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Archive for the ‘The Book of Concord’ Category

Johann Sebastian Bach, the great confessional Lutheran musician composed for churches and for all four seasons…of the Church Year:  Advent/Christmas, Lent, Easter and the Sundays after Trinity (or what we call the Pentecost season).  It seems Lent dominated his compositions.  He would write Lenten themes for the Sundays after Pentecost for instance.  Why?  The cross of Jesus Christ, His suffering, crucifixion, death and burial is for the whole year, everyday of our lives. We are remembering this evening not only a one-time event in the distant past, but His crucifixion is ever near, as  present as He is risen, He gives us the fruits of His Cross, His grace and peace,  received by faith.   When we consider that the 4 Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, that 50% of them is about this the Lord’s last week alone, it’s clearly all about the Cross, clearly what drove Him there, our sin and our separation from our Father, and clearly He seeks and finds us to draw us to Himself.

 It is not good to put ourselves in the center of church life.  On the top of this sermon is a painting of Luther preaching as depicted by Lucas Cranach. Here is my incorrect depiction of Cranach’s painting

Cranach not for you

with the congregation front and center, not Jesus Christ, for then the death of Jesus Christ is put behind us and there is no forgiveness.  Then the preacher is only pointing judgment’s finger at the congregation, telling you how to live or winning a congregations’ vote. We do not preach the Christian, but Christ for you. The preacher is then suppose to tell you how to live.  Now if you want to know the way the Lord wants us all to live, read the 10 commandments and especially Luther’s Small and Large Catechism and you will find out we fail.  Jesus Christ is not behind. It cannot be because God’s Word the Scripture will not allow it. His Cross is front and center, as John the Baptizer preached at the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry, Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  As Luther is depicted in the correct Lucas Cranach painting.  Cranach was friends with the Luthers.  Lucas portrays himself in the back row of the congregation. Luther’s wife and her children are in the front row.  We think we know our best interests by ourselves, but the Lord shows us His death of our sin, His life who is the life of all the living. Luther and all true Christian preachers point not to us but to the Lord in all His work and in all His Word.

  • It is written in 1 Corinthians that we preach Christ and Him crucified, not preached, past tense, but today and everyday for needy sinners to receive His mercy in the day to day sameness of things.  Paul said, I am the chief of sinners, not I was, as he wrote to Timothy.  Matthew makes clear as he lists the apostles, including himself, he alone identifies himself in the Gospel he wrote, “Matthew, tax collector”.  Even though Matthew never collected taxes again, yet like Paul, he knew he was a sinner for whom Christ Jesus died and rose. The Lord calls His Church to preach a present tense crucified and risen Savior for present tense sinners. 
  • It is written that our baptism, Romans 6 is into His death and resurrection. 
  • It is written of the Lord’s Supper that as oft we eat and drink we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.  In fact, the Atonement upon the Cross, the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation of sinners, broken and hurting under the weight and burden  of the Law, is clearly connected by Jesus in His Words of Institution:  for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. (St. Matthew) Anyone who says the Lord’s Supper is not His Body and Blood does not know the Scripture and the Sacrament of the Altar but also Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  They want a different Jesus, a glorious Jesus but His glory is yet to come when He comes again, as He promised.  We want God the way we want Him, a sugar daddy, an empowerer of our plans…then we do not have the Lord but a divine double of ourselves, as idol and our idols keep us cozy in our sins.

On April 9, 1945, Pr. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by the Nazis.  He preached to the centrality of the Cross.

Either I determine the place in which I will find God, or I allow God to determine the place where He will be found. If it is I who say where God will be, I will always find there a God who in some way corresponds to me, is agreeable to me, fits in with my nature. But if it is God who says where he will be, then that will truly be a place which at first is not agreeable to me at all, which does not fit so well with me. That place is the cross of Christ.

Pr. Johann Gerhard taught the riches of His blood upon the Cross for you: 

He bows His head on the timber-trunk of the cross to kiss us in love. He stretches out His arms in order to embrace us in love. He prays for His crucifiers because He suffered out of love for them. His side is opened up with a spear so that the flame of heartfelt love might break forth from it, “so that we through the wound’s opening may behold the mystery of the heart.” In love He longs for us, and thus He said: I thirst [that is,] for your salvation.

  •  Some say I wish Christmas is every day.  It is.  Everyday Christ can be born us as He bore ours sins upon the tree. 
  • Everyday is Good Friday as His cross is the life giving green wood in the paradise of His saints: you. 
  • Everyday is Easter as He is risen from the dead to give us the all the benefits of His death, His blood, His life as He sees we can benefit. 
  • Everyday is Pentecost as the Holy Spirit teaches us Jesus in the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, written, spoken and Incarnate to walk in Him, daily dying and rising.  Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

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But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3: 13, NIV)

    

The New Testament reading in the Daily Lectionary for today  is St. John 4: 1-26,

“…but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

But if we do want to boast, then let us boast that we receive from the fullness of Christ, that we are enlightened by Him, attain forgiveness of sin, and become children of God through Him. For this is the sum and substance of it all: Whoever wishes to be safe-guarded from the devil’s might and to escape sin and death must draw from this well, Christ; from Him flows all salvation and eternal bliss. This fountain is inexhaustible; it is full of grace and truth before God; it never fails no matter how much we draw from it. Even if we all dip from it without stopping, it cannot be emptied, but it remains a perennial fount of all grace and truth, an unfathomable well, an eternal fountain. The more we draw from it, the more it gives. Such water, as St. John remarks later, wells up to eternal life (John 4:14).

