Sunday, August 29, 2010

Jesus At Work. Don't Be Angry.

Nothing will cause more anger among Christians than Jesus doing his Jesus job. One would expect anger from the Jews in Jesus’ day who had formed the idea of whom the Messiah would be and what he would be about. And one is right. Also one would expect the unbelieving world to be totally ticked at his actions. And one would be right about that too. Humans are, after all, in rebellion against God which is why we need a Saviour to reconcile us to God. But we are by nature unwilling to be reconciled and think it is God who has the problem and needs to be appeased. Such is the dilemma with the following section.

John 1:9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ESV

Two main groups of Christians are angry about this section. First we have the Arminians who teach that one must make a choice to believe. The first 5 verses indicate that Jesus came in the world to bring light to all persons, as creator cares for all creation, was rejected by the unbelievers and all one has to do is believe. If they even refer to the last verse is where the anger comes in. “It is not fair!” they will say because it is taught it is God’s will that saves the believer. Instead of rejoicing that Jesus is 100% Saviour in this salvation business they do not seem to want to get over the idea we have no part in our salvation.

The second group which get upset at it is our Calvinists. In order to protect God’s Sovereignty they will tend to either ignore the first verse or spend days trying to redefine what it means to enlighten everyone. After all how could Jesus be here to enlighten everyone if God has chosen some for damnation and others for salvation. The answer, of course, is that God has never chosen specific persons to be damned. At least one cannot find that taught in scripture when read in its entirety and plainly.

Rather than something about which to be angry this is another comforting section of scripture. First, for my Arminians. It is not up to us to make a choice to believe in Jesus. This is good. In dealing with the public one realizes a constant: People are forever changing his or her minds. It would be terrifying to trust one’s own choice or judgment in salvation. We have a cornucopia of salvation programs out there from which to choose. One is presented, believed for a time and than rejected when a more attractive program presents itself. True salvation was planned by God before the foundation of the world. It is delivered to us through his means of grace the preached word and the sacraments by which we receive faith and are maintained in the true faith. If one can get over oneself this is fantastic news.

For my Calvinists. It is great and comforting to know that Jesus did not make a special group for eternal damnation. That he came into this world to complete the requirements of the law, to die and pay for the sins of the entire world and resurrect for all of humanity’s justification. If Jesus came only for a limited group we would be cursed with always having to look inside ourselves to see if we have true faith or at our changed lives to know if we are truly saved. Whatever “truly saved” means. What a terrifying life to have to constantly question one’s salvation. On the other hand some will become comfortable with sin by minimizing the accusation of the law in order to have sufficient pious works to rely upon. Nothing is a faith killer like relying upon works to be saved or to know one is saved.

So much better it is to read in scripture about our wonderful Saviour who came to fulfill the laws demands for us. After the law fulfilled for us he bore our sins to the cross for us. And after going into death and the grave for us he resurrected for our justification for us. The much used for us in this last section was on purpose for that is the Gospel. For us men and for our salvation as is stated in the Nicene Creed written so many years ago to summarize the gift of eternal life. Let us believe this good news, live in the peace it delivers and not be angry.

In the name of Jesus. Amen †

Friday, August 27, 2010

Jesus Delivers His Cleansing,

Where is the water in Baptism in the Epistles? This is the question asked by those who want to have a waterless Baptism which is secret to the eyes and where one receives the Holy Spirit. Here it is my doubting friends:

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. ESV

Some have said in response to this. “That is only one verse!” For the first 1500 years in the Holy Christian Church there were no major disputes about whether Baptisms included water. It was only at the time of the Reformation that we had a group wanting to cast off historic doctrine because it looked and sounded too popish. To do this one has to see the bible as a wax nose to twist and shape into any desired form. This is truly a mishandling of the word of God and is why we have such a mess yet today 500 years later. Sinners never being satisfied are always looking for new moving of the Spirit to hit them.

In baptism we receive the glorious cleansing of the connection of water with the word of God. In this promised gift Jesus cleanses us from all sin so that we are presented, in Jesus, totally clean without spot or wrinkle. This ends all the foolish strivings humans do in Christianity to move up a ladder in holiness. Certainly some changes happen to old habits. They, due to the love and gratitude to Jesus, become loathsome to the believer. When confronted with the remaining sin repentance is granted as well as forgiveness. When confronted again with this sin repentance happens and again the forgiveness of sin. This is a constant in the life of a believer and is the first purpose of the law in church. However, one remains clean and without spot or blemish is the promise we have in baptism.

