Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Now, You Are God’s People - May 18, 2014 - Fifth Sunday of Easter - Text: 1 Peter 2:2-10
In our first reading for this morning we are reminded, once again, of the importance of the means of grace. The early church was growing. It was growing so fast that more leaders need to be enlisted to help take care of the believers. Notice the importance that was placed on the means of grace. The apostles knew that the church would not grow except through the means of grace and so they wisely suggested that they enlist helpers while they continue to be in the ministry of the Word. “And” as verse seven says, “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.” It is through the Word of God, as well as through His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, that our Lord grew His early Church and through which He still grows His Church today.
In the Epistle Lesson, our text for this morning we are reminded of our beginnings in the Church, through the means of grace, and the importance of continuing in those same means of grace. Peter begins by reminding us of our being given faith, we begin reading at verse two, “2Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation—3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (v. 2-5). For most of us, we were given faith through the water and God’s name placed on us at our Baptism. At our Baptism Jesus put His name on us, He put faith in our hearts, He gave us the forgiveness of sins He had earned for us on the cross, He wrote our names in the book of life, He made us new people. And now, now that we are growing in our Christian faith life, he encourages us to grow even more in our faith life. He encourages us to grow by making use of the means of the Word of God.
Some of us may have been brought to faith through Holy Baptism, others may have been brought to faith through the Word of God, which works faith and then the desire to be Baptized. Either way, either being brought to faith through Baptism or through the Word, our faith is shown in our desire is to continue to be in the Word which is what strengthens and keeps us in faith.
We are given faith, either through Holy Baptism or through the Word, yet that faith has to have an object. Faith in a tree does not bring eternal salvation. Faith in ourselves or in what we think are our good works does not save. Faith in an idol does not bring eternal salvation, at least not in heaven. Only faith in Jesus brings eternal life in heaven. Faith, true faith must have Jesus as its object in order to be saving faith.
Peter tells us that with Jesus being the object of faith dead stones are turned into living stones. Most of us understand that stones are inanimate objects. Stones are not living things, yet we are described by Peter as stones. Before begin given faith through the means of grace we were not living beings. We were dead beings. We were dead in our trespasses and sins. We were conceived and born in sin. We were spiritually dead, spiritually blind, and enemies of God. We were certainly as good as dead. But by faith given through the means of grace we have become living stones, because we are connected to the main living stone, the main foundation and cornerstone, Jesus Himself.
Again, the object of faith is important. We continue reading at verse six, “6For it stands in Scripture: ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’ 7So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ 8and ‘A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’ They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do” (v. 6-8).
Jesus is the stone, the Cornerstone, the Living Stone. As the Living Stone, He is also a stumbling block to those who do not want to acknowledge their sins and repent. I believe the old cliche’ goes something like, “Pride goeth before the fall.” In other words, sometimes we are too proud to confess and acknowledge our sins, our part in Jesus’ death on the cross, so much so that we end up refusing and rejecting the benefits of Jesus’ death, namely the forgiveness of sins, which means the fall into eternal spiritual death. We confess this almost ever Sunday morning, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8,9). Thus, Jesus is a stumbling block for all those who do not believe they are so bad that Jesus had to die very much for them.
Jesus is a stumbling block, He is also an offense. He is an offense to those who believe they can be good enough to earn their way to heaven. Yes, He is an offense to many Americans, because we know the way we were raised, that is that there is nothing free in life. We are raised to believe that anything that is free has strings attached. We have to make our own way in life. We have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We have to make our own way. And this makes its way into our churches and our own faith life with our thinking that there must be something we can do to earn heaven. Thus when we are told how sinful we really are, how spiritually depraved we are, how our only inclination is to evil, how our will is completely tainted by sin and all we can do is refuse and reject Christ, when we are told these things we tend take offense at Jesus.
Peter reminds us here that Jesus is the Cornerstone to those who have been given faith. Earlier we were reminded that stones are not living things, but are inanimate objects. Here we are reminded that every good structure needs a good foundation and a good cornerstone. When we speak about the Church (capital “C”) we are speaking about all believers in Jesus. The Church (capital “C”) also needs a good foundation. The foundation of the Church, the Cornerstone on which the Church is built is Jesus Christ Himself. Remember Jesus words to Peter after he confessed for himself and the disciples that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus said, “You are Peter and on this rock,” that is on Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, in other words, on Jesus, “I will build my Church.” Jesus is a living Cornerstone and by faith in Jesus, faith given to us through His Word and through Holy Baptism, faith which has Jesus as the object, through faith in Jesus we dead stones become living stones and a part of the Church.
Which brings us to the priesthood of all believers. We pick up at verse nine, “9But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (v. 9-10).
At conception we were very much like stones, inanimate objects, spiritually dead, spiritually blind and enemies of God. It is only as our Lord has called us to faith and given us faith in Jesus that we are given to be a part of the priesthood of all believers. Being a member of the priesthood of all believers means that we have immediate access to our Lord. We may go directly to Him in prayer at any time and any place. He speaks to us through His Word at any time and any place and we speak to Him through our prayers at any time and any place.
Being a part of the priesthood means that we were brought out of darkness into His marvelous light. As He gives faith through His means, so He strengthens and keeps us in faith through those same means. As we confess in the explanation to the Third Article, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” Notice the call by the Gospel and the enlightening with His gifts, again the means of grace.
Finally, being a part of the priesthood moves us to do the good works He has prepared in advance for us to do, namely to proclaim His excellencies. How can we not, after all our Lord has done for us, how can we not help but shout to the world of the great things our Lord has done, does and will do for us.
Perhaps this morning, instead of asking the questions, “What Does This Mean?” we might instead ask, “What is our purpose in life?” And we might rightly answer that our purpose in life is to be loved by God.
Remember, we are conceived and born in sin. And we add to that the fact that we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. We sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of omission, not doing as we ought and we sin sins of commission, doing those things that we ought not to do. Our nature and our will is only to sin. And our nature is to want to not admit our total depravity and our total dependance on someone outside of us for our salvation. We sin and we sin boldly.
Yet, even though we sin, we have a great God who is a God of love who looks after us, cares for us and does everything for us. He gives faith through His means of grace, the Word or Holy Baptism. He works to strengthen and keep us in faith. He has taken care of our sin, the price of which is eternal spiritual death. He took care of our sins once and for all by suffering the price on the cross, because of His great love for us. He gives us His means of grace, including and especially His Word of Law which reminds us of our total depravity and His Gospel which tells us of His total love for us. He gives faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
Our response of faith, again, our response of faith, is to live lives of faith, that is, to do the good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do, to confess our sins, to encourage and build each other up in the body of Christ. Our response of faith is to have a craving for the Word. Our faith shows itself in our constant need and desire for His Word, being in Divine Service and Bible class as often as offered, having personal and family devotions and reading His Word. Our response of faith is being given the gifts. Our response of faith is not seeking some purpose we might think we need to have to appease an angry God, or to need to do something for a God who might need something from us. No, our response of faith is simply to be loved by God, to be loved by our God who created us to love us.
And so, brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow members of the priesthood of all believers, I encourage you as well, know that you are God’s people, living stones, members of the priesthood, by His help, live as God’s people. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.