinance for adults who “make a decision for Christ.” Two approaches to the Word are incompatible and at odds with each other.
The passage destroys any notion that the main issue in God’s judgment is whether we are good people. This plea is common among those who have no belief. For instance, in a Biography show about the Rat Pack, the head of the Atlantic City mafia was defended because “he was the nicest guy you would ever want to meet.” To be in the Mafia, he had to be a killer who also ordered the murder of opponents. Similarly, Frank Sinatra was also defended as someone who was kind and gentle, although he would “throw you out the window and over the roof if you were on his bad side.” Today we often hear that false teachers are “nice guys.” As more than one pastor has said, “He is not a false teacher; he is a nice guy.” The opposite of false teacher is “orthodox teacher” and not “nice guy.”
Knowing that our flesh is weak, Satan tempts us to judge on the basis of appearances rather than substance. In the short run, appearances always win. Being nice and compromising will always be more charming than rebuking false doctrine.
The movement called Pietism was very devious in getting people to measure others in terms of outward characteristics rather than upon what they believed and taught. We live in a country and an age largely defined this way and not according to God’s Word. The Pietists say, “We have to overlook his attacks against God’s Word because he works hard and he is a nice guy.” The proper attitude is, “We will overlook his human frailty because he believes in the Word and teaches only in harmony with it.”
Not surprisingly, the self-styled nice guys make sure that the orthodox are driven away, silenced, and shunned as lepers for being “unloving, divisive, and judgmental.” But here in this text, God does the judging and His judgment is final, even if man messes around for a period of time.
When the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, because it does not believe, God is saying, “Give away billions of dollars. Work among the poor. Establish quotas. Endow foundations. All of this is sin without faith in Christ. The more upright you are in your own eyes, the more sinful you will be, even if the entire world admires you. However, if you believe in Christ, your sins will be erased and forgotten. Then everything done in faith will glorify God.”
The campaign against faith has been stepped up lately. In the secular world, all faith (Judaism included) is interpreted as hatred, insensitivity, and narrow-mindedness. In the visible Church, the same attitude prevails. Someone who persistently argues for the Word of God will find himself shunned as an unloving bigot.
Notice what a difference there is. In the eyes of the unbelieving world, excessive public charity is the only virtue, especially when it is trumpeted around through paid flacks. (Note to English user: flak is a hostile response, based upon the acronym for the German anti-aircraft “kanon.” A flack is a public relations professional.) The news media will never take notice of the woman who drives a school bus, cares for her mother with old age dementia, takes care of her children, and helps others. Nor should we expect unbelievers to honor what God honors. We should only smile that the most virtuous public servants of this age—Ted Turner and Jane Fonda—could barely remain on the same stage with each other, even though it was the love of their lives when they first married. Be silent with your doubts. No pair has done more for the United Nations, the Viet Cong, and cellulite than Ted and Jane. Ted lost his faith when his sister died of lupus, so he tells us. God’s Word teaches us that all of his public charity is a sin because it is done without faith. Ted pledged a billion dollars to the United Nations, then saw his empire become almost worthless, so his pledge dwindled to far less money.
Faith is not such a small thing, because God teaches us that only faith matters. Faith receives the power of God in His Gospel promises. Those promises are fruitful in the life of the believer. We do not need to measure or plan, only to enjoy the abundance of the Means of Grace.
Once a visitor said I was the strangest gardener he had ever seen at work. He said to a visitor, “He plants all kinds of seed altogether all over the place.” I admit to sowing seed according to Mark 4 rather than Martha Stewart. And yes, I carve a shallow row and throw all kinds of seed together. But what were the results. I had hundreds of sunflowers blooming outside the chapel, zinnias in bloom all over the yard, scarlet runner beans climbing the pool fence, followed by warty gourds. This is exactly how a believer bear fruit in his daily life. In spite of all the problems that arise, faith in Christ yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
Fruit does not mean apple or orange in the Bible, but “yield”. A plant fruits when the flower gives way to the seed or seed pod. The fruit may be grain, vegetables, or rose hips. The Gospel promises always produce a yield that we can anticipate in some way but never determine for ourselves. We can be confident in the results coming along, but never in how God will apportion them or when He will distribute them. Missionaries have worked in pagan lands to convert one single person to Christ in a lifetime of work. Who are we to speed up results by telling unbelievers, as one Fuller professor of missions did, “You may not be able to believe or accept the atonement of Christ. And that’s ok.” (Why pay a supposed Christian to reinforce unbelief by teaching unbelief as a virtue?)
Therefore, when the Holy Spirit convicts someone of unbelief, (Law preaching), He is paving the way for the Gospel. This is what happened to the wife of the founder of Fuller Seminary. Mrs. Fuller was a proud, virtuous Unitarian. Her friend used the Word of God to slay her unbelief and plant faith in the Gospel. It happened all at once and it still gives me goose-bumps. If only the Lutheran graduates of Fuller Seminary could state their confidence in the Word alone as beautifully as Grace Fuller did.
"Mrs. Barnhill looked at me and said, with such a loving look in her gray eyes, 'Oh, Grace, Christ said, 'No man cometh unto the Father but by Me,' and, my dear, you have no way of approach to a holy God unless you come through Christ, His Son, as your Saviour.' "The Scripture which she quoted," Mrs. Fuller continues, "was the Sword of the Spirit, and at that moment Unitarianism was killed forever in my heart. I saw the light like a flash and believed at that moment, though I said nothing. She had quoted God's Word, the Spirit had used it, and, believing, I instantly became a new creation in Christ Jesus. She might have talked and even argued with me about it, but instead she just used the Word."
J. Elwin Wright, The Old Fashioned Revival Hour and the Broadcasters, Boston: The Fellowship Press, 1940, p. 54. [Old man Fuller founded the seminary. His son turned liberal while studying under Karl Barth. And now the school is as Unitarian as Grace Fuller was before her conversion.]
The second phrase seems to be strange and needs some study. I have to admit that I look this passage up every year, so I understand what Luther saw in the text. The Holy Spirit speaks very plainly and clearly to us, but there are just enough difficulties to make us study the text and become very sure of the Word in time, as long as we approach the Scriptures with humility and a willingness to learn.
Second phrase:10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
Conviction still governs this phrase. In other words, the Holy Spirit is saying, “You thought THAT was righteousness. No, I tell you, THIS is righteousness.” So what is this righteousness – that Jesus is going to the Father and will be seen no more. As Luther explains, this phrase is a reference to the resurrection and ascension of Christ. The preaching of the resurrection of Christ was the foundation of the apostolic Church. The eyewitnesses of the crucifixion and burial of Christ said, “No, He is dead.” The apostles were those who witnessed the risen Christ. They said, “We have seen Him risen from the dead. He is the Savior and the true Son of God.” In this sense the resurrection of Christ was for us and not for Him. His empty tomb proclaimed to them and still teaches us that death has no dominion over the believer. So we see the complete meaning of Romans 4:24-25, which is often misinterpreted today by advocates of Kokomo justification (forgiveness without faith; the world absolved of sin without the Means of Grace):
KJV Romans 4:24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
“If we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” The righteousness of God is imputed or charged to our account if we believe in Him and His resurrection. There is a common test for this today. Most mainline or liberal theologians do not believe in the resurrection, deny its importance, and desire to teach us their wisdom. They do not receive forgiveness because they do not believe and work hard to murder souls through their false doctrine.
In contrast, whenever the resurrection of Christ is taught, people believe in Him and receive the declaration of forgiveness. Therefore, Jesus is raised for our justification.
The third phrase may also stump people a little - 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
We seem to hear two messages. One is that Satan is the prince of this world.
KJV 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:
Satan is called the Prince of this world three times in John. He does rule over this world, but he is also condemned and defeated. A defeated and cornered army group can still fight back and do enormous damage. In fact, that has often happened at the end of a war, when the fighting gets more furious simply because the end is near.
Satan was defeated through the cross and resurrection of Christ, but he still has some time to work his will on earth before the end. To use an expression from Revelation, he is tethered, like a horse, on a short rope, but dangerous still. I knocked on a door when a guard dog was tied to a chain. I didn’t worry. The chain obviously did not reach where I was. The dog snarled madly nearby. But he also knew how to stretch the confining chain enough to connect with my leg. He was limited in his work but not harmless. In case you are worried – the dog did not get rabies from biting me.
So we should take Satan, not as all powerful but still as ready and willing to capture a few more souls before his work is done. The fury and success of his work now should warn and comfort us. It is a warning that he will leave no believer alone. It is a comfort because his time is drawing to a close.
The Holy Spirit works to teach us these lessons in a clear, plain manner, so that anyone with an elementary reading ability can study the Gospel of John. At the same time, the Gospel is so profound that any scholar can spend a lifetime with the Gospel and never complete his learning from the Word.
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.
[Some people think righteous means doing good works and reconciling God] "But now comes the Holy Spirit and says: No so. You err and are mistaken. Your judgment is wrong. Therefore there must be another judgment. You should judge thus: Everything your reason concludes is erroneous and false, and you are a fool and a simpleton."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 119. John 16:5-15.
"But now, since the prince of this world and the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the devil, are directly opposed to one another, and the Holy Spirit is not willing that anyone should parade his own deeds and praise himself on account of them, the holy cross must soon follow. The world will not consent to be reprimanded for its blindness. Therefore one must willingly submit and suffer persecution. If we have the right kind of faith in our hearts, we must also open our mouths and confess righteousness and make known sin. Likewise we must condemn and punish the doings of this world and make it known that everything it undertakes, is damned."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 120. John 16:5-15.
"However, here the Lord speaks quite differently, and says: 'The Holy Spirit will convict the world in respect of sin, because they believe not on me.' Unbelief only is mentioned here as sin, and faith is praised as suppressing and extinguishing the other sins, even the sins in the saints. Faith is so strong and overpowering that no sin dare put it under any obligation. Although sins are present in pious and believing persons, they are not imputed to them, nor shall their sins condemn them."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 127. John 16:5-15.
"Godly and believing persons know their sins; they bear all their punishment patiently, and are resigned to God's judgment without the least murmur; therefore, they are punished only bodily, and here in time, and their pain and suffering have an end. Unbelievers, however, since they are not conscious of their sins and transgressions, cannot bear God's punishment patiently, but they resent it and wish their life and works to go unpunished, yea, uncensured. Hence, their punishment and suffering are in body and soul, here in time, and last forever beyond this life."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 131. John 16:5-15.
"This is the province of the work, which the Holy Spirit is to begin in the kingdom of Christ. It is the teaching office of the apostles, which is to be of such a character that it must convict the world, as it finds it outside of Christ, and nobody is to be excepted, great, small, learned, wise, holy, of high or low condition, etc. This means in short, to bear the world's anger and to begin strife, and to be struck in the mouth for it. For the world, which rules on earth, will not and cannot endure its course to be disapproved; therefore persecution must arise, and one party must yield to the other, the weakest to the stronger. But, as the office of the apostles is to be only a teaching office, it cannot use world power and the world retains its external kingdom and power against the apostles. But, on the other hand, the apostles' office of conviction of the world shall likewise not be suppressed, because it is the office and work of the Holy Spirit, but shall overcome all and triumph; as Christ promised to them: 'I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to withstand.' Luke 21:15"
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 136. John 16:5-15.
"It breaks in not piecemeal on certain works and actions, but reduces to nothing and condemns everything that reason and worldly wisdom propose. In short, He convicts and censures them in and for the very things they do not wish to be convicted in, but rather praised and lauded, as teaching and doing well and right."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 138. John 16:5-15.
"For the heart is ever hostile to the law and resists it with inward disobedience."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 140. John 16:5-15.
"Therefore the Holy Spirit rightly and justly convicts, as sinful and condemned, all who have not faith in Christ. For where this is wanting, other sins in abundance must follow: God is despised and hated, and the entire first table is treated with disobedience."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 141. John 16:5-15.
"Lo, how the dragon's-tail of the devil and all hell must follow unbelief! The reason is, that he who does not believe in Christ, has already turned away from God and quite separated himself from Him."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., III, p. 142. John 16:5-15.