How, it is asked, can water do this? The real activity is not in the water, the baby being baptized, the older child or adult submitting to baptism nor the minister applying the water. It is the combination of water and the name of the Triune God. We see clearly that it is Jesus who is actually doing the baptizing. Since this is Jesus’ powerful work for us we need not doubt its power. What wonderful assurance we have in this activity of Jesus. No longer do we have to examine our own holiness to know we are in Christ. No longer do we have to try and remember an inner experience from years ago. No longer do we have to wonder if a decision we made was sincere enough. When the accusations come we can say to the world, our own sinful flesh and Satan “I am baptized!”

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Getting the L Out of Here. Part 12

Charles Spurgeon in the following quote summarizes the challenge one faces when discussing Limited Atonement with an adherent:

I would rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of men be added to it. (Charles Spurgeon, Sermons, Vol. 4, p. 70)

On first glance I would have to agree that I would rather believe in Limited Atonement than to have to add the work of an unbeliever to grace in order to obtain salvation. This would clearly be adding works to Jesus in order to bring about salvation. Whenever I find myself in conversation with a Calvinist this argument always raises as if he or she believes Lutherans teach free will due to denying Limited Atonement. This was one of my early delights when coming into Lutheranism! I can have a Jesus dead on the cross for the sins of the world as the scriptures clearly present. In addition I do not have to trust any decision I made in salvation to which my Arminians would point.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. ESV

Yes, my Calvinists, Lutherans also like verse 14. Pasting that back into context it shows once again that God is doing the saving work without the help of man. That we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to deliver to us the forgiveness of sins and to instruct us in making judgments. However, nowhere in this section 1 Corinthians, the rest of the letter nor anywhere else in scripture does it say that the unbeliever is not atoned for. So it is not about what we would rather have, Mr. Spurgeon and my Calvinists, but what does scripture clearly teach. It teaches we have a Jesus who took the entire weight of God’s wrath for the entirety of mankind. We cannot have a Jesus who, in 2 Corinthians 5:19, reconciles the entire world so that the sins are not held against them and have a Jesus who only does reconciling for some of humanity. We have only one Jesus who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

The salvation of men is God’s business. It is impossible to understand why some are saved and others lost. What it cannot be is that it is due to that person’s lack of decision which is not taught anywhere in scripture. It also cannot be that God did not desire the salvation of that person for scripture contradicts that idea. It is best to leave off speculating of the why and wherefore of this issue and believe the promises of God and live in the comfort they give.

pax domini. †

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Our Sovereign Adopting Father.

One of the most comforting teachings in scripture is that of the adoption of sinners by our Heavenly Father. Adoption is the closest relationship one can have with a parent apart from being begotten. We see in Romans 8:15 as adopted children of God we call out to God as Abba! Father! This is again repeated in Galatians 4:6. This is the same terminology by which our Lord Jesus called out to him just prior to his crucifixion.

Mark 14:36And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” ESV

Wow! We have the privilege to address the Creator of all things in the same manner as his only Begotten Son addressed him. No other religion has its adherence as adopted children. The best analogy we can use to describe relations with God in all other religions is the follower as employee or slave and God as Employer or slave owner. We are members indeed of the family of God and no longer a slave, employee or servant to God. Jesus calls us friends, brothers and adopted children of God

Galatians 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. ESV

We receive this adoption by faith in the waters of baptism. Not the secret baptism so many in evangelicalism teach. This unknown baptism delivers nothing to no one to which one can look for assurance that he or she is loved by God. There is only one baptism taught in scripture and that is the one where water is going on in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Sprit. That is the essence of adoption is to have a new name placed on you. A sinner brought into the loving relationship of the Holy Trinity! Why do so many reject this in favor of the unknown? Perhaps that it is too fantastic for the human brain to contemplate. Part of our fallen nature is to assume that if one cannot measure or totally understand something it cannot be true. That leaves a person in a horrible state for nothing makes sense to us in the Gospel. In the entirety of God’s word nothing about him makes any sense due to it being outside our experience.

Or do you not know, St Paul writes to us in his epistle to the Roman church, that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? In baptism we are plunged into the death of elder brother Jesus. Somehow, which we cannot understand, Jesus has instituted baptism for the purpose of transferring the fruit of his cross to us. We cannot return to the cross for it occurred nearly two thousand years ago. Jesus gave us this gift to know we have the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit in a tangible way. This is evidence of actually being the temple of God. We are the temple of God even though we may not feel like it or look like it. We don’t have to search our works or our level of trust but rather believe this good news and live in the peace that it offers.

