Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Fourth Sunday after Easter

Cantate, The Fourth Sunday after Easter, 2011

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn # 199 Jesus Christ is Risen Today 1:83
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 # 262 A Mighty Fortress 1:86
The Holy Spirit and the Word of God
The Communion Hymn #308 Invited Lord 1:63
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 #46 On What Has Now Been Sown 1:62
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 16:5 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.

The Holy Spirit and the Word of God
This is one of the most important passages about justification, how we are forgiven our sins. The context is Jesus’ parting messages, very important to have the disciples aware of what will come.

Nevertheless, the disciples are rather dense about what will develop and fail to ask about where Jesus is going.

John 16:5 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.
The sending of Jesus by the Father is very important, because He will send the disciples to represent Him in exactly the same way. They will speak His Word just as He has always spoken His Father’s Word.

Their limitations will be overcome by Jesus sending the Holy Spirit to guide them.

I was thinking about the spread of Pentecostalism today, when I spoke to a friend from Ohio. Robert Preus made this point in a lecture – that Pentecostalism grew because ministers failed to teach the Holy Spirit’s work, concentrating on the Quest for the Historical Jesus. That was when the Bible was being attacked and the modernists became unsure that we knew anything at all about Jesus.

The Pentecostals thrived in the vacuum, in part by teaching the miraculous in the Bible when the modernists were using the Word of God as a tool for political activism. (The Left-wing activism political activism owes its origin, in part, to this religious activism, which became known as the Social Gospel. The term Social Gospel faded after 1930, but the activism grew. FDR’s socialist program was almost identical to the Social Gospel’s program, which was laid out about 30 years before.)

The Pentecostals have no concept of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Bible, but few Lutheran clergy can claim any more insights. The trouble is that pastors do not do the work in Biblical studies that they require to understand the Christian faith and the Bible as the Book of the Holy Spirit (Luther’s term).

The Bible is not understood by applying a series of theories about what one faction or another thinks, trying to maintain loyalty to one group of men or another, ignoring the real leaders of the Lutheran Reformation. Nevertheless, the only solution is individual study, because these insights are more learned than taught. If someone does not dwell upon the Word of God, the knowledge remains superficial.

This is why many laity are superior to clergy in their knowledge of the Bible. This whole section (not just this lesson) in John, about the Holy Spirit, shows us why. The Holy Spirit only works through the Word of God. That means that the Holy Spirit never works through a seminary degree or even a doctorate in Biblical studies.

A doctoral paper on John will ask whether the Gospel was written in 300 AD or 100 AD, never asking the real questions addressed by John, the disciple Jesus loved. Biblical scholarship today gets Talmudic in its ability to stay away from the original text while debating theories and interpretations.

When ministers use the study of Greek or Hebrew to prove why they are always right, they are missing the most basic message of the Bible – the Word of God is plain, clear, and simple for all to understand, yet so profound that we can study it a lifetime and still find many new insights from day to day, never completely mining the spiritual treasures. In fact, the more we delve into the Bible, the more it unfolds to us and the more we see its infinite riches.

Once we had a Bible study about 1 John, in Greek, in Columbus. That has the simplest Greek in the New Testament. The pastor of the biggest church and the district vp could not even start to read the Greek, so I really question how well trained the WELS pastors are, no matter what they claim. The point is this – claiming to know Greek or even knowing Greek quite well is not a winning point. The issue is whether we know and comprehend what the Spirit reveals in the Word of God.

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.

The Comforter is one way to translate this unusual word. Advocate is another. Lenski uses the Greek – the Paraklete, which may not help anyone. The term is defined by what the Holy Spirit does. The Son sent the Holy Spirit for a three-fold work – verse 8.

8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

He will reprove the world in three ways:
A. Of sin.
B. Of righteousness.
C. Of judgment.

Reprove means to convict. Lenski has an interesting distinction. Either this word means to convict beyond any questioning, so the subject must admit its truth, or – it means convicting the subject so that the reality is beyond question, whether admitted or not.

The verb to reprove may mean “to convict” so that the conviction is fully admitted by those convicted, or “to convict” so that, whether the conviction is admitted or not, its reality is beyond question. Here the latter sense prevails. For “the world,” upon which the Paraclete of the disciples works his conviction, will in part be won by that conviction and in part remain obdurate under that conviction. Yet all who do not bow in repentance will, nevertheless, stand convicted like guilty criminals who may still deny the guilt which has been fully proved against them.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 1081

This means that the Word always convicts. Some respond to the conviction by repenting and believing in the Gospel. Others respond by becoming angry, hardened, and blind, rejecting the Gospel completely.

