Lutheran Worship and Resources

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Sunday Before The Epiphany

This Transfiguration scene is the cover art, designed by Norma Boeckler, for Thy Strong Word.

The Sunday before the Epiphany, 2011

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn # 126 Arise and Shine 3:67
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 # 128 Brightest and Best 3:29

Luther Taught Justification Through the Means of Grace

The Hymn #95 Savior of the Nations 3:42
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 #81 O Jesus Christ Thy Manger 3:60

KJV 1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? 18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.

KJV Matthew 2:13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. 14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: 15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. 19 But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. 21 And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

Sunday Before the Epiphany
O Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst suffer Thy dear Son, Jesus Christ, to become a stranger and a sojourner in Egypt for our sakes, and didst lead Him safely home to His fatherland: Mercifully grant that we poor sinners, who are strangers and sojourners in this perilous world, may soon be called home to our true fatherland, the kingdom of heaven, where we shall live in eternal joy and glory; through the merits of Thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Luther Taught Justification Through the Means of Grace

Confusion and error about the efficacy of the Word have allowed a Halle University Pietist to trump the Bible and the Book of Concord with his strange concoction of double-justification, grace without the Means of Grace, forgiveness without the Word, without faith. A general understanding of the unity of Christian doctrine is necessary to discern the truth revealed in the Scriptures as distinguished from the manifest errors of the Enthusiasts.
Martin Luther is known both for his prolific writing and also for his consistency. He taught the same theology throughout life. Historians are not met with confusion caused by Calvin, who was also prolific. The Swiss Reformer contradicted himself throughout his writings, so the Calvinists continue to debate his doctrine and lack a unified, harmonious confession.
The Lutherans Reformers were anxious to avoid splitting the Christian faith into many doctrines, as if they are individual concepts, a modular religion to be put together and taken apart in units. Luther grasped and taught the entire Bible as a unified truth, the Bible as the Book of the Holy Spirit. The Concordists likewise sought a harmonious witness to the truth, not one that bartered and swapped individual pieces.
When UOJ advocates cry out, “You have denied Universal Objective Justification!” they emphasize their error, because they isolate one item and defend it by quoting other errorists, without ever connecting their concept to Biblical, Lutheran doctrine.
Lutheran doctrine is not the result of a franchise being established. Lutheran doctrine is not synodical, regional, or bound by a nation’s borders. The Book of Concord confesses, and Lutherans allegedly agree – that the unified truth proclaimed in its pages is the historic Christian faith. Therefore, the Book of Concord begins with the Ecumenical Creeds:
1. The Apostles Creed, so ancient that no one knows its origin.
2. The Nicene Creed, fashioned to combat errors about Christ.
3. The Athanasian Creed, “the most splendid ecclesiastical lyric ever poured forth by the genius of man.” (D’Israeli).
Thus, any debate among Lutherans or with those of another confession should be considered as an argument about the truth of historic Christianity. We used to say “the Catholic faith,” when it meant the universal and orthodox faith revealed in the Scriptures. But so many Lutheran pastors have sinuflected to Rome that the term Catholic is permanently tainted.
The Concordists considered themselves theologians of the 1530 Augsburg Confession, as Luther did. The Augsburg Confession and the additional writings of the early Reformation established the difference between the historic truth of the Scriptures as opposed to Roman errors, all in the context of the faithful witnesses of the past.
The Formula of Concord, 1580, dealt especially with conflicts among the Lutherans and errors among the non-Lutheran Protestants. Doctrinal discussions must always reflect this miracle of harmony. If not the participants engage in the sectarian conceit of people belonging to “the church of the open Bible,” as if the Confessions were irrelevant, boring, and impractical. That attitude reveals a marked anti-Lutheran and anti-Biblical attitude, one which generally decays into Unitarianism or worse, unless awakened from its torpor of ignorance, synod-worship, and sloth.
Convention and conference essays have no authority over the Book of Concord. The Brief Confession of 1932 has no more credibility than a seminarian’s essay in doctrine class. Some parts seem good, but the justification section is dangerously false, rendering the rest of the Brief Confession toxic. Moreover, the Brief Confession contradicts other confessional efforts and catechisms by the Missouri Synod, where UOJ was never mentioned. The 1987 Theses are just as ridiculous as the 1932 Brief Confession, because they try to blend UOJ with justification by faith.
