Thursday, August 30, 2007

Pleasing God.

Jonah 2: 8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.Salvation belongs to the LORD! ESV

This was prayed by one of God's servants inside a large fish. The man praying this was a firm believer in the one true and living God. God said do this but he did that. To interrupt his plans God did a miracle which does not sound all that enjoyable. He was cast into the sea in a raging storm and swallowed by the fish. While inside this fish God brought him true repentance after resurrection. God possesses the quality of steadfast love. For this reason and this reason only He had mercy on Jonah instead of tossing him in hell as was deserved for his rebellion. This has a well known word to describe it; Grace.

Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ESV
With grace which God possesses He regards those who are saved as precious and righteous children of God in Jesus. And as children of God’s family we will do good deeds. What parent while a child is growing up is not impressed by the effort he or she expends learning to talk or walk? If tragically the child was unable to do these things due to infirmity does the baby cease to be the parent’s child? Would loving parents love the child less? No, of course they would not abandon the child or love him or her less. Whatever the child will be able to do will be looked at with fondness by his or her parents. So if earthly and sinful parents can regard a child, falling short of expectations in gracious love, how much more would our heavenly Father regard us in love in spite of our falling short? In our everyday lives when we do the things God has given us to do He sees good work. This may not always be apparent to the Christian. We have no way to measure how much we do because of self motivation or motivated by love for God.

Some groups describe grace rather as a power source or as a sort of spiritual steroids. Steroid is a substance which is injected and makes muscle growth easier by making weight training more efficient. Using this analogy one can see that these Christians will look at the Christian life as more and more gaining ground in the Christian walk by their effort. By practicing resisting temptation which is our duty one assumes more spiritual muscle is being built for the next go round. With this view one will thank God he or she is not like former days and therefore look down on others they perceive as not advanced. Perhaps he or she will fall to temptation, large or small, which was seen as something over which victory had been gained. Doubt instead of pride will set in.

The medieval church at the time of the reformation taught that and still teaches grace in that way to this day. Most people would agree and not be astonished by that statement. What is remarkable is much of what passes as Christian preaching and bible study in evangelical circles would say the same thing. These are churches that either look upon their heritage as the protestant reformation others stubbornly affirm they are of a different heritage. Whereas the papist would show that a person would have to go to purgatory for more sanctification the evangelical would be told he or she can do better and perhaps be motivated by hope for more reward. This is of course caused by a sinner gazing at his or her life looking for confirmation of being saved. We are rather to look outside ourselves for the object of faith in this way stay out of the ditch of self righteousness or despair. We should be crushed and broken hearted over our failings. This is the true reaction of the faithful child of God familiar with and being fed God's word. However, we are given a Brother who is our kinsman Redeemer therefore we need not despair.

Hebrews 12: 1Therefore, 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, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter 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 God. ESV

Father grant us true repentance for trusting in ourselves for confirmation of faith. Fix our eyes on Jesus and aid us in giving Him all the glory and our trust. In the Name of Jesus. Amen

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Getting the L out. Part 2

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. ESV

In this section Jesus is contrasting Himself with others who came before Him both sent by Him and those not sent by Him. Today we have under shepherds serving churches. Some are good and others not so good. The good ones we can be thankful for but they do not give their lives for the sheep. Only Jesus does that work.

Those who maintain Limited Atonement will look at the above verse and say Jesus died only for the sheep. But that is not what the scripture says. Jesus is talking about Himself not sinners. Yes He gave His life for the sheep but does not say only the sheep and none else. One has to read that into the section due to the preconceived notion of Jesus dying only for those who would come to faith. It makes sense to say that if Jesus died for all humanity all would be saved. However, that is using human reason to answer the question why are some saved and others not.

All humanity is under the curse of the law and Jesus died for those under the curse. The king of biblical interpretation is scripture interprets scripture.

  John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. ESV

In this verse we see world, or humanity again without exception. So one does not have to spend time thinking about how to tell if he or she is a sheep but rather look to the Crucified, trust His promises, eat His flesh in His Supper and live.

Thanks be to God!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Absolution is an Absolute Truth

John 20: 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you." 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you." 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld." ESV

One of the most blessed events in being a Lutheran is to hear the pastor say at the beginning of worship. “I as a called and ordained servant of the word in the stead and by the command of my Lord Christ forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father † Son and Holy Spirit.” This is after a prayer as a gathered people of how we by who we are break God’s Law and justly deserve His present and eternal punishment. This is in addition to actual sins and sins of inactivity. By this proclamation we have the presence of Jesus through the throat of the pastor into our ears.

In the previous tradition in which I was raised people would meet with the minister for “counseling.” This was mostly modified pop psychology, assurance of forgiveness and then being thrown back on oneself with encouragement to do better. In later experiences in worship we heard the Law of God, assurance of pardon and thrown back into the law to do better next time out of gratitude. For perhaps and hour or even a day one could feel empowered to do better. If one ignored his or her bible, at least the parts that show us the perfect Christ perhaps that feeling would even linger. But if one was honest he or she would see very quickly more falling short. Some do not see this falling short in themselves but rather advancement which in itself is a terrifying thing to consider.

Jesus is our Crucified and Risen Savior not merely an example, cheerleader, life coach or massage therapist. We need Jesus’ perfect life given to us in our baptism each and every day. Baptism is how we know we are in Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28. Through Baptism we know we have His robe of righteousness in the sight of God even if we cannot see it. How else would we know?

God's peace. †

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Getting the L out. Part 1

One of the categories with which a Calvinist will distinguish him or herself is Limited Atonement. This is the L in the acrostic TULIP. This was probably the most difficult for me with which to deal on my way out of Calvinism.

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. ESV

The above verse shows why a person does not stand condemned while another stands condemned. What it does not say is that a person stands in condemnation because Jesus did not die for him. By nature we are all sinful and unclean justly deserving nothing but God's present and eternal punishment.

The unanswered question is why are some saved and others are lost. The Lutheran reformer M. Luther indicated to attempt to answer that question was to be in error. Why is that an unanswered question? The Lord has not seen fit to tell us the answer. Since it is not revealed on Holy Scripture we need to leave it alone. From the American Edition of Luther’s Works 5:43-50; Luther’s Genesis Commentary, commenting on  Genesis 29:9) Much blank filling and supposing to know the mind of God goes into trying to answer it. Suffice it to say those of us to whom God has shown mercy live in gratitude and humble service to our neighbour.

Thanks be to God. †

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Repenting of Good Deeds

The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.- Martin Luther May 1518

Luke 17:7 "Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and recline at table'? 8 Will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink'? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'" ESV

Find God's purpose for your life.

Fill up that heavenly bank account with good deeds.

Contribute to and draw on the treasury of merit.

These are all pleas from various traditions which place a huge emphasis on what one does for God. All of them promise (threaten) a measuring of good works when we meet up with Jesus. The word of God does not give a list of good deeds to do except perhaps helping the poor and needy which is what God requires of all people.

So the laundry list comes out of the mouths of these preachers advising you to give more, volunteer in the church more, attend more worship and bible studies. All of those are good things with which to be involved. But what those preachers do not tell you is that obeying the speed limit is also a good work in the eyes of God. Going to work on time and getting the work completed is a good work. Washing the dishes for the family is also viewed as a duty that God expects. These also can and are being done by believers and unbelievers alike. So what is the difference?

Attitude and motivation is the difference. A Christian will do these things with love for Jesus and with fruit of the Holy Spirit. An unbeliever will not because he or she does not love Jesus nor has the Holy Spirit bearing fruit. In Jesus God's children robed in His righteousness do all sorts of things which please God.

So why would those deeds be mortal sins as referred to by Dr Luther? If they are presented to God as if He needed them. God certainly as creator and sustainer of the universe does not need our good works. He is the originator of good works and gift giving. So how can we hold these up to God and tell Him this is for you because you needed it? Another reason they would be sin is due to mixed motivation. Humans are self centered by nature. The good done for society, employer and family are partially motivated by hope of reward and fear of punishment. That is the way the worldly system operates to keep the sinners from abusing other sinners and the work gets done. The sin becomes faith endangering due manipulation of God as if He owes us for our paltry efforts.

