MORTAL AND VENIAL SINS?
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 John 1:5-9
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Devotion from the Blessed Dr. Martin Chemnitz
I chose this section of Chemnitz on the difference between mortal and venial sins because I think it is extremely important and valuable for the life of the Christian to properly understand what he explains here.
203 Do the Remains of Sin Exist and Remain in the Reborn in This Life?
They by all means are and remain. For though [the reborn] are ruled by the Holy Spirit, yet they complain that nothing good dwells in their flesh, in fact also when they want to do good, evil is connected [with it] (Ro 7:18, 21), and that the flesh wars against the Spirit (Gl 5:17). And even also when they are holy and serve God and are not conscious of any evil, yet they confess that they are sinners. 1 Co 4:4; Ps 32:6; 130:3; 143:3. In fact, he that does not acknowledge and confess this, but says that he has no sin, deceives himself. 1 Jn 1:8. Therefore all the saints have need in this life daily to repeat this: Father, forgive us our sins.
204 Is Then David, Committing Adultery, Nevertheless Righteous and Holy, and Does He Remain So?
By no means. For Scriptures distinguishes between sins, namely that in the saints or reborn there are some sins because of which they are not condemned, but at the same time retain faith, the Holy Spirit, grace, and the forgiveness of sins. Ro 7:23–8:1; 1 Jn 1:8–9; Ps 32:1. But Scripture testifies that there are also some other sins in which also the reconciled, when they have fallen, lose faith, the Holy Spirit, the grace of God, and life eternal, and render themselves subject to divine wrath and eternal death unless, turned again, they are reconciled to God through faith. Ro 8:13; 1 Co 6:10; Gl 5:21; Eph 5:5; Cl 3:6; 1 Jn 3:6, 8; 1 Ti 1:19; 2 Ptr 1:9; And the useful distinction between mortal and venial sin is drawn from this basis. Paul speaks of sin ruling against conscience or with conscience put away, and sin that indeed dwells in the flesh but does not rule. 1 Ti 1:19; Ro 6:12, 14; 7:17.
205 What is the Use of Retaining and Earnestly Inculcating This Difference Between Mortal and Venial Sin in the Church?
I. That we might learn to acknowledge and earnestly avoid mortal sins.
II. If we are caught in that kind of sins, that we do not obstinately persevere and continue in them impenitently.
III. That we try the more to restrain and control sin that dwells in us, lest it become mortal. For, when this distinction is neglected or not rightly understood and used, Christians also often fall into security and impenitence. Pastors are therefore to be reminded and trained in examinations not only to list the 7 mortal (or deadly, capital) sins, but to be able to point out to their hearers, in each Commandment, which sins are mortal, which venial.
Let definitions as to what is venial sin, what mortal sin, be sought from Philipp [Melanchthon’s] examination and for the sake of declaration be added to these questions.
206 Is, Then, Original Sin, Which Still Remains in the Reborn in This Life, in Itself Such a Light Little Sin, or, So to Say, Peccadillo, that God Neither Can Nor Wants to Be Angry Against It?
All sins are not equal; some are more grievous and greater than others (Jn 19:11; Mt 11:22; Lk 12:47–48); yet if one judges according to the sense of the divine law, no sin per se and by its own nature deserves forgiveness; that is, none is so small and insignificant, but that it makes [one] subject to divine wrath and worthy of eternal damnation if God enters into judgment with him. Dt 27:26; Gl 3:10; Ja 2:10. This error regarding the least commandment of the divine law is condemned by Christ in the Pharisees. Mt 5:19. Paul sadly complains also about sin still dwelling in his flesh. Ro 7:24; Gl 5:17.
207 Are Some Sins So Great and Horrible that They Cannot Be Forgiven in the Gospel to Those Who Repent and Believe in Christ?
No. Christ made satisfaction for all sins. 1 Jn 2:2. He wants to save also the greatest sinners. 1 Ti 1:15. He commanded repentance and remission of sins to be preached in His name to all sinners. Jn 20:23; Mt 9:13; Lk 15:7; 24:47. Grace abounded more than sin. Ro 5:20.
208 Now, Then, Since It is Clear that No Sin Per Se Deserves Forgiveness, Likewise that No Sin is So Horrible that It Cannot Be Forgiven to Those Who Repent and Believe in Christ—Why, Then, are Some Sins in the Reborn Called Venial, Some Mortal?
This should be well and carefully explained, so that each Christian can know and determine if he is living in mortal or venial sin. The explanation consists essentially in this, that everyone examine himself as to whether or not he has true repentance and faith. Ro 2:4–5; Jer 5:3; 2 Co 13:5. Original sin, which still dwells in the flesh of the reborn, is not idle, but is the restless law of sin in our members, enticing, tempting, driving to sin with various suggestions and evil lusts. Ja 1:14; Ro 7:8; Gl 5:17. Since, then, one who is reborn does not delight in this kind of carnal lusts, and is neither led by them nor follows [them], but earnestly represses and crucifies them as sins and mortifies [them] through the Spirit, lest they rule or be performed (Ro 6:12; 7:15; 8:13; Gl 5:24), this very thing is a very sure sign of true and earnest repentance. And when the reborn pray that God would not impute these weaknesses to them but forgive for the sake of Christ, and at the same time believe and trust that Christ, as the true propitiation, would, in the sight of God, cover this their uncleanness with His innocence and obedience (Ro 4:7; Ps 32:1; 1 Jn 1:7; 2:1–2), this also is a sure sign of true and justifying faith. And where true faith, in earnest repentance, apprehends Christ in the Gospel, and relies on Him and is supported [by Him], there is no condemnation, but the pure grace of God, forgiveness of sins, and eternal salvation (Ro 8:1; 1 Jn 1:9; Ps 32:2). In this way there are and occur these venial sins in the reborn, for which they are not condemned, because, as Augustine says, they live under grace.
209 But What If We Indulge and Delight in Evil Lusts and Seek Occasions to Give Them Free Rein (Ro 6:12; MI 2:1; Ja 1:15)?
Then they become mortal sins (Ro 8:13; Ja 1:15), because there surely is no room for true repentance and faith where the lusts of the flesh are served and given rein, so that they break out into action. 1 Ti 1:19; 5:8; 2 Ptr 1:9. It is the nature and particular character of true faith that it does not seek how to commit, continue, and heap up sins freely, but rather hungers and thirsts after the righteousness that releases and frees from sins. Therefore, where there is no true repentance, the Holy Spirit pronounces a very solemn sentence. Jer 5:3, 9; Ro 2:5, 9; Lk 13:3; Rv 2:5. And where there is no true faith, there is neither Christ, nor the Holy Spirit, nor the grace of God, nor forgiveness of sins, nor any salvation. Therefore what? Doubtless the wrath of God, death, and eternal condemnation, unless the fallen are turned to God again. Cl 3:6; Ro 8:13. As a result of this, therefore, and for this reason mortal sins occur in the reborn, namely when repentance, faith, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are driven out and lost.
210 How, Then, Should One Deal with Those Who Have Fallen into This Kind of Sins?
Their sins are not to be disguised by silence, camouflaged, excused, or defended, but solemnly and earnestly censured and rebuked. Is 56:10; 58:1; Eze 13:10, 18; 2 Ti 4:2; Tts 1:13: “Reprove them sharply,” in such a way that the fearful judgment of God is threatened on them; 1 Co 6:10; Gl 5:21; Cl 3:6; 1 Jn 3:15; Mt 11:21; 2 Ptr 2:10. For he that regards those people as true Christians, and charms and misrepresents them, not only miserably misleads them, but also makes himself partaker of their damnation. Is 3:12; Jer 8:11; 23:17; Eze 3:18; 33:8.
Now, the preaching of repentance, rebuking sins, is the instrument and means by which God wants to lead fallen sinners back to the way and convert them. Jer 26:2–3. But if the wicked, neglecting this means, will persevere and continue in his wickedness, he indeed shall perish, but the word of the minister shall deliver his soul. Eze 3:19.