The sun is not dimmed and darkened by shining on so many people or by providing the entire world with its light and bright splendor. It retains its light intact. It loses nothing; it is immeasurable, perhaps able to illumine ten more worlds. I suppose that a hundred thousand candles can be ignited from one light, and still this light will not lose any of its brilliance. Likewise, a learned man can educate a thousand scholars without forfeiting any of his own learning. The more he shares with others, the more he has himself. Thus Christ, our Lord, to whom we must flee and of whom we must ask all, is an interminable well, the chief source of all grace, truth, righteousness, wisdom, and life, without limit, measure, or end. Even if the whole world were to draw from this fountain enough grace and truth to transform all people into angels, still it would not lose as much as a drop. This fountain constantly overflows with sheer grace. Whoever wishes to enjoy Christ’s grace—and no one is excluded—let him come and receive it from Him. You will never drain this fountain of living water; it will never run dry. You will all draw from it much more than enough, and yet it will remain a perennial well.

—Martin Luther

Hymnody:

Come, Thou Fount of ev’ry blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing,

Call for songs of loudest praise.

While the hope of endless glory

Fills my heart with joy and love,

Teach me ever to adore Thee;

May I still Thy goodness prove.

—Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (LSB 686:1)

Prayer of the Day

Lord God, heavenly Father, You have called Your Church to worship Your Son in Spirit and truth. Through the Spirit of Jesus, keep us faithful to the one who is the way, the truth, and the life, so that we may be partakers of His divine life and inherit the kingdom promised for those who drink from the water of life; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

Suggested Reading from the Book of Concord

Smalcald Articles III 1111-9

(From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

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Intro:  Basil and the two Gregorys, collectively known as the Cappadocian Fathers, were leaders of Christian orthodoxy in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in the later fourth century. Basil and Gregory of Nyssa were brothers; Gregory of Nazianzus was their friend. All three were influential in shaping the theology ratified by the Council of Constantinople of 381, which is expressed in the Nicene Creed. Their defense of the doctrines of the Holy Spirit and Holy Trinity, together with their contributions to the liturgy of the Eastern Church, make them among the most influential Christian teachers and theologians of their time.

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, You revealed to Your Church your eternal being o glorious majesty and perfect love as one God in a Trinity of Persons. May Your Church, with bishops like Basil of Caesarea,Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa, receive grace to continue steadfast in the confession of the true faith and constant in our worship of You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(Source: The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

Read  more about them inCAPPADOCIAN THEOLOGIANS in the Christian Cyclopedia (The Cyclopedia is a great resource).

I have not read much by the Gregorys, but I have read the book cited below.  I find the book faith-strengthening.   Basil was responding to a heresy that denied the equality of the 3 persons of the Holy Trinity.  The heterodox were claiming the subordination of the Holy Spirit by teaching that the conjunctions used in the Bible , referring to the Holy Spirit,  demonstrated this.  Basil goes through and logically shows this is not the case by a word by word  study of the conjunctions in the Bible!  Boring and dry?   Yes, at times, but other times, exciting and wet, wet with the chrism of Holy Baptism in God’s Holy Name!  The translator of this work takes up the subject that theological work is boring and dry, as taught by Basil, and the translator comments:

  •  ”It is this translator’s opinion that  a good dose of dry logical Cappadocian theology can serve as an effective antidote for the subjective emotionalism in which modern Christians frequently find themselves engulfed.  Doctrine these days is often ignored, taken for granted or replaced with individualism, and perhaps the fathers can help us by reminding us (often with many words!) that God became man to show us the truth which gives life and freedom a truth which is eternal.”(David Anderson, On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil, 1980, St. Vladimir’s Press)

The first quote below is Basil’s response to his task of  answering the heretics’ use of  ”syllables”, the minutiae of small words, as integral to teaching and preaching the Truth. The remainder of the quotes stand on their own and also show that Justification by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ (as in Holy Baptism) was not an invention of the blessed Reformers, but is in the Scripture as testified by many of the Church Fathers:

 Quotes from On the Holy Spirit by Basil the Great

  • “Instruction begins with the proper use of speech, and syllables and words are the elements of speech. Therefore to scrutinize syllables is not a superfluous task…If a man spurns fundamental elements as insignificant trifles, he will never embrace the fullness of wisdom. ‘Yes’ and “No’ are only two syllables, yet truth, the best of all good things, as well as falsehood, the worst possible evil, are most often expressed by these two small words.”
  • “What makes us Christians?  ‘Our faith,’ everyone would answer. How are we saved?  Obviously the regenerating grace of baptism.  How else could we be?  We are confirmed in our understanding that salvation comes through Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Shall we cast away the standard of teaching we have received?”
  • “If there is any grace in the water, it does not come from the nature of the water, but from the Spirit’s Presence, since baptism is not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience. (1 Peter 3: 21)  the Lord describes in the Gospel the pattern of life we must be trained to follow after the (baptismal) regeneration:  gentleness, endurance freedom from the defiling love of pleasure, and from covetousness. We must be determined to acquire in this life all the qualities of the life to come. To define the Gospel as a description of the what resurrectional life should be like seems to be correct and appropriate, as far as I am concerned.”
  • “For creatures, holiness comes from without;  for the Spirit, holiness fills His very nature.  he is not sanctified, but sanctifies.”
  • “Are you not ashamed, my opponent, when you hear the Apostle’s words: ‘You are God’s temple and God’s Spirit dwells in you’? (1 Cor.3: 16) Is a slave’s house honored with the title of temple?  How can someone who calls Scripture ‘God-inspired’ (since it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) use language that insults and belittles Him?”
  • “We worship God from God, confessing the uniqueness of the persons, while maintaining the unity of the Monarchy.”
  • “Moses was wise enough to realize that triteness and familiarity breed contempt, but the unusual and the unfamiliar naturally commands eager interest.”
  • “…every time we bend our knees for prayer and then rise again, we show by this action that through sin we fell down to earth, but our Creator, the Lover of Mankind, has called us back to heaven.”  

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Aside from Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) is regarded as the most important theologian in the history of the Lutheran Church. Chemnitz combined a penetrating intellect and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Scripture and the Church Fathers with a genuine love for the Church. When various doctrinal disagreements broke out after Luther’s death in 1546, Chemnitz determined to give himself fully to the restoration of unity in the Lutheran Church. He became the leading spirit and principal author of the 1577 Formula of Concord, which settled the doctrinal disputes on the basis of Scripture and largely succeeded in restoring unity among Lutherans. Chemnitz also authored the four-volume Examination of the Council of Trent (1565-73), in which he rigorously subjected the teachings of this Roman Catholic Council to the judgment of Scripture and the ancient Church Fathers. The Examination became the definitive Lutheran answer to the Council of Trent, as well as a thorough exposition of the faith of the Augsburg Confession. A theologian and a churchman, Chemnitz was truly a gift of God to the Church. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH)

Pastor Chemnitz has been called “The Second Martin”, in terms of his importance in the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church.  He is the principal of author of The Formula of Concord, the last of the Confessions in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of Lutheran Church.  A Lutheran pastor vows to teach, preach and administer in accordance with The Confessions as they are the true exposition of the Scriptures, the Word of God.  I have heard  many a person and read many a book asserting  that we teach “Biblical, nondenominational, non-sectarian Christianity” and then deny the Sacraments.  Here is a quote from  The Formula of Concord, authored by Pr. Chemnitz on the Lord’s Supper for the strengthening of the true Faith:

“…it must [also] be carefully explained who are the unworthy guests of this Supper, namely, those who go to this Sacrament without true repentance and sorrow for their sins, and without true faith and the good intention of amending their lives, and by their unworthy oral eating of the body of Christ load themselves with damnation, that is, with temporal and eternal punishments, and become guilty of the body and blood of Christ.

69] For Christians who are of weak faith, diffident, troubled, and heartily terrified because of the greatness and number of their sins, and think that in this their great impurity they are not worthy of this precious treasure and the benefits of Christ, and who feel and lament their weakness of faith, and from their hearts desire that they may serve God with stronger, more joyful faith and pure obedience, they are the truly worthy guests for whom this highly venerable Sacrament [and sacred feast] has been especially instituted and appointed; 70] as Christ says, Matt. 11:28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Also Matt. 9:12: They that be whole need not a physician, but they that be sick. Also [ 2 Cor. 12:9 ]: God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. Also [ Rom. 14:1 ]: Him that is weak in the faith receive ye [ Rom 14:3 ], for God hath received him. For whosoever believeth in the Son of God, be it with a strong or with a weak faith, has eternal life [ John 3:15f. ].

71] And worthiness does not depend upon great or small weakness or strength of faith, but upon the merit of Christ, which the distressed father of little faith [ Mark 9:24 ] enjoyed as well as Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith.”

 Let us pray…

Lord, God heavenly Father, through the teaching of Martin Chemnitz, You prepare us for the coming of Your Son to lead home His Bride, the Church, that with all the company of the redeemed we may finally enter in to His eternal wedding feast; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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 Marxist Theology:  Groucho that is!Groucho Marx said, “I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as one of its members.” Apply his comment to the Church: I don’t want to be a member of any Church that would have me as one of its members. I have heard people say something like that: “Oh, I can’t go to church….it’s for good people”. If that’s true, then church buildings should be empty. Remember this is the Lord who came not to seek the right people, but the wrong people.

