2022:Sundays in Pentecost

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Christ the King (Luke 23:38)

  • Introduction: The Epistle and Gospel readings for today have totally opposing views of Jesus as a king.  In Col ch#1, we heard about Jesus being the image of the invisible God.  However, in Luke Ch#23, Jesus got hung on a cross with fellow humans.  Kings don’t normally get hung from a cross, but both readings indicate Jesus as king. 
    • But, do not make the mistake that Jesus is somehow a mix of both natures.  This misunderstanding of how the two natures of Jesus being mixed instead of forever being unique dates back centuries.  Probably the best way to understand how the two natures exist within Jesus was expressed in the late 16th century by Lutheran theologians in the Formula of Concord.  Jesus is God in union and communion with human flesh.
    • It can’t be any other way, because it took the power of God for a human to accomplish the work of salvation.  There had to be one person of our flesh & blood to lead a perfect life and fulfill the covenant given by God through Moses to keep the Ten Commandments and in turn God would be the God of His people.  If the divine and human natures of God and man were mixed together, there would no longer be one human to lead a perfect life.  The power of God to never sin would be absent due to the mixing of the impurity of man in with the divine.  In other words, the mixing of the natures would not have combined to provide us a free pass into heaven.
    • We will spend time on this Christ the King Sunday looking into the mystery on how Jesus can be both God and man, with each nature retaining its own properties.
  • Let us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, we admit to our frailty with understanding how it is Your one and only Son, Jesus the Christ, could possibly be a majesty co-equal with You and the Holy Spirit, and yet also be a fellow human being in our flesh.  We are grateful You have sent the Holy Spirit to work faith in Your people to be able to grasp onto this mystery.  Now please send the Holy Spirit so that we can gain a greater appreciation of the benefits of Your Son Jesus’ divine and human natures.  We commit these petitions to You Father, who with Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, are one God, now and forevermore. Amen.
  • Christology: Like last week, there is a table on the back of your bulletin to help easily convey some deep concepts which are steeped in the scriptures.  The table is a summary of doctrinal statements of the Christian faith in the Lutheran tradition.  The table does not have the scriptural attributions provided after each statement.  Those were omitted only because of need to be able to print everything onto one page. For the details and concepts of the table, I suggest reviewing the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, Article VIII: The Person of Christ. 
    • In the left-hand column of the table is a list of demands of Biblical Law.  God who is holy will have nothing to do with sin.  Sin has profaned God’s perfect creation ever since our first parents disobeyed God’s simple command to not eat from one tree in the Garden.  God has commanded, “…make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean[1].”  The Law demands that we make a distinction with every thought, word, and action we take in life so that we lead a sinless life.
      • You might wonder, isn’t it fruitless to make this distinction if we already have one strike against us with the sin we inherited?  No!  Living life making a conscious effort at making this distinction is what living under the Gospel with a circumcised heart looks like.  How else can we show our love for the Lord, than be doing with all our heart, soul, and mind what is pleasing in His sight?
      • We are forgiven of our sins through Christ, who did not inherit original sin, nor did He sin.  He made us clean in baptism by washing away our sins through water and the word.  He could do that because He never sinned. He didn’t inherit original sin, because His human origin is from being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary.  He used His divine nature to be holy as His Father in heaven is holy.
    • Human nature is to be born and to die.  We all will die because of the curse of sin.  The wages of sin are still death – this never changed.  But the last half of Rom 6:23 from where we get the idea of wages of sin, refers to the gift of God to live with Christ Jesus eternally.
      • The Old Testament Law required the shedding of blood of certain animals as a sacrifice for sins committed by God’s people.  In our “civilized” ways of 2022, we wonder why some innocent animal would be trapped and killed so that its blood would be shed to take away sins.  Well, that blood was never innocent because of the taint of sin put onto everything since the fall of creation.  It was not until Jesus shed truly innocent blood – His own – that the Father finally could accept a sacrifice for all sins committed.
      • This is where the gift of God came about to pay the wages of sin so that, although the body we have now will die, our soul will never die. Jesus had the power to get down from the cross.  Nonetheless, He remained firmly affixed to the cross until He physically died.  It is referred to as the “ultimate sacrifice” to give one’s life for another.  It took an extraordinary amount of humility for Jesus to not come down from the cross and smack some people around who were taunting Him.  They deserved it, but as the scriptures say, ‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution.  In due time their foot will slip.  For the day of their disaster is near, and the impending things are hurrying to them.'[2]  Jesus left the vengeance against the taunters to His Father.
    • Since God will have no sin around Him, there’s only one place for sinners to wind up after certain death – hell.  Jesus took on the sins of everyone who ever lived, is living, and who is yet born when He went to the cross to shed innocent blood.  We confess in the Creeds that Jesus descended into hell. Why would a sinless person wind up there?  Because He took on your sins and mine in place of us.  If He hadn’t, we would have no way to ever get out of the eternal punishment that hell is.
      • Don’t stop with Jesus descended into hell.  There is more to the Creeds.  What comes next in this confession of faith?  On the third day, He rose from the dead.  Would Jesus in only His human nature been able to do that? No human has ever nor will ever leave hell once they get there.  They stay in their sins eternally.
      • No so with the divine nature of Jesus.  He walked out of hell, demonstrating His power over sin, death, and the devil.  He was able to throw off the yoke of sin He took upon Himself, so that those who trust in Him will also throw off the yoke of sin.  Where do sinless people wind up after certain death?  They wind up in heaven to be with Jesus eternally.  This is how we can confess in the Creeds Jesus ascended into heaven.  And since He ascended into heaven, followers of Jesus will also ascend into heaven, following the path blazed by our Lord Jesus.
  • Analysis: Can anyone here accomplish the Christology just mentioned?
    • The disciples James and John thought they could drink from the cup from which Jesus drank (Mat 20:20-23).  The cup Jesus referred to in Matthew ch#20 was the cup of God’s wrath as referred to in also Rev 14:10.  God the Father’s wrath is mixed with a full strength of His anger, taking His vengeance upon all sinners through eternal torment with fire and brimstone.  Since this is the fate of the devil and those with him, the devil tries to dish out that same anger onto God’s people.  Lucky us; we get to experience the cup of Satan’s anger directed at God and His people. ☹ 
      • The good news is this isn’t forever.  Something to think about: is it better to endure and persevere through what the evil of this Age dishes out so that we do *not* have to endure God’s wrath?  Remember, people who put their trust in Jesus are considered righteous, just as Abraham believed God and was considered righteous.  Believers in Christ have righteousness of God imputed into them (Rom 3:21-26).  God has to provide faith, because we don’t have the power to believe in Him nor come to Him.  We claim this righteousness by faith (Rom 4:1-8).  It doesn’t come any other way.  It must be imputed into us.
    • Jesus did not accomplish His victory over sin, death, and the devil through a mix or meld of the divine and human natures.  It’s next to impossible for our finite brains to understand how Jesus can be simultaneously both God and human.  We try to rationalize how this is possible.
      • The best explanation I’ve seen how this works is the divine and human natures exist in union with and communion with each other (SD VIII:22). In simple terms, each nature remains pure without mixing.  This concept is like the relationship between our soul and body.  Our soul will remain forever.  Once we were conceived, we will always exist.  Our body is a different story.  Only the soul of a believer will pass into heaven upon death until Judgement Day. It is after Judgement Day when a righteous believer in Christ will receive a glorified body and remain in heaven for eternity.  The nature of soul and body will never change.  A person’s soul is a spiritual existence inside of a physical body.  They are inseparable, so that life can take place in this Age.  The body doesn’t have attributes of the soul and vice versa.
        • I want to clear up some possible confusion with what the Solid Declaration attempted in explaining the mutual exclusivity of Jesus’ divine and human natures.  Jesus is the one human whose body and soul will never separate; not because the two are mixed, but because the purity of both His divine and human natures.  We find in Revelation ch#5, Jesus kept His body with all the scars of death (Rev 5:6). That is the only human body to pass into heaven.  No one here today will have the same body in heaven they have today (thank God!).  The corrupted body each of us has here cannot pass into heaven.  This fact is evidence that Jesus was truly sinless, because He kept His body! It was never tainted by sin.
        • We on the other hand will get a new body for our soul which will be free from the stain of sin.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians - 50 Now I say this, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I am telling you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed[3].
  • Conclusion: Getting back to the question posed at the beginning of this sermon, which reading best describes our Lord Jesus?
    • His divine nature was described in the Epistle reading of Col 1:13-20.  Jesus is the image of God (v15).  Jesus confessed, “I and the Father are one.[4]”  When we see Jesus, we see the Father.  In v16, the Apostle Paul stated Jesus created all things.  The Father stated in v19 through Paul that it was the Father’s good pleasure for all of His fullness to dwell in His Son, Jesus.  It would take the power of God for our sins to be wiped out. That is the only way we could be reconciled with the God the Father.  We would have to be made sinless through Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law.
    • Jesus’ human nature was described in the Gospel according to Luke 23:32-43. Jesus suffered the humiliation of being crucified, Roman style.  Jesus stayed nailed to the cross despite goading and jeering by church leaders, soldiers who beat Him and nailed Him to the cross, and even the criminals also sentenced to death by hanging on their cross (vv35-37,39).  But there was something in the Epistle that also tipped us off to Jesus’ humanity.  He was raised to be firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15).  We don’t think of an infinite being such as members of the Trinity to have been born.  Only humans are born.  And yet, Jesus, true God, was born into the flesh.  And, because of His work of redemption, He is the first of all born anew into eternal life with God.
    • Which reading best represents Christ as our King?  Both!  God came to us in flesh to fulfill the mission of salvation (Phi 2:5-8).  There was no other way for us to be saved except by means of God taking action to reconcile us to Himself.  That meant Jesus would have to show indescribable humility to not use the power available to Him while on the march to the cross. Jesus did this in perfect obedience to the Father’s will.  It was the Father’s will to elevate His Son to be King of kings (Phi 2:9-11).  Every knee will one day bow before Jesus.  Even the most hardened anti-Christian will be bowing down before they head off to hell.  The Jesus-deniers of this Age will confess like one of the soldiers at the foot of the cross, truly this was the Son of God (Mat 27:54)!
      • And don’t be distracted by teachings of some religions that have set up the expectation that Jesus will return someday to rule on earth.  Not going to happen!  We confess in the Creeds Jesus *is* ruling this very moment with many crowns and a Name above all names (Rev 19:12).  We confess this, because the scriptures declare this to be true. It is therefore fitting that the last Sunday of the church year is referred to as “Christ the King Sunday”.  Let’s act as if every day of the year is Christ the King day.  In reality, each day is.  Amen.