211 But What If the Fallen Rise Again by the Grace of God and Earnestly Repent?
Then they are indeed to be received with joy and are to be restored and supported with the declaration of the forgiveness of sins. Jer 3:12; 18:8; Eze 18:21; 33:15; Mt 18:13, 27; Lk 15:7. This is what the examples of Scripture testify, e.g., Peter, David, the prodigal, the Corinthians and Galatians. And this indeed not only seven times, but seventy times seven times, Mt 18:22.
Lord God, heavenly Father, who by Your Son has revealed to us that heaven and earth shall pass away, that our bodies shall rise again, and that we all shall appear before the judgment seat: We beseech You, keep us by Your Holy Spirit in Your word; establish us in the true faith, graciously defend us from sin and preserve us in all temptations, that our hearts may not be overcharged with gluttony and drunkenness, and cares of this life, but that we may ever watch and pray and, trusting fully in Your grace, await with joy the glorious coming of Your Son, and at last obtain eternal salvation, through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, world without end. Amen.
 Chemnitz, M., & Poellot, L. (1999). Ministry, word, and sacraments: an enchiridion (electronic ed., pp. 102–105). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
DESPAIR TO HOPE
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
4 You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
7 “Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
16 When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
This Psalm has a lot to teach us about what it looks like to wrestle with God in prayer and what it looks like when faith in God’s promises grips us.
In the first half of the Psalm, the psalmist is overwhelmed and tormented by despair. Luther believed it was from the psalmists struggles with his own sin. Whatever the source of Asaph’s struggles, it is clear that he sought help in the Lord by going to him at night in prayer. It is not that the psalmist couldn’t sleep, rather he chooses to stay up so that he might take the things that are weighing him down and afflicting him to the Lord. This is what our Lord Jesus Christ did as well, “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death…” (Hebrews 5:7)
In verses 6-9, we see the psalmist wrestling with his doubts and fears. Had God forgotten him? Had the Lord removed His grace? Would he never again fulfill his promises? Notice that it is faith that drives him to talk to the Lord like this. In expressing his doubts out loud to the Lord, he would also come to see how his doubts are contradictory to the promises and power of God.
It is extremely important to notice the shift that takes place in the Psalm. The first half of the psalm is dominated by the psalmist talking about himself and his affliction. The second half of the psalm is dominated by his focus on who the Lord is and what the Lord is capable of doing – based on what God had done and the promises He had already kept. Asaph gains courage and strength by recounting all the mighty and wonderful things that God had done for His people in the past. People who had suffered and were afflicted like he was! He knew that the same God who had done those things for His people was his God and that he would not be abandoned by the Lord amidst his own afflictions. Notice he meditates on the works of the Lord. He meditates on how powerful and truly awesome God is. He realizes that the One True God is the Almighty One who is strong to save.
Luther says this about meditating: “Meditating is an exclusive trait of human beings, for even beasts appear to fancy and to think. Therefore, the ability to meditate belongs to reason. There is a difference between meditating and thinking. To meditate is to think carefully, deeply, and diligently, and properly it means to muse in the heart. Hence to meditate is, as it were, to stir up in the inside, or to be moved in the innermost self. Therefore, one who thinks inwardly and diligently asks, discusses, etc. Such a person meditates.”
When we are afflicted and despairing and meditate on God’s Holy Word, we are strengthened by seeing God fulfill His promises for His people. Most importantly we see that He fulfilled His promise in sending His Son to suffer and die for us. When we realize this, our eyes are taken off or ourselves and our problems, and they are directed to how great our God is and what He is capable and willing to do for us.
The imagery at the end seems almost anticlimactic. We are led like a flock. But for the Christian, could there be a more comforting image? It calls to mind Psalm 23 and our Good Shepherd who even leads us through the valley of the shadow of death. We shall not lack anything, and we have nothing and no one to fear. The psalmist ends the psalm fully confident that his afflictions have met their match in his Lord, his faithful Good Shepherd.
God of all comfort, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, grant the consolation of Your Holy Spirit to all comfortless and afflicted souls. Make us to be rooted and grounded in faith, armed with the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness, furnished with the helmet of an unwavering hope, and provided with the sword of the Spirit, the word of Truth, by which we shall triumph over all enemies. Amen. (This prayer is taken from Reading Psalms with Luther.)
CHRIST'S SERMON OF COMFORT
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
Devotion by the Blessed Dr. Martin Luther
I. CHRIST'S SERMON OF COMFORT.
7. That we may, under no circumstances, despair, Christ says, I will send you a Comforter, even one who is almighty. And he calls the Holy Spirit here a Comforter; for although both my sins and the fear of death make me weak and timid, he comes and stirs up the courage in my heart, and says: Cheer up! Thus he trumpets courage into us; he encourages us in a friendly and comforting manner not to despair before death but to cheerfully go forward, even though we had ten necks for the executioner, and say: Aye, although I have sinned, yet I am rid of my sins; and if I had still more, so that they overwhelmed me, I would hope, that they should do me no harm. Not that one should not feel his sins, for the flesh must experience them; but the Spirit overcomes and suppresses diffidence and timidity, and conducts us through them. He is powerful enough to do that. Therefore, Christ says further:
"Whom I will send unto you from the Father."
8. For he, the Father, is the person that takes the initiative: I am the Son; and from us the Holy Spirit proceeds. And the three persons are one, and one essence, with equal power and authority, as he better expresses it when he says:
"The Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father."
9. That is as much as to say: He who will comfort you is almighty and Lord over all things. How can the creatures now harm us, if the Creator stands by us? Notice how great the comfort of the Holy Spirit is. Now let all the Turks attack us. As long as he is our guard and rearguard, there is no danger. John also says in his first Epistle, 3, 19-20: "Hereby shall we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before him; because if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things." Likewise, in the following chapter, verse 4, he says: "Ye are of God, my little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world." So the Lord now says, Him will I send unto you, so that nothing can harm you. Is not that liberal comfort? Who would not be fearless and cheerful in view of this? And Christ calls him "The Spirit of truth;" that is, where he is and comes there is a rock foundation through and through, the real truth. Neither falsehood nor hypocrisy is there, for the Spirit is not hypocritical. But wherever he is not, there is nothing but hypocrisy and falsehood. Therefore, we fall when the test comes, because the Spirit of truth is not present. Christ now further says:
"He shall bear witness of me."
10. That is, if he is in the heart he speaks through you, and assures and confirms you in the belief that the Gospel is true. Then, as a result, the confession of the Gospel springs forth. What, then, is the Gospel? It is a witness concerning Christ, that he is God's Son, the Savior, and beside him there is none other. This is what Peter means when he says: "Ye are a royal priesthood, that we are elected thereto, that we preach and show forth the excellencies of Christ." 1 Pet 2, 9. Hence, there must always be witnessing. Witnessing loads upon itself the wrath of the whole world. Then the cross follows, then rebellions rise, then the lords and princes and all who are great become angry; for the world cannot hear, nor will it tolerate, this kind of preaching. Therefore, the Gospel is hated and spoken against.
11. Reason thinks: Aye, one can, nevertheless, easily preach the Gospel in a beautifully simple and plain way, without a revolution in the world, and then it will be heartily welcomed. This is the utterance of Satan; for if I believe and say that faith in Christ alone does and accomplishes all, I overthrow the monkey play of the whole world; and that they cannot allow. Therefore, Christ's teachings and man's teachings cannot stand together; one must fall. Priests and monks, as they are at present, are dependent in name, character and works upon human institutions, which the Gospel thrusts to the ground. Hence, they dare not accept the Gospel, and they continue as they are.
12. Thus, I say that the Christian faith is founded upon Christ alone, without anything additional. The priests will not permit their affairs and institutions to fall; in consequence, seditions and rebellions follow. Therefore, there must be dissension where the Gospel and the confession of Christ are; for the Gospel opposes everything that is not of its own spirit. If the teachings of Christ and the priests were not antagonistic, they could easily stand together. They are now pitted against one another. As impossible as it is for Christ not to be Christ, so impossible is it for a monk or priest to be a Christian. Therefore, a fire must be kindled. The Lord himself, in Mt 10, 34 and Lk 12, 51 says: "I came not to send peace, but a sword." Then follows in our text:
"And ye also bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning."