Election is selection—in some clubs, if you have the right stuff you are elected by the membership. Sometimes that kind of election is in secret and someone may “blackball” the candidate. For the Church, one is also elected, but not by the membership. The Lord elects. Why is someone chosen for the Church by the Lord? Look at the Bible: Moses…a murderer; King David…a shepherd boy wet behind the ears; St. Paul…persecutor of the Church! The thief on the cross! All those people had been blackballed by their sin and they found out about their sin, and were cut to the core. Someone chosen because she is the best candidate? Just the opposite! There’s more. I have the wrong stuff and I need some work, in fact a total makeover in my soul! In the TV show, M*A*S*H, Hawkeye was explaining triage, the process of choosing those first for surgery: “See, it’s the person who is the bleeding the most, who has the most hurt, who’s admitted first. This is the only place where being the worse gets you to the head of the line”. Incorrect, Hawkeye: the other place is the Church and Jesus is the Physician.

Divine Election Day—  The Lord elects us. We do not elect Him! A candidate says:  “I need your vote”.  Jesus is no candidate.  He is the elect One.  We need His vote. Unlike the assertion in an election day billboard pictured here!  In the Lord’s election only one vote counts: His. Not yours, not mine!   “Has He elected me?” This is the fearful question.  Where and when has the Lord cast His vote? IN some secret incense smoke caucus in heaven behind closed doors? NO. From the Bible we know exactly when the Lord has cast his vote: Good Friday. Where? Golgotha is where and when the 

Lord was crucified. The red ‘x’, His Cross, marks the spot and the ballot electing you. Many are saying this is the most important election of our time.  No, it is not!  Good Friday is still the most important Election Day of this time and of all time.  Jesus Christ has won the election.  His red ‘ink’ is not dry. There He elected us all. He died for you. We so need His vote, His election. There He died and rose for us and our election, a very public election, for all to see. It’s like the Cross is put onto a billboard and the slogan HE”S ELECTED YOU! (See Galatians 3: 1) and pastors and ministers are the imbedded reporters announcing His election results for you. As another pastor, an Apostle no less, preached: For he says,    “In a favorable time I listened to you,   and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”   Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6: 1-3  Everyday is election day because of the Friday called Good. When the election results are announced, then today is the day of salvation! Every day we turn to Him in repentance, prayer and thanksgiving is the Lord’s salvation. The election result is His:  faith.

The Contested and yet the Utterly Necessary Election–Some will believe the message and Him. Others will not. Some will contest Him and His election. Many will embrace the election results because He loved you so much on that Friday, Election Day. He died for an electorate that was His enemy. The Holy Spirit announces Christ Jesus’ election results in the morning, Easter morning, the Lord’s Candidate  has won!  His enemies are defeated. Death where is thy sting? Devil, where is thy temptations?  Sin where are thy chains?    He is risen and you are  forgiven, one for all, once for all. He elects us. I need it so!

The Most Important Election of All Time:  The Lord’s election can not be bought: His election has bought us. I have heard that this election will cost $1 billion but that is chump change in comparison to the blood of God shed for sinners. The costliest election ever?  Hardly!  Good Friday  is the costliest election ever held, the blood of God shed for us all and for an electorate who didn’t care and did not turn out for the results on Good Friday, instead His own elected apostles fled at the costliest defeat ever in an any election imaginable (see Mark 14: 50)! The costliest defeat became the greatest victory in the world.  Jesus Christ’s  merciful election is for the worse candidates imaginable, liberal or conservative! And the Lord wants everyone to win His election. It was a hard won campaign still going on. See, it’s the person who is the bleeding the most, who has the most hurt, who’s admitted first. This is the only place where being the worse gets you to the head of the line. See it is the wounded and risen Jesus Christ: the Head of the line, for you, you: the most unlikely candidate who should not elected but needs to be! You have been elected! The victory party rejoices in the heavenly caucus over His finding you, His electorate!  (see St. Luke 15: 7)

The Prayer to See God’s WaysSpeak, Lord, for Your servant hears. Please show me now Your ways, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which comes through faith in Christ. Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Give me life, O Lord, according to Your Word, and I will declare Your greatness. Amen.

 For Further Study:

Note:  I based this reflection on Article XI:  Election, Epitome of the Formula of Concord (1577), in the Book of Concord:  the Confessions of theEvangelical Lutheran Church (Wengert/Kolb) which is cited below for further study.     In the Christ, Pr. Schroeder

XI. Concerning the Eternal Predestination and Election of God

On this article there has been no public conflict among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession.  However, because it is an article of comfort when properly treated, it is also explained in this document so that no offensive dis­pute may arise in the future.

 Affirmative Theses

The Pure, True Teaching concerning This Article

1. First of all, the difference between praescientia and praedestinatio, that is,  between God’s foreknowledge and his eternal election, must be carefully noted.

2. God’s foreknowledge is nothing else than that God knows all things  before they happen, as it is written, “God in heaven reveals mysteries. He has disclosed to King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in future times” (Dan. 2:28).

3. This foreknowledge extends equally over godly people and evil people, but it is not a cause of evil. It is not the cause of sins, when people act wrong­ly (sin proceeds originally from the devil and the wicked, perverted human will), nor of human corruption, for which people are responsible themselves. Instead, God’s foreknowledge provides order in the midst of evil and sets lim­its to it. It determines how long evil can continue and determines also that everything, even if it is evil in itself, serves the welfare of God’s elect.

