2022:Sundays after Epiphany

RSS Feed

Very Merciful (Ps 99:8)

  • Introduction: From our Psalmody, we read about the holiness and mercy of God our Lord.  Additionally, the Psalmist pointed out the many mercies God bestowed upon three great priests: Moses; Aaron; Samuel.  God was very merciful to them despite also avenging their [sinful] pursuits, just as He bestows many mercies on us as fellow members of the royal priesthood.  We will spend time on today looking into why the Psalmist would point out the forgiveness God devoted to these priests after noting they “…kept His testimonies..” (Ps 99:7).  We will then look at how this Psalm applies to us even today.
  • Let Us Pray: Heavenly Father, Your mercies are new every day.  We cling to You for your mercy, because we would otherwise be eternally separated from You.  Just as with Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, we too are members of Your royal priesthood. Also, as with these priests, we rely on Your great mercy to save us from our own evil that lies within us.  Send to us the Holy Spirit that we may always be in touch with our status in this Age as both sinner and saint.  We pray this through Your Son Jesus, who reigns with the You, Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Background: Let’s spend a few moments figuring out why the Psalmist in Ps 99:6 would mention Moses and Aaron who were among God’s priests, and Samuel was among those who called on His name.  What is it about them that the Lord would have to be very merciful? Wasn’t it Moses who led the Israelites by God’s mighty power out of the slavery of Egypt?  Didn’t Aaron serve as priest who would receive God’s word through Moses and perform all of the priestly functions?  And how about Samuel, who was faithful to God even as a little boy and who replaced Eli, an unfaithful priest before the Lord?
    • Recall after the Israelites left Egypt, they were traveling through the desert and there was no water.  They complained to Moses going so far as to say, ... “If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! Why then have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this wilderness, for us and our livestock to die here? Why did you make us come up from Egypt, to bring us into this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink!”[1]  Ah, how soon they forgot the ten plagues God inflicted upon the Egyptians on behalf of the Israelites. How soon they forgot crossing the Red Sea at the Gulf of Aqaba on dry ground, then seeing the Egyptian army drown after the Lord closed up the Sea over them.
      • I’m sure everyone here would be calm and remind the mob of the great mercy God showed them in liberating them from slavery.  The reality is when you have people in your face, the stress of the situation can force mistakes.  This is what Moses and Aaron said to the people in response to their complaints, 10 …“Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”[2]  Who actually provided water from solid rock by the mere tap of a walking stick against it?   It was God who instructed Moses to strike the rock in the first place, but God was *not* included in with the “we” of Num 20:10; only Moses & Aaron.  Moses did not give glory to God when including only himself and Aaron in the miracle of the water flowing from solid rock.  At the end of Moses’ life God told Moses to climb Mount Nebo.  He then said, 50 Then you are to die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, 51 because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the sons of Israel.[3]   Sin has consequences.
    • That wasn’t the extent of the problem for Moses’ brother, Aaron. After the experience at Meribah, the Israelites eventually made it to Mt Sinai.  Moses went up onto Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.  Moses was up on the mountain for 40 days/nights. Some of the Israelites got impatient with waiting for Moses to return as we read from Ex 32:1 - Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we do not know what happened to him.”[4]  Aaron didn’t push back on the mob.  He didn’t trust that the Lord would deliver him from the situation. Instead, he acquiesced and came up with the brilliant idea of creating two calves made out of gold jewelry the Israelites plundered from the Egyptians.
    • Samuel was a priest ministering before the Lord at a place called Shiloh, some 400yrs after the exodus.  Samuel was the last of the Judges over Israel, because the people of the time were demanding Samuel appoint a king to rule over them instead of recognizing the God Himself was their King.  Note: it wasn’t Samuel breaking faith with the Lord; it was the people.
      • So, what was Samuel’s problem which the Psalmist indicated would needed forgiving?  Samuel did not raise his children in the humility before the Lord as noted by the people - 1Now it came about, when Samuel was old, that he appointed his sons as judges over Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba. His sons, however, did not walk in his ways but turned aside after dishonest gain, and they took bribes and perverted justice.[5] Samuel apparently was not successful in raising his sons to stay in the ways of the Lord.  They wound up being no different than the sons of Eli, named Hophni and Phineas, who served just prior to Samuel.
  • Definition: These are some pretty egregious sins that God’s servants publicly did.  It’s bad enough when we sin, but when a priest sins, God’s enemies in particular like to point out such failures in keeping God’s word.  All sins God’s people commit reflect badly on Him. 
    • Turing our attention to Ps 99:8, there is a word in the Greek rendered as “forgiving”.  As usual, I have the Greek and its definition on the back of your bulletin.  The word in the Greek is εὐίλατος (ew-ĭ’-la-tŏs), and means very merciful to the point of providing propitiation for sins. The word εὐίλατος does not show up in any of the Greek-English dictionaries I have in my personal library, so I had to look this up on-line. One site provided a definition in Greek which can be rendered into English as many, or manifold, (ο πολύ) brotherly and gut-felt love combined (φιλεύσπλαγχνος).  The rendering into English of εὐίλατος as “forgiveness” doesn’t do justice to the intense level of mercy God showed to the three priests just mentioned.  God devoted manifold brotherly love to these priests because He felt a pit in His stomach.  God could feel it in His gut the deep emotion of mercy He wanted to show these priests, especially after their major failures in life.
    • Last week, we explored two other words from the Greek that meant mercy: ελεήμων (merciful) which is an adjective of ελεος (mercy).  There were two additional Greek words for mercy that meant compassion or pity (οικτιρμος).  It was important to have the Greek lesson, because of what Jesus told His disciples: 36[You] Become compassionately merciful, even as your Father is compassionately merciful.[6] Now, this week, we have εὐίλατος which is God’s manifold love for all who sin, but acknowledge their sin before Him.  Let me read Ps 99:8 from an original translation of the Greek – God our Lord, You heard them [the priests]; You were a very merciful God to them and an avenger of their pursuits.[7]  For those who have had children, God is communicating He ached in His gut wanting to forgive and rescue just like we parents ached when we saw our younger children make a big mistake in a sporting match or on a stage.
  • Analysis: The Lord has to be very merciful (εὐίλατος) with us too as He indicated in Ps 99.  I have a few questions that will relate our behavior in 2022 back to the behavior of Moses, Aaron, and Samuel.
    • Do we give glory exclusively to God for miracles which happened in our life?  It’s easy to take credit for the good things which come in our life, but blame the bad on God.  It’s no fun having a mob of people in your face, all complaining about one thing or another.  We are wired to please one another.  But when there is a conflict, who is it we ultimately serve, God or man?
    • Do we have false gods we claim delivered us out of slavery – especially when there’s pressure to do so?  There is a lot of pressure in 2022 to believe there are more than two sexes, male & female.  There is intense pressure to believe we all evolved from lower life forms even though science militates against this.  More importantly, God’s word is clear He created man last of all the living beings created in the Garden of Eden.  False gods actually enslave and not liberate, because there is no redemption for when we screw up.
    • How about our raising of biological and spiritual children in the ways of the Lord?  Many of us have had tense moments in raising children, especially when they were late teens or getting out on their own.  Will they keep the faith we attempted to instill into them through the power of the Holy Spirit?  Ultimately, our kids decide for themselves whether they will follow the Lord regardless of how great a job we did with parenting.  Nonetheless, we do need to raise up the next generation knowing the Lord through the work of the church in teaching the word of the Lord and standing firm in the faith.  Actions a lot of times speak louder than words.
    • It may not seem so, but we are members of a royal priesthood (1Pe 2:9).  God said as much in Ex 19:5-6a – “‘5Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; 6and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…[8]”  What is interesting is God said this *after* the Israelites complained about not having water as was noted earlier. 
      • Are we any different than the Israelite rebellion in the desert (Num 14:1-4)?  Yes, they rebelled again when they were supposed to go up into the Promised Land, but got scared off because the people in the land appeared to be bigger & stronger.
      • Moses as priest prayed on behalf of these short-sighted people, plead this before the Lord - 19 Please forgive the guilt of this people in accordance with the greatness of Your mercy (ἔλεός), just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.[9]” 
      • There’s a saying in Latin that Martin Luther loved - Simul iustice et peccator[10].  It means simultaneously justified and sinner.  A person who is justified through Christ is a saint. God hears our prayers in His mercy, because we are His saints, even though we are sinners. Being justified through Christ includes us into the royal priesthood of His kingdom. So, we are forgiven people (Num 14:20-21), but we do suffer the consequences of sin (Num 14:22-23).
  • Conclusion: God is very merciful as we saw in the account of Transfiguration. How so?
    • We’ve established Moses was denied entry into the Promised Land, yet appeared with Elijah before Jesus.  Think about that for a moment. Moses was able to appear with Elijah before Jesus, because Moses now lives in the promised land of heaven (Luke 9:30)!
    • The ultimate consequence of sin is death, and Moses’ body died on Mt Nebo.  But God in His mercy gave us Jesus in order to eventually be as away from sin as the east is from the west.  Moses and all the saints who have gone before us are in heaven, which is a God-given gift to have eternal life with Christ our Lord (Rom 6:23).
      • God the Father swapped our sin with Jesus’ righteousness.  The Father piled onto Jesus all the sins of the world.  Jesus never sinned but suddenly on the cross, became the worst sinner you could image.  Jesus willingly took on our sins so that we might become the righteousness of God through Him (2Co 5:21).
      • The Apostle John wrote - and [Jesus] Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. I used that word “propitiation” earlier. It means a sin offering that takes away all sin.  Jesus became the sin offering (propitiation) for us (1Jh 2:2) to God the Father.  The Father accepted that propitiation on our behalf and that’s what made us clean.  This is why later in Luke 9:51, Jesus was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem after the Transfiguration.  With gut-felt compassion, He eagerly wanted to get His sacrifice for sins completed.
      • Some people believe there are many ways into heaven.  A lot of the mainline religions have become apostate for teaching such things.  Let me be clear: there is no other way to be saved from eternal death except through Jesus. The Apostle Peter confessed this as recorded in Act 4:12 - “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.[11]”  That confession was made before the same Sanhedrin that conducted a kangaroo court to kill Jesus.  And yet through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter was able to clearly confess the true faith.  Not bad, given that on the night Jesus was betrayed, Peter three times denied knowing Jesus.
    • God the Father confirmed Jesus’ work of salvation with His statement, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (Luke 9:35)  How you ask?  God the Father confirmed Jesus as His Son, who was chosen to accomplish the propitiation for us that we could not do on our own.  God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit did this because of their manifold εὐίλατος for us.  It really burned in their gut that they would create us to be their most prized possession of all the earth, only to see us perish in hell, far away from heaven.  God had εὐίλατος on the priests whom He sent to His people, and He has εὐίλατος on all those who repented of their sins for the forgiveness of those sins. This is most certainly true!