13. Yes; then, first, when you become certain of your faith through the Holy Spirit, who is your witness, you must also bear witness of me, for to that end I chose you to be apostles. You have heard my words and teachings and have seen my works and life and all things that you are to preach. But the Holy Spirit must first be present; otherwise you can do nothing, for the conscience is too weak. Yes, there is no sin so small that the conscience could vanquish it, even if it were so trifling a one as laughing in church. Again, in the presence of death the conscience is far too weak to offer resistance. Therefore another must come and give to the timid, despairing conscience, courage to go through everything, although all sins be upon it. And it must, at the same time, be an almighty courage, like he alone can give who ministers strength in such a way that the courage, which before a rustling leaf could cause to fear, is now not afraid of all the devils, and the conscience that before could not restrain laughing, now restrains all sins.
14. The benefit and fruit of the Holy Spirit is, that sin will be changed to the highest and best use. Thus Paul boasts to Timothy, when he was converted, that whereas he had lived such a wicked life before, he now held his sin to be so contemptible that he composed a hymn and sang about it thus, in 1 Tim 1, 12-17: "I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his service; though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief: howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an example of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Lord Jesus Christ, we thank you that you have and continue to send us the Holy Spirit, our Comforter through Word and Sacrament. Amen.
THE TOWER OF BABEL UNDONE
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
Remember, the Tower of Babel is after the flood. They make a tower because they want to make a name for themselves (as sinful man always wants to do in his pride). They were supposed to go out into the world but they ignore God’s command and build a tower. The Lord says there would now be no limits to their rebellion against God.
Sinful mankind always likes to think that God can’t see or hear their sin - or that God doesn’t care about their sin. But God does see, He does hear, He does care. God came to them in judgment – confused their language and that confusion resulted in division.
Think of how much war and bloodshed there have been because of the divisions that began on this day! Like the story of the fall – rebellion against God leads to divisions among people. People are driven from paradise (the presence of God) and from one another. Sin always has a ripple effect creating division and confusion.
Our sin has the same ripple effects. We are all in need of reconciliation – we are by nature enemies of God, and we need to be made friends. We are in need of peace – with God and with man.
Sin always brings division. Think of how much strife is caused by sin within families, at your jobs, among nations, etc. All of the problems you have with others are caused by one thing – sin, whether it is their sin, your sin, or both parties are at fault.
At Pentecost, the Lord undoes the confusion and division caused by Babel and gives us that which brings clarity (right thinking) and unites us.
“At this sound [mighty rushing wind and of them preaching in tongues] the multitude came together” (Acts 2:6), this draws them in because the preaching of Christ is the primary work of the Holy Spirit, whereby He gathers people from all nations into one Church.
What is it that unites us with one another? It is the preaching of Christ – His life, death, and resurrection for you. That is the only thing that can truly unite us and destroy the divisions among people.
So, at Pentecost we see the gift of speaking in tongues. It was given as a sign that the Gospel was for all sinners of every tribe and nation under heaven. And so, Babel is reversed on Pentecost. Instead of language dividing the people, at Pentecost the people are united as the Gospel is preached in their own language.
God’s judgment on man’s self-centered pride had manifested itself not only in the multiplication of human languages but also in the division and strife between peoples.
We see all of this being undone at Pentecost. The only thing that can cure this confusion and division is the gospel!
Only the Holy Spirit, working through the gracious Word of Christ, can unite and cut through the confusion bringing clarity and peace. The Holy Spirit teaches us to repent of our sins so that we would find our true name not in ourselves, making ourselves great, but in Christ.
There is no other name given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
So, on Pentecost the Holy Spirit united his people into one language – the Gospel. The same Holy Spirit is still bringing clarity and peace to you.
How does this come about? The Holy Spirit gives clarity and peace through our Lord’s appointed means – not through some mystical experience of the Holy Spirit.
Through the Word, the Holy Spirit teaches and brings to our remembrance the words of Jesus (whole Bible!), which are the words of the Father who sent Him. These words bestow clarity – right thinking about Law and Gospel!
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me. (John 14:23-24)
So too: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (14:27).
This peace is given through the Sacraments as well. The Gospel calls us into communion and fellowship of faith in which all sinners share in common the forgiveness of sins by grace alone.
Peace comes only through the forgiveness of sins – both with God and one another. The forgiveness of sins reestablishes our relationship with God and one another. Because we have peace with God we are free to live at peace with one another – free to serve our neighbor in love – we no longer have to be in conflict with them.
Peace only comes through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us Christ and Christ indeed is our peace. And the Holy Spirit keeps coming to us through Word and Sacrament to give us Christ.
We are in need of clarity and peace. Because of what Christ accomplished for us in His death and resurrection and because He ascended to the right hand of the Father, He sent us the Holy Spirit, just as He promised. And the Holy Spirit keeps giving us clarity and peace through Word and Sacrament.
Almighty and ever-living God, You fulfilled Your promise by sending the gift of the Holy Spirit to unite disciples of all nations in the cross and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. By the preaching of the Gospel spread this gift to the ends of the earth; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
Devotion on the Third Article of the Creed: Sanctification from the Blessed Dr. Martin Luther
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.
This is most certainly true.
This article (as I have said) I cannot relate better than to Sanctification, that through the same the Holy Ghost, with His office, is declared and depicted, namely, that He makes holy. Therefore we must take our stand upon the word Holy Ghost, because it is so precise and comprehensive that we cannot find another. 36] For there are, besides, many kinds of spirits mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, as, the spirit of man, heavenly spirits, and evil spirits. But the Spirit of God alone is called Holy Ghost, that is, He who has sanctified and still sanctifies us. For as the Father is called Creator, the Son Redeemer, so the Holy Ghost, from His work, must be called Sanctifier, or One that makes holy. 37] But how is such sanctifying done? Answer: Just as the Son obtains dominion, whereby He wins us, through His birth, death, resurrection, etc., so also the Holy Ghost effects our sanctification by the following parts, namely, by the communion of saints or the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting; that is, He first leads us into His holy congregation, and places us in the bosom of the Church, whereby He preaches to us and brings us to Christ.
38] For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. 39] Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves.
40] Learn, then, to understand this article most clearly. If you are asked: What do you mean by the words: I believe in the Holy Ghost? you can answer: I believe that the Holy Ghost makes me holy, as His name implies. 41] But whereby does He accomplish this, or what are His method and means to this end? Answer: By the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. 42] For, in the first place, He has a peculiar congregation in the world, which is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God, which He reveals and preaches, [and through which] He illumines and enkindles hearts, that they understand, accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.
43] For where He does not cause it to be preached and made alive in the heart, so that it is understood, it is lost, as was the case under the Papacy, where faith was entirely put under the bench, and no one recognized Christ as his Lord or the Holy Ghost as his Sanctifier, that is, no one believed that Christ is our Lord in the sense that He has acquired this treasure for us, without our works and merit, and made us acceptable to the Father. What, then, was lacking? 44] This, that the Holy Ghost was not there to reveal it and cause it to be preached; but men and evil spirits were there, who taught us to obtain grace and be saved by our works. 45] Therefore it is not a Christian Church either; for where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Ghost who creates, calls, and gathers the Christian Church, without which no one can come to Christ the Lord. 46] Let this suffice concerning the sum of this article. But because the parts which are here enumerated are not quite clear to the simple, we shall run over them also.
47] The Creed denominates the holy Christian Church, communionem sanctorum, a communion of saints; for both expressions, taken together, are identical. But formerly the one [the second] expression was not there, and it has been poorly and unintelligibly translated into German a communion of saints (eine Gemeinschaft der Heiligen). If it is to be rendered plainly, it must be expressed quite differently in the German idiom; for the word ecclesia properly means in German , an assembly (eine Versammlung). 48] But we are accustomed to the word church, by which the simple do not understand an assembled multitude, but the consecrated house or building, although the house ought not to be called a church, except only for the reason that the multitude assembles there. For we who assemble there make and choose for ourselves a particular place, and give a name to the house according to the assembly.
