Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Sunday After Christmas

Justification by Faith, by Norma Boeckler

The Sunday after Christmas

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn # 85:1-8 From Heaven Above 4.55
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
The Gospel
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #85:9-15 From Heaven Above 4.55

The Virgin Birth in Paul

The Hymn #657 Beautiful Savior 4.24
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 #83 Hark! What Mean Those Holy Voices 4:40

KJV Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

KJV Luke 2:33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35 (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. 36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

Sunday After Christmas
O almighty and everlasting God, mercifully direct our ways, that we may walk in Thy law, and be made to abound in good works: 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 Virgin Birth in Paul
Galatians 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Some would like to claim that the Virgin Birth of Christ is only taught in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, that Paul and John were both silent about this important doctrine.

Galatians 4:4 refutes the claim, as anyone can see. Ask a child to explain it, and there will be no trouble. “God sent forth His Son…” Paul wrote this with his own hand, instead of using a scribe. It was probably his first apostolic letter. We know from all his letters that the divinity of Christ was never an issue.

Therefore, the verse is abundantly clear. At the divinely appointed time (when the fullness of the time was come), God sent His only-begotten Son…

There are no specifics about how God sent His Son. The reason is clear enough. Paul was writing when hundreds of eye-witnesses of the Risen Christ were still teaching in the church, and Paul was one of them. These witnesses were all taught by Christ as well. The Virgin Birth was not in dispute among the churches in Galatia. Their problem was with the relationship between Law and Gospel. The Virgin Birth is not stated in those terms but it is assumed in the language of the verse.

The second part is equally important – “made of a woman, made under the law,” It could also be “born of a woman, born under the law.” This is an emphasis on His human nature, just as important as His divine nature.

One teaching against the Two Natures of Christ is that He was adopted by God. In other words, Jesus was an ordinary man adopted by God (at His baptism). That sort of excuse pleases the rationalists who do not like the divine nature of Christ and need to reduce it.

Equally significant is the Fourth Gospel’s great Logos hymn, proclaiming that this Man who was rejected by His own people was the very Creating Word of Genesis 1:1. Moreover, every single person who believes in Him becomes a child of God and inherits salvation through Him.

We do not know the exact time of John’s Gospel being written, but it is clearly a supplement to the first three Gospels. I have mentioned some interesting things about this Gospel before. The baptism of Jesus seems to be described but the actual event is not in John’s Gospel. The same is true of the Last Supper in John’s Gospel. But that Gospel seems so sacramental, including the flow of blood and water from the wound of Christ (seen by Lutherans as symbolic of the two sacraments). The dismay disappears when we see John’s Gospel as being additional commentary on what we already know from the other Gospels.

As many have noted, John 1 is even more exalted than the Virgin Birth. Nothing gives room for doubts about His divine and human natures united in His Person.

I see Paul’s emphasis on “born of a woman, born under the Law” as representing the reality of God becoming man, with more emphasis on His human nature. By that I mean the ancients were ready to believe in divinities (unlike us moderns) but had never heard of God becoming man. They could not have, because there was no such event as God truly becoming man. They had odd myths, well known to Paul’s audience. They knew about pagan gods who behaved and misbehaved just like humans, but few people believed in them anymore. They were taken as tales, not as historical events.

If Paul believed in the Virgin Birth, in the Two Natures, then he spoke of this in other passages.

In Romans, he wrote:

KJV Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

The same duality is expressed with different words – Jesus was born from David according to the flesh (born as all humans are) and declared the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.

The Virgin Birth of Christ was not necessarily known among all people during His earthly ministry. The question many would have had was this – what happened after He was crucified? Death by crucifixion was not that unusual. What happened afterwards was unique. Jesus rose from the dead as the innocent (justified by the Spirit) Son of God. He was not guilty and declared innocent, but His entire Incarnate ministry declared as the righteous work of God.

Therefore, without repeating the phrasing of Matthew and Luke, Paul teaches the same doctrine with different words. In fact, after being exposed to the errors of Calvin and Zwingli about the Two Natures of Christ, this opening of Romans startled me with its clarity.

We take so much for granted when the words are familiar to us. But when someone tries to take them away, the revelation of God takes on new clarity, as if we never saw it before.

Thus the false teachers have two important roles appointed by God. First of all, the punish people who will not obey the First Table of the Law. Secondly, they help us appreciate the pure Word of God, something clearly explained in the Small and Large Catechisms of Luther.