 


[1] Num 20:3-5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers%2020&version=NASB

[2] Portion of Num 20:10, ibid

[3]Deu 32:50-51 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=deu+32&version=NASB

[4] Ex 32:1 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ex+32&version=NASB

[5] 1Sa 8:1-3 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1sa+8&version=NASB

[6] Original translation of Luke 6:36 from https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/luk/6/1/t_conc_979036

[7] Original translation of Ps 99:8 (LXX Ps 98:8) from https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/psa/99/1/t_concl_577008

[8] Ex 19:5-6a from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/exo/19/1/s_69001

[9] Num 14:19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=num+14&version=NASB

[10] https://www.1517.org/articles/simul-iustus-et-peccator-what-does-this-mean

[11] Act 4:12 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/act/4/1/s_1022001

Become Merciful (Luke 6:36)

  • Introduction: Woke culture is the opposite of a forgiveness culture.  I heard this statement made last week by someone on television.  Not only is the statement very true, but it also fits perfectly with the text for today.
    • Think about it; people of the woke mob believe you screw up once and you are worthy of being canceled.  I should note, this is the philosophy that applies if you are *not* a member of the woke mob.  Those who are part of this mob are of course exempt from any judgement.
    • In contrast, our Psalmody for today (Ps 103) shows a culture of forgiveness in the Lord. As we spoke this Psalm responsively a few moments ago, we confessed with King David the Lord pardons all our guilt, redeemed our life from the pit, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, and has compassion on those who fear Him.  That sounds to me like a rich culture of forgiveness!
    • Because of God the Father’s great mercy, Jesus instructed us in Luke 6:36 to become compassionately merciful, even as your Father is compassionately merciful (CSRV).  Since the woke culture is something of which we are painfully aware, we will spend time on today looking into God’s great mercy for us, and that since  He first showed love toward us, we should build a culture of forgiveness through mercy in our life.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we are grateful for the mercy You have shown us in separating us from our sins as far as the east is from the west. We had no way to do this on our own, and would be separated eternally from You as far as the east is from the west had Your Son, Jesus not been faithful in the plan of salvation.  Send the Holy Spirit, so that we clearly understand the mercy shown to us so that we are motivated to show similar mercy to one another.  We pray this petition through Your Son, Jesus, who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • Background: Today is one of those days when the Old Testament (OT), Psalmody, and the New Testament (NT) coordinate very neatly, particularly as they relate to the concept of God’s mercy.  Let’s start with the “back story” on OT reading for today from Gen 45:3-15, and see how well the readings relate to each other with a common theme of God’s culture of forgiveness through mercy.
    • Joseph, son of Jacob, grandson of Issac, and great-grandson of Abraham was hated by most of his brothers (Gen 37:4).  He was daddy’s favorite son along with Benjamin, both of whom came from daddy’s favorite wife.  The remaining ten (10) brothers were probably justifiably jealous of Joseph that he got all of the good attention and the rest got whatever was left from Jacob. What pushed their hatred over the top was when Joseph, probably a spoiled brat because of daddy’s favoritism, told the brothers about two dreams he had.  Both dreams ended with all of the brothers bowing down to him.  If it wasn’t sufficient for Joseph to be daddy’s pet, certainly telling two dreams about all of them bowing down to him was more than they could bare.  One of the brothers suggested killing Joseph, but then the idea sprung into their heads to sell him into slavery (Gen 37:27-28,36).  They received 20 pieces of silver from the sale of Joseph.  That works out to two (2) pieces per brother, excluding Benjamin who was not part of this plot.
    • Joseph wound up in Egypt, and was purchased as a slave by Potiphar, the Pharaoh of Egypt’s captain of the guard.  Joseph did well during this humbling experience.  But misfortune would show up again when Joseph was wrongly accused of attempted rape of Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39:14-18) and was tossed into prison (Gen 39:20).
    • Despite being sold into slavery, being falsely accused of a crime, and then rotting in prison for a couple years, Joseph became “…a father to Pharaoh…” as we read from Gen 45:8.  Joseph said that to his brothers after he finally revealed himself to his brothers who did not recognize him after a couple meetings with Joseph.
  • Vocabulary: As usual, there are a couple of words from out the Greek that stood out in preparation for this message.  Both words are interpreted into English as “mercy”.  I have these words and a variant of each listed in the outline.
    • The first is the Greek noun for mercy: Έλεος (el'-eh-os).  In traditional worship settings such as those we practice here at Christus Rex, there is a portion of the liturgy known as the “Kyrie” which is short for Kyrie Eleison. That is Latin for “Lord have mercy”. Latin received these words from the Greek.
      • A variant of ελεος is ἐλεήμων (el-eh-ay'-mone), which means to be merciful. This variant is usually appears as an adjective whereas ελεος is the noun.
    • The second Greek word for consideration is οἰκτιρμός (oyk-tir-moss’) which means compassion, pity, or mercy.  What’s the difference between ελεος and οικτιρμος? Οικτιρμος is a greater level of mercy.  Synonyms for this more intense level of mercy are compassion and pity.
      • Oἰκτίρμων (oyk-tir'-mone) is the adjective variant of οικτιρμος and is probably best interpreted as compassionately merciful.
  • Analysis: Whichever of these two Greek words for mercy are considered, God’s mercy is displayed throughout the scriptures.
    • For example, Psalm 103 is a Psalm of David.  David gave praises to God for His mercies.  John Brug, a conservative Lutheran theologian wrote of Psalm 103 – “Psalms 103 and 104 form a pair.  They are united by the theme, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.”  Psalm 103 praises the Lord for His work of redemption. Psalm 104 praises Him for creation.” Brug continued, “Psalm 103 is one of the most beautiful psalms of comfort.”[1]
      • In the Psalmody for today, both Greek words for “mercy” are used to indicate the level of God’s mercy
        • For instance, Έλεος/Έλεήμων, which means plain ole mercy, is  found in Ps 103:8,11 each of which I will read from the NASB20:
          • V8 - The LORD is compassionate and gracious (ἐλεήμων), Slow to anger and abounding in [manifold] mercy (πολυέλεος)[2].  More about this verse in a moment.
          • V11 - For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His mercy (ἔλεος) toward those who fear Him[3];
        • In contrast for a more intense level of mercy, the usage of oἰκτιρμός/oἰκτίρμων is found in Ps 103:4,8,13(2x as verbs):
          • V4 - Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with favor (ἐλέει) and compassion (οἰκτιρμοῗς).[4]  Note this verse has both ελεος and οικτιρμος as nouns, but one cannot see the beauty of God’s inspired writing through King David because of the inconsistent translation of these two Greek words.
          • V8 is another verse of Psalm 103 which has both words for mercy - The LORD is compassionate (οἰκτίρμων) and gracious (ἐλεήμων), Slow to anger and abounding in [manifold] mercy (πολυέλεος).[5] Isn’t this a beautiful verse worth memorizing?  This verse is essential to add to the “toolbox” for building a culture of mercy!
          • V13 has two (2) verb variants of οικτιρμος - Just as a father has compassion (οἰκτίρει) on his children, So the LORD has compassion (οἰκτίρησεν) on those who fear Him.  I spoke recently about the aorist tense of a verb in Greek, where the action of the verb happened in the past, but does not have any determination on whether the action was completed, is continuing, or will be completed in the future.  Here again like in Psalm 71 from a couple weeks ago, we have the Lord showing compassion in the past with no reason to believe the compassion will cease for those who fear Him.
    • Jesus used “oἰκτίρμων” in Luke 6:36 which I will repeat here to indicate the compassionate mercy of the Father. Jesus said, “[You] Become compassionately merciful, even as your Father is compassionately merciful.”  With this statement from His Sermon on the Plain, Jesus was calling all of us to develop a culture of compassionate mercy in our life, because of the mercy first shown to us by the Father.  Jesus’ call for His followers to be compassionately merciful is consistent with what King David wrote in Psalm 103 around a thousand years before.
    • Later in Jesus’ earthly ministry, His parable of the wicked servant who would not forgive as he was forgiven, drove home the point about building a culture of mercy within our souls (Mat 18:21-35).
      • There was a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. There was one slave who owed 600,000,000 denarii.  A denarii is one day’s wage, so this slave was so deep in debt to the king that there was no way to pay it off.  The king forgave the debt!
      • The slave left the king’s place and saw a fellow slave who owed him 100 denarii.  What do you think the forgiven slave did?  Forgive the debt which was 100 days of wages?  No, the forgiven slave choked the guy and tossed him into debtor’s prison so that the 100 denarii would get paid back.
      • The king heard about this and called the forgiven slave back for further discussion.  The king of the parable asked whether the slave should have had ελεος on the fellow slave as the king showed ελεος on him (Mat 18:33)?  That’s an appropriate question, isn’t it?  Put yourself in the place of the forgiven slave for a moment.  If you were forgiven of a debt that would take you 600,000,000 days to pay off, wouldn’t you think you could be more forgiving of others who owed you money?  Remember, you were facing getting thrown into debtors prison. Additionally, everything you own and everyone you love would get sold off to cover the debt.  That would have completely ruined your life!
      • Jesus warned everyone His Father in Heaven will do the same if we do not show ελεος and forgive (Mat 18:35).  No one in the woke culture mob should expect to be forgiven of their debts if they do not repent from their evil.  Let’s not make that mistake with our lives.  Instead begin or continue to build a culture of mercy in our soul and with those around us.
  • Conclusion: It’s a good question to ask of yourself: what culture of ελεος or οἰκτιρμός have you facilitated?
    • Jesus reminded us of the Father’s οἰκτιρμός in Luke 6:36 which I want to repeat yet again - [You] Become compassionately merciful, even as your Father is compassionately merciful. (CSRV)
    • On the night Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot into the hands of a mob, Jesus told His disciples He chose them and not the other way around (John 15:16).  There are people of some religions who teach that people choose Christ, but that doesn’t follow with what Jesus said.  He then reminded His disciples to love one another (v17).
      • I wanted to make this cogent point about Jesus choosing us so that it is clear we did *not* choose Him.  However, we *do* make choices in life on whether to follow Him or our sinful flesh.  We make choices consistent with Jesus’ word through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us ever since our Baptism.
      • Getting back to Joseph, let’s be honest for a moment.  Joseph started to mess with his brothers just to make them sweat.  When they first appeared before him to buy grain, he didn’t have to put them through the anguish of falsely accusing them of being spies (Gen42:9).  He didn’t have to imprison Simeon, one of his older brothers, as a guarantee that when the rest of the brothers return, they will have Benjamin with them (Gen 42:19-20,24).  Joseph should have known better, since he was once falsely accused of attempted rape and got tossed into prison because of the accusation.
        • I suspect God reminded Joseph to show mercy to his brothers as God was merciful to Joseph (Gen 39:4,21). God was merciful to Joseph all throughout the false accusation and subsequent imprisonment.  Joseph gained the favor of those who were over him in all these circumstances.  It was now time in Gen ch#45 for Joseph to become merciful as God our Father was merciful to him.
    • I hope this little discussion about ελεος and οἰκτιρμός was helpful to point out God’s personal mercy for you & me.  Additionally, I hope you see the benefit of developing a culture of mercy through forgiveness in the examples mentioned these past few moments. And when we show compassion and mercy toward others, let’s do them out of love and not because we have to. There’s a totally different approach to doing anything depending upon whether we want to versus whether we have to.
      • You really don’t have to do anything.  We all can sit on our enlarged gluteus maxima and be self-centered.  But would that show appreciation of our Lord for being forgiven of a debt we couldn’t possibly even hope to pay off?  It is my sincere hope for all of us that we be empowered in love to show mercy as God the Father has shown mercy to each and every one of us. Amen.