Thus the word Kirche (church) means really nothing else than a common assembly, and is not German by idiom, but Greek (as is also the word ecclesia); for in their own language they call it kyria, as in Latin it is called curia. Therefore in genuine German, in our mother-tongue, it ought to be called a Christian congregation or assembly (eine christliche Gemeinde oder Sammlung), or, best of all and most clearly, holy Christendom (eine heilige Christenheit).
49] So also the word communio, which is added, ought not to be rendered communion (Gemeinschaft), but congregation (Gemeinde). And it is nothing else than an interpretation or explanation by which some one meant to explain what the Christian Church is. This our people, who understood neither Latin nor German, have rendered communion of saints (Gemeinschaft der Heiligen), although no German language speaks thus, nor understands it thus. But to speak correct German, it ought to be a congregation of saints (eine Gemeinde der Heiligen), that is, a congregation made up purely of saints, or, to speak yet more plainly, a holy congregation(eine heilige Gemeinde). 50] I say this in order that the words communion of saints (Gemeinschaft der Heiligen) may be understood, because the expression has become so established by custom that it cannot well be eradicated, and it is treated almost as heresy if one should attempt to change a word.
51] But this is the meaning and substance of this addition: I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms. 52] I am also a part and member of the same, a sharer and joint owner of all the goods it possesses, brought to it and incorporated into it by the Holy Ghost by having heard and continuing to hear the Word of God, which is the beginning of entering it. For formerly, before we had attained to this, we were altogether of the devil, knowing nothing of God and of Christ. 53] Thus, until the last day, the Holy Ghost abides with the holy congregation or Christendom, by means of which He fetches us to Christ and which He employs to teach and preach to us the Word, whereby He works and promotes sanctification, causing it [this community] daily to grow and become strong in the faith and its fruits which He produces.
54] We further believe that in this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought through the holy Sacraments and Absolution, moreover, through all manner of consolatory promises of the entire Gospel. Therefore, whatever is to be preached concerning the Sacraments belongs here, and, in short, the whole Gospel and all the offices of Christianity, which also must be preached and taught without ceasing. For although the grace of God is secured through Christ, and sanctification is wrought by the Holy Ghost through the Word of God in the unity of the Christian Church, yet on account of our flesh which we bear about with us we are never without sin.
55] Everything, therefore, in the Christian Church is ordered to the end that we shall daily obtain there nothing but the forgiveness of sin through the Word and signs, to comfort and encourage our consciences as long as we live here. Thus, although we have sins, the [grace of the] Holy Ghost does not allow them to injure us, because we are in the Christian Church, where there is nothing but [continuous, uninterrupted] forgiveness of sin, both in that God forgives us, and in that we forgive, bear with, and help each other.
56] But outside of this Christian Church, where the Gospel is not, there is no forgiveness, as also there can be no holiness [sanctification]. Therefore all who seek and wish to merit holiness [sanctification], not through the Gospel and forgiveness of sin, but by their works, have expelled and severed themselves [from this Church].
57] Meanwhile, however, while sanctification has begun and is growing daily, we expect that our flesh will be destroyed and buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously, and arise to entire and perfect holiness in a new eternal life. 58] For now we are only half pure and holy, so that the Holy Ghost has ever [some reason why] to continue His work in us through the Word, and daily to dispense forgiveness, until we attain to that life where there will be no more forgiveness, but only perfectly pure and holy people, full of godliness and righteousness, removed and free from sin, death, and all evil, in a new, immortal, and glorified body.
59] Behold, all this is to be the office and work of the Holy Ghost, that He begin and daily increase holiness upon earth by means of these two things, the Christian Church and the forgiveness of sin. But in our dissolution He will accomplish it altogether in an instant, and will forever preserve us therein by the last two parts.
60] But the term resurrection (Auferstehung des Fleisches) of the flesh here employed is not according to good German idiom. For when we Germans hear the word flesh (Fleisch), we think no farther than of the shambles. But in good German idiom we would say resurrection of the body (Auferstehung des Leibes, or Leichnams). However, it is not a matter of much moment, if we only understand the words aright.
61] This, now, is the article which must ever be and remain in operation. For creation we have received; redemption, too, is finished But the Holy Ghost carries on His work without ceasing to the last day. And for that purpose He has appointed a congregation upon earth by which He speaks and does everything. 62] For He has not yet brought together all His Christian Church nor dispensed forgiveness. Therefore we believe in Him who through the Word daily brings us into the fellowship of this Christian Church, and through the same Word and the forgiveness of sins bestows, increases, and strengthens faith, in order that when He has accomplished it all, and we abide therein, and die to the world and to all evil, He may finally make us perfectly and forever holy; which now we expect in faith through the Word.
63] Behold, here you have the entire divine essence, will, and work depicted most exquisitely in quite short and yet rich words, wherein consists all our wisdom, which surpasses and exceeds the wisdom, mind, and reason of all men. For although the whole world with all diligence has endeavored to ascertain what God is, what He has in mind and does, yet has she never been able to attain to [the knowledge and understanding of] any of these things. 64] But here we have everything in richest measure; for here in all three articles He has Himself revealed and opened the deepest abyss of his paternal heart and of His pure unutterable love. For He has created us for this very object, that He might redeem and sanctify us; and in addition to giving and imparting to us everything in heaven and upon earth, He has given to us even His Son and the Holy Ghost, by whom to bring us to Himself. 65] For (as explained above) we could never attain to the knowledge of the grace and favor of the Father except through the Lord Christ, who is a mirror of the paternal heart, outside of whom we see nothing but an angry and terrible Judge. But of Christ we could know nothing either, unless it had been revealed by the Holy Ghost.
66] These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and separate us Christians from all other people upon earth. For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost.
67] From this you perceive that the Creed is a doctrine quite different from the Ten Commandments; for the latter teaches indeed what we ought to do, but the former tells what God does for us and gives to us. Moreover, apart from this, the Ten Commandments are written in the hearts of all men; the Creed, however, no human wisdom can comprehend, but it must be taught by the Holy Ghost alone. 68] The latter doctrine [of the Law], therefore, makes no Christian, for the wrath and displeasure of God abide upon us still, because we cannot keep what God demands of us; but this [namely, the doctrine of faith] brings pure grace, and makes us godly and acceptable to God. 69] For by this knowledge we obtain love and delight in all the commandments of God, because here we see that God gives Himself entire to us, with all that He has and is able to do, to aid and direct us in keeping the Ten Commandments-the Father, all creatures; the Son, His entire work; and the Holy Ghost, all His gifts.
70] Let this suffice concerning the Creed to lay a foundation for the simple, that they may not be burdened, so that, if they understand the substance of it, they themselves may afterwards strive to acquire more, and to refer to these parts whatever they learn in the Scriptures, and may ever grow and increase in richer understanding. For as long as we live here, we shall daily have enough to do to preach and to learn this.
O Lord Jesus Christ, almighty Son of God: We beseech You, send Your Holy Spirit into our hearts, through Your word, that He may rule and govern us according to Your will, comfort us in every temptation and misfortune, and defend us by Your truth against every error, so that we may continue steadfast in the faith, increase in love and all good works, and firmly trusting in Your grace, which through death You have purchased for us, obtain eternal salvation, You who reigns, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
ENTRUST YOUR DAYS AND BURDENS
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Peter 5:6-7
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Devotion based on Entrust Your Days and Burdens (LSB 754)
1. Entrust your days and burdens
To God's most loving hand;
He cares for you while ruling
The sky, the sea, the land.
For He who guides the tempests
Along their thund'rous ways
Will find for you a pathway
And guide you all your days.
2. Rely on God your Savior
And find your life secure.
Make His work your foundation
That your work may endure.
No anxious thought, no worry,
No self-tormenting care
Can win your Father's favor;
His heart is moved by prayer.