[1] Lev 10:10 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/lev/10/1/s_100001

[2] Deu 32:35 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/deu/32/35/s_185035

[3] 1Co 15:50-52 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+15&version=NASB

[4] John 10:30 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jhn/10/30/s_1007030

Persistent Prayer (Luke 18:1-8)

The following was preached on Sunday, 16 October, 2022 by Pastor Bruce Von Hindenburg:

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

“I want justice!”

That’s the widow’s cry. She keeps coming to the judge, demanding, “Give me justice against my adversary.”  It’s quite a match-up between these two.

As Jesus tells the parable, he begins by saying that the judge neither fears God nor respects men. 

This judge is a self-centered guy.  He’s not going to care.  He’s not going to be interested in one who is downtrodden – let alone be concerned about “rights.” 

What he’s concerned with – what he is all about – is – his own self-promotion and his own comfort. 

In other words, what’s in it for moi?

When it comes to the downtrodden, this widow would certainly fit the bill. 

In Jesus’ day – not so different from today – it was a male-oriented society. 

Women then had fewer rights than they do now – and widows – they were really nothing more than a drag on society. 

They produced nothing; they were largely unnoticed and pretty much ignored.

It was their family who was burdened with the responsibility to care for them – otherwise they were on their own.  And that appears to be the case here. 

When it comes to power in this showdown, the judge has it all – the widow has none.

But this woman does have a couple of things going for her.  One is the justice of her cause.  She’s the innocent party.  It just doesn’t happen often where the guilty go around pounding on the judge’s door demanding that he give their case a little extra scrutiny. 

When this woman goes to the judge, she knows she’s right and she knows that she deserves vindication. That explains her persistence. 

That’s why she keeps coming back.  I can’t prove it, but this may be where the phrase, “No justice – No peace!” actually began.

And that persistence is her other advantage.  She keeps coming.  She won’t stop.  She’s like the Energizer Bunny.  She won’t give this unrighteous judge a peaceful moment. 

“I’m innocent!  I’m wronged!  I want justice and I’m not going to go away until you do your job! You must declare me innocent and deliver me – free me – from my adversary.”

Make no mistake about it: she has no power, no ammunition, only persistence.  All she can do is keep bothering this man who doesn’t want to be bothered and has no intention of helping her. 

Now, the judge doesn’t care about this woman at all.  But, no matter how much he works at not caring, she’s slowly but surely starting to wear him down.  (“Mom, mom, or meow, meow)  That’s kind of the way I picture this woman. 

Finally the judge says, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”

Yeah, he’s had enough. He vindicates the widow, finding in her favor over her adversary. 