The Third Commandment, Small Catechism
Thou shalt sanctify the holy-day.
What does this mean?--Answer.
We should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.
The Large Catechism

95] Since, therefore, so much depends upon God's Word that without it no holy day can be sanctified, we must know that God insists upon a strict observance of this commandment, and will punish all who despise His Word and are not willing to hear and learn it, especially at the time appointed for the purpose.
96] Therefore not only those sin against this commandment who grossly misuse and desecrate the holy day, as those who on account of their greed or frivolity neglect to hear God's Word or lie in taverns and are dead drunk like swine; but also that other crowd, who listen to God's Word as to any other trifle, and only from custom come to preaching, and go away again, and at the end of the year know as little of it as at the beginning. 97] For hitherto the opinion prevailed that you had properly hallowed Sunday when you had heard a mass or the Gospel read; but no one cared for God's Word, as also no one taught it. Now, while we have God's Word, we nevertheless do not correct the abuse; we suffer ourselves to be preached to and admonished, but we listen without seriousness and care.
98] 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 or 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.
99] Likewise those fastidious spirits are to be reproved who, when they have heard a sermon or two, find it tedious and dull, thinking that they know all that well enough, and need no more instruction. For just that is the sin which has been hitherto reckoned among mortal sins, and is called ajkhdia, i.e., torpor or satiety, a malignant, dangerous plague with which the devil bewitches and deceives the hearts of many, that he may surprise us and secretly withdraw God's Word from us.
100] For let me tell you this, even though you know it perfectly and be already master in all things, still you are daily in the dominion of the devil, who ceases neither day nor night to steal unawares upon you, to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against the foregoing and all the commandments. Therefore you must always have God's Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where the heart is idle, and the Word does not sound, he breaks in and has done the damage before we are aware. 101] On the other hand, such is the efficacy of the Word, whenever it is seriously contemplated, heard, and used, that it is bound never to be without fruit, but always awakens new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness, and produces a pure heart and pure thoughts. For these words are not inoperative or dead, but creative, living words. 102] And even though no other interest or necessity impel us, yet this ought to urge every one thereunto, because thereby the devil is put to Right and driven away, and, besides, this commandment is fulfilled, and [this exercise in the Word] is more pleasing to God than any work of hypocrisy, however brilliant.
Meaning of the Virgin Birth
The divinity of Christ is not disputed or under attack among conservative Lutherans. We may under-emphasize or under-appreciate the human nature of Christ.

Paul Gerhardt expressed this most eloquently in his hymns. He lived in constant doctrine strife and great human suffering, losing his wife and all his children except one. In addition, he lost his pastoral position and had a very difficult life afterwards. One portrait of him says he was “sifted by Satan” a reference to Jesus’ prediction about Peter.

Sifting is an old art, forgotten by modern bakers. I used to love sifting flour at my father’s bakery, because it took out all the lumps and made it so fine, light, and silky. (Sugar developed a static charge when sifted. Powdered sugar fill the air with sugar smog.) Gerhardt was so thoroughly sifted that he gave us the finest hymns in Christianity.

Gerhardt was especially in touch with the need for comforting people through the Gospel, and he did this with an emphasis on the human nature of Christ.

"All My Heart This Night Rejoices"
by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676

1. All my heart this night rejoices
As I hear Far and near
Sweetest angel voices.
"Christ is born," their choirs are singing
Till the air Everywhere
Now with joy is ringing.
2. Forth today the Conqueror goeth,
Who the foe, Sin and woe,
Death and hell, o'erthroweth.
God is man, man to deliver;
His dear Son Now is one
With our blood forever.
3. Shall we still dread God's displeasure,
Who, to save, Freely gave
His most cherished Treasure?
To redeem us, He hath given
His own Son From the throne
Of His might in heaven.
4. Should He who Himself imparted
Aught withhold From the fold,
Leave us broken-hearted?
Should the Son of God not love us,
Who, to cheer Sufferers here,
Left His throne above us?
5. If our blessed Lord and Maker
Hated men, Would He then
Be of flesh partaker?
If He in our woe delighted,
Would He bear All the care
Of our race benighted?
6. He becomes the Lamb that taketh
Sin away And for aye
Full atonement maketh.
For our life His own He tenders
And our race, By His grace,
Meet for glory renders.
The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn # 77
Text: Luke 2:11
Author: Paul Gerhardt, 1653
Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1858, alt.
Titled: "Froehlich soll mein Herze springen"
Composer: Johann Crueger, 1653
Tune: "Froehlich soll mein Herze"

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