3. Take heart, have hope, my spirit,
And do not be dismayed;
God helps in ev'ry trial
And makes you unafraid.
Await His time with patience
Through darkest hours of night
Until the sun you hoped for
Delights your eager sight.
4. Leave all to His direction;
His wisdom rules for you
In ways to rouse your wonder
At all His love can do.
Soon He, His promise keeping,
With wonder-working pow'rs
Will banish from your spirit
What gave you troubled hours.
5. O bless-ed heir of heaven,
You'll hear the song resound
Of endless jubilation
When you with life are crowned.
In your right hand your maker
Will place the victor's palm,
And you will thank Him gladly
With heaven's joyful psalm.
6. Our hands and feet, Lord, strengthen
With joy our spirits bless
Until we see the ending
Of all our life's distress.
And so throughout our lifetime
Keep us within Your care
And at our end then bring us
To heav'n to praise You there.
You can listen to the hymn here.
The hymn commentary for today comes from Pastor Jacob Sutton as found in the Lutheran Service Book Companion to the Hymns Volume 1 (edited and modified by me).
Paul Gerhardt wrote many hymns that deal with the comfort, hope, and joy found in relying on God’s providential and saving care of His creation, and this is probably his best known.
Gerhardt faced much distress during his lifetime, and shows that the faith-testing troubles and temptations that fight against the sure and certain promises of God in Jesus Christ for the hearts and souls of believers also affected Gerhardt and shaped the writing of his hymns. By the time he was fourteen, both his parents had died. When he was thirty, his hometown was destroyed by the Swedish army during the Thirty Years’ War…, and in the fall of the same year, his older brother Christian died there of the plague. After writing this hymn, Gerhard would experience the death of his wife and four of his five children.
There is some evidence that the hymn may have been influenced by Psalm 37:5, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act” and a poem that Luther wrote on this verse. As well as influences from Johann Arndt, Leonhard Hutter, and Johann Gerhard.
The hymn is used in Johann Sebastian Bach’s monumental St. Matthew Passion (172; BWV 244). Bach also uses the best of Gerhardt’s passion hymns, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” (LSB 449) and “Upon the Cross Extended” (LSB 453), for six different movements. But “Entrust Your Days and Burdens” is the only non-Lenten hymn by Gerhardt used in the work. A recitative from Matthew 27:7-14 concludes when Pilate asks Jesus if He hears how grave the charges being brough against Him are. But the evangelist sings, “But He gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.” Immediately thereafter, the chorus sings the first stanza of “Entrust Your Days and Burdens”.
During His trial and Passion, Jesus underwent the ultimate in “tempests” and “thunderous ways” (stanza 1), fully and perfectly committing or entrusting His pathway to His Father in heaven. His silence before Pilate tells us this, Bach seems to say. Jesus does not argue or try to avoid the charges, even though He is innocent, because His Father’s will is that He should bear the burden of the whole world’s sin (1 Peter 5:6-7, 10). Bach uses Gerhardt’s hymn to say, in light of what our Lord has done for us, that we can now entrust our days and burdens to Him who is God, who is ruling, and who guides all things with His most loving hand, including the sky, the sea, and the land, and who has carried out His plan for the salvation of the world from sin, death, and the devil.
Since Jesus Christ, the Lord, has acted in the office of “your Savior,” the second stanza invites each singer to rely on Him. We find our lives secure on the foundation of Him and His work, and thereupon our work is able to endure (Proverbs 16:3, 9). Looking to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, for Gerhardt there is “no anxious life” (Matthew 6:27). Instead, we can look to our Father in heaven (Matthew 6:9), who knows how to give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11), for “His heart is moved by prayer” (stanza 2; Luke 18:7).
As the Lord Jesus in His trail endured all things, and as God encouraged the prophet Elijah, who was pursued by His opponents (1 Kings 19), the third stanza exhorts us to “take heart, have hope…and be not dismayed.” When the dark night of sin is over, the sun for which all Christians have hoped will delight their “eager sight”(Matthew 24:44; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 22:5; Malachi 4:1-2).
Stanza 4 implores the singer to leave all things to Him – to God the Savior. With His “wonder-working powers,” He banishes all that “gave you troubled hours.” For we know that the answers to the question “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14) can be only “With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
“Blessed is the heir of heaven,” promises stanza 5, who has been crowned with the crown of eternal life (Revelation 2:10; 3:11; James 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:7-8). God Himself “will place the victor’s palm” (see Revelation 7:9) into the right hands of those who have endured and trusted in Christ. Then a new song will be sung, for “heaven’s joyful psalm” will replace one that merely calls on singers to hope and trust, because the singers will see the Lamb face to face on His throne (Revelation 7:9-12).
In Gerhardt’s original last stanza, the singer cries out, “Make an end, O Lord, make an end to all our distress.” Until we reach the endless jubilation of heaven, which is the “ending of all our life’s distress”, we pray for the Lord to strengthen our hands and feet and to keep us within His care. Gerhardt’s original stanza brings back the idea of the road or way from Psalm 37:5 and the beginning of the hymn so as we go our way to heaven to praise Him there, we ask Him whose “heart is moved by prayer” (stanza 2) to keep the faithful secure in and entrusted to Him who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6; Luke 18:7-8).
Lord Jesus Christ, help us to entrust our days, our burdens, all our anxieties and cares into Your most loving hands. Amen.
WHAT IS BAPTISM?
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Devotion from the Blessed Doctor Martin Chemnitz
224 What is Baptism?
Luther answers: It is not simple water only, but that which is included in the divine command and connected with the Word of God.
Philipp Melanchthon: Immersion in water was instituted by the Son of God with the declaration of the words: I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, testifying that since this testimony was divinely instituted, he who is immersed with the declaration of these words is reconciled to God for Christ’s sake and is sanctified by the Holy Spirit to life eternal.
225 What are the Essential Parts of Baptism?
I. The element of water (Jn 3:5; Eph 5:25–26; Acts 10:47).
II. The Word of God (Eph 5:26: Cleansing with the washing of water by the Word—namely the command of Christ regarding the conferring of Baptism, Mt 28:19, and the very promise of grace, Mk 16:16). For that word of the command and promise of God is a true consecration or sanctification by which Baptism becomes a clean water (Eze 36:25), in fact a water of life (Eze 47:9; Zch 14:8) and a washing of regeneration (Tts 3:5).
226 Is It Also Baptism When the Words of Institution are Spoken Over the Element of Water, and Yet There is No One Who is Baptized?
By no means. For when Christ says, Baptize them, He surely wants and commands that Baptism be an act in which someone is baptized with the water that is connected with the Word of God. And therefore Paul also calls Baptism a washing (Eph 5:26; Tts 3:5). But Baptism was not instituted that either bells or other creatures but that nations (Mt 28:19), that is, those who have been born of flesh (Jn 3:6), be baptized for remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
227 In the Administration of Baptism, Why is Not the General Statement (Baptize All Nations) Used, But: I Baptize Thee?
For this reason, namely, that this is distinctive of the Sacraments, that by them everyone is dealt with personally and specifically (Acts 2:38), so that in this way everyone of the believers might have in his heart as a sure testimony, pledge, and seal that the promise of grace is specifically offered and applied to him (Gl 3:27; 1 Ptr 3:21; Acts 2:38).
228 What is the Meaning of These Words: I Baptize Thee in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?
First, [this] is signified, that Baptism is administered in the name, that is, on command, of God the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Second, [this] is indicated, that we are baptized in the name, that is, in, or with, invocation, of the true God, or as the Greek words say, into the name, that is, into the knowledge and invocation, of the true God, who is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Third, this above all is the thrust of those words, that in the administration of Baptism a minister does not function in his own name, but that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Himself present, deals through the outward ministry with the one to be baptized, so that God the Father, because of the merit of the Son, receives him into grace and sanctifies [him] by the Holy Spirit unto righteousness and life eternal, so that in the name is the same as in the stead and place of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as Paul says in that same passage regarding the preaching of the Gospel and absolution (2 Co 2:10; 5:20).