Her sheer persistence carries the day.  He justifies her and provides for her request because she doesn’t give up – because it’s the only way he can get her to leave him alone.

Jesus concludes this parable saying, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.”

In other words, here is the good news: God is the Judge, but He, in no way, compares to the unrighteous judge of this parable.  God is righteous and He loves justice.  He hates injustice and unrighteousness. 

God loves to be “bothered” with the prayers of His people.  He desires to help.  He desires to give justice.  He wants to vindicate His people. 

He is intent on protecting and delivering His people from all their enemies and adversaries.

So, if the widow can count of getting the help from the unrighteous judge who doesn’t care a twit about her and sees no reason or need to help her, how much more can you count on the help of a righteous God who loves you?

To see how much God does want to help you let’s talk about justice and persistence.

You may have noticed that we skipped over the wonderful verse that begins our text for this morning: “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.”

The whole point – the most important fact of this parable – is that you not lose heart…or, perhaps a better translation…do not grow weary.

Jesus didn’t tell this parable to beat you down – to tell you how awful you are at prayer.  

Now, it may be very true that you aren’t very good with your prayers or with your praying. 

It’s a difficult discipline to begin and to maintain a prayer life in this world where the devil and your own sinful flesh are constantly trying to distract you from Jesus and His Church, let alone prayer.

But, once again, Jesus didn’t speak to criticize or reprimand you.  He speaks so that you don’t lose heart or grow weary in your prayers. He speaks so that you might continue to call upon God and trust in His help no matter the affliction you are given to endure.

There is good reason to pray.  For one thing, there is the matter of justice.  Remember the widow’s cry: ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’  Before you skip past that sentence too fast – pause and think about what it truly says. 

In the Christian world, we know that apart from Christ that is really a fool’s prayer.  “Give me justice?”  Seriously? 

Do you really want to demand justice from THE JUDGE when you are guilty as sin? 

If God acts justly toward you apart from Christ, then His action will be to condemn you.

Do you remember the very beginning of our worship service this morning – after the Invocation, what did we do?  Confess! Together we said, “If we say we have no sin, the truth is not in us.  But, if we confess our sins…”

The Old Adam in you was saying, “Are you crazy?  If you want God’s help, hide your transgressions – don’t admit to anything.” 

Your sinful flesh is giving you a Miranda warning – anything you say will be held against you – so shut up!

Whatever you do, don’t confess your sin to THE JUDGE who condemns sinners to hell!

But now remember how that verse concludes: “…God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

THE JUDGE doesn’t condemn penitent sinners.  For the sake of His Son Jesus Christ, and for His names sake, He forgives them.  All of them.  He removes your sin and your guilt and your shame that deserve condemnation. 

So, when the Christian prays: “Give me justice, Lord!” the Lord responds, “I do.  Because you are holy in My sight for Jesus’ sake.  I forgive you.”

You don’t have to sit around and wait and wonder.  Is God going to forgive me someday?  No! It’s a done deal.  God, through His called servant, your pastor, has declared you forgiven and justified NOW! 

Prayer begins with the forgiveness Christ won for you on the cross.

That’s why a good conscience is necessary for prayer.  If you have a guilty conscience, your conscience is going to be afraid to appeal to God.

That’s why there is a necessity for confession and absolution.

Remember, God, THE ONE TRUE JUDGE, is not like the reluctant or unrighteous judge of this parable who doesn’t want to help you. 

God bids….God commands, (2ND commandment) that you come to Him in prayer as a dear child would come to his dear father.  He delights to hear you and answer your prayers.

So, as you consider the parable of this unrighteous judge and the persistent widow’s plea for justice, know that God will hear and answer your prayers because Christ has died for your sins. 

Now, we can’t conclude this lesson on the parable until we touch on the persistency of prayer.

And this is where some feathers are bound to get ruffled. 

Prayer is not a means of grace.  What does that mean? 

Grace is like this: It’s God giving you something you don’t deserve. 

As a sinner you deserve nothing but condemnation and eternal death.  But God, through Christ Jesus, has forgiven your sins and shown you His grace.  He gives you His grace. 

That’s what God gives to you when you are invited to His altar to receive the body and blood of His Son Jesus Christ. 

You receive the gift of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Grace = Forgiveness of Sins, life in Christ, and salvation for all eternity.

As much as some folks would like to believe it, you can’t pray your way to forgiveness.

Forgiveness comes to us through confession/repentance and faith/trust in the Promise of God – that we do, indeed, have redemption through the blood of the Lamb. 

Prayer is offered in thanksgiving for what Christ has accomplished on the cross – not as a means of receiving God’s grace.

Now – does that mean that we don’t go to our Father asking Him to grant what we want?  NO! 

God wants us to come to Him for all that we need – that’s why Jesus taught His disciples the perfect prayer, the Our Father.

Jesus also tells us to ask, and seek, and knock. He says that we don’t receive because we do not ask.

That makes it clear that God wants to hear our prayers and God wants to answer our prayers – ACCORDING TO HIS GOOD AND GRACIOUS WILL.

The fact that His will and our will often don’t mesh doesn’t mean that God isn’t hearing or answering our prayers.

We are called to be persistent in prayer because God is consistent.  God is consistently merciful to us and shows us his Grace through Christ.

As He is so consistent, we ought to be persistent in prayer, knowing “that for those who love God all things work together for good…” (Romans 8:28) 

St. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians: “three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

God is Good, because he is consistent.  The power of prayer is God's power.

Martin Luther wrote this when commenting on this text: It is not enough just to begin and to sigh once, to recite a prayer and then to go away.  As your need is, so should your prayer be.  Your need does not attack you once and then let you go.  It hangs on, it falls around your neck again, and it refuses to let go.  You act the same way!  Pray continually, and seek and knock, too, and do not let go….Since your need goes right on knocking, therefore you go right on knocking, too, and do not relent.”

After all, why should some affliction be more persistent than you? 

You are a holy child in the care of God the Father. 

He doesn’t leave you alone to battle your afflictions, but bids you, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you.” 

There is no despair for you! 

My brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, you don’t cease praying and you don’t lose heart. Why? 