 


[1] Brug, John F., People’s Bible Commentary - Psalms II, Concordia Publishing House, St Louis, MO, 1992, p.118

[2] Ps 103:8 from NASB20 (English) and LXX Greek from https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/psa/103/1/t_conc_581008

[3] Ps 103:11, ibid

[4] Ps 103:4, ibid

[5] Ps 103:8, ibid

Is There Life After Death? (1Co 15:12)

  • Introduction: The Apostle Paul posed a great question in verse 12 of the Epistle for today: 12But if Christ is preached, that from out of the corpse He was raised, how are some of you saying that there is no resurrection [from the] corpse? (CSRV)
    • This is a great question to resolve not only in our own soul, but also to ask those around us: is there life after death?  Is there a God and a Satan?  Is there a heaven and hell?  Is it true there is only one of those two places where we land after we die?
    • These sorts of questions open up a lot of conversation for those truly concerned on where they will spend eternity.  The questions also can cause a thinking person who does not know Christ to think twice on whether there is life after death.  These questions may force an unbeliever to question their own lack of faith.  This is a good thing.
    • We will spend time today looking into the implications on how we live our life depending on whether we believe there is life after death.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus, the Apostle Paul posed a great question in the Epistle for today: how do some say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  Lord, You came to us because there was no hope for anyone being redeemed from our sins and sinfulness without Your divine intervention.  Send the Holy Spirit so that we grow in the true faith, and are convinced that there is not only is life after death, but also eternal life with You in heaven for all who believe.  We pray this petition in Your holy name, You who reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • Background: The Apostle Paul wrote the first of two letters to the church in Corinth in late 55 or early 56AD.  If Jesus ascended into heaven somewhere around 28-30AD, it can be understood there was a lot of evangelical effort taking place for a quarter century since Jesus’ Great Commission.  In chapter 15 of 1st Corinthians, Paul started with a brief history of the message of the Gospel of Christ.  Then, in verse 12, he expressed frustration with encountering a lack of belief in a resurrection from a corpse (1Co 15:12). Admittedly, we don’t have any evidence of anyone around us ever coming back from being a corpse.  The 1st century Christians were no different than us on this point.
    • However, I think there was more to Paul’s frustration with the lack of belief in the resurrection from the dead.  The early Christian church found its roots in the Jewish synagogues. At the time of the Apostle Paul, there were still different factions of Jews that were around when Jesus was performing His earthly ministry.  There were the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  The Pharisees believed in a life after becoming a corpse, but the Sadducees did not.  We know this to be the situation, because of what the Apostle Matthew wrote in Mat 22:23 - On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him…[1] This is the portion in scripture where different religious leaders questioned Jesus just to trip him up and have a “gotcha” moment with regard to God’s word.  The Sadducess came up with the scenario of seven (7) husbands for one bride, and then asked whose wife would the woman be in the resurrection.  Yeah, these same people who didn’t believe in the resurrection asked about a scenario in the resurrection. ☹ Jesus was amazing in His response, because it appears He wanted to teach them the truth and not just blow them off.  Marriage is in this Age only, for all of us of the Church on earth will be wed to the Groom, who is Jesus.  Fast forward back to when Paul wrote 1st Corinthians, and it is easy to see the Sadducees were probably the source of this thinking that there is no resurrection from the corpse (Mat 22:23-29).
    • The party of the Sadducees disappeared when Rome overran Israel and destroyed Jerusalem in 70AD.  Unfortunately, there are people in the modern era who don’t believe Christ’s word nor His accomplishment over sin, death, and the devil.  There are probably countless websites which deny there is life after death, but one in particular stood out during my research for this message on today.  For instance, the site “afterlifetopics.com”, quoted a “science advocate” named Neil DeGrasse Tyson, “We didn’t exist before we were born. When we die, we return to that state. Why is that such a weird thing to believe?”[2]  This site went on to assert, “Darwinism tells us life is, basically, meaningless. We evolved based on the most efficient path to kill other species. Consciousness is a byproduct of mammals becoming smarter to be able to avoid other predators. It doesn’t mean “you” or “I” really exist. We’re just the result of random circumstances in a random universe based around a premise of kill-or-be-killed. It’s just lions and prey in the savannah. Winner takes all. So, it’s up to us to make the most of our lives and extract meaning from where there is none. The closest thing to “spirituality” is base animalistic urges.”  This was posted by the author on July 27,2018.
  • Expectations: With this happy thought, let’s contrast expectations about life from a perspective of there is *no* life once we die, with expectations about life would be if we believed there is a resurrection to a new life after death.
    • There are some pretty bad philosophies that would come from a perspective of there is *no* life after death.
      • One philosophy that comes to mind is mentioned later in 1Co 15. The Apostle Paul quoted from a portion of Isa 22:13 - If the dead are not raised, LET’S EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE[3] (Isa 22:13 as quoted in 1Co 15:32).  There was a beer commercial when I was growing up that had this saying – “You only go around once in life, so you have to grab for all the gusto you can get!”[4]  Let’s see how that worked for Schiltz beer.  Has anyone had a drink of Schiltz beer recently?  I found a website for Schiltz indicating the company still exists[5].  How you would grab all that gusto in southern Arizona is still a mystery though…
      • Paul mentioned twice in 1Co 15(vv13,16) the implication of there not being a resurrection from the corpse. If there is no resurrection, then even Jesus did not rise from the dead.
      • If Jesus had not raised from the dead, Paul stated in v14 our preaching and faith is in vain.  That would mean not only Paul’s preaching and faith, but everyone after him, including you & me.  Many of you know I work full-time for the Pima County Information Technology Department. I’m embedded with the Sheriff’s Department, in charge of the effort to get and keep technology working for about 1300 employees of the Pima County Sheriff Department.  In addition, I served Christus Rex as a called servant of the Lord.  That includes conducting services such as the one we are attending on today and also bible classes.  I’m here to be and act as Christ’s representative in your life.  What the heck am I doing all this for, if there is no life after death?  I spend 10-15hrs/wk on church-related business.  I could be doing something else with that time *if* there is no resurrection from the dead.
      • Additionally, if there is no resurrection, our faith is worthless (v17).  What good would it do to have faith in someone who died, never to be heard from again? We could say it was a nice story from 2000yrs ago, but what does that do for anyone now and in the future?
      • Continuing with the logic path of Paul in 1Co 15:18, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  In other words, when you die, you’re dead – that’s it.
      • And, those who believe in such an extraordinary story, of a God who loved the world so much that He send His only & beloved son to die in place of those who believe in Him, so that they won’t perish eternally are to be pitied (v19) for believing such fantasy.  It would have to be pure fantasy to believe this if there were no ability to rise from the dead. 
    • However, Jesus *did* rise from the dead.  Paul wrote in v20 - But the fact is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep[6].
      • The skeptic would say, prove that Jesus rose from the dead. Well, how else did the Apostle Paul meet Jesus on the road to Damascus (Act 9:3-19)?  We know from Act 9:5, Paul asked – “…Who are you, Lord?  And [Jesus] said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting…”
      • Additionally, there was an interesting point made by Jesus in the encounter with the Sadducees I mentioned earlier.  Jesus testified to them what He originally told Moses in Ex 3:6a - …“I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”[7]  Jesus then interpreted the implications of being the God of these three patriarchs. From Mat 22:32b we read - He is not the God of the dead, but of the living[8].  Yes, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were living at the moment Jesus said that to the Sadducees in a teachable moment.  There is no reason to believe that these patriarchs are any less alive now than then.
      • I have provided so far four examples from the Bible of people who are living though their flesh had died.  But if the Bible isn’t good enough for providing the truth about life, how about some secular evidence?  There are at least two secular writers of Roman history who have written about Jesus and the Christian religion which came after His ascension into heaven.  They wrote about Rome emperors Claudius and Nero wanting the faithful of Christ to be “canceled”[9] Per a Roman biographer Suetonius, Emperor Claudius expelled Jews from Rome because of constant disturbances about someone named “Chrestus”.  Chrestus sounds a lot like the Greek for Christ, Christos.  In fact, this confusion of spelling is in other writings of the 1st century. If Jesus had not lived, died, and rose from the dead as He said He would, why would there be a fuss almost 20yrs later?  Paul met up with a couple named Aquila and Priscilla when in Corinth.  The couple had moved there from Rome because, as written in Act 18:2,  Claudius commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.
      • Not only did Jesus rise, death has no power over Jesus if He has the power to throw death and the grave into hell as noted in Rev 20:14.  Paul was emphatic in Rom 6:9 about Jesus’ power over death.  We read - … knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him[10].  Death and the grave were no match in attempting to keep Jesus from rising to life once again.  Through Baptism, we died this same death with Christ, and so we can have the expectation that we will be raised with Him to a new life with Him, because of His faithful carrying out of the plan of salvation for all who believe in Him.
  • Conclusion: I’ve tossed around somephilosophies of life for those who do and do not believe in the resurrection from the dead.  Which do you believe?  And answering that, what philosophies of life do you hold on to?
    • If you are in the camp of no hope of a resurrection, then I guess you will want to get what you can out of life!  Maybe you’ll hunt down from where to get Schlitz beer so you can have nearby all the gusto you can grab.  Keep in mind though, everything of this Age is coming to an end.  The beer will run out.  Your prized car will wear out.  The best place in the world to live will be ruined, if not now, certainly at the end of the Age.
      • It makes one wonder, should people with hope in Christ be pitied, as Paul suggested in 1Co 15:19, or those who have no hope of life after death be pitied? Believers who have their hope in Christ’s saving grace have something to which to look forward.  They know that whatever this sinful, evil Age dishes out is only a blip on the radar screen of eternal life.  The expression of comfort has been said by many, “this too shall pass.” What can be said for those apart from the hope of a resurrection?
      • On the night Jesus was betrayed by one of His own disciples, He said to all of them except the betrayer - “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”[11]  We in Christ should speak peace to those with no hope similarly as Jesus did with His disciples.  They were about to see the shepherd struck and they would scatter in fear.  However, when the Holy Spirit came to them at Pentecost, they were able to remember Jesus’ words of comfort.  It is comfort to know and trust that Jesus is so powerful, He will toss death and the grave into hell.  With that kind of authority, what could possibly hurt us now and throughout eternity?
    • If your hope is in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting:
      • Store treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust causes decay, nor where thieves can steal.  Jesus said during the Sermon on the Mount - for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also[12].  As was just mentioned, anything and everything in this Age is coming to an end in one way or another.  However, the good a believer does on behalf of Christ and His kingdom is a treasure stored in heaven.  Jesus will remember *everything* good done in His name, even for the least of people in this Age.
      • Also, if your hope is in Christ, who did rise from the corpse, follow the Lord in His ways, and receive the hope of eternal life.  We finish with what Paul wrote to a young pastor named Titus - [Jesus] saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we did in righteousness, but in accordance with His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He richly poured out upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This statement is trustworthy…[13] Amen.

