Listen to the sermon on John 2, Jesus changing water into wine…

Luther’s Large Catechism

6th Commandment

Cross-rings206 Inasmuch as this commandment is concerned specifically with the estate of marriage and gives occasion to speak of it, let us carefully note, first, how highly God honors and glorifies the married life, sanctioning and protecting it by his commandment. He sanctioned it above in the fourth commandment, “You shall honor father and mother; but here, as I said, he has secured it and protected it. 207 Therefore he also wishes us to honor, maintain, and cherish it as a divine and blessed estate. Significantly he established it as the first of all institutions, and he created man and woman differently (as is evident) not for lewdness but to be true to each other, be fruitful, beget children, and support and bring them up to the glory of God.

208 God has therefore most richly blessed this estate above all others and, in addition, has supplied and endowed it with everything in the world in order that this estate might be provided for richly and adequately. Married life is no matter for jest or idle curiosity, but it is a glorious institution and an object of God’s serious concern.

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The Word of faith which we preach

 

 

“ ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’

(that is, the word of faith which we preach)”

Romans 10:8

 

Commenting on 2 Corinthians 11, verse two,[1] Luther writes some penetrating words (see below).  In the context, St. Paul writes, “I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted — you may well put up with it!” (2 Corinthians 2:3-4).

Paul indicates that there is only one genuine Jesus.  All others are other Jesus’.  In other words, only One Jesus is the Savior from sin.  All other Jesus’ are counterfeits.  So does Paul also indicate this where he distinguishes gospels, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.  For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.  But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-12).

According to God’s inspired Word through His servant Paul, one who seeks to please men cannot also at the same time be a “bondservant of Christ.”  Those preachers who do seek to please men preach a different gospel and not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Here we must say that just as there are preachers who seek to please men, there are also hearers who seek to please, not God, but themselves, for they do not seek out the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ, but another.  They look for that which God has not promised.  They seek to have their “itching ears” scratched.  They do not seek to repent at the hearing of God’s Word, but they seek another Jesus.

Thus, when they hear things they don’t like to hear or how they like to hear it, they turn the power button off and refuse to further listen.  Rather than test the preaching they hear with the Holy Scriptures, they test it according to what they would like to hear or how they would like the message to be delivered.

Essentially, however, doing these things only demonstrates the characteristic of so many who are Christians in name only—the refusal to listen to the Word and the despising of the very Office of preaching which God has established.

Here, the question arises, “How does God come to us?” “How does Christ give us the forgiveness we so desperately need?”  Another way of asking the question is this, “by what means does God give His forgiveness of our sins that we know with certainty that it is ours?”

Some would, of course, answer the question with the word “faith.”  But is it upon your faith that you have absolute certainty of God’s grace and favor?  If the answer here were yes, then certainty is really upon you. And any certainty upon you is really nothing but uncertainty.

On the other hand, if the answer to the question of means is not on my/our/your faith, but on that which is sure and true, that which God does and gives, there can be no uncertainty in it at all, except that which we add to it of ourselves, if it were possible for us to do so.

Faith has been defined by some as “certainty.”  Such a faith, though, does not have foundation in itself.  We do not trust our faith to be certain because of or on account of our faith.  Rather than trust in one’s own faith or in one’s own certainty, the Christian trusts in nothing less and nothing more than the Word of God that establishes that faith.

And where is that Word preached and heard?  In the Lord’s house.  And by whom?  The pastor.  And what is the pastor to be preaching in the Lord’s house?  Only the Word—only Christ.  Where the pastor is doing this, there you can be sure that God is forgiving sins.  There, you can be sure that God is giving you salvation, because of the Word that is preached.

Also in the Lord’s house, God established the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar.  For what purpose?  For the purpose of bringing to you that salvation won by Christ’s cross.  Thanks be to God for such gifts!  And instead of murmuring and grumbling about the way God brings these gifts (i.e. through human voice, water, and bread and wine), we rejoice all the more in them (see 1 Corinthians 1:27-31), trusting God’s Word and sure of His goodness, not because we “see,” but because of His blessed promises.