The three-fold conviction is explained by Jesus. We would be happy for an explanation from the Evangelist, John. But this explanation comes from Jesus so we should pay special attention to it. This is the Son of God explaining the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word – convicting in three ways.

A Of sin, because they believe not on me;
B Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
C Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

A Of sin, because they believe not on me;
This unique explanation, which is in harmony with the rest of the Bible, destroys all notions of forgiveness without faith.

Jesus is also teaching us here – “The foundational sin is unbelief, which leads to all other sin. The answer is to preach the Gospel Promises to create faith, not to pound carnal sin as if the Law will cure the problem of sin.”

We are born in unbelief and original sin. If we did not have the Gospel given to us as newborns, in infant baptism, we would have to be converted later by the invisible Word. That does happen.

But it is folly to say we are born already forgiven. So with infant baptism comes infant faith, which Luther calls the purest form of faith.

With adults, in this sectarian society, it is easy to fall into the thinking that problems of sin are answered by more Law. We think that way by default, because we are wandering sheep. But to do so means we are saying, “The x-ray shows I have a broken arm. Now I need more x-rays to heal it.” Or – “The blood test condemns me as a diabetic. I need more blood tests to alleviate my condition.”

“They believe not on me.”
This is our constant state (by default) and we need the Means of Grace to correct it. Another way of phrasing this is to say, “They do not utterly trust in Me.”

Notice that Jesus put this in negative terms to rule out vague agreement as faith. George Allen called Jesus the Son of God in “Oh God.” He also called Moses and Mohammed the sons of God, rendering the first statement meaningless.

The preaching of the pure Word means telling the entire audience that justification, forgiveness, comes from utter trust in Christ, or in faith in Christ alone and His righteousness.
This comes as great comfort to believers, who say, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

This message is also a rebuke, which is why those who love wolf-preaching demand “practical, how-to messages” instead of Gospel sermons.

When Ski came to Appleton, he acted as if no one had heard the Gospel before. That is law, man-made law, pure snake oil. His answer was to copy and paste Groeschel sermons, giving the law as their answer, their antidote. The Pietism in his audience warmed to that message. Glende was doing the same thing with Groeschel’s anti-Lutheran approach. The results are in – members must obey their lupine leaders or be thrown out of their congregation in a secretive, dishonest, brutal way – reserved for Holy Week.

A Of sin, because they believe not on me;

To paraphrase Chytraeus, this includes doubting the gracious love of God. It happens this way. Christians undergo many trials and bear various crosses. As Jesus said, we must take up our crosses daily. When believers feel they are getting a bad deal, too much trouble, or pain when others have rewards, this is doubting the goodness of God.

God allows evil to some extent, which the Holy Spirit transforms into a blessing through faith. If God simply turned us over to our own devices, we would quickly destroy ourselves (Romans 1). There are many cases of this happening. Those who turn away from the Faith are examples of this process. It can happen rather quickly. One minister was leaving the liberal Lutherans for the conservatives. Next he was having a rough time, so he joined the apostate UCC, the equivalent of becoming an atheist, but with a polite cover of being a Rev, an open-minded Rev.

Afterwards we can see God’s providence (literally – God seeing ahead, knowing our needs). What looks like a bad turn in the road is a good one. So it is a sin to doubt God’s goodness because we do not utterly trust in Christ.

Otherwise we are stuck in the synthetic faith of the sectarians, who say, “I believe in God because I am prosperous, as long as I am prosperous.”

The thought is not that the world knows nothing about sin. Its daily crime list contradicts that, as well as its moralists with their repressive and reformatory measures. What the world lacks and the Spirit supplies is something that goes far deeper, something that actually convicts in regard to sin. This is not the fact that sin is sin, or that the real essence of sin is unbelief. The Spirit is not to repeat the work of Moses in preaching the law. The conviction in regard to sin lies in one direction: “inasmuch as they do not believe in me.” Yet note that this is the capital sin. For to believe in Jesus is to be saved from sin, to have sin forgiven; and thus not to believe in Jesus is to remain in sin, to perish forever in sin. The Spirit’s work in regard to sin is to confront the world with the terrible fact of its unbelief in Jesus, which means, with the fact that this unbelief leaves it in its damnable sin, doomed and damned forever, in other words, that only he who believes escapes from his sin. This conviction in regard to sin naturally operates in two ways. It will crush some hearts so that they will be frightened at their unbelief and cry out like the 3,000 at Pentecost, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2:37, and thus be led to repent and to believe. Or it will further harden those who resist this conviction; they will go on, convicted though they are, more obdurate than before, fighting against this conviction until they perish. In this the Spirit will do exactly what Jesus did in 7:33, etc., and again in 8:22–24: “I said, therefore, unto you that ye shall die in your sins; for except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 1082.

B Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;

This phrase always makes me start over, and that is the intention of the Word of God, to make us puzzle over a section and learn it better. The Spirit’s mission is only through the teaching and administration of the Word.

Therefore, this is a way of saying, “The Word which you preach will convict the world of righteousness, because you will teach them, sent by Me just as I was sent by My Father.”

The only way of being justified is through faith in Christ – that is convicting the world of righteousness, the righteousness of faith, as the Formula of Concord states.

That means no longer trusting in emotions, which are the opposite of faith. Do we feel terrible? Guilty? Depressed? Angry? Disappointed? Crushed by troubles? Regretful over past mistakes and sins? The world would have us worship our emotions, pet them, love them, and admire them. Many people spend their lives talking about their emotions. The wolf-preachers get up and talk about their insecurities and their ovine audiences follow them off the cliff.

This preaching of righteousness means – No matter how you feel, Christ has died for your sins and given you the Gospel, so you can receive his righteousness in faith. Utter trust in Him is just the opposite of feelings, and they overcome our frail, volatile, fickle feelings. Luther said wisely that Satan attacks us through our emotions. No fact in the world (health, money, freedom) can stand up to our feelings. Money? What if I lose it tomorrow? Health? But that could change. Freedom? That does me no good. I am woebegone.

One writer had four typewriters because he feared that his machine would stop working and he could not write. He was an atheist, a real genius in many ways, but his emotions controlled his stash of typewriters. Asimov. He wrote and published 400 books, including 3 autobiographies.

The foundation for all we do as believers is utter faith in Christ, in the goodness and mercy of God. Even illness and death among believers serves to glorify His Name.

C Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.

Satan is the prince of this world. He controls everything up to the point where he is allowed. He is judged, condemned. That is not the team to join, although he makes it appealing. His guys have the best parishes as ministers and the best jobs. A loud-mouthed atheist is going to do well as a university professor. A known believer in academics will have a hard time.

But Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress has a good answer to Satan. I used to work for you but no longer. Your pay is terrible, for the wages of sin is death.

Satan would like to have any remaining believers. He will fight for each one, not for those already in his hellish flock.

Knowing that he is condemned gives us strength against temptations, especially when our emotions attack us.

As Luther said to Satan, I may a thousand times worse than what you say, but Christ is my Savior, and He forgives my sins.

The Holy Spirit keeps this message before us in the Gospel, so we are forgiven of our sins, fully and freely – each and every day.

(1) "Almighty Father, bless the Word Which through your grace we now have heard Oh, may the precious seed take root, Spring up, and bear abundant fruit. (2) We praise you for the means of grace As homeward now our steps we trace. Grant, Lord, that we who worshiped here May all at last in heaven appear." Scandinavian, The Lutheran Hymnal, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1982, Hymn #52

"It is a glory which every preacher may claim, to be able to say with full confidence of heart: 'This trust have I toward God in Christ, that what I teach and preach is truly the Word of God.' Likewise, when he performs other official duties in the Church--baptizes a child, absolves and comforts a sinner--it must be done in the same firm conviction that such is the command of Christ. He who would teach and exercise authority in the Church without this glory, 'it is profitable for him,' as Christ says, (Matthew 18:6), 'that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea.' For the devil's lies he preaches, and death is what he effects."
Sermons of Martin Luther, ed. John Nicolas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VIII, p. 227. Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 2 Corinthians 3:4-11; Matthew 18:6

"Such a divine kingdom can be governed, built up, protected, extended and maintained only by means of the external office of the Word and Sacraments, through which the Holy Spirit is powerful and works in the hearts etc., as I have often said in speaking on this theme."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 238. Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 22:1-14

"The church is recognized, not by external peace but by the Word and the Sacraments. For wherever you see a small group that has the true Word and the Sacraments, there the church is if only the pulpit and the baptismal font are pure. The church does not stand on the holiness of any one person but solely on the holiness and righteousness of the Lord Christ, for He has sanctified her by Word and Sacrament." What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 263. Matthew 24:4-7.

"Thus also the devil is angry because God wants to trample him under foot by means of flesh and blood. If a mighty spirit were opposed to him, he would not be so sorely vexed; but it greatly angers him that a poor worm of the dust, a fragile earthen vessel defies him, a weak vessel against a mighty prince. God has placed his treasure, says St. Paul, in a poor, weak vessel; for man is weak, easily aroused to anger, avaricious, arrogant, and weighed down with other imperfections, through which Satan easily shatters the earthen vessel; for if God would permit him, he would soon have utterly destroyed the whole vessel." Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 268. Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, John 4:46-54; 1 Peter 5:8; Ephesians 6:12.