 


[1] Mat 22:23 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mat/22/1/t_conc_951023

[2]http://afterlifetopics.com/there-is-no-life-after-death/                                                                  

[3] 1Co 15:32 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/1co/15/1/s_1077001

[4] Schlitz beer commercial recalled at http://billanddavescocktailhour.com/gusto-and-schlitz/

[5] http://schlitzbrewing.com/ 

[6] 1Co 15:20 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/1co/15/1/s_1077001

[7] Ex 3:6a from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/exo/3/1/s_53001

[8] Mat 22:32b from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+22&version=NASB

[9] Analysis of secular writings of Emperors Claudius and Nero from https://bib.irr.org/tacitus-suetonius-and-historical-jesus

[10] Rom 6:9 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/rom/6/1/s_1052001

[11] John 16:33 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jhn/16/1/s_1013001

[12] Mat 6:21 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mat/6/1/s_935001

[13] Titus 3:5-8a from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=titus+3&version=NASB

A Strong Place (Ps 71:3)

  • Introduction: A moment ago, we read responsively Psalm 71:1-9.  While it was a Psalm written by King David, it really became popular to righteous captives who were taken into captivity in Babylon.  Church leaders sang this psalm, similarly to how we sing hymns based upon the scriptures at worship services held at Christus Rex.
    • What is interesting about Ps 71 is portions of this Psalm are written with verbs in the aorist middle imperative.  An aorist form of verb is one that has action taken in the past, but otherwise has no definition on whether the action was completed, is still happening, or will be completed.  When applied to Ps71, the verbs in this form imply a confession of God’s past grace, coupled with a request that His grace continue in the same way.
    • This writing form is useful in 2022 as God’s people become captives in their own society.  You may be thinking we live in the United States; how could we be considered living in captivity?  Many freedoms have been lost just within the past 5yrs.  And in 2022, there so far does not seem to be a change in the trend toward greater regulation of speak despite the First Amendment to the US Constitution being clear on speech of virtually any type is to remain unregulated. Of course, our main concern here is whether the Bible will be labeled as “hate speech” by the government – clearly against the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.  Listen up as we look into Ps71 to see if there’s something there that would still apply in 2022.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, as there were righteous captives taken in Babylon centuries ago, there are Your people still taken into captivity in 2022. Remind us by the Holy Spirit to always confess the grace You have shown us throughout our life whenever we request a portion of Your grace on a current situation.  We pray this petition to You, Heavenly Father, who reigns with the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • Background: Before we get into some details from our Psalmody of the day, there are some interesting facts regarding Psalm 71.  One fact is totally missed if your Bible does not have the little introductory words at the start of each Psalm.  I looked into my personal copy of the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible and none of the introductory notes appear at the beginning of any of the Psalms.
    • That’s too bad, because the reader will miss out on the context of the Psalm they are about to read.  You will notice in the sermon outline printed on the back of your bulletin some details about Ps71.  We learn this is a Psalm by David.  King David died around 970BC, but this Psalm was probably written much earlier than that. If one estimated Ps71 to have been written around 1000BC, that would be reasonably accurate.
      • An additional detail is that this Psalm was “sung by the sons of Jonadab, the first taken into captivity”.  I didn’t have time to research who Jonadab was nor his sons. 
      • However, the only captivity that would have occurred between 970BC and the time the New Testament was recognized completed around 100AD was the Babylonian captivity.  This captivity had to be one of the three times Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem. Those times were 605, 597, and 586BC. My best guess concerning the date of the introduction to Ps71 would be around 605BC, because that would have been the first wave of exiles headed from Jerusalem to somewhere in Babylonia – modern day Iraq.
    • That covers the importance of reading everything in the Bible, even the introductions to the Psalms, because the words are there for a reason.  There is nothing in the Bible that could be considered fluff.  With that said, this is the portion of the sermon when we get into some difficult to understand grammatical concepts.  Lutherans believe the scriptures are God-breathed[1].  If God is perfect, so is His word.  The key to interpreting God’s word is applying a principle called a grammatical-historical method.  In short, what that means is draw from the scriptures what the Holy Spirit meant with inspiration given to the writers of the 66 books of the Bible.  To accurately draw from the scriptures requires the reader to understand the cultural context in which the author wrote as well as original languages of the Book. 
      • I’m going to drill down into some of the grammar of Ps71, because there is a mix of aorist imperatives with present tense verbs.  Aorist what?!  There is a verb tense in Greek called the “Aorist”.  I have this word printed in the outline, because this verb tense does not appear in English grammar.  The word aorist comes from the Greek:αοριστος. An aorist verb merely indicates the action of a verb took place. There is nothing more about the aspect of the action.  The action happened, so we could say this is sort of a past tense verb.  But there is nothing known about whether the action was completed in the past, is now completed, or will be completed in the future.
      • Another aspect of a verb is the “voice” of the verb.  Lest you think Greek has talking verbs, let me provide some examples of the voice of a verb.  In English, we have active and passive verbs.  An active verb is one where the subject of a sentence is performing the action of the verb.  An example is, “I threw the ball.”  That same sentence in passive voice would sound something like, “the ball was thrown by me.”  In this second example, the ball had the action of the verb done to it.
        • In Greek there is yet a third voice called “middle”.  Middle voice is between active and passive as one would expect.  Middle voice does not appear in English.  When it occurs, it usually means the action of the verb is done by the subject of the sentence on behalf of the subject.
      • A third aspect of a verb is called the “Mood”.  Verbs can be indicative, subjunctive, and others.  The one we see a lot early in Ps71 is the imperative mood.  An imperative is something either crucial or commanded[2].  If I said, “turn off the light”, “turn off” is an example of an imperative verb. 
  • Interpretation: With these three verb concepts in mind, let’s take a deeper dive into the verbs of Ps 71:2-4.  As I go through these verses, I hope you begin to see the prayerful language of these verses that we will pray after this message during the Prayers of the Church, and why the verb aspects are so important to understanding what God meant for us to learn and believe in His words of Ps71.
    • Verse two (2) has several verbs.  I won’t go deeply into the Greek, but if you are interested in the Greek words, I again refer you to the bulletin outline.
      • The verbs rescue (ῥῦσαί) and pluck out (ἐξελοῦ) are aorist middle imperatives, 2nd person.  This means the rescue and the plucking out happened in the past sometime, they were done by the subject of the sentence for the benefit of the subject.  So far, so good.  What caused me hours of study in preparation for this sermon is that the verbs are imperatives.  How can we easily interpret to do something in the past?!  The best way I have found to interpret an imperative in the past is to consider the verb is a reminder that to the subject that they did something in the past with the implication that the subject of the sentence will continue to perform the action.
