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, October 30, 2016
Truth and Freedom - October 30, 2016 - Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost/Reformation Sunday Text: Revelation 14:6-7
Although today is actually the twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost, and since Reformation day actually falls on Monday, tomorrow, we will use this day to celebrate Reformation Day and next Sunday we will celebrate All Saints Day, which is actually Tuesday, November first. And why do we celebrate Reformation Day, instead of all hallows eve, or the eve of all Saints Day, which is today called Halloween? We celebrate Reformation Day because, as we might say, Reformation Day is the birthday of our church denomination, that is, the Lutheran Church. More importantly, Reformation Day is the day we celebrate the reforming of the church of Luther’s day. Today we celebrate the 499th anniversary of the reformation as we begin a year long preparation to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation next year.
Just a brief, very brief history lesson. In Luther’s day, in the 1500's there were basically two Christian Churches, the Eastern Orthodox, which included the Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox and what is now known as the Roman Catholic Church. These churches had their roots in Jerusalem, that is, these are the churches that grew out of the early followers of the Way or Christians as they were called in a mocking gesture. By the time history reached the middle ages and the day of Martin Luther, the Christian Church had split into the Eastern and Western Churches, the Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church which was the primary church in Germany. By Luther’s day, the Roman Catholic Church had become somewhat heterodox, meaning that some false teachings had entered into the one true church of God. One of the main false teaching Dr. Luther taught against was the selling of forgiveness of sins through what was called an indulgence. Dr. Luther knew that forgiveness could not be bought, at least not with money or goods or time or prayers or anything else, but that forgiveness had already been purchased by Jesus paying the price of His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death on the cross. Luther’s desire was to reform this and other false teachings that had crept into his beloved church body and that was the beginning of the reformation which resulted, eventually, in the beginning of the Lutheran Church, so named after Dr. Martin Luther. With that as a bit of an introduction, let us get to our text for this morning.
Our text begins at verse six. We read, “6Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people” (v. 6). Now, we must remember, first and foremost that the book of Revelation is a vision and it is a vision of things to come. Certainly you have heard some interesting interpretations of this book including those that would assign certain parts of the vision to various modern day countries and people. Our best and surest understanding of this book is to let Scripture interpret Scripture, to let the Lord speak for Himself, and to hear and believe the words as given, not adding to nor taking away. As our first verse tells us, in this vision John saw an angel with the eternal Gospel and this eternal Gospel is to be proclaimed to all the earth, to every nation, tribe, language and people.
What is this Gospel, this eternal Gospel? This Gospel is the truth of Holy Scripture. The truth of Holy Scripture is the truth of Jesus, the truth of the exclusive claim of the Christian Church and why the Christian Church is so hated by the rest of the world, that is that Jesus is the way, only Way, the only Truth, the only Life, that it is by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone that one has forgiveness of sins and eternal life. This is the Gospel message, this is the heart of Holy Scripture, this is the key to eternal life, this message is the eternal Gospel.
This Gospel is a message that is eternal, it has no beginning and no end, like the Savior it presents. People may come and go, nations may rise and fall, religions, cults and sects may come and go, but God’s Word is eternal, it will remain even through times of struggle. Not only is God’s Word eternal it is also true. As we just said, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Apart from Jesus there is and can be no truth. Why do the generations of this world have such a hard time with truth? Because apart from Jesus it cannot know truth. Apart from Jesus there is no truth. Jesus is truth and all truth comes from and through Him. And we may add one more truth about the eternal Gospel that is that it does what it says, that is we say it is efficacious, it effects what it says. The power of God’s Word is that it does what it says. When God’s Word says we have faith, we have faith. When God’s Word says we have forgiveness, we have forgiveness. Whatever God’s Word says we know it is true and it will happen according to what God says in His Word. God’s Word promises that the Gospel is eternal. Siegbert Becker in his commentary on Revelation says, “It is perfectly proper, then, to see one fulfillment of that promise in the Lutheran Reformation which is history’s most prominent illustration of the principle that God will not allow his word to be silenced. But we may also see an illustration of this truth in every other historical movement in which the gospel has been clearly and emphatically proclaimed. The vision simply assures us that false teachers will never silence the preaching of the gospel.”
Many Lutheran Commentators have identified this angel as Dr. Martin Luther as he stood firm in the fight for the Gospel in his day in the midst of those who threatened his life for such preaching. He testified that the faith of the Christian should rest, not in the word of the Pope, or any man for that matter, but in the Word of Scripture alone.