Because you are forgiven of all your sins in the name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Hold Your Head Up (Luke 21:28)

  • Introduction: In the Gospel for today, Jesus forewarned listeners of what the End Times will look like.  The conversation with people around Him in the temple at Jerusalem started with observations about how beautiful the stones were of the temple and vowed gifts.  Jesus quickly steered the conversation to the days coming when there would not be one stone of the temple left upon another.  Those people then asked when such a destruction will occur.  It gave Jesus the opportunity to continue preaching a baptism for the forgiveness of sins as John the Baptist had begun (Luke 3:3).
    • The structure of this portion of Luke 21 can be described as looking at the temporal tribulation everyone will go through; a “baptism by fire”, as Jesus referred to in Luke Ch#12.  Jesus foretold to everyone on earth, whether a follower or detractor of Him, will undergo the same tribulation.  The difference between a believer in Christ and a Jesus denier is that while enduring tribulation, God will show grace for those who love Him while they persevere.
    • Ultimately, Jesus provides comfort to the believers in Him through His second and final return.  Jesus said in our verse for today, 28 “But beginning with these coming to pass, straighten up and lift up your heads, on account of your redemption nears.”  Imagine seeing Jesus coming in the clouds to return to gather His people!  No wonder there is reason to hold your head up.  There will be no reason to look down in sorrow, or worse for those terrified of His return because they denied Him.
    • We therefore can be strengthened in the faith, as we see Him keep His promises to us as we endure the evil of this Age to the End, alongside the grace He provides in sparing us of the terror from the tribulation.
  • Let us Pray:  Lord Jesus, we thank you that You have promised to be with us always, even unto the end of this Age.  Send the Holy Spirit, so that we accurately understand the End Times prophecy You provided in today’s Gospel reading.  Bless us also with the confidence and trust in You that You will be with us always, no matter what happens during this tribulation. We commit these petitions to You Lord Jesus, who with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, are one God, now and forevermore. Amen.
  • Background: I touched on some of the background for the Gospel text in the introduction.  Let’s spend a few moments looking into the setting for when Jesus foretold of what the End Times looks like.
    • Luke Ch#21 is Jesus’ work during Holy Week.  We know this from Luke the Evangelist’s account of Jesus’ celebrated entry in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday in Luke Ch#19 (Luke 19:28:44). 
    • It is after Palm Sunday when Jesus’ confrontations with religious leaders really got to be heated.  Luke Ch#20 has examples of the religious leaders wanting to lay hands on Jesus (Luke 20:19) – not to bless Him, but to kill Him.
    • Then, in Luke Ch#21, there is a slight break from those confrontations to teach people who want to learn about the kingdom of God, as opposed to giving a class on God’s word to religious leaders who want to do the teaching instead of learning (Luke 21:5-28).
  • Forewarnings and Promises: It’s at this point in the sermon where the back cover of your bulletin will be helpful with understanding the structure of much of Luke Ch#21.  On the back cover is a table of Jesus’ forewarnings and of His promises.  I plan to cover the four, forewarnings of the evil that is to come against His people, and also the promises Jesus made to believers in Him. 
    • The first of the four forewarnings is persecution by Church & State as noted by Jesus in vv12-13 - 12 “But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, turning you over to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors on account of My name. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony[1]
      • Both Church & State work together to oppose those it does not like.  The Church can prevail upon the State such as when the religious leaders later in Holy Week conducted a kangaroo court over Jesus.  They tried Jesus and found Him guilty of blasphemy, punishable by death. But, because they didn’t have the authority to kill Jesus, they brought Him before Pontius Pilate, the head of State at the time.  If you recall, Pilate said more than once to the Jews to try Him yourself.  But the church prevailed and Pilate had Jesus executed on a cross.
      • We face similar persecution just as the saints have endured ever since Jesus’ resurrection from a corpse and subsequent ascension into heaven.  This is why Lutherans believe the “End Times” started with Jesus’ ascension into heaven.  There will be no thousand year reign, because Jesus already reigns from heaven.  We believe, teach, and confess, that there are two kingdoms as mentioned in Romans Ch#13.  Even without the testimony of the Apostle Paul in Rom Ch#13, we see in Luke 21:13 & 15[2] Jesus’ divine rule over the earthly kingdom. Jesus remarked that, 13 [the persecution] will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. 15 for I will provide you eloquence and wisdom which none of your adversaries will be able to oppose or refute.
    • Jesus forewarned us we will be hated by parents, siblings, relatives, and friends, hated because of Jesus’ name – the name which is above every name.  When I was a little kid, there was a saying, “sticks and stones, may break my bones, but names will never harm me!”  Ah, but let it be known you are a follower of the Name above all names, and some people will immediately hate you.  They will hate you because they hate He who sent you into the world to proclaim the kingdom of God in thought, word, and action.
      • Jesus promised in vv18-19 - 18 And yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives[3].  However, the Greek of v19 sounds more like this - In perseverance your soul is acquired[4].  As we live out our salvation in this Age, the tribulation makes our soul tough, tough in perseverance provided through faith.  The Holy Spirit is with us ever since our baptism to make us up to the challenges we will face from now until we breathe our last, or Jesus shows up in the clouds.  If we didn’t have to face hard times in tribulation, would our faith grow?  Would we learn a deeper trust in our Lord if we were never challenged in what we believe?  Also, we’ve observed this recently, but it’s worth repeating, the word of God would never move from out of our comfort zone if we weren’t forced in some way to get off from our dead rump and move away from tribulation.
    • In the End Times, Jesus said there will be wars and rumors of wars (Luke 21:9).  Nation will rise against nation, much like we see with Russia and the Ukraine.  Syria is a mess with at least three different countries vying to make Syria a friend or puppet in the Middle East.  But this is nothing new under the sun.  England and France have duked it out for centuries.  President Thomas Jefferson had to deal with Muslim pirates off from the coast of Africa in the early 1800’s.  Somali pirates were doing the same thing in the late 20th century in the Persian Gulf.
    • The last forewarning of Luke Ch#21 is nature becoming unhinged in vv11&25.  Verse 25 - 25 “There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves[5].  Time does not permit me to expand on the signs we have in nature that point to an end. There was a time when scientists who still understood real science were concerned about the inevitable “heat death” of the universe.  This concern was based on one of the Laws of Thermodynamics that objects lose the ability to heat (entropy).  Everything in the universe is losing that ability.
      • Those scientists probably consoled themselves into thinking it wouldn’t be in their lifetime when the universe reached absolute zero.  That is the point where electrons and the nucleus of an atom freeze in place.
      • They may have not fainted with fear, but we have an example in the 21st century of someone famous fainting with fear over climate change.  Greta Thunberg of Sweden has been a climate change crusader since about age 11.  Listen to these facts from a Wikipedia article concerning Greta and see if her actions fit the description of people fainting with fear in the End Times. “Thunberg says she first heard about climate change in 2011, when she was eight years old, and could not understand why so little was being done about it. The situation made her depressed and as a result, at the age of 11, she stopped talking and eating much and lost ten kilograms (22 lb) in two months.[6]
      • We can debate whether climate change is real, but that’s not the point.  History bears out the fact that earth’s mean temperatures at one time were much warmer than we experience now, and certainly were once colder during the Ice Age.  What is the point is people with faith in Christ know that whatever the climate does, He has promised to be with them until He returns!
  • Conclusion: This brings us back to our verse for today - 28 “But beginning with these coming to pass, straighten up and lift up your heads, on account of your redemption nears.”  When I read through all of the readings looking for sermon inspiration, the 1972 hit song, Hold Your Head Up, by British Rock group Argent kept running through my mind.
    • The song is short on unique lines and therefore repetitive. In our final moments of this message, let’s see if the song can mean something to us in a sacred vein. Maybe the next time we hear it, we will be reminded of this message[7]:
      • The beginning verse starts out, “And if it's bad Don't let it get you down You can take it.”  Well, that’s nice to think we can take whatever the tribulation of this Age can dish out, but we really can’t.
        • God called the OT prophet Ezekiel to witness to the exiles of Jerusalem.  They were exiled to Babylon because of their stubborn refusal to repent from their sins.  These people knew how to sin and weren’t interested in being told they were wrong and that they should humble themselves before the Lord.  God knew this about those people, and so He said to Ezekiel - Like emery harder than flint I have made your forehead. Do not be afraid of them or be dismayed before them, since they are a rebellious house.[8]”  We have the same God who has prepared us for similar duty in 2022.  We can take it when He is with us and we don’t abandon Him in a lack of faith.
      • Continuing with “Hold Your Head Up”, “And if it hurts Don't let them see you cry You can make it.”
        • God called the prophet Jeremiah to call the people of Judah and Jerusalem to repentance from their sinful ways. The times back then were as evil if not more so than now.  Listen to how God prepared Jeremiah for his work amongst the same people as Ezekiel - 17 Now, belt your garment around your waist and arise, and speak to them all that I command you. Do not be dismayed before them, or I will make you dismayed before them. 18 Now behold, I have made you today like a fortified city and like a pillar of iron and walls of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah, to its leaders, to its priests, and to the people of the land. 19 And they will fight against you but they will not overcome you, for I am with you to save you,” declares the Lord[9].  Why would God be any different with His people in 2022 than what He chose to do through Jeremiah?  His word will accomplish its purpose (Isa 55:11).
      • Next verse of Hold Your Head Up – “And if they stare Just let them burn their eyes On you moving.”
        • Let me repeat something from the Epistle for today - But as for you, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary of doing good[10].  So what if the world is going to hell in a handbasket?  If anything, it should motivate us to do as much as we can to bring the Gospel to people fainting in fear.  What a terrible thing for kids to be dealing with, worrying about climate change. The world is coming to an end, but not for the reasons they think.  It’s coming to an end because Jesus reigns, and will return when God the Father tell His to return.  Let us proclaim the Gospel by not growing weary of doing good.  Actions do sometimes speak louder than words.
      • And lastly, “And if they shout Don't let it change a thing That you're doing.”
        • Referring back to the prophet Ezekiel’s commissioning - 10 Moreover, [God] said…, “Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely. 11 Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, ‘This is what the Lord God says.’[11]”  Don’t change a thing just because people aren’t listening.  The important take-away is to be faithful to our Lord.
    • The world as we know it *IS* coming to an end (Mal 4:1).  It will come to an end when God says it will, and only then.  There is nothing any of us can to do change this fact.
      • I re-read the promise in the OT reading for today from Malachi “And you will crush the wicked underfoot, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I am preparing,” says the LORD of armies[12]
      • People not knowing the love of God and having the communion with the Holy Spirit will be terrified.  However, to those in Christ when the end comes, we will have reason to frolic like calves from the stall (Mal 4:2) – after we straighten up and lift our head up! Jesus will have kept His promises up to that point, and there’s no reason to believe He wouldn’t keep His promise of eternal life with Him. Amen!
         

