Sunday, October 27, 2013

Reformation Sunday, 2013.

John Huss stood up against the papacy and was executed.
The Lutherans were accused of being Hussites,
threatened with death.

The Festival of the Reformation, 2013

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time

The Hymn #260   O Lord Look Down                1.4
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

Matthew’s Strange Statement

The Communion Hymn #259                Flung to the Heedless Winds 1.64
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 # 261     Lord Keep Us Steadfast            1.93

KJV Revelation 14:6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, 7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

KJV Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

O almighty, eternal God: We confess that we are poor sinners and cannot answer one of a thousand, when Thou contendest with us; but with all our hearts we thank Thee, that Thou hast taken all our guilt from us and laid it upon Thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and made Him to atone for it: We pray Thee graciously to sustain us in faith, and so to govern us by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may live according to Thy will, in neighborly love, service, and helpfulness, and not give way to wrath or revenge, that we may not incur Thy wrath, but always find in Thee a gracious Father, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.
Martin Luther - sepia tone by Norma Boeckler.

Matthew’s Strange Statement

KJV Matthew 11:12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. 15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

In substance it is quite the same whether we say, the kingdom itself “comes forward powerfully” or “is brought forward powerfully” by John and by Jesus. This statement obviously characterizes the years “from the days of John the Baptist until now,” from the day when John began to baptize until now when Jesus was in the full swing of his work. Of course, “until now” does not imply that this urging of the kingdom on men ceases at this moment; the matter goes on. We have no reason to make the enemies of the kingdom the agents of βιάζεται biazetai (when it is regarded as a passive) and to refer the verb to their violence against it, letting the second clause express the same thought. The trend of the entire discourse deals, not with violence against the kingdom, but with the indifference and the dissatisfaction that hinder men from entering it with zest.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN. : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 437.

This is one of the strangest verses in the Bible, and I have tended to skip over it. However, Lenski has a good statement about it.

Jesus spoke these words and they were considered important enough to be included in the primary Gospel of the four. Matthew’s Gospel is dominant, treated as the one best known and most often used. Since the Gospels are really quite small in size, a verse or two means a lot.

Many more things could have been described and quoted, so the inspiration of the Holy Spirit moved Matthew to record this saying.

Jesus was commending the work of John the Baptist and connecting it with His own. God’s plan was to use special men to create His Kingdom. Moses and the prophets were men of action, leaders who forced things to happen with God’s Word.

Moses was a preacher of righteousness – a Gospel teacher.

The prophets warned and comforted the people with God’s Word, always holding up the importance of faith in the coming Messiah, the Savior.

Although the prophets seemed to be failures in being hated and persecuted, even killed, they were part of creating the Kingdom by the force of God’s Word.

John the Baptist was the last great Old Testament prophet, in that sense, fulfilling Isaiah 40 and ushering in the public ministry of Christ. For those favors he was beheaded.

Lenski translates the difficult passage as –

Now from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens presses forward forcefully, and forceful people snatch it.

They are forceful people because they use the Word of God. They did not soften the effect by diluting it with man’s wisdom, seeking popularity and acceptance. In each and every case of persecution and death, the opponents said, “Now we fixed him. He is silent. He can trouble us no more.”

But just the opposite was true. The death of these men piled up sins against their persecutors and spread the Word of God.

The crucifixion of Jesus did not end His ministry, but began His world-wide mission, led by the Holy Spirit and expanded among the apostles.

God’s plan is forceful rather than passive. Unlikely people study and employ His Word. The divine power of the Word necessarily causes God-ordained things to happen.

The Reformation had so much power because of two factors. One was the suppression of the Gospel for centuries, so people felt the power of sin but not the comfort of God’s grace. That was denied to the people and clergy, and the way of salvation was seldom taught.

The second factor was the printing press, which was new in the West. The hunger for the Gospel combined with the instrument to spread that Word was simply explosive. For centuries after the leading best-sellers were Bibles or books about the Christian faith.