229 Is God the Father Present in Baptism?
He certainly is present. And that not only in the mode of presence by which He is present everywhere and fills all things, but in such a way that through this washing, He saved us according to His mercy, that, being justified by His grace for Christ’s sake, we might be made heirs of eternal life through the Holy Spirit (Tts 3:5; 7). Likewise, God the Father is present in Baptism in such a way that in it He establishes a covenant of a good conscience between Himself and us through Christ (1 Ptr 3:21).
230 Is the Son of God Present in Baptism?
Paul clearly affirms that, saying in very beautiful words, Eph 5:25–26: Christ gave Himself for the church, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it with the washing of water by the Word. Likewise, he says that we are baptized into the death of Christ (Ro 6:3) and into the resurrection of Christ (1 Ptr 3:21). In fact, in Baptism we put on Christ (Gl 3:27). And this is what is said in Acts: to be baptized in the name of Christ.
231 Is the Holy Spirit Also Present in Baptism?
We are born again of water and the Spirit, that we might enter into the kingdom of God (Jn 3:5; Tts 3:5–7).
And on this basis people are to be instructed and taught, so that they do not consider and regard Baptism as only a human work, but as the work of God, namely that in it the entire holy Trinity is present and deals with the poor sinner through that outward ministry, so that He cleanses him from sins, delivers [him] from death, Satan, and eternal damnation, and instead gives [him] righteousness and eternal salvation.
232 What is the Benefit, Power, or Efficacy of Baptism?
The words of institution of Baptism and many other passages of Scripture show us this, e.g., Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Eph 5:25–26; Tts 3:5, 7; Jn 3:5; 1 Ptr 3:21. Hence Luther rightly says in his Catechism: Baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words of divine promise declare.
233 But These Benefits Certainly Depend on the Merit of the Obedience and Passion of Christ. Are Men, Then, to Be Diverted from Christ and Brought to Baptism Instead of to Him?
If Christ is separated from Baptism, or Baptism from Christ (as the Sacramentarians do), then indeed the washing of water can of itself work or confer none of these things, but it is and remains only a simple sign. But since Christ is in and with the act of Baptism, so that we are baptized into His death and resurrection (Ro 6:3; 1 Ptr 3:21), in fact, in Baptism we put on Christ (Gl 3:27), and He Himself cleanses us by this washing (Eph 5:25–26), likewise, since God the Father imparts, presents, and seals to believers the merit of Christ through His Holy Spirit in Baptism and through Baptism (Tts 3:5–6), therefore neither water nor the act of the minister performs and works the things that are predicated of Baptism, but God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Himself, through Baptism, as through the ordinary means ordained and instituted by God Himself for this purpose. Therefore, far from being diverted from Christ by Baptism, we by it, as by the ordinary means, are led to Christ and grafted in [Him] (Ro 6:4–5; Mk 10:14). For salvation has indeed been procured and accomplished by Christ on the cross, but in Baptism and through Baptism it is distributed, applied, and sealed to believers (Mk 16:16).
234 How Long Does that Salutary Effect of Baptism and Fruit of Comfort Last?
Through a man’s whole life on this earth, in fact unto life eternal (Mk 16:16). Likewise, we are born again in Baptism, that we might be made heirs of eternal life according to hope (Tts 3:7); cf. Eph 5:26–27; this is indeed begun in this life, but finally completed in the life to come. And it is indeed a very sweet comfort that through all of this life Baptism becomes for us the figure of a very firm pact and public testimony that we have been made partakers of the merit of Christ in such a way that we can at all times seek and draw continual comfort from it, as Paul comforts the Galatians on the basis of Baptism once received, when they repented after falling (Gl 3:27).
235 But What If One Who is Baptized Rejects Repentance and Loses Faith?
The salutary fruits of Baptism, of which we have spoken, are apprehended, retained, and preserved by faith. Mk 16:16. Therefore, where there is no repentance, and no good but only evil fruits follow, there certainly is no true and saving faith, as was pointed out above. Likewise, he that either does not seek or does not retain the grace of God in Christ, but spurns and rejects it, he does not have true faith. And though such have been baptized, yet they are under this sentence of divine judgment: He that does not believe shall be condemned.
236 If, Then, Someone Fails Away from the Covenant of Baptism and Later is Converted Anew, is There No Longer Any Comfort Left for Him on the Basis of Baptism?
The papist teach that the ark of Baptism is so dashed to pieces and completely destroyed by sin against conscience that it cannot be repaired, and therefore those who repent are not to return to the covenant of Baptism, but are to seize a second plank, namely of repentance and our works, by which we might escape the depth of perdition. But God forbid that our unbelief make the faith of God of no effect (Ro 3:3–4; 2 Ti 2:13). And God does not want the basis of grace, entered with us by Baptism, to consist in this, that if we break faith He also will not keep faith, even if we repent and return to it. But, as the ancients have well said, Baptism is rather the door by which we are admitted and received to fellowship and participation in the merits of Christ, so that we might continue therein, or if we fall therefrom, that we might have access and a way back to that covenant of grace, in true repentance, through faith, continually, while it is still today. And Jeremiah describes in very comforting words in all of Jer 3 how much God commends His grace to us in this very thing.
237 Is Baptism, Then, to Be Repeated as Often as We Fall?
By no means. For the covenant that God made with us in Baptism is an everlasting covenant (Is 55:3). And Baptism is a seal that testifies that God will continually keep the covenant of grace once made with us whenever and as often as we return to it. It is therefore not necessary to repeat Baptism as often as we are converted after a fall, as also in the Old Testament those who fell did not repeat circumcision at conversion but returned in earnest repentance through true faith to the covenant of grace that God had made with them in circumcision. Thus Paul did not rebaptize the Corinthians and Galatians who were again converted to God after a fall, but directed them to the covenant and comfort of Baptism once received. 1 Co 6:11; 12:13; Gl 3:27. It is indeed written regarding the Lord’s Supper: As often as ye do this, etc. But no commandment like this is connected with Baptism: As often as ye are baptized, etc.
238 Does Baptism, Because of the Comfort Regarding Forgiveness of Sins and Salvation, Also Have More Effects and Benefits?
The chief benefit and comfort of Baptism is that of which we have spoken so far. But Paul mentions in addition also another effect of Baptism. For he says, Tts 3:5: Baptism is a washing, first, of regeneration, namely that we, who by nature were children of wrath, are reborn of water and the Spirit, so that, for Christ’s sake, we might be children of God. Second, he says that it is a washing of renewing of the Holy Spirit.
239 In What, Then, Does This Renewal Consist?
Paul indeed briefly but thoroughly covers and describes this whole process of renewal Ro 6:4 ff., where he says, first, that we, being planted by Baptism in the death of Christ, are also buried with Him into death, namely that the power and efficacy of the death of Christ not only forgives us sins, but also begins to crucify, mortify, and bury sin in the flesh, in the baptized, by the Holy Spirit, that it should not reign in our body, and we should not obey its lusts, but that the body of sin might be destroyed. Second, he says that through Baptism we are also made partakers of the resurrection of Christ, namely that through it the Holy Spirit renews the mind, that we put on the new man, who is created according to God in righteousness and holiness of truth (Eph 4:24).
240 How are Exhortations to Newness of Life to Be Drawn from Baptism?
By the example of Paul, Ro 6:3–4, 6, 11–12. For just as God made with us a covenant of grace and a good conscience in Baptism, so we also, on the other hand, promised Him that we would die to sin and live to righteousness, for this reason the renunciation in the act of Baptism was given this form of question and answer: Do you renounce the devil? Answer: I renounce, etc. It is therefore a horrible sin impudently to violate that covenant. For thus we hinder and destroy the work of the Holy Spirit, who works renewal in us. But all believers can, in fact should, confidently implore and entreat the Holy Spirit by a certain right of Baptism, as it were, to mortify the works of the flesh in them and cleanse and renew their hearts more and more.