Jesus serves us totally devoid of self interest. God, being God, does not need creatures to fulfill Himself. He does these things for that is His nature. He tabernacled among us and endured the temptation, bitter suffering, humiliating death and glorious resurrection for you. He was not a greater God because of it nor is He more worthy of praise for doing it. Those things were His from eternity past. Now what work can you or I do to match that?

Glory be to the Father and to the † Son and to the Holy Spirit.

The Forgetful God?

Seems silly doesn't it. An all knowing, all powerful and ever present God forgetting something? Yet we have this comforting promise:

Hebrews 8:11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,'for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.12For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more. ESV

What does it mean that God will not remember sins? Hebrews 8 presents Jesus as the High Priest of the new covenant. This covenant would not require the shedding of animals blood for the remembrance of sin but rather the shedding of the Lamb of God's blood for the washing away of sin. Sin is gone completely and separated from us as far as the East is from the West.

This is the radical difference between biblical Christianity, other religions in the world and unfortunately what passes for Christianity in many circles. Success preachers, purpose dribblers, papists and left behinders all teach we owe God big time for this free gift. Yes we owe Him big time but He asks us to receive this from His hand. These liars will always cast a person back on themselves to see if he or she is saved not point to Jesus' finished work.

The Gospel places no demand upon us. Jesus' perfect life, bitter sufferings, shameful death and glorious resurrection are not to be added to nor can they be improved upon. God, the good deed originator, does not need our deeds. We do not need them to get in good with God. But our neighbour does. With a thankful heart we help our neighbour in our daily rounds partially because we may feel good doing it but partly due to love for God our Father.

Thanks be to God! †

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Living Vine, Fruitful Branches

In Nomine Iesu

I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Jesus the vine; we the branches. He the source of life, we the ones who live in Him. The image takes us out to wine country, to the rolling vineyards lush with grape vines. Fruitful branches thick with grapes growing on an old, gnarled vine with roots that reach deep into the ground. Jesus is that true vine, the only vine planted by God. His roots go deep down into Israelite soil and God’s covenant promise to David, to Isarel, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all the way back to Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, the place our origin.

The Father, Jesus says, is the vinedresser, the gardner. The guy with dirt under his fingernails and pruner’s clippers on his belt. Watch the vinedresser in action. Watch how he cuts off every branch that doesn’t bear fruit, while every branch that does he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. These aren’t random, hacking cuts he’s making. These are selective, strategic cuts, precisely just above a tender bud. He carefully distinguishes green wood from dead wood. He has but one purpose: To make the branch even more fruitful.

Look at an unpruned vine sometime, one that hasn’t seen the pruner for several years. On the surface there is a lot of lush green growth, but deep inside it’s mostly dead wood. And there’s very little fruit on such a vine. Fruit happens on new growth, on buds that have been spurred into action by careful pruning. That’s the first point of this analogy this morning. The Father prunes us for fruitfulness.

Before we can understand this image fully, Iwe need to understand precisely what the “fruit” is that Jesus is talking about. I’m going to invoke the general editorship of the Holy Spirit here, and suggest that “fruit” generally means the same thing, no matter who says it, whether Jesus, John, or Paul. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul says that the “fruit of the Spirit” at work in us through the Word is this: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. It’s a singular fruit, not multiple fruits. This is the fruit I think Jesus is referring to when He talks about His disciples being fruitful branches joined to Him.

“Being fruitful” isn’t about how much work you can do for Jesus or how many disciples you can notch for the kingdom. Jesus isn’t giving His disciples a punch list of things to do. He’s telling them what flows from a heart that trusts Him, that clings to His death for life, that believes His Word: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Fruit happens more or less automatically when the branch is healthy and properly pruned. I have a grape vine growing in my backyard that produces a lot of fruit without a lot of effort. It seems to come more or less automatically. I can’t imagine a branch agonizing over its fruit production, or trying to squeeze out fruit from a dead branch. If the vine is alive, and the life of the vine is flowing out to the branching, fruit happens. it happens so much that you have to thin out the fruit too.

Now if anything impedes the flow of juices from the main vine to a branch, the branch will wither and die and become fruitless dead wood. Dead wood is what the Father’s pruning clippers are after. Going back to Galatians, we might say that the dead wood is our own sinful self which gets in the way of Jesus having His way with us. Paul calls these things the “works of the flesh,” and give us some examples, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, adultery, immoral living, idolatry, witchcraft or sorcery, fighting, arguing, jealousy, anger, selfishness, divisions and the spirit of division, envy, drunkenness, carousing, that sort of thing.

These are the things that Jesus died to take away from us. These are the things we died to in our Baptism. This is what Jesus absorbed into His death and buried in His tomb. These are the dead works of unbelief, of the death of Adam at work in us and in the world around us. “In Adam we die.” These things need to be cut away and burned up. And so the Father prunes away the dead wood, whatever gets in the way of Jesus life flowing through us.

Pruning can be painful. The branch suffers loss and injury. When I prune that grape vine in winter, it’s not a pretty sight. When I’m done, all that’s left are a few short stubs with a couple of buds on each of them. But that’s where the growth comes that makes fruit.

“Why do bad things happen to good people?” we ask. Why do bad things happen to me? Why does God permit tragedy to occur? Why does He let people lose house and home and job and honor? The answer from today’s reading comes this way: He prunes every branch in Jesus that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You’re being pruned, not punished. Pruned by the Master Gardner to produce greater love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control that you could ever imagine.

And that is the experience of many Christians. It isn’t until they experience suffering and loss, until they’ve done some “Job time,” that they discover a depth of love, joy, peace that would have remained hidden. Two weeks ago, a series of tornados ripped through a small town in Missouri and completely devastated the town, including a large church. There was a picture in the paper last week of the congregation worshipping outdoors, in front of the rubble of their church. They set up hundreds of folding chairs set up in front of a large, makeshift altar. They were caring for each other instead of for a building. The tornado had pruned away their property, but a whirlwind can’t take Jesus away, or His Spirit.

You’ve seen it yourself, or maybe even experienced it for yourself. Someone who is basically a wallflower Christian, barely recognizable, distracted maybe, suffers some loss - loss of health, or work, or property. And there’s great grief and sorrow. But instead of shaking your fist at God, or cutting Him off, you turn to Him in your misery. You embrace the loss and accept it. You turn to the Word. You commune more intentionally. You come to confession. And you find that the most difficult and painful times in your life are also the most fruitful, spiritually speaking. There’s room for the implanted Word to grow and blossom. And you find a joy and a peace and a softening of the heart that you can have no other way.

No branch can bear fruit by itself. It must remain joined to the vine. Apart from the vine, it will wither, dry up, and die. “Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.…apart from me, you can do nothing.” That’s the second point. This is not about you, but about Christ at work in you and you living in Christ.

Last week, I was cleaning up a patch of olalliberries in my backyard. Olaliberries are a big, dark, juicy berry. Great on cereal. Mine grow on a long vine tied to the wall. Olaliberries have this nasty habit of rooting whereever they touch the groundm making them almost a weed. I hadn’t done much pruning on them last year, and so many stems had touched the ground and rooted, setting up new clusters of plants. As I was pruning and untangling things, I accidentally cut a long branch at both ends. Here was this perfect branch, with flowers and fruit on it, cut off at both ends from its source of life. I noticed my mistake within about ten minutes, as the leaves began to wilt in the morning sun.

Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. And yet we try. We who ought to know better, we baptized believers in Jesus, yet we try to go it alone. I don’t know whether it’s our rugged individualism or our old Adam. I suspect it’s some of both. We try to have the Spirit’s fruit without Jesus. The unbelieving world certainly does. It has all sorts of programs and religions that promise peace and joy and fulfillment, but can’t deliver, because it’s all up to you in the end. “The energy for change is all inside you,” they say. “You just have to tap into it.” But when you try to tap into it, you find the well to be dry. The truth is there is no diet, no mantra, no exercise that will make you fruitful in the way we are talking about. There is no twelve step program to give you love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These things don’t naturally flow from our hearts. What comes naturally are lies and theft and slander and gossip and immorality and murder and threats. Not the fruit of the Spirit but the sin of Adam.

Good fruit comes from Jesus, out of His perfect, sinless life. Out of His innocent suffering and death. Out of the open, empty tomb of His resurrection. It comes from the life of Jesus flowing into each of you, joined to Jesus. He is the Vine, remember. We are the branches. We are not each vines unto ourselves. We are branches joined to the Vine, drawing our life from Him, our strength, our frutifulness.

Grafted into Him, hanging on to Him in faith, we bear much fruit. Our lives are filled with love, with joy, with patience, with kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and selfcontrol. That’s what Jesus does in us with His Word. Remaining in Him, we hear His Word, we eat and drink His Body and Blood, we hear and cling to His Word of forgiveness. What happens here in the congregation each Sunday morning is “vine and branches stuff.” Jesus the Vine, feeding and nourishing and refreshing the branches to be fruitful.

When we cut ourselves off from the Vine, when we refuse to hear or don’t make the time to read His Word, when we stay away from the sacrament of His Body and Blood, when we refuse the gifts Christ sets before us, why are we then surprised when we feel dried up, withered, fruitless?

Sometimes we barely notice it in our day to day habits. We just kind of slip away, lose touch. We’re not at the Lord’s Table as often, we don’t read the Bible as much, we go through the motions of religion but we’re not hearing. And what happens? We dry up. Faith withers, like that Olaliberry branch cut off from its source of life. We live small, puny, trouble, discontented, empty lives. And it’s all so unnecessary.

God has done everything - embraced us in the death of His Son, baptized us, forgiven us, welcomed us to His table. He grafts us to the true Vine and prunses the unproductive branches. So don’t blame God if you’re all dried out and fruitless. It’s not God’s fault, it’s our own fault. The Vine is always there, giving us life. We’re the ones who cut ourselves off and say no. But Jesus is always faithful, always forgiving, always urging and welcoming. “Come to me. I am the Vine, you are my branches. I will fill you with my life, with my strength, with my forgiveness. Apart from me there is only death and destruction. And the hell of it is that it’s all unnecessary. I died for you. I embrace you in my death. I remain in you, now you remain in me. That’s where you’re fruitful and alive - in me. Not in yourselve, but in me.” Jesus is saying that to each of us here this morning. Remain in me, as I remain in you.

By His Word Jesus remains in us, and by faith that Word we remain in Him. His Word makes us clean, His Word makes us frutiful, His Word shapes our words of prayer. First we hear, then we speak. That’s the order. The Vine comes first, then the Branches. Jesus says, “If my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” That doesn’t give us some magic formula to get whatever we wish. This is no carte blanche guarantee for prayer. Instead, Jesus is saying that when His word has had its way with us, when it has gone into our hearts and struck our minds and our hearts so that we trust Him, His Word will shape every word that comes out of our mouths.

Jesus wants each of us, all of you, to be fruitful, to live large in His life, to live freely in His forgiveness. He desires that for each of you. It’s to His Father’s glory that you bear fruit, much fruit, that your lives be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and that you be His disciples, trusting Him all the way in life, in death. You are the branches; He is the Vine. In Him you are fruitful.

In the name of Jesus, Amen

By permission of Rev Wm Cwirla, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Hacienda Hts, CA

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Obedience to the law of God

The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him. - The Heidelberg Disputation Martin Luther May 1518

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. ESV

So many filthy dreamers abound who proclaim one must work on his or her own righteousness to become acceptable to God or in order to become more acceptable. This takes the forms of the Roman Catholic doctrine, Purpose Driven life and all other success Gospel teachings.

The former is easy to spot. The cry escapes from their lips sola fide is wrong! The law if God is minimized in order to make it appear it is being kept. What he or she has to prove is that not only is he or she holy now but also that he or she has never sinned. This is what is needed to be holy as God is holy.

The latter is much more difficult. These will say one is saved by grace through faith alone. However, now that you are saved you can now succeed over sin completely and over time become better and better. What is not taken into the equation is that one breaking of the law is breaking of the entire law. So from God's point of view one is just as much a sinner as before. This teaching is most attractive for who would not want to please God. Two types of people emerge from this teaching. Self righteous sinner who look down noses on the former life and those who are still living that way. Or a terrified sinner not seeing enough good works or lack of sin to prove salvation.

Eyes off yourself my friend! Look at Jesus only!

Theology of glory vs. Theology of the cross.

The theologian of glory observes the world, the works of creation. With his intellect he perceives behind these the visible things of God, His power, wisdom, and generosity. But God remains invisible to him. The theologian of the cross looks to the Crucified One. Here there is nothing great or beautiful or exalted as in the splendid works of creation. Here there is humiliation, shame, weakness, suffering, and agonizing death... [That] "God can be found only in suffering and the cross"... is a bedrock statement of Luther's theology and that of the Lutheran Church. Theology is theology of the cross, nothing else. A theology that would be something else is a false theology... Measured by everything the world calls wisdom, as Paul already saw, the word of the cross is the greatest foolishness, the most ridiculous doctrine that can confront a philosopher. That the death of one man should be the salvation of all, that this death on Golgotha should be this atoning sacrifice for all the sins of the world, that the suffering of an innocent one should turn away the wrath of God — these are assertions that fly in the face of every ethical and religious notion of man as he is by nature... God Himself has sent us into the hard school of the cross. There, on the battlefields, in the prison camps, under the hail of bombs, and among the shattered sick and wounded, there the theology of the cross may be learned "by dying"... To those whose illusions about the world and about man, and the happiness built on these, have been shattered, the message of the cross may come as profoundly good news.

-Hermann Sasse, "The Theology of the Cross: Theologia Crucis," in We Confess Jesus Christ, Concordia Publishing House, pp. 47-48, 50, 52, emphasis added

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

How many baptisms? Just one.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit, fire and water are one in the same.

In the baptism of our Lord as recorded in Matthew 3 the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a Dove. Father also spoke and said He is His beloved Son in Whom He has pleasure. In baptism the Holy Spirit makes one a disciple, regenerates and he or she is adopted by being given the name of the Triune God. Thus becoming the son or daughter of God in Whom He is well pleased. Matthew 28:18-19 John 3:3-7 Romans 8:15 Titus 3:5. One is given the merits of Christ and His righteousness thereby God is well pleased with us and looks at our deeds as holy. This is by grace alone and is the act of God upon the person. The person administering the Sacrament acts as a conduit. Like as in preaching the Word brings faith God gives humans the privilege of taking part. 1 Corinthians 1:21, 1 Peter 1:23 One should never say a minister, a Christian living the gospel or evangelist saves anyone.

Baptism of fire refers to Christ suffering the penalty of our sin. When one is baptized one is baptized into His death. Romans 6. The fire is the indignation and wrath God has towards sin. Christ suffered this on behalf of the entire human race. One cannot understand the suffering of the sinless God the Son enduring not only the sin which was abhorrent but also the severe wrath sufficient enough to expiate the guilt and make payment in full for all sin of all people of all time. In teaching of His death He refers to it as a baptism and a cup. It could not be referring to the water baptism for that happened earlier. Mark 10 We, of course, do not participate in that baptism for it was Christ alone that experienced that. The disciples did receive persecution and many of them were martyred for the Gospel so in a sense they got a taste of it. To this day some of our brothers and sisters taste of persecution to their death.

God of course is not limited to baptism as a means to deliver His grace. As mentioned earlier one is born of the Word. Many have and will receive this gift by hearing and reading the Word and will not have the pleasure of being baptized. As I mentioned in another thread it is with great assurance one can reflect on this wonderful gift.

God’s peace be with you.