The law says, "Do this," and it is never done. Grace says, "believe in this," and everything is already done.*

In the Name of Jesus. Amen †

*The Heidelberg Disputation of Martin Luther, May 1518

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting the L Out of Here. Part 11

1 Timothy 2:1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. ESV

When speaking with my Calvinists one thing is a constant. We can never settle on the definition of certain words. One of these words is all. Almost to a person all will be explained, especially in the above section, to be merely referring to all types of persons. Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus’ finished work was for the salvation of both Jew and Gentile so one tactic is to say that the word all refers only to some people’s understanding that the Jews had a leg up on the faith.

Aha, it is assumed, from the word Gentile being in the above part of St Paul’s letter to young Pastor Tim here again it is speaking against the controversy. However, one must not be too hasty to make that argument. Remember context both near and far is crucial in understanding scripture. Nothing in the entire letter is addressing the controversy of the Judaizers. Although extremely important was settling that controversy it is simply not addressed in this letter. St Paul is once again pointing out his apostleship to the Gentiles which once again amazing considering what a real Jew he was. So once again we see our Calvinists pressing their presuppositions that God does not want certain people saved therefore, all cannot mean all.

Over and over again I have been told that to believe God wants those who will perish in unbelief to be saved is a challenge to the Sovereignty of God. This is only the case when one takes the Sovereignty of God and will limit it to what is understandable. This is rather teaching the sovereignty of human reason rather than the Sovereignty of God to be something to be defended at all cost. Reason is indeed necessary for banging about here on a fallen world but should never be used to explain how a Holy and Almighty God beholds his creation nor his intention for it.

Isaiah 55: 6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

So there we have how God sees himself. Truly angered at sin both in deeds and in thoughts. But always ready to be sought out and later on shows how he sends his word out to call his created people to himself. That word was manifested in the flesh, lived the perfect life for people, suffered for their sins and was raised for their justification. How anyone can see all that effort just to refuse to save some is totally foreign to scripture. Have reason serve us well in our daily rounds and have the scripture show us our marvelous and humanly unreasonable God.

In the name of Jesus. Amen †

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


While in conversation with a friend who is a Calvinist about Limited Atonement he said he had a verse which would end all teaching of Jesus dying for all of humanity. I asked him to give me the verse which would end that teaching:

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
FROM every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

I capitalized the word from to indicate what he emphasized when reading that verse. When a person emphasizes a word in a passage it pays to watch out. What we see here is a scene from heaven after the resurrection of the dead. This is where the church catholic is gathered from all time and all nations. Yes indeed those were ransomed from every tribe, language, people and nations. What is clearly does not say is that those who are in attendance were the only ones died for. Those who refuse to trust in Jesus’ perfect life, death, burial and resurrection do not receive these gifts. That in no way indicates that those gifts are not theirs or that God in did not want them to have eternal life.

This is a sadness. Due to his or her own stubborn refusal to believe in Jesus that instead of eternal life the unbelievers are entering into eternal death. Many believers that I have talked to have loved ones and friends who are great folks but have a steadfast refusal to trust in Jesus. What these dear ones are trusting is in his or her own goodness. That if there is a god in their thoughts it is a false god who will weigh the good against the bad and all will be swell. Still others have children who were raised in the faith but have rejected it for various reasons. This can cause hours of tears in concern and prayer for these children’s eternal salvation.

One thing the L does for some of my reformed is to give them an out. A fiction which they can tell themselves so that the sadness can be kept at bay. Others eventually will commence blaming God for the lost condition of their family or friends. “Why did you let my son and daughter be born? Didn't you have enough kindling for hell?” This is an example how the L of TULIP can steal peace. How can a man or woman with a child who rebels against Christ as many young people do not ask similar questions at least in the heart?

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” ESV

God does not explain in his holy word, apart from unbelief, why that even though Jesus died for all sinners why some are saved and others lost. Father is merciful to his children so we can go ahead and pray and cry for our lost family and friends. Jesus did not die in order to send people to hell perhaps he will grant them true repentance and faith in Jesus. Let us believe this good news and live in the peace that it offers instead of telling ourselves the fiction of Limited Atonement. Sorry my friend no sale. Okay, not sorry. Instead very grateful that we can know, objectively, we are atoned for in the death of Jesus.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †