Sunday, May 30, 2010

But May It Never Be

The church at Galatia did not have the problems of the one at Corinth of a man living with his stepmother in sin. They did not have one-up-man-ship treatment of the gifts of the Spirit. Nor did it appear that they had the letting go of sin problem of Corinth. So what was the big thing about which St Paul says this?

Galatians 1:6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. ESV

Since the church in Galatia did not have all the outward evidence of being sinners what was St Paul threatening against? They have deserted Christ not to chase after outward and gross sins. They were deserting Jesus to work on their own self righteousness. They did not seem to understand that Jesus did the whole righteous living job. Specifically the ceremonial law of circumcision. This ceremonial law was no longer a requirement to be a true God worshipper as in the older Testament. This had been replaced, by the institution of Jesus, with water and Spirit baptism.

One may say that this letter is out of date. Personally I have never heard of a church that teaches one has to be circumcised to be a true Christian in our day. Does this mean that the epistle to the Galatians is someone else’s mail? Tragically no. Legalism, knowing one is a Christian by deeds, is not far away at all. Unfortunately many preachers in otherwise sound bible believing churches teach people that there is no assurance of salvation other than continual moral improvement. They teach if one is constantly sinning each day there is no way he or she is a true believer. Granted that after a time in the Christian faith one would not expect a Christian to partake in former gross outward acts of a lustful life. The biblical approach in that type of sermon is to preach repentance and forgiveness of sin rather than to try harder not to sin.

However what about sins of the mind and heart. These are totally not in control. An errant thought. A glance toward a desired object which causes momentary lust or covetousness. Or you meet up with a person you think did you wrong and you would like nothing better than to either make or hear of that person suffering. In addition the actual sin of unbelief that Jesus did the whole Jesus job and needs our help to get it done. All these things show that a Christian is by nature far from God deserving eternal damnation.

So where is this moral progress to be seen? It is not to be seen nor is it to be boasted on. Rather the boasting is to be on the promises Jesus won for us on the cross.

Galatians 6:14 But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified unto Me, and I to the world. ESV

The subject of the boasting is cross of the innocent suffering and death of our Jesus. This is where you sins were pinned with Jesus. He endured the wrath of God instead of it being endured by you. Do yourself and those around you a huge favor stop bragging on your supposed self righteousness. That does much more harm than good for it sounds like you have forsaken Jesus in favor of your own efforts at righteousness. Rather speak of how Jesus took all you sins with him to the cross and delivers that to you when you hear the Gospel preached and partake of his glorious holy Supper. This is most certainly true and can aid others in his or her trust in those same promises.

In the name of Jesus. Amen †

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Of Sanctification

The Third Article.

Of Sanctification.

I believe in the Holy Ghost; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean?--Answer.

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.*

Much wind is used. Much ink is spilled. All in the hopes of showing the Christian what his or her part they have in sanctification. This is incorrect for we see in scripture who does the sanctifying.

1 Peter 1:1-2 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in fullest measure. ESV

Yes the believer does good works. Due to the working of the Holy Spirit he brings us into and keeps us in our Lord Jesus. Without his working the words of scripture read and preached would bounce off of deaf ears for we would never be able to receive it. The words of St Peter later in his letter “baptism now saves you also” become meaningless. And Jesus’ words “This is my body and This cup is the new covenant in my blood” are as equally ridiculous.

For neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe on Him, and obtain Him for our Lord, unless it were offered to us and granted to our hearts by the Holy Ghost through the preaching of the Gospel. The work is done and accomplished; for Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, etc. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew of it, then it would be in vain and lost. That this treasure, therefore, might not lie buried, but be appropriated and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed, in which He gives the Holy Ghost to bring this treasure home and appropriate it to us. Therefore sanctifying is nothing else than bringing us to Christ to receive this good, to which we could not attain of ourselves. **

Holy Spirit, Praise your name for delivering to us the benefits of the cross of Jesus. Grant to us true repentance for our slowness of hearts to believe all that you have for us. Amen †

* Small Catechism of Martin Luther Article 3 of The Apostles’ Creed

** Martin Luther’s Large Catechism Article 3 of The Apostles’ Creed