        • Applying this to Ps 71:2, it would sound like this - Lord, as You (2nd person) have rescued and plucked out in the past, please continue to do so in Your righteousness.  Remember, these verbs are middle voice, so God did the rescuing and plucking out of His people for His own benefit – not because we are such great people.  He rescues His people from dangers and plucks them out of situations that will lead to danger.  The Lord does this because of His own righteousness.
          • When I first came to the realization of what v2 meant, I was stunned, because the implication is God will always rescue and pluck His people out of trouble.  He will do this because He is faithful to His word.  His righteousness does not depend on how we think or feel.
      • Let that start to sink in as we examine two additional verbs of v2.  They are incline (κλῗνον) and save (σῶσόν).  Both are aorist active imperatives in the 2nd person.  Remember, active voice is different than middle voice of the previous two verbs.  We’re not looking at who benefits from the action of the verb, but if these verbs are imperatives, the one asking the subject to incline toward and save would be the beneficiary.  The last half of v2 should sound something like this in English:
        • Lord, as in the past, please continue to incline to me Your ear, and save me.  The person singing and praying these words is asking the Lord to continue to do as He has done throughout the life of the person.
    • Moving on to verse three (3) verbs, we encounter the toughest verb to interpret but nonetheless the main point of this message for today.
      • The verb is become (γενοῦ) or, “it came to pass”.  In v3, this verb is an aorist middle imperative, 2nd person.  This means the subject became something in the past, being commanded to do so, but for its own benefit.  Got that?
        • My best shot at interpreting the word “become” in the past tense, middle voice, imperative, is this - as You became and continue to be to me my God shield,…  Notice what an eternal God became to King David.  God has no beginning and will have no end.  However, King David came to realize God was his personal shield.  Knowing the constant danger David was in by his predecessor, King Saul, it is quite a confession on the part of King David to see how God became his personal shield.  The good news for us on today is we have the same God working as our personal shield just as God was David’s personal shield!
      • I remember in grade school getting graded English papers back with comments about mixing tenses in a sentence.  Apparently, none of my teachers were around back when David wrote Ps71.  He mixed tenses, voices, and moods all in the same sentence.  This next verb of v3 is save (σῶσαί), and it is in the aorist active infinitive form.
      • And lastly in v3, the verb “You are” (εἶ) is a present active indicative, 2nd person.  If you are keeping score, my English teachers of the past would have written David up for having past tense, infinitive, and present tense verbs all included into the same sentence.  ☹
        • The entire portion of Ps 71:3 would sound like this - You became and continue to be to me my God shield, and to save me into a strong place, because You are my firmament and my refuge.  King David acknowledged God as his personal shield. He then defined that to mean to save him in a stronghold, because God was David’s substance and refuge.  God is in us the same way, and I suspect if we went around the room right now, everyone here would have at least one story to confess about how God plucked them out of some great danger and place them in a stronghold away from that danger.  I bet I’m not the only person here today who has seen firsthand, God acting like a personal shield, and also providing refuge.  Like the aorist verb tense, this action by God happened in the past, but is also indefinite.  Our Lord will continue to act in this way throughout eternity.
    • Very quickly verse four (4) verbs are:
      • Rescue (ῥῦσαί) which appeared also in v2 in the same form.
      • The remaining verbs of v4, include, alongside the law (παρανομοῦντος), and unrighteous (ἀδικοῦντος). Both are present active participles.  We don’t have time to talk much about participles, but in the Greek these are verbs which take the form of a noun – just to confuse your understanding of grammar a bit further.
      • Verse 4 therefore sounds like this - O my God, rescue me now, as in the past from the hand of a sinner; from out of a hand of a transgressor and unjust.  Sounds kind of wooden in the translation, but the meaning is beautiful.  The exiles tossed out of Jerusalem and Judah by the Babylonians would have prayed this to God to be rescued from their captors just like God had rescued the Israelites from previous aggressors.  Additionally, while in captivity, the exiles prayed that God would keep them out of the hands of sinners, those who could care less about God’s Law, and the unjust.  If we are honest when we look into our own human nature, we will see deep down evil. This evil has corrupted the good we would be had our first parents not rebelled against God, then handed down that sinful, rebellious spirit to everyone who has ever been conceived. This evil is everywhere, but held in check by the Law.  However, lawless people could give a rip.  We need God’s protection from such people, because they will stop for nothing in order to get what they want.
  • Conclusion: So what does this all mean for us in 2022?  We aren’t captives to any foreign power right now, are we?
    • We aren’t all on trial like Päivi Räsänen of Finland who we’ve mentioned a couple times in past sermons.  She endured 9hrs of a trial last Monday (1/24)[3].  To quote from an on-line article posted by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod – “Somewhat surprisingly, the questioning during the trial turned to the content and interpretation of the Holy Bible. Observers have noted, as [Bishop] Pohjola also said, that the contents of the Bible were labeled “hate speech.” Twitter posts containing citations from Scripture were also labeled as “hateful.” Therefore, the Finnish prosecutor general is calling for the deletion of the posts and the removal of access to a 2019 interview during which Räsänen also discussed homosexuality as contrary to God’s will and design for humanity.”
      • Imagine that: I’ve been quoting from the Bible these past few minutes, and all that time I’ve been speaking hate speech; no matter what form the verbs were in.  If Finland is any indication on how things are going throughout the “free world”, the free world is engaged in captivating or preventing believers from speaking the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
    • One take-away from Ps71 is that we should confess God’s greatness in all things at all times, while also asking for continued grace (aorist active and middle imperatives).  The Greek version of the OT benefited from having verb forms that made it easy to both confess God’s great care realized in the past, and request He continue devoting His grace, mercy, and peace.  In English, we need to be more deliberate.
      • If you reserve confessing God’s love only when things are going well, keep in mind the demon Jesus drove out as recorded in the Gospel for today. From Luke 4:34 we read - “Leave us alone! What business do You have with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God![4]”  If a demon can confess who Jesus was and is, why can’t we?  He has the power over sin, death, and the boss of the demons, the devil. Even death could not hold onto Jesus. If you confess Him to be your personal shield while asking for continued protection, I’m sure He has the power to continue to be your shield and salvation.
    • The demon of Luke ch#4 was in turmoil, because it was facing the Almighty God.  We can’t see the spiritual world that exists around us.  It’s a lot harder to believe in Jesus, because we cannot see Him present in our life.  When doubt creeps into your soul, remember what the father of the demon-oppressed child asked of Jesus in Mark 9:24 - …the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief![5]” The Lord, with His ear inclined toward you, will be there to save you! Amen.