Many want to concentrate on the personalities of the Reformation and the history, but the real meaning of the Reformation was the new emphasis upon justification by faith, which is easily lost – due to man’s weakness for false doctrine.

Fundamental Problems
Someone was talking about conservative Protestants recently. He said, in so many words, “They treat the Holy Spirit as writing the Bible and convicting people of sin. In comparison, the Pentecostals emphasize the fruits of the Spirit.”

The context clearly suggested that sin was limited to the carnal sins. Therefore preaching the Holy Spirit is to them the hammer of the Law and nothing more. Repentance is sorrow for those carnal sins and promises to stop. A fundamental sermon could therefore have no Gospel at all in it, and that makes people associate church with guilt, lack of forgiveness, and a constant urging to make up, through works, for sins committed.

The Pentecostals do not emphasize the complete work of the Holy Spirit, in spite of their claims, but neither do many of the Lutherans, who should know better.

Holy Spirit and the Word
Many spread erroneous notions about the Reformation, such as Luther’s emphasis upon the Scriptures. The Scriptures were not disputed until later, when the papal forces began losing debates based upon the Word. Then they invoked the necessity of the pope’s judgment. And no one taught the Bible was full of errors and contradictions until the 18th century.

Luther’s most basic teachings were the same throughout his career, which made it so inflammatory among the false teachers:
  1. The Word of God is always efficacious, and accomplishes exactly what it promises, without regard to man’s understanding or logic.
  2. The Holy Spirit’s work of convicting us of sin is the sin of not trusting Christ completely – “not believing on Me.” John 16:8. That is a far cry from convicting of the sins of gambling, drinking, and running loose. Only one can be first and foremost. Since the foundation sin is supposedly carnal, the antidote is bound to be works to make for the sin. Thus Protestant Pietism tends to duplicate Catholic piety, works paying for sins.
  3. Teaching the truth also involves showing what is wrong with false doctrine.
Luther would have been tolerated as a Gospel teacher, but he was not welcome to identify the pope’s dogma with error.

Power of the Reformation – The Word of Forgiveness

We had the privilege of watching the old Luther film for a Reformation gathering. The 1953 movie, which can be viewed on any computer for $2 from Amazon, is quite eloquent in showing how Luther and a few others were powerless against the Catholic emperor and the pope, yet the Reformation took over Europe with the power of the Word alone.

People felt this power because they did not even have access to the Gospel Word in the Middle Ages. Books were hand-copied and chained to the walls at libraries.

A man who owned some books had a great fortune, an estate. Melanchthon, who dearly loved books, was denied his uncle’s collection because Philip remained faithful to the Evangelical Lutheran cause.

Many people like to pile on Melanchthon for not being another Luther, for being too eager to please, but Melanchthon never left the Lutheran Reformation and gave us two superb confessions – the Augsburg Confession and the Apology of the Augsburg Confession. Luther praised Philip’s work. He and the Concord editors called themselves “theologians of the Augsburg Confession.”

The Augsburg Confession and the Apology are beautiful expression of justification by faith alone. If anyone is confused about the issues, a reading of the articles on justification in both confessions will easily end any confusion or doubts.

This is so important because then, as now, people were lost and bewildered about the forgiveness of sins. Medicine for the soul is even more important than traditional medicine. If the wrong remedy is applied, or the right one is shunned, great harm, even eternal harm can be done to the individual.

Besides that, religion is the backbone of society. If a society is infected with the wrong religion, bad results will follow. Likewise, education, the arts, freedom, and commerce flourish when people follow sound doctrine, a healthy Christianity instead of a toxic one.

Luther has a simple formula, easy to remember – believing in Him is forgiveness, not believing in Him means no forgiveness. This removes merit and works, because faith can only come from the power of the Gospel.

The Means of Grace are the instruments by which Jesus our Savior comes to us, in both natures. This is a personal encounter, made more powerful by the many ways He arrives – in preaching and teaching, in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion, in absolution, and in the mutual consolation of fellow believers.

Jesus comes to us and changes us by His presence. He abolishes sin so that the fruits of the Spirit may grow abundantly in our lives.