Robert Preus was wrong when he promoted UOJ in the 1980s, but he corrected himself in his Justification and Rome, even though his UOJ-loyal sons Rolf and Daniel edited it posthumously. That change of heart and misplaced filial loyalty should remind everyone not to make a man or a recent publication the last word on a topic, but to seek truth in ruling norm of the Scriptures and the ruled norm of the Book of Concord.
Some have asked how the Missouri Synod got this so wrong when the Muhlenberg tradition (LCA) and Lenski grasped the basic truth. The General Synod/General Council split took place because of anti-Confessional practices involving revivals, unionism with the Reformed, even the formation of union Lutheran-Reformed congregations. The Henkels influenced the Tennessee Synod and others to take the Book of Concord seriously again. Thus the doctrinal division in the General Synod served to move many toward a Biblical understand of the efficacious Word in the Means of Grace.
These basics are beyond debate and remain absolutely at war with the Pietistic fad of UOJ.
Efficacy of the Word
God has bound His Holy Spirit to His Word and never works apart from that Word. Any person who claims otherwise is an Enthusiast, a false teacher participating in the foundational evil of all doctrinal error. The Holy Spirit works through the Law to convict us of our sin, but the primary emphasis in this section is justification through the Means of Grace.
The Word of God has been described as:
1. Invisible in teaching and preaching,
2. Visible in the sacraments.
The Gospel conveys Christ to us in both forms, and grace only comes from these appointed Means or Instruments of Grace.
Forgiveness through God’s grace is the issue in justification, which is God’s declaration of forgiveness. The Gospel’s divine power creates and sustains faith in each individual, but UOJ Pietists avoid the terms and the application of the Means of Grace, disparaging faith in the Gospel as if that were a sign of orthodoxy.
The Preaching Office
Luther observed in a sermon that the shepherds and Wise Men must have wondered at God directing them past the marvelous Jerusalem Temple to find the Savior in a manger. God has chosen foolishness to shame the wisdom of the wise. How bizarre to find Lutheran church leaders rejecting the spiritual wisdom of the Word to embrace the alleged wisdom of statistical analysis, marketing, and entertainment.
Nothing seems more foolish to the world than preaching and teaching the Gospel. Nevertheless, God Himself has chosen this instrument as the primary channel for His grace. The Enthusiasts of Luther’s day wanted to extol the Inner Word, as if someone could sit alone in a room and wait until the Holy Spirit came to him with inspiration. Quakerism is based upon this notion. In contrast, Luther followed the Biblical example of the External Word, the Holy Spirit always united with the Word. No better example can be found than that of the Savior. In each and every case Jesus converted people to faith through the Word, His teaching confirmed by miracles.
The Old Testament leaders preached, not just as the Law, as some might imagine. The prophecies and blessings are all Gospel. The Old Testament has more Gospel content than the New Testament, due to its size, about three times that of the New Testament. Jesus and the apostles preached the Gospel, His way prepared by the preaching of John the Baptist. The illegal, persecuted Church in the Roman Empire had no mass media methods to ease its way into the world. Instead, they relied on preaching and teaching until Rome itself was converted and Constantinople became the center of a Christian empire for eleven centuries.
The Pietists preach about the carnal sins of the world, which is exactly what the Church of Rome did to scare people into paying for indulgences. Jesus, in His farewell message to the disciples, emphasized the role of the Holy Spirit in preaching, but placed an emphasis on sin that is almost always lacking today.
The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, “because they have not believed on Me.” The problem—or opportunity—of carnal sin preaching stems from its ineffectiveness. The Law condemns the problem without providing a solution. Threats and punishment can stop the outward sin while inflaming the inward rebellion. Thus, one church may say, “Gambling is a terrible sin, so you must not gamble.” Another one says, “Drinking is a terrible sin, so you must not ever drink alcohol.” They apply more Law, which is no solution, and continue the cycle.
Jesus did not say, “Ye gamblers and ye drunks!” but “O ye of little faith.” Faith in Christ is forgiveness of sin, justification by faith, God’s proclamation of absolution through the Word. The foundational sin is not trusting in the atoning death of Christ. The Gospel message is simply Christ crucified for the sins of the world. This message of grace reveals to the unbeliever that the price has been paid. The proclamation means, “Not only for the world did He die, for also for my sins.” The Promises of God create faith, which receives the benefits of forgiveness. Although our sinful, selfish nature continues, the Gospel helps us in resisting temptation and following God out of love rather than fear.
The Sacraments
Preaching the Gospel offends the world, and the sacraments—the visible Word—offend most Protestants. They are sarcastic about the Real Presence, although Jesus said, “This is My Body.” They deny the effect of Holy Communion, neglecting the meaning of “given for the forgiveness of sin.” They stumble at the variety of the Means of Grace, asking “Why does God need so many?” as if forgiveness is God’s necessity and not man’s.

To be finished later.

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