Luther

“Christ has instituted this (apostolic) office as if to say, ‘I send you that you should claim and fetch me my bride who was previously prepared or was washed from sins and became pure and holy.’  Now this happens daily in Christianity through the preaching office, in which one proclaims and preaches that Christ has given himself for you, as St. Paul says.  This was done when he suffered and died on the cross and on the third day was raised again.  For through that he has earned grace and the forgiveness of sins for us.  But if that were left there, it would not yet help us.  For even if he earned the treasure for us and has done all, we would not yet receive it.  But how does this same salvation which he has bestowed finally come to us?   For has he now gone up to heaven and left us behind?  He says it must go to us through the Word and Baptism which he has mandated the apostles to bring to us, to bring us home.  Namely, that through them they should bring us  forgiveness of sins, in his name.” (Geo. Link, Luther’s Family Devotions, 648-649)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant that my faith not be founded on anything in me, but only upon You and Your Holy Word.  Keep me from doubting the way You work and the means by which you give me life and salvation through Jesus Christ.  Rather, lead me to give thanks and to rejoice all the more in Your blessed kindness and favor in coming to me in what is esteemed as humble and lowly in the eyes of the world, that Your Holy Name be exalted continually.  Amen.


[1] “For I have betrothed you to a man so that I present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

 

 

The Word of faith which we preach


 

“ ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’

(that is, the word of faith which we preach)”

Romans 10:8

Commenting on 2 Corinthians 11, verse two,[1] Luther writes some penetrating words (see below).  In the context, St. Paul writes, “I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.  For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted — you may well put up with it!” (2 Corinthians 2:3-4).

Paul seems to indicate that there is only genuine Jesus.  All others are other Jesus’.  In other words, only One Jesus is Savior from sin.  All other Jesus’ are counterfeits.  So does Paul also indicate this where he distinguishes gospels, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.  For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.  But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-12).

According to God’s inspired Word through His servant Paul, one who seeks to please men cannot also at the same time be a “bondservant of Christ.”  Those preachers who do seek to please men preach a different gospel and not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Here we must say that just as there are preachers who seek to please men, there are also hearers who seek to please, not God, but themselves, for they do not seek out the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ, but another.  They look for that which God has not promised.  They seek to have their “itching ears” scratched.  They do not seek to repent at the hearing of God’s Word, but they seek another Jesus.

Thus, when they hear things they don’t like to hear or how they like to hear it, they turn the power button off and refuse to further listen.  Rather than test the preaching they hear with the Holy Scriptures, they test it according to what they would like to hear or how they would like the message to be delivered.

Essentially, however, doing these things only demonstrates the characteristic of so many who are Christians in name only—the refusal to listen to the Word and the despising of the very Office of preaching which God has established.

Here, the question arises, “How does God come to us?” “How does Christ give us the forgiveness we so desperately need?”  Another way of asking the question is this, “by what means does God give His forgiveness of our sins that we know with certainty that it is ours?”

Some would, of course, answer the question with the word “faith.”  But is it upon your faith that you have absolute certainty of God’s grace and favor?  If the answer here were yes, then certainty is really upon you. And any certainty upon you is really nothing but uncertainty.

On the other hand, if the answer to the question of means is not on my/our faith, but on that which is sure and true, that which God does and gives, there can be no uncertainty in it at all, except that which we add to it of ourselves, if it were possible for us to do so.

Faith has been defined by some as “certainty.”  Such a definition does not have foundation in itself.  We do not trust our faith to be certain because of or on account of our faith.  Rather than trust in one’s own faith or in one’s own certainty, the Christian trusts in nothing less and nothing more than the Word of God that establishes that faith.

And where is that Word preached and heard?  In the Lord’s house.  And by whom?  The pastor.  And what is the pastor to be preaching in the Lord’s house?  Only the Word—only Christ.  Where the pastor is doing this, there you can be sure that God is forgiving sins.  There, you can be sure that God is giving you salvation, because of the Word that is preached.

Also in the Lord’s house, God established the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of the Altar.  For what purpose?  For the purpose of bringing to you that salvation won by Christ’s cross.  Thanks be to God for such gifts!  And instead of murmuring and grumbling about the way God brings these gifts (i.e. through human voice, water, and bread and wine), we rejoice all the more in them (see 1 Corinthians 1:27-31), trusting God’s Word and sure of His goodness, not because we “see,” but because of His blessed promises.