I have watched many versions of Luther’s story and the Reformation. The 1953 got it exactly right. Luther surrendered himself completely to the Word of God. When Zwingli wanted him to compromise about Holy Communion, he could not.

When the emperor and others wanted him to compromise about the Gospel, he could not.

He saw life as a very short time of trouble, bearing the cross in teaching the Word.

From Thy Strong Word

"Thus we see what a very splendid thing Baptism is. It snatches us from the jaws of the devil, makes us God's own, restrains and removes sin, and then daily strengthens the new man within us. It is and remains ever efficacious until we pass from this state of misery to eternal glory. For this reason everyone should consider his Baptism as his daily dress, to be worn constantly. Every day he should be found in the faith and its fruits, suppressing the old man, and growing up in the new; for if we want to be Christians, we must practice the work whereby we are Christians. But if anyone falls from baptismal grace, let him return to it. For as Christ, the Mercy Seat, does not withdraw from us or forbid us to come to Him again even though we sin, so all His treasures and gifts also remain with us."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 61. Article on Baptism, 1529.

The Visible Word

"If we call Sacraments rites which have the command of God, and to which the promise of grace has been added, it is easy to decide what are properly Sacraments. For rites instituted by men will not in this way be Sacraments properly so called. For it does not belong to human authority to promise grace. Therefore signs instituted without God’s command are not sure signs of grace, even though they perhaps instruct the rude [children or the uncultivated], or admonish as to something [as a painted cross]. Therefore Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and Absolution, which is the Sacrament of Repentance, are truly Sacraments. For these rites have God's command and the promise of grace, which is peculiar to the New Testament. For when we are baptized, when we eat the Lord's body, when we are absolved, our hearts must be firmly assured that God truly forgives us for Christ's sake. And God, at the same time, by the Word and by the rite, moves hearts to believe and conceive faith, just as Paul says, Romans 10:17: 'Faith cometh by hearing.' But just as the Word enters the ear in order to strike our heart, so the rite itself strikes the eye, in order to move the heart. The effect of the Word and of the rite is the same, as it has been well said by Augustine that a Sacrament is a visible word, because the rite is received by the eyes, and is, as it were, a picture of the Word, signifying the same thing as the Word. Therefore the effect of both is the same."
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XIII, #3-5. Number/Use Sacraments. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 309. Tappert, p. 211. Heiser, p. 94.

The term Sacrament is not directly from the Scriptures but expresses what the Bible teaches.422 In this area especially, one must not only ask about the terms used, but also determine what an individual means by those terms. Many expressions overlap. Those who do not accept the Biblical meaning of the Sacraments will still use the term while calling the Sacrament only symbolic. One can find this use among Presbyterians and Methodists as well. The Methodists claim to teach the Real Presence of Christ in Holy Communion, but their official doctrinal statement limits the presence to a spiritual presence. Lutherans may rarely use the favorite Reformed term, ordinance, instead of Sacrament. Lutherans may also write about the Sacraments being symbolic, without suggesting that they are only symbolic. Thus the secret bedfellows of the Reformed have a certain amount of confusion aiding them in their nefarious attempts to create a pan-Protestant generic faith marked by the absence of creeds, liturgy, and the Means of Grace.

"Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ: 'The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat, etc.' Matthew 23:2. Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by evil men."
Augsburg Confession, VIII. What the Church Is, Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 47. Tappert, p. 33. Heiser, p. 13.

We live in an era where Lutheran leaders believe they can slither around the topic of false doctrine by teaching Lutheran doctrine while embracing Reformed methods. Thus WELS District President Robert Mueller published a fine statement against the Church Growth Movement while promoting Church Growth fervently within his district. Likewise, CLC President Dan Fleischer wrote an equally eloquent statement against the Church Growth Movement but also fanned the flames of Reformed doctrine within his tiny fiefdom. The Evangelical Lutheran Synod has prided itself on its opposition to the Church Growth Movement, but President George Orvick has always supported the error, sometimes with calculating silence, often with loud hurrahs for the false teachers of WELS.423 The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, under the conservative leadership of Al Barry, Paul McCain, and Herman Otten, has harbored in its bosom hundreds of Pentecostal ministers, not to mention congregations belonging to another denomination, the Willow Creek Association.424

"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.