"In the Word of God there is not only a speaking about God, but in and through His Word God Himself speaks to us, deals with us, acts upon us. Therefore the Word of God is also an efficacious means of grace through which God regenerates, converts, and sanctifies man. This efficacy the Word of God possesses always; it is always united with the Word, never separated from it." E. Hove, Christian Doctrine, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1930, p. 27.

"To the Lutheran the sermon, as the preached Word, is a means of grace. Through it the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth. It is a constant offer of pardon; a giving of life, as well as a nourishing and strengthening of life. In the Reformed churches the sermon is apt to be more hortatory and ethical. It partakes more of the sacrificial than of the sacramental character. The individuality of the preacher, the subjective choice of a text, the using of it merely for a motto, the discussion of secular subjects, the unrestrained platform style, lack of reverence, lack of dignity, and many other faults are common, and are not regarded as unbecoming the messenger of God in His temple. Where there is a properly trained Lutheran consciousness such things repel, shock, and are not tolerated." G. H. Gerberding, The Lutheran Pastor, Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1915, p. 278.

"Is the success of preaching as a means of grace conditioned by the observance of similar principles by the preacher? Undoubtedly. For it is not preaching itself, but the Word as preached which is a means of grace. This demands not only that nothing be preached but what comes directly or indirectly from Holy Scripture, but also that the contents of Holy Scripture be preached in due proportion and in the proper order." Henry Eyster Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith, Philadelphia: General Council Publication House, 1913, p. 293.

"The doctrine of the means of grace is a peculiar glory of Lutheran theology. To this central teaching it owes its sanity and strong appeal, its freedom from sectarian tendencies and morbid fanaticism, its coherence and practicalness, and its adaptation to men of every race and every degree of culture. The Lutheran Confessions bring out with great clearness the thought of the Reformers upon this subject." "Grace, Means of," The Concordia Cyclopedia, L. Fuerbringer, Th. Engelder, P. E. Kretzmann, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1927, p. 299.

"She desired nothing besides this Word, nor did she ask for more than merely to touch His garment, which she used as an external means and sign to gain the desired help. Likewise, we need nothing more in our lives and in the kingdom of faith than the external Word and Sacraments, in which He permits Himself to be touched and seized as if by His garment." Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, V, p. 350. Twenty-fourth Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 9:18-26

"The Christian's faith trusts in the ordinary means. Prayer is not a means of grace. Means of grace are divine appointments through which God uniformly offers blessings to all who use them. Faith is the means by which the blessings are received and appropriated. God gives us bread, when we ask it, not through the channel of prayer, but through the ordinary channels of His providence. He gives us grace when we ask it, not through prayer, but through the ordinary means appointed for this end, namely the Word and Sacraments. He who despises these will as little have grace as he who refuses to accept bread produced in the ordinary way of nature. Faith asks with confidence, and trusts in the ordinary means of God's appointment for the blessings asked." Matthias Loy, Sermons on the Gospels, Columbus: Lutheran Book Concern, 1888, p. 387.

"For we can definitely assert that where the Lord's Supper, Baptism, and the Word are found, Christ, the remission of sins, and life eternal are found. On the other hand, where these signs of grace are not found, or where they are despised by men, not only grace is lacking but also foul errors will follow. Then men will set up other forms of worship and other signs for themselves." What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 914. Genesis 4:3.

"From this it follows that they act foolishly, yea, against God's order and institution, who despise and reject the external Word, thinking that the Holy Spirit and faith should come to them without means. It will indeed be a long time before that happens." What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 915.

"Another defect of Reformed preaching is its contempt for the Means of Grace. They will tell you that the Holy Spirit needs no vehicle, neither ox-cart nor aeroplane, to enter the heart of man; and by this rationalistic argument they think to have done away with the Means of Grace. But notice how they set about immediately to construct their own Means of Grace. Luther told them in his day:'If the Holy Spirit needs no vehicle, no preaching, then why are you here? And why are you so earnest in spreading your errors? It seems that what you really meant to say was that the Holy Spirit does not need true prophets, but He is very much in need of false prophets.' If the Holy Spirit needs no Means of Grace, who do these Reformed churches undertake their campaigns of revivalism?" Martin S. Sommer, Concordia Pulpit for 1932, Martin S. Sommer, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1931, p. iv.

"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., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 127. Fourth Sunday after Easter, Second Sermon 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., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 131. Fourth Sunday after Easter, Second Sermon 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., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 141. Fourth Sunday after Easter, Third Sermon 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., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 142. Fourth Sunday after Easter, Third Sermon John 16:5-15.

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