Luther

“Christ has instituted this (apostolic) office as if to say, ‘I send you that you should claim and fetch me my bride who was previously prepared or was washed from sins and became pure and holy.’  Now this happens daily in Christianity through the preaching office, in which one proclaims and preaches that Christ has given himself for you, as St. Paul says.  This was done when he suffered and died on the cross and on the third day was raised again.  For through that he has earned grace and the forgiveness of sins for us.  But if that were left there, it would not yet help us.  For even if he earned the treasure for us and has done all, we would not yet receive it.  But how does this same salvation which he has bestowed finally come to us?   For has he now gone up to heaven and left us behind?  He says it must go to us through the Word and Baptism which he has mandated the apostles to bring to us, to bring us home.  Namely, that through them they should bring us  forgiveness of sins, in his name.” (Geo. Link, Luther’s Family Devotions, 648-649)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant that my faith not be founded on anything in me, but only upon You and Your Holy Word.  Keep me from doubting the way You work and the means by which you give me life and salvation through Jesus Christ.  Rather, lead me to give thanks and to rejoice all the more in Your blessed kindness and favor in coming to me in what is esteemed as humble and lowly in the eyes of the world, that Your Holy Name be exalted continually.  Amen.


[1] “For I have betrothed you to a man so that I present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”

Worship in Spirit and in Truth

5[Jesus] came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

7There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8(For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

27Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29“Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30They went out of the town and were coming to him. . .

39Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:5–30, 39–42)

Jesus, Holy Scripture reveals, IS the Coming One, the One prophesied in the Old Testament who was coming to deliver His people, the One who is called Messiah, the Christ.  From Genesis, the very first book of the Bible, God promised the Savior, the Savior who would crush the head of that serpent of Old, who is Satan.  And this one, our great adversary, the Savior would trample under His feet.  On Calvary is where this happened.  On the cross is where Jesus, the Coming One, the Messiah, the Christ, through death destroyed him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14).  And through His death, Christ released those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:15).

Through His death, Christ released us from our lifetime of bondage to sin.  Because of Christ, the Bible says, you are no longer under the Law, but under graceSin, therefore, shall not have dominion over you, for you are Christ’s (Romans 6:14).  No more do you need fear eternal judgment and hell.  Jesus IS the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).  He is THE sacrifice for your sins and His sacrifice alone cleanses you from ALL of your sins.  God is faithful and just to forgive your sins, all of them.

This means that your sins are not counted against you because of Jesus.   Because of Jesus you are free to serve God and free to love your neighbor as yourself.  Because of Jesus, you need not dwell on your failings and faults.  Because of Jesus, you need not worry whether or not you are in God’s good graces because IN Jesus, you already are.  Such is the Savior you have in the Messiah, the Christ, the One who came into the world through the womb of the virgin and who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification (Isaiah 7:14 || Matthew 1:23; Matthew 16:21; Romans 4:25).

Because Jesus IS the Coming One, because He IS the Messiah, because He is the Christ, you have no reason to doubt that the blessings and kindnesses of the Almighty God are truly yours.  Though your eyes say differently, the Word of the living God gives you the certainty that it cannot be but according to what God says.  In Christ, you are forgiven, even if you don’t feel it, or don’t feel like you have been forgiven.  In Christ, you have God’s peace, even if there be conflict.  In Christ, you have the confidence of God’s love and mercy upon you, even if all is else says otherwise.

These things are so because you don’t save yourself.   You don’t give yourself certainty.  You don’t cleanse yourself of your sin.  You don’t give yourself peace.  And your confidence before God is not self-made.  Where these things do come from you, they don’t come from God, and they won’t last.  But what is from God, where God gives you true peace, forgiveness, certainty, and salvation, there you can be sure that they will last.  And all of these gifts are yours in Jesus, who reveals Himself as the Messiah, the Christ, the Coming One, to that Samaritan woman at the well in today’s Gospel, and who reveals Himself to us today

It is truly extraordinary that our God came in the likeness of sinful man.  He didn’t leave it up to you to clean up your own mess.  He became flesh and blood to take our place under the law in order to redeem us from the curse of the law (Galatians 4:5).  You don’t ascend to Him.  He comes to you.  He comes to you in such a way that you can even approach Him.

As it was for this woman in our text, at first, she didn’t even recognize Him.  She didn’t recognize Him because He didn’t look like anything spectacular.  He looked like a Jewish man of that time, because He was.  But He was also God, but not God revealed in His glory-God concealed in humanity.  You couldn’t tell that Jesus was God just by looking at Him, even as you can’t tell that Jesus is here present, but by His Word.  The woman thought Jesus was just like any other Jew.  And He even asked her for water!

It is astonishing that our Lord would ask a woman for water.  Some would immediately say that Jesus wasn’t God if He had such needs as food and drink.  But this only demonstrates the fact that Jesus was indeed a man, with all the physical needs that are also our own.  We need to eat.  We need to drink.  We need sleep.  Jesus too suffered these bodily necessities.  He humbled Himselftaking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7).  He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

But Jesus asked her for water also with the intention of directing her to things eternal, not only to things temporal.  But as He spoke to her about “living water”, she didn’t get it.  She didn’t get it when Jesus spoke to her about Himself.  She continued seeking earthly kinds of things and not the heavenly.

But isn’t it this way with us, too?  We are yet in the flesh.  And how often we do set our minds on things of the earth and neglect the heavenly things promised us in Christ! (Colossians 3:1-2) We fret and worry so much about life’s circumstances that we fail to see God’s Word and promises right before our eyes.  We feel sad, get frustrated, and become depressed because things aren’t going our way or because things are just so hard and we doubt the very promises of our Lord, or we are tempted to think that God doesn’t care.  We focus on the negatives and bad things and fail to see the blessings of our Lord in the midst of difficult times.  We’re distracted so easily by the here and now that we miss the big picture, the big picture of the eternal, that which is according to what God says, and that which is our sure hope in Jesus.

Like the woman at the well who heard of living water and sought after only earthly water, we hear the words of prosperity and blessing, and we might think that God promises earthly wealth and a worldly kind of happiness.  We hear the words of peace and we might think that God promises an earthly utopia, where everybody just gets along.  We hear the words of forgiveness and we might think that God is ok with sin and that sin is really no big deal.

Truly this is how some even perceive the Christian faith, that it has more to do with earthly kind of things than even heaven itself.  A worldly kind of gospel finds a great following among many today, but it is a gospel that has little to do with the Jesus of the Bible and more to do with feeding the dream for success and earthly contentment.

But THE Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has to do with eternity.  It has to do with contentment in Christ, not in what one does or doesn’t have.  It has to do with how we now stand before God because of Jesus-truly forgiven, our sins not being added to our account, not because our sins are in any way minimized, but because Jesus paid the full price, purchasing us with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has to do with the message of eternal life, not earthly wealth, earthly gain, success, popularity, or acceptance.  The things of the world are passing away, the Bible says, but the Word of the Lord endures forever (1 Peter 1:25).  Because such is the case, your confidence is not based on the what or the how of your circumstances in life, but on Jesus Christ.

The circumstances, conditions, and emotions of our lives constantly change, up the one moment and down the next.  Uncertainty is what we experience.  But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  And we know God’s disposition towards us from day to day, on account of Him: for good, and not for evil; for salvation, and not for condemnation; for help, and not for opposition

Jesus is your Savior.  Salvation is, as our Lord says, from the Jews.  Jesus Himself was a Jew, born of Mary, the very seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 1:2).  And herein is your hope.  You don’t climb a mountain or go to Jerusalem to worship, as did the Samaritans and the Jews.  Nor do you not know who you worship.  In fact, you do.  You do know who you worship because of Him who reveals Himself to you in the Word as the Christ.  And this One reveals to you that He is the Son of the heavenly Father, whose Father is now also your Father.

When Jesus says as He does in our text, The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth, Jesus is NOT saying that you worship our Lord how ever you want.  Worship in spirit and truth doesn’t mean this.  Spirit and truth kind of worship is that kind of worship which is according to God’s Word and Will.  And that kind of worship which is according to God’s Word and Will is that kind of worship which has Christ Jesus as it’s center.

At one point in Jesus’ ministry, he had said, Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21).  It is not the one who only thinks that He is worshipping God who truly is, but the one who is actually worshipping God as God wills Himself to be worshiped, that is, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The Bible doesn’t talk about a generic god.  Nor does it talk about a god that contradicts himself, or allows inconsistencies to abound.  Any and all who say that all religions worship the same God don’t yet worship the true God.  And any and all who say that Jews and Muslims worship the true God don’t yet know the true God, for the true God is He who does not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11).  The true God has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; not three gods, but one God; three persons, yet one God.

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is indeed a mystery, but a mystery which you believe just the same.  And you believe it because God reveals it to you in His Word.  Therefore are you glad and bold to confess it.  And also are you glad and bold to confess God’s Son, Jesus, for Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who confesses the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:22, 23).

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son.   He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.   And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.   He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:9-12)

We worship our Lord God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, wherever we are, we worship, not only on Sunday, but throughout the week.  We confess Christ, seek forgiveness of sins from Him, and seek everlasting life from Him.  And because we do, we also gather together with one another to this place, to know without a shadow of a doubt, that our God is for us, that Jesus is for you your Savior.

Worship in spirit and in truth is not about us doing for God.  It is rather seeking from God  mercy and forgiveness, life and salvation—through His Son.  Worship in spirit and in truth is looking to Jesus.  It is believing Jesus and trusting His Word and promise.  From this, all else will follow.  Amen.

Luther

10. If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you: Give Me a drink! you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water. [1]

“I would be happier to reverse the order and give you a drink. In fact, this is the reason for My presence here. I am asking for a drink to quench My physical thirst that I might have occasion to give you a drink. If you only realized what a gift is now to be found on earth, you would ask Me for it, and I would give you a drink that would taste better than this water. It is of the utmost importance to recognize this gift and to know Him who gives it. But neither the gift nor the Giver is known.” This is also our lament—and it will eternally remain so—that the schismatic spirits do not recognize the gift even when exhorted to do so; and the great multitude also despises this ineffably precious treasure and fails to recognize the Giver of this gift. In fact, we too, who claim to be saints, pay it no heed and do not fully appreciate the value of this treasure offered to us through the Gospel. My dear friend, how few there are among us who esteem this as a genuine treasure, as an eternal gem, as everlasting life! There must be some, however, who will hazard life and limb for it. In Matt. 13 we read of a man who found a pearl in a field. He sold all his possessions in order to buy pearl and field (Matt. 13:45–46). Thus we find many who are willing to endure tortures because of it; they, too, will receive the drink. But the other crowd says flippantly: “What do I care about it?” You will find a hundred thousand people who regard silver mined from the earth as a real treasure. They will not shrink from laboring night and day to acquire such a perishable treasure.

Would to God that we could gradually train our hearts to believe that the preacher’s words are God’s Word and that the man addressing us is a scholar and a king.20 As a matter of fact, it is not an angel or a hundred thousand angels but the Divine Majesty Himself that is preaching there. To be sure, I do not hear this with my ears or see it with my eyes; all I hear is the voice of the preacher, or of my brother or father, and I behold only a man before me. But I view the picture correctly if I add that the voice and words of father or pastor are not his own words and doctrine but those of our Lord and God. It is not a prince, a king, or an archangel whom I hear; it is He who declares that He is able to dispense the water of eternal life. If we could believe this, we would be content indeed. However, a fault which is manifest throughout the world and also in us is that we fail to recognize the gift and its Giver. I, too, am not at all perfect in this respect; my faith is not as profound and strong as I should like to have it. Flesh and blood are an impediment. They merely behold the person of the pastor and brother and hear only the voice of the father. They cannot be induced to say: “When I hear the Word, I hear a peal of thunder, and I see the whole world filled with lightning.” No, we cannot be brought to do that, and this is most deplorable. Flesh and blood are at fault. They refuse to regard the oral Word and the ministry as a treasure costlier and better than heaven and earth. People generally think: “If I had an opportunity to hear God speak in person, I would run my feet bloody.” This is why people in times past flocked to the Oak, to Aachen, and to the Grym Valley.21 Because the people believed that Mary would help them in these places, they all hurried there. If someone at that time had announced: “I know of a place in the world where God speaks and anyone can hear God there”; if I had gone there and seen and heard a poor pastor baptizing and preaching, and if I had been assured: “This is the place; here God is speaking through the voice of the preacher who brings God’s Word”—I would have said: “Well, I have been duped! I see only a pastor.” We should like to have God speak to us in His majesty. But I advise you not to run hither and yon for this. I suppose we could learn how people would run if God addressed them in His majesty. This is what happened on Mt. Sinai, where only the angels spoke and yet the mountain was wrapped in smoke and quaked. But you now have the Word of God in church, in books, in your home; and this is God’s Word as surely as if God Himself were speaking to you.

Christ says: “You do not know the gift.” We recognize neither the Word nor the Person of Christ, but we take offense at His humble and weak humanity. When God wants to speak and deal with us, He does not avail Himself of an angel but of parents, of the pastor, or of my neighbor. This puzzles and blinds me so that I fail to recognize God, who is conversing with me through the person of the pastor or father. This prompts the Lord Christ to say in the text: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ then I would not be obliged to run after you and beg for a drink. You would run after Me and ask Me for the living water. But since you do not know the gift and do not recognize Him who is speaking with you, you despise Me.” Even if Christ did no more than greet us, it would be a treasure above all treasures; it would be honor and treasure enough. He has another treasure in store for us, however, which He reveals when He brings us forgiveness of sin and redemption from death, devil, and hell, when He transforms us into heavenly people and illumines our hearts. We can never express the value of this treasure adequately. We shall always fall short of recognizing it fully and of esteeming it as we really and truly should.

We should mark well that this is spoken to us too. If we recognized this gift, we would receive water in which the Holy Spirit is given to us. By God’s grace we have at least begun to recognize God’s gift and the Teacher. If we had not, I would not be able to teach you. Then you would fare as you did in the papacy, where you were told: “Run hither and yon!” However, thus far we have received only the first fruits and not the tithe.22 It is just beginning to dawn on us that God’s speaking to us is an inexpressibly precious gift and that we are honored to be God’s pupils and disciples. This is what is meant by knowing the nature of the gift and the person of the Doctor and Teacher. We and our hearers are just beginning to recognize that it is not a man we are listening to, but that it is God who is telling us things that contain an everlasting treasure. Therefore we are told again and again that we cannot speak about this subject enough; we must be like a stammering child. We cannot fathom what an incomprehensibly great treasure we possess in the divine Word. Nor do we really understand who this Person addressing us is or how excellent and exalted this Person is. If we did, it would impel us to boast of being followers, not of a king or of an emperor but of God. People in the world are proud if they have a gracious lord, or if they are privileged to see a prince; it means much to them to stand in his presence and hear him speak. Now it is true that it is a treasure to have a gracious lord or to be a prince’s counselor. But look at the glory of the man who can say: “I am God’s pupil; I hear Him speak —not an angel, not a pastor or a prince, but God Himself. I am His counselor.” For God says: “My message is an excellent gift, and by comparison the world’s riches and glory are nothing but filth.”

My dear friend, regard it as a real treasure that God speaks into your physical ear.23 The only thing that detracts from this gift is our deficient knowledge of it. To be sure, I do hear the sermon; however, I am wont to ask: “Who is speaking?” The pastor? By no means! You do not hear the pastor. Of course, the voice is his, but the words he employs are really spoken by my God. Therefore I must hold the Word of God in high esteem that I may become an apt pupil of the Word. If we looked upon it as the Word of God, we would be glad to go to church, to listen to the sermon, and to pay attention to the precious Word. There we would hear Christ say: “Give Me a drink!” But since we do not honor the Word of God or show any interest in our own salvation, we do not hear the Word. In fact, we do not enjoy listening to any preacher unless he is gifted with a good and clear voice. If you look more at the pastor than at God; if you do not see God’s person but merely gape to see whether the pastor is learned and skilled, whether he has good diction and articulates distinctly—then you have already become half a Jacob.24 For a poor speaker may speak the Word of God just as well as he who is endowed with eloquence.


[1]Martin Luther, vol. 22, Luther’s Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1957).

Be Perfect?!

Upon two commandments, Jesus says, hang all the Law and the Prophets. The first is to Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). The first commandment here has to do with faith to God. The second has to do with love for neighbor. It is this second commandment which draws our attention in today’s Gospel reading. It is according to this commandment whereby we demonstrate whose we are in this life, whether we are of our own or whether we are of the Lord.

To be Christian does not mean simply to confess the Christian faith with the mouth. This anyone can do. And truly, there are many who merely say that they are Christian. They speak the Creed. They say that they are sinners. They say that they are Christian. They hold membership in a Christian congregation. Yet they don’t exhibit the very things that Jesus is talking about in our text. They hold grudges. They backbite. They do not forgive. They raise dissention and quarrel any chance they get. Their actions truly do speak louder than their words…

Mt05.38-48, Epiphany 7, 2011A.pdf

“Your Redemption is Drawing Near”

In the Nicene Creed, Christians everywhere confess that the Jesus Christ “will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.” This confession we confess because it is true according to the Holy Scriptures, as heard in today’s Gospel reading. The Lord Jesus will one day return, not in humility as before, being born of the virgin. When He comes again, He will come in glory. Every eye will see Him, the Bible says (Revelation 1:7).

This is good news indeed for all who long to be without sin, for all who desire God’s mercy in Jesus. But for all others, the day of Christ’s return will not be a welcome day. It will be a day of fear and dread. It will be a day of fear and dread because for those who in Christ do not believe, who ignore His calling now to repent and believe the Gospel, they will be called to account. For them, Christ’s return is not for their salvation. It is for their judgment. But for the Christian, for the one who calls upon the Name of the Lord, who seeks God’s favor through the obedience of His Son, Christ comes to bring them to Himself, to take home all who belong to Him…

Lk21.5-36, Pentecost 25, 2010C

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)…

Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me

Galatians 1:1-2

To the Christians in Thessalonica, St. Paul wrote, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

The Christian Thessalonians, when they heard the Word from Paul and his companions, they accepted it as God’s Word.  How foolish they would have been not to do so!  Paul wasn’t preaching his own Word, but the very Word that the Lord gave him to speak.

So also with preachers today, preachers who do indeed preach only according to the Word!  It is them you are to hear.  They direct you to God and His Word.  They direct you to Christ.  If any preacher direct you elsewhere, then he is not a faithful preacher of Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23).

The servant of the Lord preaches God’s Word.  He doesn’t just say that he does; he actually does.  This doesn’t imply perfection.  But it does indeed indicate that he preaches nothing else than Jesus, for only in God’s Son do you have the hope of eternal life.

It would be foolish to listen to another, to another who doesn’t preach God’s Word and Jesus our Savior!

Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

The Lord’s sheep hear His Word.  Thus do they go to hear where the Lord’s Word is truly preached and spoken.  Thus do they rejoice and give thanks for Godly ministers who really do preach the truth.  And that’s where they go—not because of the man, but because of the Word!

Luther

What does Paul intend by this bragging?  I reply: This doctrine has as its purpose that every minister of the Word of God should be sure of his calling.  In the sight of both God and man he should boldly glory that he preaches the Gospel as one who has been called and sent.  Thus the king’s emissary boasts and glories that he does not come as a private person but as the emissary of the king.  Because of this dignity as the king’s emissary he is honored and given the position of highest honor, which he would never receive if he were to come as a private person…When Paul commends his calling so highly, he is not arrogantly seeking his own praise, as some people suppose; he is elevating his ministry with a necessary and a holy pride…He has to do this to maintain his authority, so that those who hear this may be more attentive and more willing to listen to him.  For they are not listening to Paul; but in Paul they are listening to Christ Himself and to God the Father, who sends him forth…Just as men should devoutly honor the authority and majesty of God, so they should reverently receive and listen to His messengers, who bring His Word. (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p16)

Prayer: Lead us, heavenly Father, to rejoice and give thanks for Your Holy Word, through which You, according to Your abundant mercy, make known to us our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  Help us to uphold and encourage those who preach the truth, that we honor them rightly as Your called and ordained servants.  Amen.

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