Being for the Means of Grace must also include opposing any system of thought replacing or supplanting the doctrine revealed to us in the Scriptures and confessed in the Book of Concord. Lutherans use the expression “Means of Grace” to show that forgiveness of sin comes to us only through the invisible Word of preaching, teaching, and absolution or the visible Word of Baptism and Holy Communion. The Reformed do not downplay the Means of Grace. They utterly reject the Means of Grace, as all junior seminarians know.425

"But just as the Word of God is the means of Grace, it is also the means of judgment. 'He that rejected Me,' says Christ, John 12:48, 'and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the Last Day.'"
Eduard Preuss, "The Means of Grace," The Justification of the Sinner before God, trans., Julius A. Friedrich, Chicago: F. Allerman, 1934, p. 63.

We owe our confirmation youth the knowledge of the Means of Grace in an era where so much confusion abounds concerning how we are forgiven of our sins by God. Lutherans are not Protestants who happen to use the liturgy and creeds. Cults have their greatest success with youth who have been poorly trained in their own faith, whether it is Judaism or Christianity. The loss of confessionalism quickly turns into apathy toward the Bible and a vague sense of righteousness based upon good works. This leaves youth with no sense of God-given purpose, no place to turn for genuine forgiveness, and no foundation for discerning between truth and falsehood, good and evil. The mainline churches set up their youth for cult membership by teaching tolerance for everything except confessionalism.

"To you, I must thank especially. You made me realize that there is so much in the Bible that is yet to be discovered. You definitely made confirmation fun and sweet! I have learned so much from you and I hope that I never forget it. I want you to know that without your teaching, I would not know the Means of Grace. Thank you so much, again."
Katie Schmidt, (newly confirmed), Church of the Lutheran Confession. Letter to Gregory L. Jackson, 5-29-96.

"The Holy Spirit works through the Word and the Sacraments, which only, in the proper sense, are means of grace. Both the Word and the Sacraments bring a positive grace, which is offered to all who receive them outwardly, and which is actually imparted to all who have faith to embrace it."
Charles P. Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology, Philadelphia: The United Lutheran Publication House, 1871, p. 127.

"The Lutheran Church Faces the World by clinging to the Means of Grace. The doctrine of the means of grace is truly a most timely subject. For just in these last times, according to divine revelation, there will be at work many spiritual brigands who will perpetrate the grossest kind of deception."
Edwin E. Pieplow, "The Means of Grace," The Abiding Word, 3 vols., ed., Theodore Laetsch, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1946, II, p. 322.

"For the joy Thine advent gave me,
For Thy holy, precious Word;
For Thy Baptism, which doth save me,
For Thy blest Communion board;
For Thy death, the bitter scorn,
For Thy resurrection morn, Lord,
I thank Thee and extol Thee,
And in heaven I shall behold Thee."

Thomas Kingo, "Like the Golden Sun Ascending," #207, The Lutheran Hymnal, trans., George T. Rygh, 1908 St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941.

"For this reason we shall now relate, furthermore, from God’s Word how man is converted to God, how and through what means [namely, through the oral Word and the holy Sacraments] the Holy Ghost wants to be efficacious in us, and to work and bestow in our hearts true repentance, faith, and new spiritual power and ability for good, and how we should conduct ourselves towards these means, and [how we should] use them."
Formula of Concord, SD II. #48. Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 901. Tappert, p. 530. Heiser, p. 246.

"Therefore God, out of His immense goodness and mercy, has His divine eternal Law and His wonderful plan concerning our redemption, namely, the holy, alone-saving Gospel of His eternal Son, our only Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, publicly preached; and by this [preaching] collects an eternal Church for Himself from the human race, and works in the hearts of men true repentance and knowledge of sins, and true faith in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And by this means, and in no other way, namely, through His holy Word, when men hear it preached or read it, and the holy Sacraments when they are used according to His Word, God desires to call men to eternal salvation, draw them to Himself, and convert, regenerate, and sanctify them. 1 Corinthians 1:21: 'For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.' Acts 10:5-6..."
Formula of Concord SD II. #50. Free Will. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 901. Tappert, p. 530f. Heiser, p. 246.

"Moreover, the declaration, John 6:44, that no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him, is right and true. However, the Father will not do this without means, but has ordained for this purpose His Word and Sacraments as ordinary means and instruments; and it is the will neither of the Father nor of the Son that a man should not hear or should despise the preaching of His Word, and wait for the drawing of the Father without the Word and Sacraments. For the Father draws indeed by the power of His Holy Ghost, however, according to His usual order [the order decreed and instituted by Himself], by the hearing of His holy, divine Word, as with a net, by which the elect are plucked from the jaws of the devil. Every poor sinner should therefore repair thereto [to holy preaching], hear it attentively, and not doubt the drawing of the Father. For the Holy Ghost will be with His Word in His power, and work by it..."
Formula of Concord, SD XI. #76-77. Election. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1089. Tappert, p. 629. Heiser, p. 293. John 6:44.

"In the Acts of the Apostles also we read how again and again the Spirit was given through and in connection with the Word. The Apostles depended on nothing but Word and Sacrament."
G. H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1887, p. 136.

"The same divine Saviour now works through means. He has founded a Church, ordained a ministry, and instituted the preaching of the Word and the administration of His own Sacraments. Christ now works in and through His Church. Through her ministry, preaching the Word, and administering the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit is given. (Augsburg Confession, Article 5.)
G. H. Gerberding, The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church, Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1887, p. 30.

"But in extraordinary cases, does He not dispense with means? Even there, means are employed; but in an extraordinary way. At Pentecost the multitudes were converted through the Word, although this Word was given under extraordinary conditions and circumstances, just as the multitudes in the wilderness were sustained not without bread, but with bread furnished in an extraordinary manner."
Henry Eyster Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith, Philadelphia: General Council Publication House, 1913, p. 266.

"When the efficacy of Word and Sacraments encounters man's unbelief and persistent resistance, their efficacy is not destroyed; but it is transformed from an efficacy of grace to one of judgment (2 Corinthians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 11:29)."
Henry Eyster Jacobs, A Summary of the Christian Faith, Philadelphia: General Council Publication House, 1913, p. 320.

"If the question is put, 'Why did God ordain so many means of grace when one suffices to confer upon the sinner His grace and forgiveness?' we quote the reply of Luther who writes (Smalcald Articles, IV: 'The Gospel not merely in one way gives us counsel and aid against sin, for God is superabundantly rich in His grace. First through the spoken Word, by which the forgiveness of sins is preached in the whole world, which is the peculiar office of the Gospel. Secondly through Baptism. Thirdly through the holy Sacrament of the Altar. Fourthly through the power of the keys and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, Matthew 18:20.'"
John Theodore Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, A Handbook of Doctrinal Theology, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1934, p. 447. SA, IV, Concordia Triglotta, p. 491.

"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.

"Give us Thy Spirit, peace afford
Now and forever, gracious Lord.
Preserve to us till life is spent
Thy holy Word and Sacrament."

Nikolaus Selnecker, "O Faithful God, Thanks Be to Thee," #321, The Lutheran Hymnal, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1941.

"Since it is God's gracious purpose to remove every hindrance to conversion by the means of grace, and it is still possible for a man at every point to continue in his opposition to God, a man is never without responsibility over towards the grace of God, although he may mock and say that, since God is the one who does everything for our salvation, then a man has no responsibility himself, as we see in Romans 9:19. Cf. Theses 17 and 18."
U. V. Koren, 1884, "An Accounting," Grace for Grace: Brief History of the Norwegian Synod, ed., Sigurd C. Ylvisaker, Mankato: Lutheran Synod Book Company, 1943, Romans 9:19.



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