[1] Luke 21:12-13 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2021&version=NASB

[2] Luke 21:13, 15, ibid

[3] Luke 21:18-19, ibid

[4] Greek of v19 translated into English from https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/luk/21/1/t_conc_994019

[5] Luke 21:25, ibid

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greta_Thunberg

[7] Lyrics as presented by Bing search attributed to Musixmatch at https://www.bing.com/search?q=lyrics+to+hold+your+head+up+by+argent&qs=RI&pq=hold+your+head+up+argent+lyrics&sk=LT1&sc=4-31&cvid=FC4A9A8F83D84665A2C12FDFDB8568A4&FORM=QBRE&sp=6

[8] Eze 3:9 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eze+3&version=NASB

[9]Jer 1:17-19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jer+1&version=NASB

[10] 2Th 3:13 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/2th/3/1/s_1119001

[11] Eze 3:10-11 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eze+3&version=NASB

[12] Mal 4:3 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mal/4/1/s_929001

Justified by Faith (Rom 3:28)

  • Introduction: The Apostle Paul in our Epistle for today made a seminal point about justification by faith alone.  This statement became a hallmark of the Lutheran tradition of faith starting with Martin Luther some 1500yrs after Paul wrote by inspiration Rom 3:28 - 28 For we consider a man is justified by faith, apart from works of Law[1].
    • What does “justification by faith apart from works of Law”, or more simply, “justification by faith alone” look like practically?  This definitive statement on how a believer in Christ gets into heaven is an all or nothing proposition.  There is no in between.  Either Jesus did all the work of justification from the cross, or He didn’t.
    • In our human weakness, this statement is a lot harder to follow than it seems.  We like to have control over our own destiny.  This is why the Holy Spirit must work faith in us.  It is faith given to us which grasps onto the concept of justification by faith alone.
  • Let us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, today we celebrate over 500yrs of consistent teaching, preaching, and belief in three tenants of faith.  We are saved from the eternal torment of hell by Your grace alone, through faith alone, which only the scriptures alone testify to this truth, for Your word is truth.  Let us always be found to be righteous in Your sight by the gracious work of Your Son, Jesus the Christ.  Send the Holy Spirit to enlighten us by the gifts You have provided for us.  We pray this Heavenly Father, through Your Son Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore. Amen.
  • Definition: The title for this sermon is “Justification by Faith”.  We need to start with a definition of the word “justification[2].  Justification is a legal term.  It is a declaration or determination of being not guilty.  In simpler terms, a person in a court standing accused of a crime is acquitted.  In a theological sense, justification before God the Almighty judge means to be declared not guilty of sin. 
  • Background: It seems each Christian religion has slight to dramatic variation in its understanding of “justification”.  I’m not here to bash other religions.  What I want to accomplish is provide some background and comparison of Lutheranism with other religious traditions.
    • We believe, teach, and confess the authority in the church is based on the scriptures – not some sinful human being. President Harrison of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LC-MS) is a good president, but he’d be the first to acknowledge he is a sinner.  He is a leader of the LC-MS, but he is not the final word on anything relating to church doctrine.  Your pastor is not the final word on what you believe, teach, and confess.  He is merely God’s messenger, possessing the same proclivity to sin that you have.  The scriptures are the final word.
      • In Acts chapter #17, Luke the Evangelist wrote about some Jews who were located in the town of Berea.  Paul and Silas preached God’s word, which in its entirety, points to Jesus as the source of salvation.  The Bereans didn’t just take their word for what they were teaching and preaching.  It says in v11 - Now these people were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.  From this passage we learn that the scriptures are the ultimate authority. 
    • It is through the scriptures we learn about justification by faith.  Our text in Rom 3:28 overtly states that.  Additionally, there are other places throughout the scriptures where this same or similar statement is made.  We are declared not guilty of our sins by faith in Christ.
      • Keep in mind, when the word faith is used throughout the Bible, the word faith equates with the word trust.  When we have faith that God will never leave us nor forsake us, faith in action looks like trusting in His word. 
      • Faith is more than just a belief.  Demons, Satan’s henchmen, believe in Jesus.  They know who He is.  You could say because they are so scared of Jesus casting them into hell that they trust in Him, but that would not be accurate.  They shudder at the mere mention of Jesus, because they know their fate (Jas 2:19).
    • Classic Lutheran theology also believes salvation is a gift from God.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians - For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God[3].  If we could somehow earn justification by God, it would no longer be a gift.  For God or anyone to give a gift, the gift is done without any merit or worthiness in the recipient.  That’s what grace looks like, and is a hallmark of Lutheranism.  
      • With all gifts we receive, we can only reject them.  We don’t have the ability to accept a rich gift.  A gift as rich as a free pass into heaven to live there with the Lord forever is *not* something we have the ability to accept.  For example, think of the rich gifts people have received through inheritance or a major insurance award.  Our sinful nature takes that gift and blows it on our own sinful desires.  We wouldn’t want to live with the Triune God forever where everything is perfect, unless we somehow were made right with God to desire to be with Him.  The singer, Billy Joel, had a line in one of his songs that was popular in the 1970’s – “I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints[4]”.  Yeah, that’s us apart from faith.  It is our nature to run and hide from God just like Adam & Eve did once they realized they were naked in the presence of God their Creator.
  • Justification: So, how far do we take this justification by faith concept?
    • Martin Luther was tormented with confessing sins.  There are stories of how he would spend hours confessing every possible sin he committed. I suspect he probably confessed to wasting the gift of time by trying to confess all his sins. 😊  I’m sure he diligently tried to keep the Ten Commandments.
      • He eventually grew to hate God who he perceived as nothing but an angry God.  He probably imagined God waiting there watching him so that when he screwed up, God would immediately want to punish him.  Some people have had earthly fathers like that, who never said anything good to them.  All they heard from their father was how bad they were.  It’s no wonder kinds growing up under that sort of burden would not have any hope or peace.