241 Are the Effects and Benefits of Baptism Immediately Complete and Finished in the Baptized?
Regeneration indeed, that is, adoption and the forgiveness of sins is complete and finished in believers immediately after Baptism, and yet it nevertheless extends through the whole life of a man. But renewal is indeed begun in Baptism and grows daily, but is finally completed in the life to come. For in this [present] life renewal is still imperfect and should grow and increase from day to day. 2 Co 4:16; Eph 4:22–23; Cl 3:10; 1 Ptr 2:1–2.
242 Are Infants to Be Baptized?
Yes. For baptism of infants was always observed in the Christian church from the time of the apostles and was defended and approved against heretics on the basis of the Word of God, as the very ancient writers Irenaeus, Cyprian, Origen, Ambrose, Augustine, and Chrysostom testify.
Chemnitz, M., & Poellot, L. (1999). Ministry, word, and sacraments: an enchiridion (electronic ed., pp. 112–120). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Lord God, heavenly Father, it is meet and right that we should give thanks unto You, that You have given us a more glorious baptism than that of John the Baptist, and have therein promised us the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit, and everlasting life through Your Son, Jesus Christ: Preserve us, we beseech You, in such faith in Your grace and mercy, that we may never doubt Your promise, but be comforted by the same in all temptations: and grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may renounce sin, and ever continue in the righteousness bestowed upon us in baptism, until by Your grace we obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, world without end. Amen.
A DEVOTION ON PSALM 27
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
Devotion by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann
If you experience the harsh and vehement attacks of the enemy, and they crowd against you, despising you as one who is not anointed, and on this very account they fight against you, do not succumb to these attacks but sing Psalm 27. – Athanasius
A psalm of David, written probably about the same time as the preceding one, picturing the state of mind of one who is persecuted ‘Without cause and longs for the blessings of the worship in the midst of the congregation. V. 1. The Lord is my Light, the only Source of all spiritual light, and my Salvation, He who saves him from the darkness of oppression and persecution; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Strength of my life, his Stronghold, his Bulwark, his sure Defense, keeping his life from destruction; of whom shall I be afraid? The entire song has the ring of Paul’s mighty hymn of triumph, Rom. 8, 31-39. V. 2. When the wicked, the doers of evil and mischief, even mine enemies and my foes, those who oppose and oppress him on all sides, came upon me, approaching him with marked hostility, to eat up my flesh, as wild beasts eager to tear and devour their prey, they stumbled and fell, unable to carry out their object because of the protection afforded David by Jehovah.
V. 3. Though an host, a whole army or camp of adversaries, should encamp against me, besieging him on all sides, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this, even in such a great extremity, will I be confldent, in spite of all that he would calmly trust in Jehovah, his Stronghold. Both the words and the tone of the psalm denote the holy and calm defiance with which all believers may await the attack of the enemies.
V. 4. One thing have I desired of the Lord, in the midst of all these threatening dangers, that will I seek after, with a great desire: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, the Tabernacle of His presence, all the days of my life, in the delight of intimate fellowship with Jehovah, to behold the beauty of the Lord, His favor and kindness as revealed in the Word of His grace, and to inquire in His Temple, meditating upon the wonderful blessings of His mercy in the message of the Gospel. V. 5. For, because of the believer’s close communion with God, in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion, in the Tabernacle, where His almighty hand protects; in the secret of His Tabernacle shall He hide me, sheltering the believer in the safety of His tent; He shall set me upon a rock, the house of Jehovah being a refuge and stronghold beyond the reach of puny men.
V. 6. And now shall mine head be lifted up, in the triumph of a certain victory, above mine enemies round about me, the fact of whose defeat places the believer beyond their reach; therefore will I offer in His Tabernacle sacrifices of joy, thank-offerings always being occasions of great rejoicing. I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord, which the faithful Israelites were wont to do at the festival meal connected with their thank-offerings. At the same time David does not, even in the remotest way, rely upon his own strength, and for this reason the triumphant strain of confidence now gives way to an earnest appeal. V. 7. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, calling loudly and emphatically; have mercy also upon me, that being the one safe reliance of the believer, and answer me, with a favorable reply.
V. 8. When Thou saidst, Seek ye My face, at Jehovah’s call to seek His face, my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek; the heart of the believer being attuned to the fellowship with Jehovah, it gladly answers His call, assenting thereto as an echo of it, happy in the knowledge that it pleases Jehovah if His children enter into the presence of God, in order to gain comfort, assistance, and blessings of every kind.
V. 9. Hide not thy face (far) from me, veiling it from the prayer of the believer; put not Thy servant away in anger, thrusting him aside as unworthy; Thou hast been my Help, and the former mercy and love emboldens David to plead against rejection. Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. It is the cry of Jacob: “I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me,” Gen. 32, 26, a call which holds the Lord to the promise of His salvation.
V. 10. When my father and my mother forsake me, the very nearest earthly relatives abandoning him who seems doomed to destruction, Matt. 10, 35. 36, then the Lord will take me up, receiving the believer into His care and protection, adopting him as His own child. V. 11. Teach me Thy way, the road according with Jehovah’s will, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, even, level, without pitfalls, because of mine enemies, since they dog his every footstep and are trying to lead him into sin, his fall at the same time heaping dishonor upon God.
V. 12. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies, to the destruction which they had planned against him; for false witnesses are risen up against me, such being the methods employed by the enemies in their persecution of the believer, and such as breathe out cruelty, their every breath being charged with violence.
V. 13. I had fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, literally, “If I did not trust to behold the excellence of Jehovah -!” He leaves the sentence unfinished. for it is too hard to picture and imagine life without the sustaining mercy of Jehovah. And so David encourages himself and all believers in conclusion, v. 14. Wait on the Lord, firmly trusting in the revelation of His mercy; be of good courage, strong of heart, and He shall strengthen thine heart, rather, let thy heart show itself mighty. Wait, I say, on the Lord. With this confident expectation the prayer of every believer must be concluded; for the Lord will, at His own time, bring salvation in rich measure upon His children, here in time and hereafter in eternity.
O almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all dangers and necessities stretch forth Your mighty hand, to defend us against our enemies; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, world without end. Amen
THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.
Devotion (This is inspired and based on Dr. Martin Chemnitz’s The Two Natures of Christ)
Why do we celebrate the ascension of our Lord? The Creeds confess the ascension as a key event in our Lord’s saving work that will culminate in his return in glory on the Last Day. The ascension confirms what the resurrection evidences demonstrate: that Jesus is the one Lord and creator who rises from the dead and ascends to receive His kingdom. And it marks the completion of our Lord’s redemptive work.
Hebrews 1:3 says “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”
We speak of the right hand of the divine majesty, or the right hand of His power or strength (Luke 22:69), at which Christ is described as sitting here in time. Elsewhere in Scripture the right hand of God does not signify a member or part of God, nor merely a place of quiet and bliss, but it indicates the power and activity of God by which He drives back His enemies.
He is present with His own, listens to you with His grace, His blessing, His help, His liberation, His defense, His preservation, His salvation, as shown in His miracles and all His glorious divine works.
Christ according to His divine nature is the very right hand of God, for the Father does all His works of divine majesty and power through the Son. Through His human nature He is working for you, and sits at the right hand of God, because it has been personally united with the divine nature of the Logos, which is the very right hand of God.
Now after He has laid aside His humiliation in the exaltation or glorification, it has been brought into the full and manifest use of the power of the right hand of God. He had hidden this majesty during His life on earth and did not make full use but only when He wished.
The expression “to sit” in this passage (Psalm 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25) does not refer to the reclining position of the body or to the occupancy of a particular place, but to His power and to the glorious administration of His office of King, High Priest, and Messiah and to His dominion over all things.
Scripture speaks in this way of Christ’s session at the right hand of God so that it may show clearly that also with respect to His human nature, according to which, He was crucified, dead and raised again, Christ is placed at the right hand of the majesty and power of God.
The terms which are added in the description of this session, such as “in heaven,” “in the heavens,” “in the highest,” do not restrict the right hand of God to one place, nor do they imply that Christ according to His human nature is sitting at the right hand of God in only one place in heaven; but these expressions mean that the majesty and power are not created, earthly, or lowly, but rather that they are heavenly, lofty, and divine.