4. Praedestinatio, however, or God’s eternal election, extends only to the  righteous, God-pleasing children of God. It is a cause of their salvation, which God brings about. He has arranged everything that belongs to it. Our salvation is so firmly grounded on it [cf. John 10:26-29] that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it” [Matt. 16:18].

5. This election is not to be probed in the secret counsel of God but rather is to be sought in the Word, where it has also been revealed.

6. However, the Word of God leads us to Christ, who is the “Book of Life” 7 [Phil. 4:3Rev. 3:5], in whom are inscribed and chosen all who shall be eter­nally saved, as it is written, “He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world” [Eph. 1:4].

7. This Christ calls all sinners to himself and promises them refreshment. He is utterly serious in his desire that all people should come to him and seek help for themselves [cf. Matt. 11:28]. He offers himself to them in the Word. He desires them to hear the Word and not to plug their ears or despise his Word. To this end he promises the power and activity of the Holy Spirit, divine assis­tance in remaining faithful and attaining eternal salvation.

8. Therefore we are to make judgments regarding our election to eternal life neither on the basis of reason nor on the basis of God’s law. Such a course of action would lead us either into a wild, irresponsible, Epicurean life, or into despair—and would awaken harmful thoughts in human hearts. Whenever people follow their reason, they can hardly escape such reflections as these: “As long as God has chosen me for salvation, I cannot be condemned no matter what I do!” or, “I have not been chosen for eternal life, so it does not help when I do good; everything is really in vain.”

9. Instead, the true meaning of election must be learned from the holy gospel of Christ. It clearly states, “God imprisoned all in unbelief that he may be merciful to all,” and that he wants no one to be lost but rather that everyone repent and believe on the Lord Christ [Rom. 11:321 Tim. 2:4; cf. Ezek. 33:11;18:23].

10. This teaching is useful and comforting for all those who are concerned about the revealed will of God and follow the order which St. Paul observed in the Epistle to the Romans. There he first of all points people to repentance, acknowledgment of their sins, and then to faith in Christ and obedience to God before he speaks of the mystery of God’s eternal election.

11. That “many are called and few are chosen” [ Matt. 20:161 does not mean that God does not want to save everyone. Instead, the reason for condemnation lies in their not hearing God’s Word at all or arrogantly despising it, plugging their ears and their hearts, and thus blocking the Holy Spirit’s ordinary path, so that he cannot carry out his work in them; or if they have given it a hearing, they cast it to the wind and pay no attention to it. Then the fault lies not with God and his election but with their own wickedness [cf. 2 Peter 2:9-15Luke 11:47-52Heb. 12:15-1725].

12. A Christian should only think about the article of God’s eternal elec­tion to the extent that it is revealed in God’s Word. The Word holds Christ before our eyes as the “Book of Life,” which he opens and reveals for us through the preaching of the holy gospel, as it is written, “Those whom he has chosen, he also called” [Rom. 8:30]. In Christ we are to seek the Father’s eter­nal election. He has decreed in his eternal, divine counsel that he will save no one apart from those who acknowledge his Son Christ and truly believe in him. We should set aside other thoughts, for they do not come from God but rather from the imagination of the evil foe. Through such thoughts he approaches us to weaken this glorious comfort for us or to take it away com­pletely. We have a glorious comfort in this salutary teaching, that we know how we have been chosen for eternal life in Christ out of sheer grace, without any merit of our own, and that no one can tear us out of his hand [John 10:28-29]. For he has assured us that he has graciously chosen us not only with mere words. He has corroborated this with an oath and sealed it with the holy sacraments. In the midst of our greatest trials we can remind ourselves of them, comfort ourselves with them, and thereby quench the fiery darts of the devil.

13. Along with this we should strive as diligently as possible to live according to God’s will and to “confirm our calling,” as Saint Peter admonishes [2 Peter 1:101. We should especially abide by the revealed Word that cannot and will not fail us.

14. This short explanation of God’s eternal election gives God his honor 15 fully and completely. On the basis of his pure mercy alone, without any merit of ours at all, he saves us “according to the purpose of his will” [Eph. 1:111. In addition, no one is given reason either for faintheartedness or for a reckless, wild life.

Antitheses or Negative Theses

False Teaching regarding This Article

Accordingly, we believe and maintain that those who present the teaching of  God’s gracious election to eternal life either in such a way that troubled Christians cannot find comfort in it but are driven to faintheartedness or despair, or in such a way that the impenitent are strengthened in their arro­gance, are not preaching this teaching according to the Word and will of God but rather according to their own reason and at the instigation of the accursed devil, because (as the Apostle testifies) “whatever was written was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope” I Rom. 15:41. Therefore, we reject the following errors:

1. When it is taught that God does not want all people to repent and believe  the gospel.

2. Likewise, that when God calls us to himself, he does not seriously intend  that all people should come to him.

3. Likewise, that God does not desire that everyone should be saved, but  rather that without regard to their sins—only because of God’s naked decision, intention, and will—some are designated for damnation, so that there is no way that they could be saved.