      • Luther wondered, how could a loving God put such a HUGE burden on everyone that no one could keep?  Try keeping the Commandments for a whole day. If you really pay attention to how that’s going for you, you will quickly realize the burden of trying to keep the Commandments perfectly.  The Commandments are blind to any race, sex, or nationality.  As we read in Rom 3:22b there is no distinction based upon these and other attributes of a human being.  Whoever You are, you break one Commandment, and you’ve not kept any of them.  They come as a unit.
    • Luther was correct and wrong at the same time when he was perishing under the burden of the Law.
      • God is not pleased with any of our sins. Paul wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God[5].  That isn’t God’s fault we all fall short.  It’s all our own fault.
      • Luther was correct with understanding God would never be pleased with anything we did to justify ourselves.  My wife Karla & I just had this come up in daily devotions.  A rich young ruler came before Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do so that I may obtain eternal life?[6]”  Jesus mentioned a few of the Ten Commandments.  The guy had the audacity to say he kept all those Commandments. Yeah, right.  Jesus then said to him, “If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  Uh-oh; the young man walked away grieving because of the vast amount of property he owned.  So much for self-justification.  Jesus was not impressed.  The disciples were astonished and wondered who then can be saved?!
      • Luther was incorrectly working under the Law to be relieved from the burden of the Law.  It wasn’t working out so well and it threw him into deep depression.  People in Law-based religions to this day suffer from deep depression, because they are never good enough in the sight of the Lord when they try to justify themselves before Him.  These religions offer no Gospel peace like that Jesus gave to His disciples in response to their question, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
    • In teaching Romans, Luther received personal relief from the torment of struggling to self-justify, by attempting to confess every sin he ever committed.  It wasn’t a confession of sins like we do at the start of each service here at Christus Rex.  We confess our sins in the confidence that our Lord will pardon all our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ.  It became a work for Luther; a religious rite of itself to confess sins.  Would that earn him brownie points with God?
      • Luther was ignorant of our text for today until digging into the actual scriptures instead of what someone told him to believe - 28For we consider a man is justified by faith, apart from works of law. (Rom 3:28) The church at the time was selling something called indulgences that somehow had the power to spring people loose from a place called purgatory.  That was a place in between this Age and heaven.  The church considered purgatory to be the “sheol” mentioned in the Old Testament.  Sheol is actually the grave, which for a believer in Christ, is a place never visited.  When a believer in Christ dies, their soul immediately enters heaven.  We know this from the scriptures and not from someone’s interpretation of the scriptures, or from some head of the church telling us what to believe.
      • Luther agonized over trying to be cognizant of every sin he ever committed.  He later learned from the Psalmist - Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults[7].  What this means is we couldn’t possibly confess every sin we’ve ever committed.
  • Conclusion: In his lecture on our Romans text for today, Luther stated, “…faith is indivisible.  Therefore, it is either a whole faith and believes all that is to be believed, or it is no faith, if it does not believe one part.[8]”  In legal terms, faith does not have a severability clause like many modern contracts have.  A severability clause in a contract basically states if one portion of the contract is found to be invalid or invalidated, the rest of the provisions of the contract remain in effect.  No so with faith; it is an all or nothing proposition.  If it were, who would decide what is included in the canon of faith and what isn’t?
    • Luther observed a believer in Christ must believe all that is to be believed, or there is no faith if even one part is not believed. Some examples of all or nothing faith include believing God created heaven and earth in 6, 24hr days. If you can’t believe that, how will you believe in a virgin birth of the Lord Jesus?  God came to us in our flesh who was conceived by the Holy Spirit!  If you can’t get your arms around those basics from the scriptures, how can you believe Jesus did all the work of salvation?  Was Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross incomplete?
    • Luther went on to point out Christ is not divided. (1Co 1:13) Jesus is either completely denied or completely affirmed.  That reminded me of the time when some of the disciples tattled to Jesus about someone not from the Twelve casting out demons.  Jesus responded, “Do not hinder him; for the one who is not against you is for you.[9]” 
      • Those who are for or against Jesus’s disciples of then and now are either for or against He who sent them.  He cannot be denied in one word and confessed in another.  Jesus said as much as recorded by Luke, “the one who is not with Me is against Me; and the one who does not gather with Me scatters.[10]
    • One take-way from Luther’s examination of Romans ch#3 is we must humble ourselves in the presence of our Lord.
      • The Psalmist wrote, “all people are liars.[11]”  “All people” includes you and me.  It is in our nature to see “truth” which agrees with us and affirms us.  This is how in the end times, what the Apostle Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy, will come to pass - For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and will turn aside to myths[12].  
    • To humble ourselves before the Lord means we must gladly listen to a rebuke from Him. This is a proper use of the Law.  The scriptures do sometimes rebuke through the Law. Paul also wrote - 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work[13].  This is an appropriate usage of the scriptures even though we are not justified by them.  We are justified by faith.  And what brings faith is the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God.
    • Justification by faith is an all or nothing proposition.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. (Rom 10:17)  Jesus is the Word.  If there is any part of His word we trip over and therefore do not believe, then we’ve tripped over *all* of His word.  This is what orthodox Lutherans still believe, teach, and confess some 500yrs after Luther first believed.  That is because it is through the Word alone, that we have faith alone, by God’s infinite grace alone. Amen.