For it is said of God Himself, who is limited to no one place: “Our God is in heaven, He does all things which He wishes.” (Psalm 115:3) So, to say that Christ – as God and Man- is seated is to say that He is still acting on your behalf as your Prophet, Priest, and King.
Not the least part of the work of Christ as our Mediator and Savior is that as Head He is present with His members, gathering, ruling, defending, preserving, and saving His Church.
For in all your afflictions and temptations—in the depraved infirmity of your nature, among the various offenses and the many pitfalls under the powerful tyranny and the rage of Satan, the world, and all the enemies of the church— your greatest and only comfort is our knowledge that Christ is present as our King, our High Priest, our Head, and the pastor of us who are His sheep in the midst of ravening wolves.
He does not place the burdens of governing in His kingdom on the shoulders of others through delegated work, as the custom of our kings is, for the government is always on His shoulders (Is. 9:6), but when He Himself is present He cares for us, governs, defends, preserves, and saves us, as His peculiar people whom He has bought with His own blood.
We have, moreover, an express word and a specific promise instituted in a particular and definite way, ordained as a part of His will and testament by the Son of God Himself on the night in which He was betrayed, a promise which Christ ratified also after His ascension by sitting at the right hand of the Majesty in His glory in heaven, a promise which was repeated to Paul, a promise that He wills to be present with His body and blood in the observance of His Supper as it is celebrated in the gathering of the Church here on earth in accord with His institution.
The words state that Christ desires to be present in His Church with His Body and Blood, or according to His human nature, wherever His Supper is celebrated on earth. Through His assumed humanity, He wills to bestow His benefits on us, to confirm and seal them, and thus to accomplish in the Church His work of giving us life, according to each nature, through His life-giving flesh.
This is a doctrine which is so full of consolation, that is, that the Son of God, our Mediator and Savior, according to the words of His testament wills to be present with His Church here on earth, which is fighting under the banner of the cross and struggling in this vale of tears.
For He wishes to be present also in and with His assumed nature by which He is of the same substance with us, related to us, our Brother, our very flesh, according to which flesh He does not blush to call us His brothers and in which flesh He was tempted.
So that He can share in our sufferings, according to which flesh Christ is our Head and we His members. And just as no one hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, so also Christ does to His Church, since we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bone (Eph. 5:29).
For He now fills all things in heaven and on earth. He continues “to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1), preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins through those sent in His name (Mark 16:14–20; Luke 24:44–53), and giving you His true body and blood in the Supper.
He is Lord over all things for the sake of the Church. And He continually serves as your Prophet, Priest, and King.
He whom heaven cannot contain has raised your human nature to share fully in the glory of God. You who believe and are baptized into Christ’s body are already sitting in the heavenly places; for you are in Him who is at the Father’s right hand.
When He comes again in the clouds on the Last Day, you also will appear with Him in glory.
No matter what is going on this truth of what Christ’s Ascension means for us stands as our hope.
Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
THE END OF ALL THINGS IS AT HAND
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Peter 4:7-11
7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Devotion by Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann
The apostle here guards against the danger of a false security which may follow his comforting assurances in the case of such as misunderstand the meaning of Christian liberty: But the end of all things has come near; be sensible, then, and vigilant toward prayer. As sure as redemption has been earned and salvation is ready for all men, as sure as the Judge of the living and the dead is prepared for the final Judgment and the apparent delay is only another gracious measure on His part to call men to repentance, so sure it is that the end of all things, of that which we commonly designate as heaven and earth, the visible world, is near.
This consideration of the nearness of the end is a strong motive for the Christians to exert all diligence in using the time allotted them in the proper way. Their entire conduct should be one that agrees with sound Christian common sense, with that sober-mindedness which should be the strongest characteristic of the children of God. They must put aside all spiritual drowsiness and be wide awake, vigilant, with regard to prayer. In view of the nearness of the end they will be particularly diligent in their intercourse with their heavenly Father, lest the dangers and tribulations of the latter days overcome them. All the cares, joys, and sorrows of life must not be permitted to interfere with their relation toward God.
The conduct of the Christians toward their neighbors must likewise be in line with these considerations: Above all, have the love toward one another fervent, for love covers a mass of sins. That the apostle stresses this point with such emphasis may easily be understood, especially in view of the conditions as they now obtain in the world. Such is the power of selfishness in these last days that the idea of unselfish altruism, of true love, has practically been lost. It is talked about very extensively, even in the relation of states and nations toward one another, but is practiced very little.
Therefore, all true Christians should distinguish themselves by making the love which they profess to feel an intense, an assiduous, a fervent, a real love, without a trace of selfishness, having only the welfare of their brother in mind. It is this love which is ready to cover and forget even a mass of sins, a feat which would not be possible if their love were of a kind that does not stand tests. Thus love preserves brotherly harmony and unity. It is not a question of magnanimously overlooking one or two little faults, but of forgiving even a multitude of sins, and in forgiving to forget them.
Another proof of this love is indicated in the words: Be hospitable toward each other without murmuring. This was necessary even more in those days of oppression and persecution than it is today, at least in our country. But as recent events abroad show, the time may well come also in this country when oppression will come upon us, making it necessary for us to open our homes to such as have been driven from their homes by persecution. But in any event Christians will be ready to show true hospitality, to receive their brethren and sisters with open arms whenever there is need of it. They will do this, moreover, not with an unwilling murmuring, but with a cordiality flowing out of true love.
A third admonition concerns the work in the congregation: Everyone as he has received a gift of grace, - serve one another therewith, as good stewards of the various graces of God. Mark that the apostle expressly states that every Christian has received some gift of grace, some talent which he should employ in the service of the congregation, of the Church of the Lord. Whether this gift is one of preaching, or of teaching, or of praying, or of exhorting, or of organizing, it should be exercised by the Christian. No talent may be hidden away in the ground for specious reasons. But these gifts are not our own to use as we choose, especially not for selfish purposes, for the advancement of various ambitious schemes. In receiving gifts from God, we have become stewards of God, we are responsible to Him; our gifts, according to His will, should be exercised in serving one another, in proving ourselves useful in the work which we are carrying on at God’s command, to the praise and honor of God and to the benefit and salvation of our neighbor.
Two of such special gifts of grace, of the Holy Spirit, the apostle names: if any one speaks, let him do so as he who utters the words of God; if any one ministers, let him do so as out of the strength which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power forever and ever, Amen. If anyone has received the gift of speaking, if he holds an office in which he is to declare the oracles of God, Rom. 12, 6; Num. 24, 4, he should adhere strictly to these revelations of God as they are contained in His inspired Word. For any man to proclaim himself a Christian teacher and then to preach his own human speculations, or only that which he chooses to consider true in the Bible, is an insult to the Lord. All frivolous handling of the Word also, as when a Christian teacher forgets the dignity of the subject which he is laying before the congregation, cannot be excused on any grounds. In a similar way those that are engaged in ministering, in almsgiving, in taking care of the poor and needy, in assisting in the work of Christian hospitals and hospices, in short, all Christians, as they take part in the work of charity carried on in their midst, should remember that it is, in the last analysis, the work of the Lord which they are doing as His stewards.
They will, then, certainly not depend upon their own strength nor seek to further any private schemes in their work, nor will they permit their hands to be idle while there is so much work to do. That gift, that power which God has granted them, and which He wants to continue to supply, they are to use energetically, consistently. It is, in other words, the faithful, conscientious employment of the gifts which God has given to a Christian which he desires from every one of them. And the final aim and purpose will always be that God's name may be glorified among men more and more. For it is from Him, as the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that we have received faith and the fruit of faith, and thus also the power to praise and magnify His holy name through the works which we perform in the building and maintaining of His kingdom. The power of God becomes operative through Jesus Christ, to whom we give all praise and power in all eternity. 6)
O Lord, so rule and govern our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit that, ever mindful of the end of all things and the day of Your just judgment, we may be stirred up to holiness of living here and dwell with You forever hereafter; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
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