4. Likewise, that the cause of God’s election does not lie exclusively in God’s  mercy and the most holy merit of Christ but that there is also a cause in us, because of which God has chosen us for eternal life.

These are blasphemous, horrible, and erroneous teachings, which take away  from Christians all the comfort that they have in the holy gospel and in the use of the holy sacraments. Therefore, these errors dare not be tolerated in the church of God.

This is the brief and simple explanation of the contested articles which for a  time theologians of the Augsburg Confession taught and discussed in ways that contradicted each other. From this every simple Christian can recognize, according to the direction of God’s Word and the simple catechism, what is correct and incorrect. For here we have set forth not only the pure teaching but have also exposed and rejected contrary, erroneous teaching.  In this way the offensive divisions that had arisen are completely resolved.  May the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus grant the grace of his Holy Spirit, that we may all be one in him (John 17: 20-21) and steadfastly remain in this Christian and God-pleasing unity.

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Lessons:

The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine 7: 2—17   Psalm 149 1 John 3: 1—3 St.Matthew 5: 1—12

Almighty and everlasting God,  You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

In an excellent article on Brothers of John the Steadfast blog, “Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Hallowe’en: A Short history“, Pr. Joseph Abrahamson, has a good introduction to the origin of All Saints Day to show that All Saints was not derived from pagan holidays.  I quote only the sections pertinent to the All Saints:

In the first three centuries after Christ’s resurrection, the lives of the martyrs of the Church were commemorated on the day and in the place where they were killed.

There were so many who were killed because of their faith in Christ during those centuries. Throughout the Christian Church different days were set aside not only for each martyr, but a special day for all Saints.

The earliest reference to a day being dedicated to the commemoration of All the Martyrs and All Saints of the Christian Church comes from the 2nd century. The document is titled “The Martyrdom of Polycarp.” Polycarp was a Christian killed because he would not deny Christ. The document says:

Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps. (Chapter 18) [Emphasis added]

Later, a Christian Bishop named Ephraim the Syrian mentions a common All Saints’ Day in 373. In 397 St. Basil of Caesarea chose a day when the churches of his bishopric would honor the memories of all Saints known, and unknown, alive or in heaven. Later, John Chrysostom mentions a common day of memorial for the Saints in 407 AD.

In the year 609 or 610 Pope Boniface IV established a date for All Saints’ Day on May 13th. And later, in the early 700s AD, Pope Gregory III changed the date to November 1st. Decrees like this took some time to propagate from Rome to the more remote areas where the Church was found. But the change in date had nothing to do with any pagan practices. Pope Gregory IV extended the celebration on this day to the entire Western Church in the early 800s. And again, the change took time as it spread from Rome.

The point is this: a common day for commemorating the Saints has been around throughout the Christian Church from very early times. And the fact that it falls on November 1st today has nothing to do with paganism….

All Saints’ Eve (Halloween) and All Saints’ Day have a special place in the commemoration of the Christian Church because of the Reformation. It was on October 31st, Halloween, thatMartin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany. It was on that date he chose to challenge the corruption in the official church about the notion that salvation in Christ could be bought with money or works. All Saints are saved by Grace, through Faith, revealed by God’s Word in Christ.

Halloween, October 31st is Reformation Day. On October 31, 1517 the Church of Christ began to return to the authority of Scripture alone over the traditions and will of man. It was the day that the Church began to return to salvation by Faith in Christ alone over the works of human will and deeds prescribed by humans. The day that the Church began to return to salvation by Grace alone, rather than the effort of the individual or that individual’s reliance upon the efforts of the saints who had gone before him. It was the day that the Church returned to reliance upon Christ alone and not upon self…

Halloween, Reformation Day, All Saints’ Day is a very special day of the year for the Christian Church. We commemorate all saints past, present, and future with the confession that we cannot save ourselves with our own works, no price we could ever pay would be good enough. But Christ has paid for the whole world. And all believers in Christ, and these are the Saints, will be raised on the last day to eternal life. Reclaiming Halloween means knowing where it comes from, why the day was established, and the historical significance it holds for the Christian Church. Satan and the world are always willing to undermine and steal anything that is of value to the confession of the truth of Scripture. Let us not fall prey to the lies.

The Lutheran Church retained the saints but with right Scriptural understanding.  The offense of the Roman Church was the invocation of the saints:  individually prayer to the saints which has no Biblical support.  To this day, one of the requirements  to determine  if a departed Christian is a saint and thus  ‘becomes a saint’ in the Roman Church is by people praying to him  or her and  thereby two miracles are verified!  The Reformers in the Lutheran Confessions call a thing what it is: idolatry and thereby robbing the merits of Jesus Christ for us and for our salvation. 

The Scriptures use the word “saints” repeatedly, as Paul does when he addresses an epistle, “…to the saints that are in…”  The Lutheran Confessions, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession,  teaches the Biblical and clear understanding of the saints:

Our Confession approves honors to the saints. For here a threefold honor is to be approved.

The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men,  Matt. 25:2123.

The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace  truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20.

The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling. 

The first listing of all the saints is recorded in Hebrews 11.  This is the great crescendo of The Letter to the Hebrews in which the preacher puts before us for our encouragement those  in the Old Testamen twho lived by faith in the One Who was to come.  “By faith” is the refrain throughout the chapter. Out of faith in the Lord they could accomplish the impossible which they could never have done on their own.  As it says above in the Apology, this is for our encouragement.  In fact, “encouragement” is the preacher’s goal in Hebrews because his fellow Christians were losing heart.  Everyone listed in Hebrews 11 was a sinner and by faith, a saint.  Sinner and saint and the line between the two was not a fixed line: this part of me saint, this part sinner, but ever being sanctified, make holy by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Marines recruiting motto has been: Never given always earned.  For the saints, it is Never earned, ever given.  And another motto:  Ever given, always learned.  

The saints are models of the godly life, not achieved, but received by faith.  The 11th chapter of Hebrews reaches it’s high point in the first three verses of chapter 12.  The saints’ eyes and souls are fixed, not on themselves, but Jesus Christ, especially those who are asleep in Christ awaiting with us the last Day.  So when we come together for Holy Communion, it is not just us present on a Sunday morning, but all the company of heaven, looking to Christ.  The saints preach Christ and never the Christian.  We need this encouragement in these dark days:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

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Martin Luther’s works translated into English encompass 55 volumes.  The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and Concordia Publishing House,  is currently publishing and translating more volumes.  Dr. Luther somewhere said that all of all he wrote, he thought the only two books  worth keeping were The Bondage of the Will and The Small Catechism

Five of the six Chief Parts of the Catechism has this  encouragement: 

As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household

Luther wrote this for pastors and congregations for the pastors to put them into the hands of the head of the family, normally, a father.  He wrote that a Father and Mother are the Bishop and Bishopess to their children.  Today at a Pastors’ Bible study, we noted that it is our experience,  parents who read the Bible to their children, pray daily at one common meal, speak about the Faith, etc. usually have children who stay in Church. Many Christian families home-school but every Christian family needs to home-church.  This is more urgent in these dark days because the culture is no longer even neutral to the Church. What Luther wrote was a summing up of Christian doctrine in the Bible.  What Luther wrote is an excellent resource for families. What Luther wrote reiterates what the Church has known and taught already.  As in this exhortation and warning from St. John Chrysostom (died +14 September, 437):

Concern for spiritual things will unite the family…Don’t think that it isn’t necessary for a child to listen to the Scriptures; the first think he will hear from them will be, “Honor your father and your mother,” and immediately you will begin to reap your reward.  Don’t say, “Bible reading is for monks; am I turning my child into a monk?”  No!  It isn’t necessary for him to be a monk.   Make him into a Christian!  Why are you afraid of something so good?  It is necessary for everyone to know Scriptural teachings and this especially true for children.  Even at their age they are exposed to all sorts of folly and bad examples from popular entertainments.  Our children need remedies for all these things!  We are so concerned with our children’s schooling; if only we equally zealous in bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord!  

Let us pray…Almighty God, heavenly Father, You have blessed us with the joy and care of children. give calm strength and patient wisdom that, as they grown in years, we may to teach to love whatever is just and true and good, following the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

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Introduction:  After the Lutheran (evangelical) Reformers presented their Confession in 1530 to the Emperor in Augsburg (from then the document has been known as The Augsburg Confession, first book in The Book of Concord), the Papal theologians responded with The Confutation.  Philip Melanchthon was charged with a rendering a response to it:  The Apology (defense) of the Augsburg Confession, which became the second book in The Book of Concord.  In the longest article (IV)  of the Apology, “Justification”, we confess this treasure of the Reformation which the Reformers simply found again, as a pearl of great price: 

All Scripture ought to be divided into these two principal topics, the Law and the promises. For in some places it presents the Law, and in others the promise concerning Christ, namely, either when [in the Old Testament] it promises that Christ will come, and offers, for His sake, the remission of sins justification, and life eternal, or when, in the Gospel [in the New Testament], Christ Himself, since He has appeared, promises the remission of sins, justification, and life eternal.

So much has been rightly preached and taught on the distinction between Law and Promise, but simply put:  The Law kills the sinner (see the rich young man narrative in St. Mark 10: 17-22) and the Gospel makes alive (See St. Mark 10: 26-27).  By  His Law, we are found out(see Genesis 3:  9-10) and by the Gospel, Jesus Christ, the Lord finds us  to restore His lost sheep,  coin…son (see St. Luke 15).  

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472 – 1553), a painter at the time of the Reformation and a friend of the Luthers, illustrated this distinction of law and promise. In terms of the arts, it is music that is most closely associated with the Reformation, but there was an outpouring of the visual arts as well.  

The idea behind this posting is from the blog, The World Wide Wolfmueller, blogger Pr. Wolfmueller, LCMS.  I asked him to use this and he gladly said yes.

