The Eighth Sunday after Trinity
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
Bethany Lutheran Worship, 8 AM Phoenix Time
The Hymn #528:1-7 If God Himself Be for Me 4.49
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 Romans 8:12-17
The Gospel Matthew 7:15-21
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #528:8-15 If God Himself Be for Me 4.49
Good Fruit from Sound Doctrine
The Hymn #378 The Saints on Earth 4.8
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 #659 Feed Thy Children 4.23
The flowers are in memory of Bethany Joan Marie Jackson, who would have been 35 today.
KJV Romans 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
KJV Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Eighth Sunday After Trinity
Lord God, heavenly Father, we most heartily thank Thee that Thou hast caused us to come to the knowledge of Thy word. We pray Thee: graciously keep us steadfast in this knowledge unto death, that we may obtain eternal life; send us now and ever pious pastors, who faithfully preach Thy word, without offense or false doctrine, and grant them long life. Defend us from all false teachings, and frustrate Thou the counsels of all such as pervert Thy word, who come to us in sheep's clothing, but are inwardly ravening wolves, that Thy true Church may evermore be established among us, and be defended and preserved from such false teachers, through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
Good Fruit from Sound Doctrine
Matthew 7:17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
This Gospel lesson reminds us that Christ spoke harsh words against false teachers. In fact, the harshest words in the New Testament are spoken by Jesus.
So why have Christians absorbed the idea that their religion does not allow for anything critical to be said about another confession? Lutherans got this idea from Pietism, because Spener copied his ideas from the Reformed and also agreed to a certain extent with their doctrine. To work together for charity, the Lutherans dropped their opposition to Reformed doctrine, although the Reformed never dropped their key difference with Lutherans – chiefly the efficacy of the Word in the Means of Grace. That is not a minor difference but the foundation of all Christian doctrine.
Wolves in sheep’s clothing – that image is not exactly gentle, but it is meant to convey the proper warning. Even today people hear – he is a nice guy. Jesus did not warn about sheep in wolves’ clothing but wolves in sheep’s clothing. Identifying the key attribute of false teachers (he is a nice guy, everyone likes him) is not a defense against the charge of opposing God’s Word. No one has ever opposed God’s Word while appearing evil, starting with Satan in the Garden of Eden. He spoke softly, appeared fair, and seemed logical in his discourse. He looked for openings and exploited them – Did God really say – do not touch the fruit? What a great way to move from touching the fruit (no rules there) to eating it (and be like God Himself).
Ravening (ferocious or ravenous) wolves tear up the flock. They come from within the flock and outside of the flock, as Paul warned in his farewell speech to the Ephesians.
KJV Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31 Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
Sometimes the Scriptures emphasize doctrine and other times works. In this passage, Jesus said we should measure false teachers by their works, which is just the opposite of man’s inclination. People excuse the horrible histories of false teachers and make excuses for them. But Jesus taught and still teaches:
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Nothing good can come from teaching contrary to God’s Word, and nothing bad can come from teaching in harmony with God’s Word.
Thanks to the Church Growth Movement from Fuller Seminary, I have heard conservative Lutheran ministers say, “Yes they are false teachers, but we can learn a lot from them. We cannot forego their great insights just because they belong to another denomination.”
I have called the Growthers “Shrinkers” because of their fruit. They have done nothing for the Christian faith in America, and their great leader, C. Peter Wagner, has admitted as much.
Another aspect of false doctrine is its ability to bewitch people. The more they get involved with it, the more immune they are to any suggestion it is wrong. I see that with people hypnotized by Roman Catholicism, which is a clever imitation of the Christian faith, but a complete repudiation of God’s Word. And I see the same enchantment with the version of Church Growth called The Emergent Church, where new extremes are the norm.
The agricultural comparisons in this lesson should make sense to anyone with a slight acquaintance with gardening. You will know them by their fruits.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
The Shrinkers say they are “spoiling the Egyptians,” stealing the great treasures of Fuller Seminary (which repudiated inerrancy a long time ago, but—no surprise—ferociously supports women’s ordination). Using the language of Jesus, they are gathering grapes from thornbushes. I once had to cut down 9 foot thorn bushes. I found no grapes there, but I did come in with a lot of thorns all over me.
The Comfort of This Lesson
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
This lesson does not simply teach against false teachers, making it clear that a bad tree (false doctrine) only produces bad fruit.
Jesus also teaches us that a good tree only produces good fruit. The “sound” in sound doctrine can be read as “healthy” doctrine. This is in perfect harmony with the natural law concept of the Scriptures. God commands what is good for us.
The pure Word of God is healthy and brings forth only good fruit.
I used to grow a lot of roses. Before I needed more sun. Now I need less sun and more soil. But I learned a lot from growing dozens of roses in Columbus and New Ulm.
There are plenty of bargain roses and mishandled roses. They grow most of the time but they never produce beautiful flowers because their stock does not allow for that. My all-time favorite remains Double Delight, for its color and perfume. It bloomed generously and everyone loved the flowers. For that reason it was also rare. If I did not order it months in advance, the suppliers were sold out.
Likewise, to grow giant sunflowers, I bought the more expensive Russian sunflower seeds. We had contests (based on Mark 4) to see which child could grow the biggest sunflower heads. The sunflower family is quite large, so many varieties are rather small and inconspicuous in their blooms. It was always impressive to see a small child with a sunflower disk bigger than a dinner plate, with hundreds of striped seeds in beautiful spirals (which reveal the Fibonacci numbers).
Because we carry the Old Adam with us, we do not like the cross that accompanies the teaching of the pure Word of God. But Jesus teaches that only good can come from the pure Word of God. How can suffering and rebuke be the good fruit of the healthy plant.
First of all, unchallenged doctrine makes us lazy and apathetic about the Scriptures. Whenever people praise themselves for being in a perfect church, they are starting to neglect the Word of God. Just recently, a Missouri pastor said he was in the best church because it was least influenced by Pietism. I thought, “Now there is a Pietistic claim.” First of all, Walther began as a Pietist, although he tried to break away from it. Secondly, the primary errors of the Synodical Conference (UOJ and consecration) come from the Reformed view of the Word, denying its efficacy. And those false views entered through Pietism, that is, through Walther the primary political and doctrinal leader. Instead of dealing with the error as it grew, the saint-worshipers encircled their statue of Walther and made his voluminous writings the norm for all doctrine, preferring him to the Book of Concord and Luther.
Secondly, God may want us somewhere else. Like Jonah, we can set our own plans, but that express whale to Ninevah is going to pick us up anyway, whether we like it or not. The only way to evade the trip is to adopt false doctrine and make peace with the Synagogue of Satan. Many religious leaders have chosen that route, which may be why the New Testament uses the term – making shipwrecks of their faith.
KJV 1 Timothy 1:19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck:
Third, God may want us where we are, even though we cast longing eyes on another place. Luther and Gerhardt both emphasized that carrying out our duties properly is God-pleasing. We should ask for no more. Some people destroy their lives by aiming for glamour and excitement when the best of life is a series of little events, with family and friends, or seeing what God can do over time in a congregation.
I can tell who reads Luther, the Book of Concord, and the Scriptures. They will allow that they may not see any results at all, but they trust God will accomplish His will through faithfulness to His Word. Like WWII heroes I know, they avoid calling attention to themselves.
Luther himself (Paul Gerhardt, even more) was a failure when looking at his imaginary resume. Luther’s Reformation went backwards during his own lifetime. His associates did more harm to sound doctrine than the pope and Turk put together. People fell away from the Reformation as soon as the going got tough. When Luther died, the Roman Catholic emperor died and did his best to destroy the remainder of the Reformation. However, it was just that crisis that created the Book of Concord, which we should see as our best one-volume sermon helper, Bible commentary, and devotional guide.
The hymn writer Paul Gerhardt had a lifetime of horrible experiences (loss of spouse and most of his children, defenestration for going against Reformed doctrine, living on charity, etc), but he turned them into poetry that created Christian hymnody – some say even more influential than Luther.
In both cases, sound doctrine produce good fruit – to the glory of God.
Trinity Eight Quotations
"Just as true doctrine is the greatest gift we can enjoy, so false doctrine is the most baneful evil that can beset us. False doctrine is sin, it is the invention of Satan, and it imperils and destroys salvation. False doctrine is every teaching contrary to the Word of God. Scripture enjoins upon us to proclaim only the truth."
W. A. Baepler, "Doctrine, True and False," The Abiding Word, ed., Theodore Laetsch, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1946, II, p. 501.
"No false dogma has ever been spread in the church which was not put forth with some plausible show, for sheep's clothing is the show of false religion (says Chrysostom). Indeed, the weaker and more ruinous the cause is, the more arguments it needs, sought everywhere and in every way possible, as though to cover it over with paint or to swathe it with medicine. For Pindar [famous Greek lyric poet, 518-438 B.C.] says, 'For a just cause three words are sufficient.' Therefore the papalists have gathered very many and varied arguments in order to establish purgatory."
Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent, trans., Fred Kramer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986, III, p. 325.
"Paul calls all false spirits bold and proud. Yes, in their filth with their protectors they are proud and impudent, otherwise they are the most cowardly villains that can be found. When they are to appear and answer for their conduct, they produce a single answer. Among themselves they are bold, and venture to catch God in His own Word; but when it comes to the test, they simply despair."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 1983, V, p. 204.
"For every sect has always had one or more particular hobbies and articles which are manifestly wrong and can easily be discerned to be of the devil, who publicly teach, urge and defend them as right certain and necessary to believe or to keep For the spirit of lies cannot so conceal himself, but that he must at last put forth his claws, by which you can discern and observe the ravenous wolf."
Sermons of Martin Luther, IV, p. 282f.
"For this reason one should not be too credulous when a preacher comes softly like an angel of God, recommends himself very highly, and swears that his sole aim is to save souls, and says: 'Pax vobis!' For those are the very fellows the devil employs to honey people's mouths. Through them he gains an entrance to preach and to teach, in order that he may afterward inflict his injuries, and that though he accomplish nothing more for the present, he may, at least, confound the people's consciences and finally lead them into misery and despair."
Sermons of Martin Luther, II, p. 322.
"It is not enough that we preach correctly, which the hireling can also do; but we must watch over the sheep, that the wolves, false teachers, may not break in, and we must contend for the sheep against the wolves, with the Word of God, even to the sacrifice of our lives. Such are good shepherds, of whom few are found."
Sermons of Martin Luthe,r III, p. 34.
"There are other wolves, however, who come to us in sheep's clothing. They are the false prophets, who under the form of pious and religious instruction feed pure poison to the sheep of Christ. Against these Christ warns us, that we may be constantly on our guard, lest with sugar-coated words and flattering religious expressions they mislead us, deceive us, by their cunning, and draw us to themselves, as He says in Matthew 7:15: 'Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.'"
Sermons of Martin Luther, III, p. 35.
"The world desires such wolf preaching, and is not worthy of anything better since it will not hear nor respect Christ. Hence it is that there are so few true Christians and faithful preachers, always outnumbered by the members of the false church."
Sermons of Martin Luther, III, p. 385.
"For nothing can feed or give life to the soul, which is not the doctrine of Christ. Although the hireling does not himself slay and destroy he does not restrain the wolf. Therefore, because you neither point out nor teach this shepherd, you shall not and ought not to be heard, but you shall be shunned as a wolf."
Sermons of Martin Luther, III, p. 58f.
"Thus too, if our confidence is to begin, and we become strengthened and comforted, we must well learn the voice of our Shepherd, and let all other voices go, who only lead us astray, and chase and drive us hither and thither. We must hear and grasp only that article which presents Christ to us in the most friendly and comforting manner possible. So that we can say with all confidence: My Lord Jesus Christ is truly the only Shepherd, and I, alas, the lost sheep, which has strayed into the wilderness, and I am anxious and fearful, and would gladly be good, and have a gracious God and peace of conscience, but here I am told that He is as anxious for me as I am for Him."
Sermons of Martin Luther, IV, p. 86.
"No work is so evil that it can damn a man, and no work is so good that it can save a man; but faith alone saves us, and unbelief damns us. The fact that someone falls into adultery does not damn him. Rather the adultery indicates that he has fallen from faith. This damns him; otherwise adultery would be impossible for him. So, then, nothing makes a good tree except faith."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 475. Matthew 7:15-23.
"They [the false teachers] fared like a man who looks through a colored glass. Put before such a man whatever color you please, he sees no other color than that of the glass. The fault is not that the right color is not put before him but that his glass is colored differently, as the word of Is. 6:9 puts it: You will see, he says, and yet you will not see it."
Martin Luther, What Luther Says, 1959, II, p. 644.
"You cannot of a truth be for true doctrine without being unalterably opposed to false doctrine. There can be no 'positive theology' where the God-given negatives have been eliminated from the Decalog."
Norman A. Madson, Preaching to Preachers, Mankato: Lutheran Synod Book Company, 1952 Preface.
"Every departure from God's Word, every error, is dangerous to the soul. There is a fearful, diabolical power in error; for every error is the devil's work, and through fellowship with error a person puts himself under the influence of the devil. Here human reason is helpless."
Francis Pieper, The Difference between Orthodox and Heterodox Churches, and Supplement, Coos Bay, Oregon: St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 1981, p. 42.
"Even the history of the world shows how great is the power of the devil's kingdom. The world is full of blasphemies against God and of wicked opinions, and the devil keeps entangled in these bands those who are wise and righteous [many hypocrites who appear holy] in the sight of the world. In other persons grosser vices manifest themselves. But since Christ was given to us to remove both these sins and these punishments, and to destroy the kingdom of the devil, sin and death,it will not be possible to recognize the benefits of Christ unless we understand our evils. For this reason our preachers have diligently taught concerning these subjects, and have delivered nothing that is new, but have set forth Holy Scriptures and the judgments of the holy Fathers."
Apology Augsburg Confession, Article II: Of Original Sin, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 119. Tappert, p.