[1] 2Ti 3:16

[2]https://www.bing.com/search?q=definition+of+imperative&cvid=614f2e98dde94777a0ee9bb7f09c7985&aqs=edge.0.0l9.6035j0j1&pglt=2083&FORM=ANNTA1&PC=LCTS

[3] Facts mentioned about the trial taken from https://reporter.lcms.org/2022/biblical-truth-on-trial-in-finland/

[4] Luke 4:34 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/luk/4/1/s_977001; emphasis the author’s

[5] Mark 9:24 from https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mar/9/1/s_966001

All for One (1Co 12:26)

  • Introduction: We were reminded earlier in this service from the Epistle reading that members of the whole Christian Church on earth are one in Christ. Each member of the body of Christ has unique gifts and talents which makes the body of believers highly functional in the work of the kingdom of our Lord. 
    • We became adopted sons of God the Father through baptism.  Baptism was our ticket into the body of believers.  Another name for the body of believers is the one Holy Christian and apostolic Church.  This is the term we use each time we confess our faith in the words of one of the three ecumenical Creeds.
      • The interesting thing about the Christian Church on earth is when one of us suffers, we all suffer.  And when one of us is glorified, we all rejoice.  This is right out of the text for today directly translated from the original Greek of 1Co 12:26 - 26And if one member [of the body] suffers, all the members suffer together.  If one member is glorified, all the members joy together.
    • As a practical matter, we therefore as a member of the body of Christ must have care for other members of the body.  Additionally, the Apostle Paul gave a couple examples on what would happen if one of members of the body tried to exclude another member.  There is an appropriate situation when someone should be excommunicated from the church, but otherwise, everyone should remain a part of the body of Christ.
  • Let Us Pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, members of the whole Christian Church on earth are one in Your Son Christ just as You are one with Him and the Holy Spirit.  As Your adopted sons through baptism (1Co 12:13), when one of us suffers, we all suffer (1Co 12:26).  And when one of us is glorified, we all rejoice.  Please send the Holy Spirit so that we have care and concern for other members of the body (1Co 12:25), caring for them as we care for ourself.  We pray this petition to You, Heavenly Father, who reigns with the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore.  Amen.
  • Background: It’s a good idea when discussing the Christian Church on earth to define what is meant by that term. Some religions give the impression they are the only true church on earth.  If you’re not a member of their church, you are damned to hell eternally.  You’ve probably heard someone tell you something like that.  However, this is not what Christus Rex, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, nor even classic Lutheran teachings subscribes to.
    • Matin Luther wrote the Small Catechism in 1529.  The Small Catechism has Six Chief Parts of Christian doctrine based upon the scriptures.  One of the Six Chief Parts is the Apostles Creed.  This Creed has been integral to the confession of the Christian faith since the end of the 1st century.  In the Catechism, Luther provided scriptural references for each phrase spoken in the Creed.  Additionally, he provided a definition of what the “…one Holy Christian and apostolic Church…” meant and who are its members. 
    • The way Luther’s Small Catechism is organized is in a series of questions. I don’t want to go too deeply into the questions, but there are two in the Catechism which stand out that help us expediently define the Christian Church on earth.  Our first is Question 202: What is the Church?  It is the Body of Christ—that is, all people whom the Spirit, by the Means of Grace, has gathered to Christ in faith throughout the world[1].  Notice there is nothing partisan or sectarian about this definition.  The Church is simply all believers in Christ.
      • Additionally, salvation came from the Jews, but is not exclusive to the Jews.  Jesus said to a Jewish audience - “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will listen to My voice; and they will become one flock, with one shepherd[2].”  Luther identified John 10:16 as a source for the idea of the Christian Church on earth being one flock who follows the {Good} Shepherd.
      • Luther also pointed to a portion of our Epistle reading for today in 1Co 12:27 - Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it[3].  Each person here on today is part of Christ’s body.  We each are individual members of the true Christian Church on earth.
    • The second question from Luther’s Small Catechism is Question 203: How is the Church different from all other communities?  When I think of the word “communities”, I think Luther meant a group much like the Kiwanis Club or other social club which has members gathered to accomplish specified purposes.
      • Social clubs and even churches can reflect the attitude and motivations of their leader.  Luther cited Col 1:18 as to who is the head of the Christian Church on earth – [Jesus] is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything[4].  The true Church reflects the attitude and motivations of Jesus.  We have His word in the Bible where He reveals things about Himself, and the difference between holy and profane thoughts, words, and actions. As church denominations abandon the inerrant word of the Bible, they become more like any other social club.  They reflect the attitudes and motivations of their earthly leaders.  In a way, this is good, because it is becoming easier to tell whether a church denomination is part of the holy Christian and apostolic Church.  However, it is not good that church denominations are becoming apostate.  God’s word becomes harder to find in preaching, teaching, and in practice.
      • The concept of Jesus being the head of the Church is reinforced in the marital relationship between husband & wife mentioned at the end of Ephesians ch#5 - For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body[5].  Luther cited Eph 5:23 as an additional reference of Jesus being the head of the Church, which makes the holy Christian and apostolic Church unique amongst all organizations and communities.
  • Analysis: God in His wisdom created mankind to have a wide range of unique attributes for each person to have.  In 1Co ch#12, the Apostle Paul made this point by using the analogy of a human body being one body, but many different organs and bones each of which performing a unique function.  If everyone in the church all were motivated and capable of only one thing, the church would not go far in advancing the kingdom of our Lord.  Paul then went on to point out the interdependence amongst members of the human body.  The body of Christ works in the same way.  If the Church were only able to see a problem because it is nothing but an eye, what good would that serve?  The eye provides the ability to see things to which the brain reacts.  The reaction may be to lift up an arm to hold someone close who is having a tough time in life.  An eye by itself can’t do that.
    • Paul then makes the point in v26 that if one member of the Christian Church suffers; all suffer (1Co 12:26a).  In the printed outline on the back of your bulletin, you will see two Greek words Paul used in v26 that instruct us on how everyone of the true Church experiences from the suffering or glory of a fellow member.
      • The first of two words in the Greek is συμπάσχω (seem-pas'-khō). This means to experience pain jointly or of the same kind, and suffer with.  It is from where we get the English word “sympathy”.  Συμπάσχω is a compound word from “συμ” meaning together, and “πάσχω” which is to suffer.