[1] Original translation from Greek sourced from https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/2ti/4/1/t_conc_1129018

[2] Source of this definition gleaned from material at https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/justification/

[3] Eph 2:8 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/eph/2/1/s_1099001

[4] Quoting from “Only the Good Die Young” as listed at https://www.bing.com/search?q=lyrics+only+the+good+die+young&qs=AS&pq=lyrics+only+the+good+die+young&sc=6-30&cvid=5F5D97D666A542539986FDDFE40604DC&FORM=QBRE&sp=7

[5] Rom 3:23 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/rom/3/1/s_1049001

[6] Source passage regarding the encounter with Jesus by the rich young ruler in Mat 19:16-26 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+19&version=NASB

[7] Ps 19:12 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/psa/19/1/s_497001

[8] Hilton, C. Oswald, Luther’s Works, Volume 25, Lectures on Romans, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, MO. 1972, p.236

[9] Portion of Luke 9:50 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+9&version=NASB

[10] Luke 11:23 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/luk/11/1/s_984001

[11] Ps 116:11b from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/psa/116/1/s_594001

[12] 2Ti 4:3-4 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2ti+4&version=NASB

[13] 2Ti 3:16-17 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Timothy%203&version=NASB

Rescue and Save (2Ti 4:18)

  • Introduction: From the Epistle reading for today, the Apostle Paul confessed the faith as he knew his time in this Age was coming to a close very soon. He wrote encouraging words in his two letters to fellow pastor, Timothy.
    • But in today’s text, Paul leaves Timothy with a confession of faith about his confidence in the Lord to rescue and save from every evil work in this Age.  I reread 2Ti 4:18 from an original translation of the Greek - 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil work. And He will save me into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory into the eternal Age. Amen[1].  It is an interesting confession to make which is steeped in inspiration from the Holy Spirit, considering Paul apparently understood he was about to be sentenced to beheading.
    • Timothy is someone whom Paul “ordained” into the ministry. He received Paul’s message, and no doubt was encouraged and perhaps emboldened in the faith by it.  Like Timothy, we some 2000yrs later can gain from Paul’s confession, a confidence in the Lord that He will deliver us from evil just as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. 
  • Let us Pray:  Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank You for the reminder of Your promises throughout Your word, that You will care for us and deliver us from evil. We could not stand against Satan and his henchmen for even the fraction of a second without Your protection. Please send the Holy Spirit to grant us confidence in Your word as the Apostle Paul displayed in our text for today. We pray this Heavenly Father, through Your Son Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forevermore. Amen.
  • Setting: Chapter #4 of 2nd Timothy contains Paul’s last words - For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come[2].
    • He must have had revelation from God of his fate if not already a judgement from a Roman court.  Continuing from 2Ti 4 - I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing[3]. What a thing to be able to confess from one’s deathbed!  I think I’m going to memorize this passage so that it can be one of the last things I’m heard saying when life is at end.
  • 1st Trial: Continuing on to the second portion of the Epistle for today, we skip to verses 16-18 inclusive. Starting with v16, Paul wrote - At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them[4].  There are at least two schools of thought about which trial Paul referred to here. Is it the trial that led him to write this second letter to Timothy?  Or is the trial mentioned in v16 the completion of the appeal to Caesar Paul made before Festus in Caesarea?  Luke the Evangelist quoted Paul in Act 25:10-11 - 10 … “I am standing before Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to be tried. I have done nothing wrong to the Jews, as you also very well know. 11 If, therefore, I am in the wrong and have committed something deserving death, I am not trying to avoid execution; but if there is nothing to the accusations which these men are bringing against me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar.[5]
    • I believe the trial Paul referred to being abandoned at, is the trial before Caesar.  This would have occurred in 62AD before an Emperor Nero appointee, as the emperor was not in Rome at the time[6].
      • Per Paul’s complaint, no one stood with Paul (2Ti 4:16).  The tendency is to conclude Paul meant no Christians stood in his defense.  However, the “no one” was not necessarily Christians.
      • The names of Demas (Greek: Δημᾶς), Crescens (Greek: Κρήσκης), Titus (Greek: Τίτος), and Tychicus (Greek: Τυχικὸν) are mentioned in 2Ti 4:10-12. While Demas is noted by Paul as deserting him, the rest did not abandon Paul, because they did not have standing in the court.  For instance, if I were on trial for something said from this pulpit, no doubt many of you would want to be in court supporting your pastor.  However, you wouldn’t get to sit next to your pastor before the court.  That’s where legal counsel would be placed along with the accused.  You would be sitting in the observation gallery behind a railing in the courtroom.  Therefore, what Paul was referring to by being abandoned was he had no legal counsel before the governor hearing the appeal to Caesar.
    • And yet, Paul was not without counsel.  We read from 2Ti 4:17 - But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth[7]
      • Jesus said about 30yrs or so before Paul’s first trial - 19 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who are speaking, but it is the Spirit of your Father who is speaking in you[8].  The Holy Spirit provided the words for Paul to speak before Caesar’s court.  God determined that He was not through with Paul’s missionary journeys, and therefore provided effective wording and a convincing spirit to get Paul acquitted.
      • You might wonder what that testimony had to do with Paul preaching the gospel to the Gentiles.  Think about it: all who were in the court area heard Paul’s defense. There would have been a crowd gathered, especially for a high-profile case such as Paul’s might have been.
        • Martin Luther had a similar trial in the Diet of Worms in 1521.  The Pope at the time demanded Martin recant his writings about the corruption in the church, and how the scriptures needed to be restored to their supremacy in the church.  There were books written since the “95 Theses” started Luther’s questioning of the church in 1517.  The pressure on Luther to recant was great.  Ultimately though, Luther was quoted as answering the charges of heresy with this - Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen[9].  With what could anyone from the church retort after hearing that?  The Holy Spirit gets the job done!
    • Paul stated in v17 he was rescued from the lion’s mouth (figuratively) as written in Ps 22:21 - Save me from the lion’s mouth; From the horns of the wild oxen You answer me[10].  Many people want to take literally what Paul stated, because of the history of Roman cruelty in feeding Christians to lions in a coliseum.  However, Roman citizens did not get fed to lions.  After his acquittal, he went to Spain, the western-most province of the Roman empire, completing all missionary journeys the Lord wanted Paul to accomplish.
  • 2nd Trial: Paul wrote to Timothy while awaiting execution in 67AD.  I’m convinced, because how could he write about being saved from the lion’s mouth if he’s awaiting execution?  History also has a lot to do with my conclusion. 
    • Emperor Nero is suspected of burning Rome in 64AD.  He then blamed Christians for the sabotage.  This led to Christianity no longer being considered a sect of Judaism as originally believed. Jews were under protection of civil law to not have to submit to worshipping the emperor (Rev 2:9, 3:9).  Without the same protection, Christians who would not recant their faith in Jesus Christ as supreme would face the death penalty.  At the time of writing 2nd Timothy in 67AD, Paul was most likely charged with being a Christian, and now awaiting sentencing.  Like Luther, there was plenty of written evidence supplied by Paul to self-incriminate – unless he would recant.  If it were illegal to be a Christian, would we recant?  Would there even be sufficient evidence on which to convict us?
  • Conclusion: In researching for this sermon, I came across a beautiful quote from a mid-20th century Lutheran theologian named Armin Moellering; “God’s rescue of the faithful is sometimes from death and finally through death.[11]”  It is a wonderful summary of our text - 18  The Lord will rescue me from every evil work. And He will save me into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory into the eternal Age. Amen[12].  God rescues us from death all throughout our pilgrimage in this Age.  And after we take our last breath in this Age, He saves us into His heavenly kingdom where moths cannot destroy and thieves cannot come in and steal.
    • Jesus taught us to pray, “But deliver us from evil[13]”.  Luther noted this to be the 7th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer.  Each time we pray the Lord’s prayer, we are asking for God’s protection from every evil work.  We are asking Him to save us from the mouth of the lion, according to His word.
      • The Apostle Peter wrote - … if [God] rescued righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the perverted conduct of unscrupulous people (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from a trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment…[14].  Maybe those who are worried about the upcoming election in November should keep this in mind as our country grapples with whether the United States will be restored to being one nation, under God.  Conditions were a lot worse for Christians in 67AD than in 2022AD.
    • Jesus warned about many tribulations on the night He was delivered over to the Gentiles to be murdered Roman-style on a cross for your sins and mine - “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.[15]” This is the most overt reminder from our Lord from what we are rescued.
      • Paul confessed to the Corinthians to feeling like he had a death sentence. He wrote - For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction which occurred in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life. 9a Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves…[16]  I can sort of identify with Paul at least on the burden aspect of life.  From 2017 through 2021 inclusive, I was attending seminary, caring for my mother and step-father, all while working full-time.  Oh, and toss in the sale of one home and purchasing another 40 miles closer to church. I don’t know how Karla & I got through that.  It was not by our own strength.  It was by our Lord’s Spirit, who lives and dwells in the soul of all baptized believers in Christ.  I’m sure each of us can tell of a similar burdensome experience at some time in their life.
        • Why would God burden His people beyond their strength He claims to love?  Paul answers this pointed question in the remainder of the 2Co ch#1 passage - 9Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead, 10 who rescued us from so great a danger of death, and will rescue us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us[17].  God is not some sadistic, all-powerful ruler who gets His jollies out of burdening His own creation.  He asks a lot out of His people, because He wants us to realize from where our help comes.  The Psalmist wrote - Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth[18].  It’s when we forget this simple verse, when we become blind to what the Lord accomplishes in our life.
    • Not only does God rescue us from every evil work, He also saves eternally through death.  Wait; what? Saves us through death?!
      • Paul struggled as we do with sin.  He asked - Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death[19]?  The answer to who will rescue?  God! One of my all-time favorite verses of the Bible answers Paul’s question concerning being saved from sinfulness lurking within - ‘See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me.  It is I who put to death and give life.  I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can save anyone from My hand[20]
      • Jesus said - “Truly, truly, I say to you, the one who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life[21].  Putting it a different way, there is no other way out of this hellhole of life, except through death.
      • That doesn’t mean we commit suicide at the first opportunity which arises. Remember, Paul was acquitted after his first trial because God was not finished with the work He would do through Paul.  We therefore should walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.  By the Holy Spirit, we should strive to please our Lord in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work (Col 1:10).  Amen.


 


[1] 2Ti 4:18 original translation from mGNT at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/2ti/4/1/t_conc_1129018

[2] 2Ti 4:6 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/2ti/4/1/s_1129001

[3] 2Ti 4:7-8 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2ti+4&version=NASB

[4] 2Ti 4:16 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/2ti/4/1/s_1129001

[5] Act 25:10-11 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%2025&version=NASB

[6] Facts about Roman legal proceedings and chronology cited from Lenski, Richard C. H., The Interpretation of St Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, the the Thessalonians. To Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon, Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, MN, Printed 1964

[7] 2Ti 4:17 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/2ti/4/1/s_1129010

[8] Mat 10:19-20 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+10&version=NASB

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diet_of_Worms#cite_note-Brecht-4

[10] Ps 22:21 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/psa/22/1/s_500001

[11] Moellering, H. Armin, Concordia Commentary 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Concordia Publishing House, Saint Louis, MO, 1970, p.176

[12] 2Ti 4:18 original translation from mGNT at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/2ti/4/1/t_conc_1129018

[13] Mat 6:13

[14] 2Pe 2:7-9 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2pe+2&version=NASB

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

[16] 2Co 1:8-9a from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2co+1&version=NASB

[17] 2Co 1:9-10, ibid

[18] Ps 124:8 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/psa/124/1/s_602001

[19] Rom 7:24 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/rom/7/1/s_1053001

[20] Deu 32:39 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/deu/32/1/s_185001

[21] John 5:24 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jhn/5/1/s_1002001

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