Moving on to verse seven of our text we read, “7And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water’” (v. 7). These are the words of the angel given to the angel by God to proclaim. Remember, angels are messengers sent by God to do His bidding. They do not proclaim their own words but the words of Him who sent them.
The angel says to fear God. As we memorized and as we were taught, especially in the explanations for the Ten Commandments, we are to fear and love God. To fear God means two things. We are to fear God, that is we are to be afraid of God, when we are in our sin. God’s wrath is indeed harsh as we see Him take out His wrath on Jesus on the cross, punishing Him for our sin. So, when we are in our sin we are to be afraid, because left in our sin we would be eternally condemned. Yet, fear has a second meaning. We are to fear God that is we are to love and respect Him. As Christians we fear God, that is we love and respect Him and we give Him glory because of His Words of Gospel which give us faith, forgiveness and life. By faith in Jesus we fear, love and trust in God above all things.
Finally, the angel encourages us to worship, kneel before, and acknowledge the Lord as Creator God. While this may sound easy enough, the difficulties of this in our modern society are great indeed. The teaching of Darwinism, the teaching of humanism, the teaching of may other isms, the temptations of sin and unbelief, the struggle to fight against our very nature, that is that we are conceived and born in sin, that every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, make it difficult to fear God and give Him glory, to worship, kneel before and acknowledge Him as the Lord, Creator God. We see how difficult this is as we see so many people in our world resist and refuse the gifts God has to give and even in our own congregation and in Christian congregations around the world as even our own members, even each one of us on a daily and weekly basis give in to temptation and sin, refusing and rejecting the gifts God has to give.
So, we ask, what does this mean? Today we celebrate the reformation of the Church, the reaffirmation of the Word of God. Today we celebrate the endurance of the Word of God, that is that His Word is eternal that it never fails, that it never departs from us. Even when we may think the Word of God is removed as through history we have seen time and again how it seems as if God’s Word were removed from or absent from one heathen nation after another, we see that God’s Word is never completely rooted out, but His Word remains forever.
Today we celebrate the truth of the Word of God, especially that it is inerrant. Certainly this is where Satan makes his greatest attacks. Well, this was his first temptation and it worked so well in the Garden of Eden that he continues to use this temptation even today. His temptation is a subtle temptation concerning the inerrancy of God’s Word. The question of Satan in the Garden was, “Did God really say?” Today his question is, “Is the Bible God’s Word or does the Bible merely contain God’s Word?” Which is another way of saying, “Did God really say?” To suggest that the Bible merely contains God’s Word leaves us open to interpreting His Word our way which means all kinds of aberrations such as we see in many heterodox churches today. What does inerrancy mean? It means that we believe the Bible does not merely contain God’s Word so that we have to search through the pages to find it, but the Bible is God’s Word and it is a word with power. So that Bible is eternal, it is true and it does and gives what it says.
Today we celebrate the gifts given through the Word of God. Although we are conceived and born in sin, although every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, God is greater than our sin. God gives us His Word and His Sacraments and through these means of grace He gives us all His good gifts and blessings. As we remember our baptism we are reminded that it was He who, at our baptism, put His name on us and claimed us as His children. It was He who put faith in our hearts, gave us forgiveness of sins, which cost us nothing, but cost Jesus His life, He wrote our names in the book of Life. As we confess our sins we hear His most beautiful words, “Your sins are forgiven.” As we read and hear His Holy Precious Word, we are given the gifts that He gives through His Word. And as we come to His table to eat His body and drink His blood we are again given His gifts, forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith. What great gifts, what wonderful gifts, who would think of refusing or rejecting such great gifts and blessings.
Today we celebrate that we respond in faith, in worship, in kneeling before and acknowledging our Creator God as Lord. Of course our response is not something that comes from inside ourselves, but is something that is motivated in us by God from outside of us. Just as we do not find the answers to life’s questions inside of us, just as we do not find life, forgiveness or faith inside ourselves, so we are not motivated by ourselves. We are given all these things and our response of faith from God who comes to us from outside of us, who comes to us through means the very means He gives us to come to us.
And so, today we celebrate. We celebrate the reformation of the Holy Christian Church. We celebrate the work of Dr. Martin Luther and God’s work through him. We celebrate the gift of God’s Word, His eternal Word, His eternal Word made flesh in Jesus, and His Word of Holy Scripture which does and gives what it says. We celebrate what a great and awesome God we have, a God who does all and gives all. And so, I leave you will the words of the angel of the Lord, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water” (v. 7b). To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.