      • Paul wrote by inspiration that if one person of the Christian Church on earth suffers, all of us suffer.  Let me give a personal example on how an entire human body can be affected by pain or defect in one area of the body.  I have a problem with one of the toe joints in my left foot.  While I do not think I correct the way I walk in order to avoid aggravating pain in that joint, I must subconsciously be doing some sort of alteration of my gait.  I know this because of the pain I experience in both my left ankle and hip.
        • That pain in my toe, ankle, and hip distracts my mind and ability to concentrate effectively.  If you are keeping score on the other body members affected by one little toe, that’s at least three other places affected.
      • In a similar way, when a sister in Christ, such as Päivi Räsänen (Pa’-ee-vee Rah’-sah-nen) of Finland, is under attack, we all suffer alongside her. To recall, Päivi is a member of the Finnish Parliament, a medical doctor, a mother of five, and a deeply commit follower of our Lord Jesus Christ.  She was mentioned in our message of November 14th last year[6].  She is being persecuted in Finland for, as she wrote to me in an email reply - a “…chain of events started when I published in June 2019 the tweet, where I criticized the leadership of my church for the support to the pride-event and attached there a photo from the Bible (Romans 1: 24-27).”  Päivi must appear before a Prosecutor General on tomorrow (1/24) for as she pointed out in that same email reply to me – “All in all, there are three charges against me, not just two. I am suspected of ethnic agitation against a group because of the tweet, the pamphlet published years ago and because of statements I made on a humorous tv talk show on December 2019. The three charges brought against me have to do with whether it is allowed in Finland to express your conviction that is based on the traditional teaching of the Bible and Christian churches.”  We suffer alongside Päivi because of the mental stress caused by Satan and his henchmen attacking our sister in Christ.  And Päivi is just one example of perhaps millions of our brothers and sisters in Christ facing persecution throughout the world.  What makes Päivi’s situation unusual is that Finland is supposed to be a free society.
    • Getting back to now the second half of 1Co 12:26, in contrast to suffering, if one member is glorified; all in the Church rejoice (1Co 12:26b).
      • Here is where we have another key word in the Greek: συγχαίρω (seeng-khay’-rō).  This means to sympathize in gladness and not suffering, congratulate, rejoice in or with.
      • This time of year is the NFL playoffs and so the best example I can provide of συγχαίρω is your favorite team wins it all!  You’ve been a fan through thick and thin, and now your team wins the Lombardi trophy!  I’m still amused by newspaper headlines of the past such as “we did it!”, when the readers of the paper had nothing to do with success on the field.  Nonetheless, a town and entire state bask in the glory of a hard-fought victory by the local team.
        • Applying this concept of συγχαίρω in the Church, we should joy together (rejoice) when a brother in Christ, Jack Phillips of Lakewood Colorado, won in the Supreme Court a lawsuit in 2018[7].  Jack is the cake baker who would not create a cake for a homosexual wedding in 2012 due to what the Lord has said concerning homosexuality.  The case went all the way to the high court, where Jack finally received justice.  Because we are one body in Christ, we can rejoice with Jack over his victory.
          • Unfortunately, there is a footnote to this story about Jack.  A transgender person in 2017 wanted Jack to bake a birthday cake in a color scheme that would symbolize the transition of this person from male to female.  The complainant all but admitted they did this just to mess with Jack.  Jack lost a State case last summer[8].
  • Conclusion: By now, the points were made believers in Christ are members of the holy Christian and apostolic Church on earth, and that the members all experience what one member experiences.  We became members of the Church at our baptism, as Paul wrote in the beginning of our Epistle for today - For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit[9]
    • Because of our corrupted sinful nature, there is a tendency to want to push some members out of the Church.  Members of the body should not feel there is “no need” for certain other members.  Paul addressed this later in our text - And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again, the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.[10]” 
      • Today is Life Sunday 2022 as designated by Lutherans for Life[11].  What this means is there is a desire to continue reinforcing the message of sanctity for human life in the pulpits across the LC-MS.  Reinforcement of the sanctity of life has been important ever since the US Supreme Court ruled in 1973 an unborn child has no say in whether it should be allowed to live.  It is only a mother’s right to choose.  In the context of the entire body of believers suffers when one suffers, I hope it is clear members of Christ’s body should not be a part of elective abortion. It is not up to us members of the church to say we have no need of another member.  We all have been suffering what the Lord refers to as the innocent shedding of blood.  In Psalm 106, the Lord handed over the Israelites, His chosen people, to other nations because of the innocent shedding of the blood of their sons and daughters who were sacrificed to idols (PS 106:37-43).  The Lord will not tolerate this forever.  World history is against any nation that continues in these sorts of practices.
      • The only legitimate reason for exclusion of someone from the body is when there is an unrepentant sinner.  The Apostle Paul wrote - REMOVE THE EVIL PERSON FROM AMONG YOURSELVES[12].  This is the reasoning behind closed communion, and ultimately excommunication from a church if a person confronted with their sin does not repent.
    • We should have the same care for other members as we have for our own body.  I close with something Richard Lenski, an early 20th century theologian quoted from Martin Luther’s commentary on 1Co 12:26 which serves as a summary of today’s message:
      • “See what the whole body does when a foot is trodden on, or a finger is pinched: how the eye looks dour, the nose draws up, the mouth cries out, and all the members are ready to rescue and to help, and none can leave the other, so that it means, not the foot or a finger is trodden on and is pinched, but the entire body.  Again, when good is done to one member, that suites all the others, and the entire body rejoices therein.  This is how it ought to be also in Christendom since it, too, is composed of many members in one body and has one mind and heart, for such unity naturally has the effect that one is concerned in the good and the hurt of the other as in his own.[13]

[1] Luther, Martin. Luther's Small Catechism with Explanation - 2017 Edition . Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

[2] John 10:16 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jhn/10/1/s_1007001

[3] 1Co 12:27 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/1co/12/1/s_1074001

[4] Col 1:18 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/col/1/1/s_1108001

[5] Eph 5:23 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/eph/5/1/s_1102001

[6]Sermon title: “Persevere and be Saved” based upon Mark 13:13 appearing at https://www.christusrexlutheran.org/posts/2021-sundays-after-pentecost/persevere-and-be-saved-mark-13-13

[7] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44361162

[8] https://www.cnn.com/2021/06/18/us/jack-phillips-colorado-baker-discrimination-trnd/index.html

[9] 1Co 12:13 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/1co/12/1/s_1074001

[10] 1Co 12:21, ibid

[11] https://lutheransforlife.org/store-life-sunday-2022/

[12] 1Co 5:13b from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/1co/5/1/s_1067001

[13] Lenski, Richard C H, Interpretation of I and II Corinthians, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, MN, 1963, p.533

Posts