Below is a woodcut of Cranach the Elder entitled “Law and Grace”.    It’s a great lesson with children and adults to find  each of  numbered images.   There is  a profound difference and Christ Jesus alone by faith alone through grace alone puts us into the picture by His grace to all through faith.  

 Pr. Wolfmueller put numbers on the wood cut so we can identify each part of Cranach’s woodcut as  illustration of law and promise.  Use his woodcut for a class or for your family’s instruction to identify the various parts which are from the Bible.

We read left to right, likewise, it is always Law then Promise, so that the sinner may daily take hold of Jesus Christ Who has taken hold of us all.  

1. Adam and Eve, eating the forbidden fruit. Notice the snake wrapped around the tree.
2. Death and the devil, driving men to hell with the fear of death and the condemnation of the law.
3. That guy is you, goosed into hell because of your sin.
4. Here is Christ coming in judgment. Notice the flower (the Gospel) coming out of His mouth for those on His right, while the sword (the law) coming from His mouth for those on His left.
5. Moses, the lawgiver, holding the Ten Commandments. The Commandments are the verdict of our guilt and condemnation.
6. Hell, the desperate destruction of those who die apart from the blood of Jesus.
7. That’s you again, looking much happier on the Gospel side of the woodcut.
8. John the Baptist is preaching to you, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” (John 1:29), and point to Jesus, dying on the cross for you.
9. Here’s a picture of Moses again, this time with the tabernacle. There’s a cross out front with the bronze serpent out front to which the people look and are saved (see John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:7-9). I think there is manna scattered on the ground.
10. Here’s the angel preaching to the shepherds and announcing the birth of our Lord Jesus.
11. Baby Jesus, descending from heaven to the womb of Mary. Jesus is bringing His cross with Him!
12. Mary, blessed by the Lord, pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit.
13. Jesus on the cross, satisfying the wrath of God for all sinners. The Lamb in front indicates that this is a sacrifice, in fact, the atoning sacrifice. The Lord’s cloth is being blowing by the wind, indicating that the Holy Spirit brings the preaching of Christ to us.
14. Jesus, risen from the dead, preaching peace to you, and stomping death and the devil under His feet (Hebrews 2:14; Psalm 110:1, etc.)
15. The spear with which the devil was driving us to hell has been stripped away, and used against them.
16. The Holy Spirit brings the atoning blood of Jesus to you, in the preaching of the Gospel, in Baptism and in the Lord’s Supper. Here, in the Gospel, we have life and salvation.

How wonderful that we are those covered by the blood of Jesus, friends of God, and by the death of Jesus destined for the blessedness of the resurrection. (Pr. Wolfmueller)

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From the Wikipedia article:  The Luther seal or Luther rose is a widely-recognized symbol for Lutheranism. It was theseal that was designed for Martin Luther at the behest of Prince John Frederick, in 1530, while Luther was staying at the Coburg Fortress during the Diet of AugsburgLazarus Spengler, to whom Luther wrote his interpretation below, sent Luther a drawing of this seal. Luther saw it as a compendium or expression of his theology and faith, which he used to authorize his correspondence. Luther informed Philipp Melanchthon on September 15, 1530 that the Prince had personally visited him in the Coburg fortress and presented him with asignet ring, presumably displaying the seal.

Letter by Dr. Luther,  sent from Coburg Castle to Lazarus Spengler. July 8 1530, describing Luther’s Rose or Seal:

“Grace and peace from the Lord. As you desire to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, I shall answer most amiably and tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. ‘For one who believes from the heart will be justified’ (Rom. 10:10). Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Rom. 1:17) but by faith in the crucified. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matthew 28:3John 20:12). Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal. This is my compendium theoligae[summary of theology]. I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship, hoping for your appreciation. May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen. 

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Mark your calendar!

Plan to watch “The Intersection of Church & State”

this Sunday, Sept. 30.

Our friends at Lutheran Hour Ministries have produced “The Intersection of Church & State,” a one-hour documentary that will air at 5 p.m. ET Sunday as paid programming on the Fox Business Network.The documentary looks at the multi-faceted topic of church and state from a theological perspective, emphasizing how the church and state can work together for the betterment of society. “The Intersection of Church & State” traces the history of cooperation between these two groups — in bringing care to the needy, the settlement of refugees, the adoption of children, the service of military chaplains, and other ways. It also considers how these historic church and state partnerships are jeopardized.The program features the comments of respected church leaders, including LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison. It has been reviewed and approved for doctrinal integrity by the LCMS.Please check your local listings or visit www.intersectionofchurchandstate.com for show times. If you are unable to watch the program, you can download it online beginning Sunday. You also can purchase a DVD with a discussion guide that can be used for Bible studies, men’s or women’s groups, or as a tool for individual study and research.


PS: You also may be interested in accessing the LCMS’ educational resources about religious liberty. You can find articles, a timeline of the fight for religious liberty, frequently asked questions, videos, a Bible study and a sample letter you can personalize and mail to your representatives. To learn more about the LCMS effort to protect religious liberty, visit www.lcms.org/freetobefaithful.

 

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