Tuesday, May 6, 2014
It is commendable and expected that one be passionate about one's belief. This is especially true when resisting evil doers in government, business, health care etc. However, we have a kind of passion which is not righteous at all. Peter speaks of this passion:
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
(1 Peter 2:11-12 ESV)
These sinful passions of the flesh seek only to ridicule in an unkind manner those who are promoting wrongdoing in order to do something right. This takes the form of gleefully promoting political cartoon and other forms of speech which only destroys the person at whom it is directed. Nothing good can come of these expressions, The only thing they do is cause those who are backing the persons at whom they are directed to dig in the heels and not listen to reason. This is what those held captive to the flesh will do anyway to get his or her point across.
For a believer in Jesus to engage in these activities commits violence against our souls. Both those who are making these things and promoting them and those who see them knowing it is a fellow believer doing it.
“I consider myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am going to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, especially because you are familiar with all the customs and controversies of the Jews. Therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
(Acts 26:2-3 ESV)
Here we see the grand example of St Paul before sinful and unbelieving King Agrippa. He is not railing against him. Rather he defends himself in an honorable fashion giving him the respect due his vocation as king. Later on when Festus accuses Paul of being out of his mind Paul calls him excellent Festus.
If we were honest with ourselves we must admit we have found perverse joy seeing a political cartoon, listening to a talking head's sarcastic personal attacks and have used this destructive speaking ourselves. This is breaking God's command to honor father and mother referring to those Our Lord has called into office. This fleshly response deserves God's temporal and eternal punishment.
But we have good news. Christ came and perfectly obeyed the commandments perfectly and his holiness is given to us as a gift. For the sake of the innocent suffering and death of Our Lord we have this trespass removed from us. Jesus' resurrection is also for our justification.
Trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen. †
Saturday, May 3, 2014
The life of a Christian is the most free of any other person. Luther wrote :
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all*
Our Lord delivers us from bondage to sin as it enslaves others around us. Thus we are free from being slaves. Yet Our Lord sees fit to place sinful men in leadership positions over us. This is one of the many quandaries in which the Christian finds in life.
St Peter wrote the following;
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
(1 Peter 2:13-17 ESV)
In this we see great freedom but it is also a great challenge. When Our Lord puts into office those who only seek to do good by doing evil it is hard to remain respectful of this leader while beholding his or her wicked deeds. Peter understood this. Our Lord foretold of how he was to die which was similar to how Our Lord died.
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
(John 21:17-19 ESV)
After this prophecy by Jesus Peter still had the faith to write such a thing to those who would be persecuted by the same emperor's subjects. Yet we are the most free. How is this to be understood? Unlike our neighbor who does not believe in Jesus he has enslaved himself to thinking this life is all he has. We who believe in Christ are not under that horrible thought.
We know that Our Lord has purchased us for himself and is our True and Holy Emperor. We also know that the wicked leaders we have are subject to him and will either be granted repentance and forgiveness or face the Righteous Judge in condemnation. With this knowledge we can actually pray in honest concern for our leader's salvation rather than to cruelly speak of this leader which so many in the world do. It is tempting to join in but it is not pleasing to Our Father in heaven and we must always seek his pleasure.
If we are honest with ourselves we must admit we fail miserably with this directive. But we have good news. Christ came to live in perfect obedience to the law and has fulfilled it and it is ended because we are justified by faith due to his death and resurrection.
Let us trust this good news and live in its peace. Amen. †
*THE FREEDOM OF A CHRISTIAN
1520 by Martin Luther written to Pope Leo X
Thursday, May 1, 2014
Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?
(1 Corinthians 15:29 ESV)
This is one of the verses in scripture which boggle the mind. In the early church they really believed what the Apostles taught about Baptism being a means of the Spirit unto salvation. Tradition has it that a family which converted to Christianity would have a dead person who did not convert Baptized so he or she could be saved. This is conjecture so we do not have any evidence that this was the case.
Now that we have the completed canon of scripture what do we do with this verse?
First we look at the close context and see St Paul is proclaiming how Christ has all power over all things. He is referring to a practice not advocating Baptizing one's deceased loved ones. It is interesting that he only reports this but does not condemn it.
This is spoken by a man who is being persecuted to those who face persecution. When things go this way it is difficult to understand how Christ is therefore victorious. The resurrection is our comfort during times of persecution and also times of illness while shuffling towards our last breath. What wonderful peace this truth gives!
We also see that in the further context:
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
(Romans 3:28 ESV)
We would see that it is Baptism connected with faith which receives the justification. This is not saying that we need wait until a child is old enough to confess Christ. But a person knowing and trusting in the promises contained in Baptism that it saves through the resurrection of Christ has a firm certainty of salvation.
After considering the close and further context it still seems a strange and mysterious verse. It is said that Martin Luther referred to the medieval custom of removal of your hat out of respect for the verse being the word of God. We do not have to totally come to understand strange scriptures forever twisting, conjecturing and troubling ourselves and others with it.
Scripture is true. Have some trouble with a passage? Remove your hat, keep reading and live in the peace scripture offers.
In the name of Jesus. Amen. †