Election unto Life

Whether good or ill for the nation, the effects of the recent election are a matter of subjective opinion. While the vileness and hostility of the recent campaign are over, the effects linger. Unfortunately, seeds of vileness and hostility of the next election are already sprouting.

There is, however, another election that has nothing to do with the darkness that describes what we have just observed. The world cannot identify with it. The apostle Paul called it “the election of grace” (Romans 5:11). The election of grace occurred before the world began. “By the election of grace we mean this truth, that all by the grace of God alone, for Christ’s sake, through the means of grace, are brought to faith, are justified, sanctified and preserved in faith here in time, that all these [the elect] have already from eternity been endowed by God with faith, justification, sanctification and preservation in faith…” (Brief Statement 15-35). “The eternal election of God…not only foresees and foreknows the salvation of the elect, but is also, from the gracious will and pleasure of God in Christ Jesus, a cause which procures, works, helps, and promotes our salvation and what pertains thereto, and upon this our salvation is so founded that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, Matthew 16:18…” (Triglotta, Formula of Concord, Thor. Decl. XI, 8-1065). What the God of grace determined before the world began, He brought to pass in time and continues to do through the proclamation of the Gospel.

The doctrine of election is manifestation “of the depth and riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God” whose “judgments are unsearchable and His ways past finding out” (Romans 11:33). Therefore, to appreciate the blessings of the election of grace, God’s children neither question nor doubt the mind and ways of God but believe and teach only His Word as He inspired it.

On the other hand, those who claim to fathom the mind of God have advanced false doctrine and plant only doubt. Some teach that since the election of grace is an election of individuals, there must also must have been an election to damnation, namely, that God chose some to go to hell,  as though the He went down a line saying, “This one shall be saved, that one shall be damned” (FC Thor. Decl. XI, 9,1065). Such speculation contradicts the Holy Scriptures which tell us, “The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and again, the Lord God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Further, it flies in the face of the purpose for which Jesus came into the world.

Some teach that God chose those who are saved, in “view of faith,” as though God in His foreknowledge saw less resistance or a better attitude in some than in others, and thus rewarded them, as though faith preceded election. The truth is, faith is the result of election, not the cause of it.”

Still others teach that man’s good works are the cause of one’s election. This contradicts, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Concerning the doctrine of election, ours is not to reason why or how, but simply to believe that the faithful God Who loves all people with an everlasting love knows why He has done what He has done in the manner He did it. What God wants us to know He has recorded in His Word, which “leads us to Christ, Who is the Book of Life, in whom all are written and elected that are to be saved in eternity as it is written, Ephesians 1:4: “He chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (FC, Epitome XI, 6-833). Note, He chose us in Christ, not apart from Christ.

The Lord alone knows who His elect are. It is not for us to count numbers, but to proclaim the Gospel through which the Spirit gathers to Himself the elect from all the earth. When Paul addressed the Ephesians he addressed them as those whom the Father chose in Christ “before the foundation of the world…having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6). He addressed the Thessalonians similarly, without distinction, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth…(2 Thessalonians 2:13). He urged the Colossians to manifest the life of sanctification, and addressed them “as the elect of God, holy and beloved” (Colossians 3:12). Likewise, Peter addressed “pilgrims of the Dispersion” as the elect (1 Peter 1:1), who had “obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).

The doctrine of election speaks to the comfort of Christ-believers. When Satan comes accusing, the believer can fend him off with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word God. The term “elect of God,” is not synonymous with the election itself, but with the result. The elect are “children of God.” Chosen and born of God, everyone who confesses the Lord Jesus Christ and hears His voice and follows Him has eternal life and shall never perish (John 10:27-28). The believer can tell Satan, “Get behind me. You cannot rob me, because the Father in heaven has elected me in Christ before the world began, and He has promised that all who believe in Him He shall preserve unto eternal life.” 

The question, however, may arise in a believer’s mind, “How can I be sure of my election?” Martin Luther did not question the doctrine as such. He did not presume to delve into the mind of God, nor His purpose. He did not doubt the grace of God, but like we who are frequently weak, Luther had his moments of weakness of faith. At one such time, his mentor, Johann Staupitz, directed Luther to the Word. “Look at the wounds of Christ and at the blood He shed for you; from these your election will shine forth… [The Son of God] tells you: You are My sheep because you hear My voice, and no one shall pluck you out of My hands” (John 10:28f). (What Luther Says, Vol. I, p. 460, para.1357). As an expression of universal grace, in His love for all mankind the Lord Jesus Christ died for all people. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…(John 3:16). The continuation of that passage, “…That whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” removes any doubt about the salvation of anyone who believes in the Savior. The Lord says through His apostle, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life… (1 John 3:13). Hearken back to your baptism. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). The Father in heaven says to you, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine (Isaiah 43:1). 

The means of grace—the Gospel in Word and Sacrament—is the power unto salvation and the substance of the good news that your sins are forgiven;  where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. The Gospel promise sealed by the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead is the response to the question posed by the apostle Paul, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God Who justifies” (Romans 8:33). No one can bring a charge against the elect; nothing can reverse the verdict of the gracious God Who in Christ has claimed us for His own.

As surely as the Lord redeemed all people through His atonement on the cross, all who believe can be certain that they have life everlasting. As a believer in Christ Jesus, do not question whether you are among the elect. Rather, as Luther said, “Stay in the Word, in which God is revealed to us and salvation is offered.”

However, the elect of God, looking forward to the eternal blessings, do not abuse them, nor take their status for granted. They do not say, “I am saved; therefore, I can live as I choose.” Instead, they recognize that in the flesh they are sinners. In acknowledgement of personal sin they penitently pray, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13) and thank the Lord that for the sake of Christ they are saved by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8). Yet, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2: 17). On the other hand, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). By the working of the Spirit of God through the Gospel, the elect of God also knows and believes he is not only saved from something—eternal death–but for something while on the earth.   

Children of God are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10). “Justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28), joy in forgiveness and hope of heaven is shown by virtues that glorify the Lord and show the elect’s connection to the Vine (John 15:5). Fruits of faith bear witness to whom the believer belongs—the God of his salvation. Fruits of faith prove to self, that the Word of God “effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). So, the apostle Peter counsels:  

“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8).

In this sense we understand, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11). 

Finally, our Lord gives us the warning to beware of “false christs and false prophets [who] will arise” in the last times “and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). These words alert the elect to the temptations and dangers to which they are subjected. At the same time they remind us that the Spirit of God strengthens the elect so that they are safe and secure as they stand fast in the Word of truth, for in that Word they have the promise of their Savior, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand…and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29). Thank the Father for His election of grace.

“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied” (1 Peter 1:2).

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This Advent Tide We Celebrate (A Hymn)

Melody (The Lutheran Hymnal-387)

This Advent tide we celebrate with joyful heart and thankfulness

The Father kept His promise true, it is the nature of our God.

Had He responded as was due, He could fore’er have man condemned

And we’d have been forever lost.

The coming of the Promised One was planned from all eternity.

As planned before the world began, He promised His dear Son to send.

His own begotten Son would save the world from sin, and shame, and death

And give to man what he had lost.

The Son of God, both God and Man, would come to dwell upon the earth.

The prophets spoke of virgin birth and named the place where he’d be born.

The faithful waited as they knew the purpose of His birth on earth.

To reconcile them to God.

In God’s own time the day did come, the Savior of the world was born.

Conceived of Holy Spirit true and born of virgin mother pure,

He bore the name the Father gave: ‘Twas Jesus, Savior of the world–

He’d save His people from their sins

The Son fulfilled His Father’s will; He paid the wages of our sin,

In Him the Father gives to us the gift of life in heaven above.

There is no greater gift than this, it’s free by grace and grace alone,

To all who on His name believe.

“O, Jesus, Savior Who did come, whose birth we celebrate with joy,

Help us to cherish evermore, Your Holy Word and Sacrament.

Throughout our life, O may we be, forever faithful unto You,

Confessing You our whole life through.

“So, Jesus as we now prepare, to celebrate Your birth and life,

O keep us focused on Your grace, while here on earth our steps we walk.

Let nothing in our life betray our watchfulness for Your return,

Lord Jesus, come; O quickly come.” Amen

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Treasure Your Heavenly Citizenship

History repeats itself. Anyone who disregards history is doomed to repeat it.

Anyone who studies history and refuses to apply the lessons of history is begging to reap the same consequences. This is especially true about the sinfulness of mankind and its consequences. Ignore it or not, there is nothing that can change history or that people of flesh and blood can do of or by themselves to change the consequence of sin which is death. The die was cast when Eve and Adam bought into the satanic lie in Eden (Genesis 3). The truth is that according to the flesh man, dead in trespasses and sins and inclined to do what is right in his own eyes, does not want to, nor can he, change his ways.

The apostle Paul recorded God’s truth when he wrote in Romans 5, “through one man sin entered the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (v.12).  He wrote also, “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (19).  The consequences of sin were not unknown to Paul’s ancestry for it is recorded in Genesis, the first book of the Pentateuch, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (6:5). “The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (11-12). The consequence? “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold I will destroy them with the earth” (v.13). Then came the flood. Of humanity at the time of Noah, eight people survived, eight! In as much as they were flesh and blood, sin and the manifestation of it also survived. That is history. We cannot change it, but we can learn from it.

Paul reiterated what is recorded in Psalm 3:11-18. “There is none who does good, no not one” (Romans 3:12). That was also a reiteration of Jesus’ own words, “No one is good but One, that is God” (Luke 18:19). Deniers of that reality fail to understand that the assessor of man’s condition is the Holy God. His standards are absolute perfection. The holy God does not determine good by the standards of subjective, self-serving, egotistical humans. “As He Who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16). The assessment includes this writer and everyone who is reading this, as well as everyone who denies it. Scripture says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.…If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him [God] a liar” (1 John 1:8,10).

Through the Old Testament, during Jesus’ ministry on earth, during the apostolic times, of the present age, history records the evil, incivility, greed, hatred, selfishness, corruption, violence wickedness, etc.,etc. What the Lord saw before the flood brought judgment not seen since. “And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:6). The sorrow He felt before the flood was not acknowledgement of a mistake. God does not and cannot make mistakes. He was grieved, distressed in His heart. The actions of the people before the flood dictated a different action on the part of God, Who takes no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32).

The Lord spoke to the Ephesians through the apostle Paul who told them to watch their tongue, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30). Think of the sorrow and grieving of God in terms of how you may feel occasionally. Perhaps you have said occasionally to unruly children, “I am sorry to see how you act and sorry to hear you speak as you do.” Your sorrow may dictate a different action toward the offending children. You will discipline them in love to save them, lest continuing on their course they lose their soul which neither you nor God desires. Except for the grace of God, what in the world and our own depraved, hell-bent, corrupt society should move God today to see the world any differently than how He saw it before the flood?

Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord  said, “’Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says, the Lord God, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?’” (Ezekiel 18:23). “The Lord is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). It distresses the heart of God when He must pronounce judgment upon those who in unbelief spurn His call and reject His salvation.

As acknowledged previously, there is nothing that people of flesh and blood can do of or by themselves about changing the history of sin and its consequences. But something did change in this regard. The Lord God is Author of the change. Immediately after the fall into sin, the Heavenly Father, promised the Savior. In the protevangel—the first Gospel promise of the Savior—the Father promised that the Seed of the woman would bring forth the Conqueror of sin, death and the devil (Genesis 3:15). As many as believed the promise He counted as righteous in His sight. He promised them eternal life. The Lord God did not change the past—it is what it is—but through the perfect life, the substitutionary death, and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, He reconciled the world unto Himself. By the exercise of His mercy through the merit of His Son, the Father changed the present and the future of everyone who believes. Here then is the intervening passage between 1 John 1:  8 and 10. Verse 9 says: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Might we understand now why the Lord is sorry or grieved in His heart when He must exercise the judgment of condemnation upon those for whom He paid the supreme price of His only begotten Son? Have you ever had the thought, “How could you,” about someone whom you had befriended, helped, and loved, but who turned on you?

Let no one now think of someone else who has treated the Lord God in such a fashion. Look into the mirror! Then with the prodigal say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before You, and I am no longer worthy to be called Your son…” (Luke 15:18-19). Flee to the cross where by His action Jesus gave substance to His word, declaring, “Son, (daughter), be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2). Each day as you leave the cross, say with the Psalmist, “O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever” (Psalm 130:12). Think of yourself as the “one,” of whom it is said, “I say to you that…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just person who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7). Think about it—heaven rejoices over you!

How then shall we live in this world so fraught with all manner of evil of which it proudly boasts, promotes, and pursues with an ungodly passion? When Satan comes alluring as he will, remember Paul’s approach: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it” (Romans 6:1-2). As the flesh contends against the Spirit in a tug-o-war as it does more than we care to admit, flee again to the cross, because “Where sin abounded[s] grace abounded[s]much more” (Romans 5:20). The tenderness of divine grace of forgiveness is the power to overcome sin. By the power of the Spirit through the word, live as dead to sin and alive to Christ whose gracious rule controls your heart (Ephesians 2:1).

Paul wrote, “Our citizenship is in heaven…” (Philippians 3:20). Reflect on your heavenly citizenship and count it more precious than that of this earth which is in the throes of death and will ultimately pass away. Our life as Christians on this earth will be assaulted as God and His Word is despised, His kingdom is mocked, and moral debasement increases. Satan and his minions mock and ridicule the Christian’s claim to citizenship in heaven. So be it. It is a prized citizenship granted and sealed to us by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, granted in its fulness when the Lord calls His own to Himself in heaven. Turn Satan’s mockery back on him and those who ape him. Compared to what is laid up for us in heaven, what of citizenship in this world entices us to want to stay here? Instead, the Christian who knows his future is moved to say along with the apostle who was in prison for the Gospel’s sake, “I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

Citizens of heaven–to appreciate the sentiment of the apostle Paul, contemplate the vision of John and the response to the question before the throne, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from? And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ So He said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (Revelation 7:13-17)

In the meantime, while we wait, we identify also with another word of the apostle Paul who wrote, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me” (Philippians 1:27-30).

What we must endure now in this evil world is manifest, and experienced. What the Lord has laid up for us in heaven is hidden from our eyes, but anticipated through faith, and sealed by our Lord’s death and resurrection.

As  you witness the crumbling of the society in which you now hold citizenship, treasure your citizenship, eternal in heaven. It holds blessings you can now not fathom. It is an inheritance that neither the flesh, Satan, nor the world can deny to any who, while traversing this world, have their heart and mind focused on the better country. It is signed and sealed by the Lord Jesus. Blessed are all who say with the apostle: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

“…Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:21)!

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Is There Any Good News?

What is “news?” It is noteworthy information, good or bad, about recent or important events. It is reports of what has happened or is going on in the world which may or may not have been previously known. It may pique interest or may not. It may make one happy or sad, frustrated or angry. It may be of historical significance. It may make a splash for a time, and then be forgotten. In an increasingly confused world it may be true or “fake.” News can be manipulated to satisfy a personal or political agenda in which case it may be a lie, and probably is. Whether news is good or bad is subjectively determined by whoever is hearing it, or perhaps benefitting from it.  What is good or bad news today may change tomorrow depending on who is reporting or interpreting it.

News reports war and rumor of wars. It is laden with reports of corruption and deceit of politicians to corporate heads. Daily, news brings information of rampant crime, of murder from the womb to the street. We read how moral degeneration within society is celebrated and defended as normal and a human right. Economic news fluctuates between good and bad depending on everything from weather (drought, floods) to pandemics to political manipulation.

In the world and in an increasingly secular society news is often fleeting because that is the nature of things, “for the form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:31). Of and in the world nothing is forever. The flowers of the field which bring joy fade away. Daily obituaries in “news”papers remind us that humans who allegedly have “lived the good” life pass away.  Whether good or bad, replaceable or irreplaceable, everything of a material nature passes away.

From a purely human perspective the bad news we read, observe, and experience tends to make us pessimistic more than the good news makes us optimistic. Why? Because the corrupt world and our society have basically jettisoned the Lord God from life. Bad news is either God’s fault or the neighbors.

Without respect for the Lord and His Word, it is not acknowledged that every good and perfect thing in life is a consequence of divine blessing. In a godless society whatever is perceived to be good is, in the mind of man, a consequence of his own wisdom and ingenuity. Thanksgiving is not giving thanks to the Lord but thanking self.

Immoral behavior, or other wickedness and evil are seldom acknowledged. If by chance they are, the very ones who delight in sin and lament the consequences turn to themselves or society for solutions and relief. But if a fool does not recognize who and/or what has produced the problems that vex him and his wellbeing, or that of a nation, or if one does not recognize that the underlying cause is sin, how will he correct what he himself has caused?  More often than not, “As a dog returns to its own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11).  

Humans are responsible for every evil word and deed, and for the consequences that affect mankind. Sinful man, who from Eden to the present, is the perpetrator of whatever is amiss in the world or society instead blames God. Or it mocks, “If there is a God, why does He permit or even send death, tribulation, drought, hurricane, tornado and like catastrophes upon the earth?” 

The God Who sends rain on the just and the unjust to water the earth, and whose sun shines on the believer and unbeliever to give life is not the cause of human woe. Read the Bible. Look in the mirror! Every act of God that brings discomfort is a call to repentance to the one you see or is an exercise of judgment upon a world that denies Him or chooses to go its own way. The Lord has not left us in the dark about sin and its consequences, or unbelief and its end.

To put it another way, God has a purpose in His call to repentance for a world that invites judgment by its evil and love of sin. To His people He said, “Now no chastening [correction] seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). 

If the Lord has a purpose that serves for good, why would a Christian frequently feel pessimistic? What spawns it?  A Christian’s expression of pessimism is not born of doubt toward the Lord Who is loving in all His ways toward man. It is not a denial of what God says or promises or is doing. It is an acknowledgement of the nature of corrupt mankind. Specifically, is the news of a nation spinning out of control suggestive of sinners who will turn a deaf ear to the Lord? If so, of what is there to be optimistic? Are we recognizing the call to repentance? Are sinners who grovel in the pleasure of sin understanding the judgment they are inviting on themselves in time and for eternity? Finally, if a dying world does not recognize the existence of God, why would it listen?

What is positive in the news of crime, murder, greed, immorality, abortion, and such evils reported daily, and observed regularly? What is positive about the lies and deceit and slander that is enveloping the political process and destroying what sense of propriety did exist in this country? Unless ears are attuned to the Word of God and hearts are conquered by the Word, what exactly is there to be optimistic about as the world and society spirals deeper and deeper into Sodom? Unless ears are attuned to, and hearts conquered by, the Word of God, what exactly is there to be optimistic about in the world and our society?

In the year of our Lord, 2022, we are not the first to live in such a time as this. Remember history. Remember the cause of the flood. In a prison epistle, the apostle Paul wrote of living “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:14-15).

However, a Christian who expresses pessimism concerning the future of the nation or society is not pessimistic of his eternal future. But then, in this world, in this nation, in our society, is there any good news to serve as an antidote to pessimism? “Yes, there is good news,” because our God is gracious. Paul tells us as he told the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord” (Philippians 3:3).

The good news of God is not of our making. The good news was spawned in the heart of God from eternity. The announcement of it was made already in Eden—the impending birth of the Savior/Deliverer and destroyer of Satan (Genesis 3:15). The birth of the Savior was announced by the angel who said, “Do not be afraid, for behold I bring you good tidings (good news) of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10). The angel announced and the angelic choir sang of the birth of the Savior for whom Adam and Eve waited, of whom the prophets spoke, and in whom Job exulted, “I know that My Redeemer lives….” (Job 19:25). It was Jesus of whom Isaiah spoke, assuring every troubled, depressed, and pessimistic heart, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). In due time, Jesus made the payment due for the sins of mankind. He suffered and died on the cross. Reconciled  unto the Father (2 Corinthians 5:19) by His blood, the Father confirmed our redemption and our justification by raising Jesus from the dead, and now because He lives everyone who believes in Him shall live (John 14:19) and “shall never die” (John 11-26). Every day we are living in a “good news cycle.” “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Romans 5:20-21).

In the midst of the tribulations of this earth, and the roots of material, political, physical, and personal anguish, and pessimism, the abounding grace of God in Christ raises the spirit of the new man anchored in the divine Word and faithfulness of God. Come what may in this life, God’s saving purpose is working out our salvation–

“’For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart  and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from  you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, Who has mercy on you’” (Isaiah 54:7-10).

No one knows what his future will be in this life. Regardless, Christ-believers who immerse themselves in the Word and focus upon the promised inheritance know they have a secure future. Alive in Christ, they know real life does not consist of the abundance of things they possess, nor is it diminished by evil around them. It is not tied to the future of a temporal nation because it “is hidden with God in Christ” (Colossians 3:3). That is Good News, the source of the believer’s optimism.

Though a Christ-believer may be pessimistic about the future of his present home, alive in Christ he can by joyfully optimistic. Good news sustained the Old Testament believers through centuries of waiting for fulfillment of the promised gift. They lived, suffered, were troubled, and struggled as they waited. But the Lord their God was faithful. He kept His Word—from Eden to the rainbow (Genesis 10:14-15), to the return from Babylon, to Bethlehem, to Calvary, to the resurrection, to the ascension. The Lord has sustained the Church as it lives in the good news of forgiveness of sins and salvation in Christ.

We are in the same waiting mode as the Old Testament patriarchs. They waited for the birth of the Savior; we wait for the return of the Savior. As the Lord sustained them in their waiting, He has sustained us in ours. He can and will not do otherwise for He has promised. We too live in the good news of forgiveness of sins and salvation in Christ. The Lord our God is faithful!

The Lord through His Church proclaims the good news of salvation. While the Church suffers slings and arrows of the unbelieving, the good news is, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew16:18). Sitting in prison for the sake of the Good News (the Gospel), the apostle Paul was confident of the promise: “Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him. And He shall bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5). He wrote “ I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). God takes care of His Word and His people.

In this sad world of sin and shame–

A world in disarray and doomed–

The good news says our Savior is

Our loving God, Immanuel.

We know not what the day will bring,

What care, or sorrow, pain, or death.

The good News is our Savior knows,

He’ll bear us through whate’er befalls.

So while we journey here below,

The good news is He walks with us

Until our journey here is past

And we are safe at Home, at last.

There is no greater news than this,

That all who walk by faith in Christ

Are saved by grace and grace alone.

Rejoice, dear Christian, O rejoice!                  (df)

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We Can Do Nothing but Speak the Truth

In 1531, one year after the Augsburg Confession, Emperor Charles V ordered that what he called the Lutheran heresy, should be removed from the empire. Since it was thought he might use force to enforce the edict, some confessors  were of the mind that resistance was appropriate. Luther did not counsel armed resistance but said that princes favorable to the Augsburg Confession should be prepared to act in self-defense if war was forced on them. In one of his treatises, “The Warning to His Beloved Germans” (cf. Porter, J. M., Fortress Press, 1957, Luther—Selected Political Writings), he wrote, “All right, if a war or rebellion should break out as I fear (for God’s wrath will have to take its course), I wish to testify before God and all the world here in this writing that we, who are derisively called ‘Lutherans,’ neither counseled it or consented to it, nor, indeed, gave any cause for it; rather we constantly and ceaselessly  pleaded and called for peace.” He also wrote, “…it is not fitting for me, a preacher, vested with the spiritual office, to wage war or incite it, but rather to dissuade from war and to direct to peace…” At the same time he wrote, “If war breaks out—which God forbid—I will not reprove those who defend themselves against the murderous and bloodthirsty papists, nor let anyone else rebuke them as being seditious, but I will accept their action and let it pass as being defense.”

Protesters met in Schmalkalden. “By 1531, they settled on an alliance that would defend their faith with arms if necessary” (Kittelson, James,  Luther, the Reformer, Fortress Press, 2003, p. 238). Several local conflicts and the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) ensued. Such a war that he feared did not occur during Luther’s lifetime (1483-1546).

In the Old Testament, people of God were targets of enemies and godless nations who opposed the Lord. In the early Church Christianity endured persecution by the heathen. Our Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18). The apostle Paul suffered persecution and death because he confessed Christ. The persecution of Christians, many of whom died, nevertheless contributed to the spread of the Gospel because they witnessed to their faith as they fled their oppressors. In the pre-Reformation time believers were burned at the stake. Luther, subject to death under the papal ban, stood fast in the Word and boldly testified to the faith.

Through the ages, the Lord’s faithful people have been pursued, accused, and persecuted by false religionists, as well as by political powers. The apostle Paul speaking of the early Church and of the circumstances until the end of time wrote to Timothy—and writes to us—“Yes. And all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:12-13).

Through it all and through every age the Lord God has been faithful to His promise. While evil men made life miserable for confessors of the God of Israel and for New Testament confessors of Christ, evil could not stamp out the Church nor exterminate the Word. The Word of God remains in spite of the thrusts of the sword, as well as through times of deceit perpetrated by those who, claiming to speak for the Lord, spread lies, and in the words of the apostle, preach “another Gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4, Galatians 1:6).

Called to faith by the Spirit of God, Christ-believers do not boast as martyrs, nor cry ”woe is me.” Instead God’s children, through faith in Christ, redeemed from sin and death by the Savior, live and confess the faith and rejoice in the hope of heaven through the resurrection of the Savior (1 Peter 1:3-9). Recognizing the concerted efforts to undermine the faith and turn them away from the eternal hope, children of the true God recognize the significance of the apostle’s exhortation—we dare not let down our guard—“But you continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them” (2 Timothy 3: 14). Ultimately, though spoken through the apostle, the things Christ-believers have learned are taught us by the Lord God Himself. He says to us in these last days, “Hold fast to the faith. I am with you. I will sustain you. I will not leave you or forsake you.”  “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

O little flock, fear not the foe who madly seeks your overthrow;

Dread not his rage and power. That though your courage sometimes faints,

His seeming triumph o’er God saints last but a little hour.

As true as God’s own Word is true, not earth nor hell with all its crew

Against us shall prevail. A jest and byword are they grown;

God is with us, we are His own, Our victory cannot fail (TLH- 263: 1.3).

Akin to Luther wrestling with the matter of “church and the state,” as well as with his conscience, confessors of Christ are so engaged today. The immediate concern here is not how to address issues in the church which lie on the heart of honest confessors of Christ and confessing Lutherans. It is with the secular world and political powers that are bent on destroying, if it were possible, the Christian Church and its message. Such efforts are doomed to failure because we have our Lord’s promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16:18). However, the Father’s promise does not diminish the necessity for God’s people to be alert, and to confess the faith as boldly as did the confessors before us. 

It has become fashionable lately to accuse Christians of engaging in politics when speaking out against the evils and gross promotion of immorality– from murdering of the unborn to the gender confusion and promotion of gender transitioning of self-identifying adults, to say nothing of child abuse in this regard. If the Church, in exercising its responsibility before God, speaks against the evil that is destroying the family, the culture, and society, and contradicts the political agendas of our anti-Christian, secular society, it is falsely accused of being extreme, and dangerous to America. To some, the Church should be silent about issues that undermine morals in a fallen society.  Though Christians acknowledge the rightful distinction between Church and state, each having its own sphere of responsibility and influence, they are accused of abusing the state-church divide when they address moral issues and promote sanctified Christian living. The Church has the responsibility to address moral issues which affect society, and more so the spiritual welfare of souls, our own, and of those sitting in darkness.

As the Church, or Christians, speak on the matter of sin, they are accused of racism, bias, and anti (you name it). They are accused of abusing people’s rights. They are accused of trying to impose Christianity upon the state, as if the intent is to make the state or the nation a theocracy and deny others the right to worship and live according to their tenets. Such suggestions that Christians are somehow trying to overthrow government or impose by legalistic means a theocratic form of government or culture is a lie and is itself biased. In this melting pot nation, under the constitution, Christians would be fighting against self if the intent was to deny the rights of others. Christians are not a threat to decency, to civility, to civil rights, but promote it.

Romans thirteen teaches respect for governing authority. However, there is no “thus says the Lord” on the type or form of civil government. In Scripture, the Lord instructs His children to “fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17), pay taxes, love the neighbor, and seek justice. This is hardly anti-American or extreme nationalism! Christians are concerned about the nation in which they live and therefore witness to the truth: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34) and “By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked” (Proverbs 11:11).

The Christian conscience is bound by the Word of the living God. As a penitent sinner, the child of God prays daily for forgiveness of sins and pleads the righteousness of Christ as the way to eternal life. As such, the Christian proclaims Christ as the bearer of the sins of the world—of all people. The Lord Jesus, in exercise of His divine authority, instructs His Church to preach the Gospel and to teach all things that the Lord has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20). Thus followers of Christ are bound to preach the Law that identifies sin—including our own—and the Gospel that points sinners to “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

As Luther said, the Christ-believer does not consent to or foment rebellion against the government by the sword. The sword the Christian wields is against spiritual evil and is the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). The persuader to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is not threat or intimidation, but the Gospel, which people are free to hear or reject. The faithful Christian Church, true to its calling to proclaim God’s Word can, in good conscience, do no less but teach love for God and the neighbor as God’s Law commands, and faith in Christ for salvation, and sanctified living, which is a fruit of the Gospel.

Some who claim the Christian name abuse and misuse both the faith and the state. It is just as possible, and more so, that those who, not respecting the Lord or His Word, accuse concerned citizens of being what they are not: nationalists, as the term is used. Faithful Christians reject the politicization of the Church, as well as the accusations. The Church’s witness and testimony has to do with sin, grace, the soul, and eternal salvation.   

The mission of the Church is not to save society or the world from itself. The mission of the Church is the call to preach the Gospel so that the Lord God can gather in to His Kingdom all the elect and save them from the condemnation of a godless society that they may be with Christ in glory.

There is one Christian nation. It has nothing to do with politics. It is spiritual. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9). This holy nation, born of the Lord through the Gospel, consists of believers in Christ whose citizenship is in heaven.

The truth is that the Lord blesses a temporal nation for the sake of His children within it, who in faith and word and witness walk the heavenly walk. Believers in Christ, preach on! We can do no other but speak the truth. God help us witness to the truth in love, praying that those who oppose us may be won by it to stand with us when the Lord comes again to take His children home.                                                                                           

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The Word of God–Indoctrination unto Life

A woman who escaped from China in the Mao years said recently, “I do not want to live under communism again. I escaped it. But it’s coming here,” she warned. “It’s coming to America. People need to wake up.…What’s going on here is a communist takeover.” She added, “Education is the front line of the battlefield.… It is an issue between Marxism and Americanism.”  We may conclude, as much as it is a political assault, what is going on in this country is an effort to destroy Christianity. The battle is real, but the gates of hell will not prevail (Matthew 16:18).

Evolutionists, humanists, secularists, and Christians agree upon the principle of how to influence hearts and minds. Begin from the cradle. There is a critical difference, however. The difference is between “indoctrinate” and “indoctrination.” The difference between the Christian objective and that of the ungodly world is with what and to what end children are indoctrinated, culturally and/or spiritually. To the Christian, indoctrinate means to instill youth with biblical principles, which includes moral truths. The Christian textbook is the Bible in and from which children are brought up to know the Lord Jesus, trust in Him, and to walk in His ways, to His glory. They are directed heavenward. On the other hand, to influence their life and worldview, the godless world instills children with personal opinions and agendas, including anti-Christian  ideologies.  That is indoctrination, “the process of teaching a person or a group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.”  

In history, people, including children, have been placed in indoctrination and labor camps to bend their heart and mind toward an agenda determined by authority figures who force feed a godless philosophy. The substance of and means to such indoctrination may change but the end goal is the same. The subjects are brainwashed. They are expected to toe the line, no questions asked. They are conditioned to live collectively and mindlessly following the crowd.  This has occurred in communist nations. Christian parents! Do not let them have your children!

In the United States we do not have such camps as such, but the education system, from the top down, is quickly becoming the means of indoctrination. To that end, 0ne of the largest social engineering organizations is the National Education Association (NEA). It promotes the critical race theory idea that America is basically racist.

This is not an indictment of all teachers, many of whom are disciplined if they do not follow the “party line,” but the NEA specifically says that critical race indoctrination should be part of the curriculum in government schools around the country. “In 2021, the NEA adopted a resolution that would mandate race-based ideological instruction in public schools across the country. According to the resolution, the union intends to disseminate its own study that ‘critiques empire, white supremacy, anti-Blackness, anti-Indigeneity, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society”’ (Various online sources). Ironically, the quote was found in an article lamenting the deterioration of math and reading scores of students in government schools. Ultimately, the “bible” for such indoctrination, which serves their own ends, is the corrupt mind of those who walk in darkness, because they have rejected the light of the divine Word.

The wisdom of the world and corrupt minds is contrary to Scripture, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” (Proverbs 1:7). Respect for the Lord, a gift of the Spirit through the Word is the beginning of  knowledge which, in turn, is the root of wisdom. “But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The best wisdom for this world and for the world to come is born of respect for the Lord. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psalm 111:10). The truly wise respect the Lord and His will and seek to walk in His ways in time while they journey toward heaven. They are a blessing to the nation.

The knowledge of God’s Word that creates Spirit-born wisdom is garnered from instruction—dare we say, indoctrination from the Bible, the inspired Word of God. “Train up a child in the way he should go…”(Proverbs 22:6). Discipline and morals for life, training in the way of the Lord, and the will to walk in it is from the Lord through His Word. Yes, we are to indoctrinate ourselves and our children in the Word of God..

“Doctrine,” which is the root word of indoctrination, is prominent in Scripture. It means teaching, instruction. Paul wrote to Timothy that he should teach “some that they teach no other doctrine” (2 Timothy 1:3). Teachers are to teach “the doctrine which accords with holiness” (1 Timothy 6:3). “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Titus was to tell the elders in Crete, to “hold fast the faithful word as [they have] been taught, that [they] may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). Whoever does not continue in the teaching of Christ, and in the substance of His person and work, or who feels that he must progress beyond what Christ taught does not have God.

Unlike Holy Scripture, politically or culturally no edict, judgement, or law of man, is beyond review, questioning, or contradiction. No human and no system is infallible. To act as though they are, is the lie of tyrants! In the deteriorating culture of our society, to question an action or edict subjects individuals to threat, intimidation, or ostracization. It undermines citizens’ rights within our constitutional republic.

As compared to human philosophy and opinion, Christian doctrine is drawn from the Word of God. Only the Word of our God is infallible. Christ-believers do not question the Word of God, critically or uncritically. To question His Word is to question God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Holy Scripture is in all its parts the Word of God. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (2 Timothy 3:16).

True heirs of the Reformation as compared to pseudo-Lutherans confess: “We believe, teach, and confess that the sole rule and standard to which all dogmas together with [all] teachers should be estimated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testament alone, as it is written in Psalm 119:105: ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.’ And St. Paul: ‘Though an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed,’” Galatians 1:8, (Triglot, p.777). The apostle Peter wrote, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (1 Peter 4:8).

The Lord God indoctrinates us, and we are to indoctrinate our children in the sense of implanting in our children the Word so that they and we know in the heart the joy and confidence of salvation. The Scriptures were written that we may know that we have eternal life, and this life is in Jesus, the eternal Word (1 John 5:13). Of such indoctrination we are not ashamed, and we make no apology! Furthermore, the news of our salvation in Christ, full and free by the grace of God, through His Spirit dictates the world view of the Christian, and is the foundation of sanctification, that is, walking according to the will of God, and to His glory.

But do not Christ-believers have questions of the Bible? Certainly, but unlike the godless indoctrination, which it is suggested is to be accepted uncritically, questions of believers are not challenging the Author of Scripture nor His Book. Christians ask questions because of their desire to understand and learn. Upon the announcement that she would be the mother of the incarnate Christ, the virgin Mary asked a legitimate question, “How can this be, since I do not now a man” (Luke 1:34), She was not challenging God, mocking the Father. He answered. She responded, “Let it be to me according to Your Word” (Luke 1:38).

Indoctrination or implantation of the holy, inspired, inerrant Word of God is the lifeblood, the nourishment, the spiritual vitamins of growth unto salvation. It is the strengthening element that preserves the believer in the faith and creates and builds up the spiritual immune system that fights off and rejects the indoctrination of the poisonous, infectious philosophies and lifestyles of the world. The Word of God creates the spiritual eyesight to recognize, and the spiritual ability to discern right from wrong, the way of life from the way of death.

It gives the understanding of, and the reason why, the Christian is to be watchful and critical, not of God or His Word, but of those who deceive and preach another Gospel. Christians are not to swallow or imbibe everything that is passed off as truth in the name of God. Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets…”(Matthew 7:15). Christ-believers are to “Test the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). Jesus said, “If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

Education is obviously important. Christians do not demean the education that helps children develop in mind and body so that they are able to function in this world and enjoy use of the gifts which God has given them for service. But we emphatically reject the philosophies promoted in our educational system that aim to make children mindless robots to godless philosophies, or that demean children and their parents who are bold enough to witness to their faith through word and deed, and thus glorify their Lord.

Efforts are being made to indoctrinate citizens, starting in their youth, to anti-Christian philosophies and lifestyles. Ask the Lord to stay their efforts. Hold fast to the implanted Word, “that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11). It is not easy. To the Church at Philadelphia, the Lord said, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I will also keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10).

Yes, in these days ask the Lord. He has promised to hear the prayers of His children. He will come at His chosen time, to take His tried and tested children home. He has made a way for us to escape–His name is Jesus, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). Blessed are all who walk in His way, believe in Him, and cherish their life in Christ. The future is theirs!

No question about it!                                                                  

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Frustrate Satan. . .Preach the Word

Satan is the master of deceit. Ever since he tempted Eve with “Has God indeed said…” (Genesis 3:1), he has plied his lies and deceit to mislead, confuse, divide, and destroy. His ultimate purpose was, and is, to divide man from God in order to populate hell to which the Lord has assigned him.

Satan’s deceitfulness flourishes in a world that rejects the Word of the Lord. There was a time in Israel when “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). It is not arguable that today Satan has deceived men so that either by ignorance or willful intent the unregenerate without respect for God choose to go their own way. Right and wrong, good and evil, truth and lies, become indistinguishable as corrupt mankind determines to be arbiter of what is moral or immoral. To do the same is a temptation also to the flesh the regenerate. Though it excuses no one, such an attitude is of the devil who is “a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).

There is no one of flesh and blood who can contradict the Lord’s judgment. All mankind falls under the indictment: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity” (Isaiah 59:2-3).

But thank the Lord. In the very Word which the world rejects the same Lord, Who indicts the sinner, gave the promise of a Savior (Genesis 3:15). In fulfillment of His promise—and this is the root of the confident joy of every penitent sinner–the Father “has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:18). The Father in Christ has removed the wall of separation that Satan erected by his deceit and lies. In Christ, the sin-bearer of the world, the relationship between God and man, broken by man, has been fixed. Through His perfect life and sacrifice Jesus has destroyed the works of the devil. The fruit of Jesus’ work, intended for all, accrues to everyone whose faith and hope is anchored in Christ! As the believer’s life is hidden with God in Christ Jesus, Who bore the sins of the world, death has no more dominion over us. Every believer, honest in the confession of his sins, finds the peace that passes all understanding in this reconciliation, punctuated by the Father’s promise, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

The sanctified life of the Christ-believer is a fruit of faith generated by the Spirit. But because the believer is still in the flesh, there is a struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. As we stay in the Word the Spirit helps us overcome. When we disregard the Word we sin. Therefore, we pray for forgiveness and the strength to live a godly life.

For the duration of our heavenward walk we hear the Lord’s alert, “Resist the devil and He will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…” (James 4:7-8). Because the devil in his mortally wounded state is still stronger than we in our flesh, we thank our Lord Jesus for His intercession to the Father in our behalf, “I do not pray that you should take them [Jesus’ disciples] out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15), who  “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We draw near to God when we heed His Word, through which He cloaks us in His armor that we “may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil,” armed with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Ephesians 6).

Nevertheless, the devil stalks, prods, and pokes at us to find our weak spots. He assails us with open, bold, in-your-face, attacks. But most frequently he functions as a guerrilla fighter hiding in the trees and underbrush. He “transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), utilizing “false apostles, deceitful workers,” who are described as “transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13).

In our society we are being bombarded with all sorts of evil and immorality. Apart from the sins common to all, there is abortion which is destruction of life in the womb. There is the distortion of marriage with the promotion of “same sex” hook-ups. There is promotion of homosexual and lesbian life styles as  normal. There is gender confusion that has morphed into “reassignment” surgery, even of children who think they are the opposite of what God created them.  This is being promoted in many government schools in which children are taught to ape adults who identify themselves by different pronouns.

These sins are promoted from the highest offices in civil government and made into laws under which Christians who object or voice opposition for conscience’ sake are vilified and threatened, if not prosecuted.  Even churches into which the world has entered, in the name of love, have become complicit, promoting the right of everyone to do what is right in his own eyes, instead of what is right in the sight of God. As just one example of complicity of churches in promoting sin, “The General Convention of the Episcopal Church recently voted to embrace radical transgender ideology. Specifically, its House of Deputies passed—and the House of Bishops concurred in—a resolution stating: ‘Resolved, that the 80th General Convention calls for the Episcopal Church to advocate for access to gender affirming care in all forms (social, medical, or any other) and at all ages as part of our Baptismal call to ‘respect the dignity of every human being’” (On-line 10-8-22). It passed with “substantial support from bishops.”

Whether a matter is right or wrong and is considered a civil right under the law does not, for that reason, find approval of God, nor should it find acceptance among  the people of God. Sin and immorality promoted in society and within the church, God will judge. Right here, however, is where the devil and his temptation of Eve comes into play, “Has God really said?” The devil knows Scripture. He quotes what he chooses with his own interpretation. He did this with Jesus in the wilderness.  With Jesus he failed. Jesus quoted Scripture, “Then the devil left Him (Matthew 4:11).

The devil uses the same ploy today. “Has God not said, ‘You shall love  your neighbor as yourself’?” “Has God not said, ‘Judge not that you be not judged’”? By quoting Scripture, actually misquoting, he convinces those under his sway that in love we are to accept things that God calls sin. He deceives the unsuspecting, convincing them that it is wrong to judge sinful actions, twisting the meaning of love which God enjoins under the guise of “our Baptismal call to ‘respect the dignity of every human being.’” Respecting the dignity of every human being does not mean respecting his sin, any more than killing a baby in the womb is reproductive health care. This is ecclesiastical blasphemy!’ 

The very fact that we are addressing this as we must, and that addressing it is part of the faithful witness to the will of God and the love of God, speaks to another satanic ploy. In the ministry of the Church and its mission to the world, neither this nor other instances of moral degeneration are the big issue. However, they are indicators of the bigger issue in the church that have an impact on society—a lack of respect for the Word of God and for the Church’s primary responsibility in the world.

As citizens of the nation, Christians are concerned about the deterioration of the nation, and what is contributing to it. However as citizens of heaven and as  members of the Body of Christ, the Church is not called to save society or the nation. The devil wants the Church to spend its time addressing social and political concerns. However legitimate the concerns are, the Church is not called to address the evil as such in society, but the root cause—that is the corrupt, sinful heart. The Church’s responsibility, first of all, is to be engaged in salvation preaching that prepares hearts for heaven. The devil wants the Church to neglect uncovering his ways and means and his end game.  He knows the preaching of the Word is His overthrow.

The devil wants to distract the Church from the proclamation of the Law and the Gospel—the Word of God that addresses the spiritual and ultimately the eternal welfare of souls. The Lord assigned the Church the unenviable, nevertheless, necessary task of preaching the Law which reveals sin, and pronounces God’s judgment upon sin, and the lover of sin, which is damnation.

The Lord has called the Church, the body of believers, to proclaim repentance and remission of sins. He has called and privileged the Church to preach the Gospel of reconciliation, through which the penitent sinner finds peace with God, and by which he is empowered to flee the devil.

The Christ-believer is not blind to societal evils, but he dare not be blinded to what is the purpose for which the Lord has left him upon the earth. Even the heathen can call out evil. Only the Church can preach the Gospel.

Many in Jesus’ ministry on earth followed Him because He could heal the sick and the lame. He could feed the hungry. They wanted to make Him a bread-king. But He ministered to the people to expose their sin, and show Himself as the Savior from sin, the One Who had prepared for them a better country, eternal in the heavens. That was His first task and everything else He did served that purpose. By the power of God, the apostles healed the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, but because they spoke the truth they were cast into prison. When told to stop, the apostles said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). The apostle, Paul, was  accused of being “a proclaimer of foreign gods, because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection’” (Acts 17: 18).

And so the Church today is to address sin honestly from the Word of God, not as savior of the nation, but as the minister of God called to share the Gospel that the elect of God might be saved unto eternal life. With every satanic device and deception, Satan will fight the faithful.

Alert to his devices, stay the course. They serve the Lord who say, “Get behind me, Satan!  For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33). Say with Peter and John, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

Whatever else attracts our attention, the responsibility of the Church and the servants of the Lord is declared by Paul, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). That is the mission of the church from which we dare not be deterred!

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Eternity Is. . .Forever. . .

Forever! Except that we know by faith that the eternal God is without beginning and without end—forever—how do we finite individuals grasp the enormity of “foreverness?”  Even the earth had a beginning—the eternal God created it. The earth, the world, unlike its Creator, has an end.

We mortals had a beginning, and we shall have an end for in this corrupted world “nothing or no one is forever.” In this finite world, “all good things must come to an end,” for “That too shall end.” If there is any good in things coming to an end, what appears at times to be endless—pain, sorrows, trials—these too shall end.

Time itself will end. However, when time ends it will be translated into eternity—an existence of “Foreverness.” Scripture defines the conversion from time to eternity: “This mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53).

The mention of eternity evokes different responses. Some look forward to it. Some doubt it. Still others mock it. They who look forward to it are the Christ-believers who believe Jesus Who said, “Surely I am coming quickly.” They respond, “Even so, come. Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20-21). Those who doubt it wander about in a hopeless maze of uncertainty. Those who mock the reality of eternity have no idea of what awaits them.

Eternity is contemporaneous with the return of the Savior Who said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice  and come forththose who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father Who sent Me” (John 5:24-29).

The voice of the Lord God is heard now in the preached Word. It is the voice of both mercy and judgment that will be heard when all the dead are called from the grave on judgment day.

Every day brings all people one day closer to their end which is death. Every day brings the world closer to the day of judgment, the time of which is in God’s mind.

So then, now is the day to listen to the voice of the Lord. Now is the time of grace. Now is the time of salvation in which the Spirit through the preached Word calls sinners to repentance and to faith in Christ. Jesus spoke in the present when He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father Who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29). The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “…knowing the time that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” Romans 13:11). With a sense of urgency we read, “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (Hebrews 3:15).

It is a contradiction in terms to say, “Eternity is a long time.” because there is no time in eternity. Eternity is. . . forever. Eternity lies in the future of everyone who has lived on the earth—believers in Christ or unbelievers. All will hear His voice and come forth from the grave. To some it will be the voice of mercy. Others will hear it as the frightening voice of judgment from which there is no reprieve. On judgment day there will be no court of appeal. There is no judge beyond the righteous Judge Who shall separate the sheep from the goats, the believers from the unbelievers. That truth emphasizes the importance of “now” in passages above and of the “today” spoken in Hebrews.

To describe a good time or vacation get-away some may say they experienced “heaven on earth.” That is a misnomer. There is no heaven on earth! When eternity dawns, the believers who in faith have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14), and are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, having passed from death to life through faith, will come forth from their graves “to the resurrection of life.” In heaven, they will be in heaven, earth long forgotten! What a blessed eternity it will be with the Lord, freed from every shackle and burden of time (Revelation 7:16-17, 21:4). Revelation 21 describes the heavenly Jerusalem, the holy city, the eternal home of the blessed where God dwells in the midst of her and into which “there shall by no means enter anything that defiles, or causes an abomination, or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (21:27). There will be no excursions to the “Holy Land.” The weary travelers through life will be in the Holy Land. The human mind, even with the word pictures of heaven in Scripture, cannot fathom the depth, width, or breadth, of heavenly existence—forever, and ever, and ever….

What of those, however, whose names are not in the Book of Life because they denied and rejected the Lord Who desires the salvation of all? 

We hear after some disaster or bad experience, “It was hell on earth.” It may have had the appearance of hell, but its similarity to the experience of hell  is no way comparable to the experience of hell or its duration which is forever and ever, and ever. . . . Scripture gives us word pictures here also. To write about it is no more pleasant than to read about it. On the cross Jesus, bearing the sins of the world and suffering the consequences the sinner deserves, cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” (Matthew 27:46)? Isaiah described the forsakenness in hell, “For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched…”(Isaiah 66:24). Jesus reiterated these words in Mark 9:46,48. In the lesson of the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) the rich man had his “heaven on earth” but no time for the Lord. In torment of hell he looked up and saw Abraham in heaven. He said, “Have mercy on me, and send Lazarus [he had his hell on earth] that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” His plea rejected, the man pled, “I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:19ff).

God’s mercy is not shown or declared in hell. It is manifest to all on earth and speaks to the comfort and hope of sinners who believe in Him and call upon Him. There is no mercy needed in heaven because by the mercy of God shown to His children on earth they are with Him. The Lord dwells among them, and “they shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat…and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17). Is it saying too much to say that one of the greatest causes of sufferings in hell will be the realization that when the damned had the invitation to hear the voice and call of the Lord on earth, they rejected Him?! Concerning his brothers the rich man, was told, “They have Moses and the prophets [the Word of God]; let them hear them”  (Luke 16:29).

Let none, among  whom we count ourselves, take the Father’s blessings for granted on earth, nor those laid up for us in heaven. Satan daily seeks to rob us, but we have the Lord’s assurance that as we stay in the Word and treasure the Gospel, He will preserve us in the faith unto eternal life. Satan works incessantly to plant doubt in our heart and mind. He cannot and will not succeed as we return to the Word of our Lord. In the depth of our misery and our sin let us run with haste to the Lord and say with David, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and, cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2). Believing with our whole heart, we rejoice in the promise “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

As the Spirit of God has called us to the faith we are privileged to look forward to eternity without fear, but with eager and confident anticipation. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

It is in that confidence that the apostle Paul said, “I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

“If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:: 14-18). Eternity is. . .forever and ever and ever…

Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and treasure it” (Luke 11:28).

“Forever with the Lord!”

Amen!  So let it be

Life from the dead is in that word,

“Tis immortality.

Knowing as I am known,

How shall I love that word,

And oft repeat before the throne,

“Forever with the Lord.” (TLH 616: 1,8)

By the grace and mercy of God that is the confident song describing the future of all who call on the name of the Lord. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

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Misinformation or Disinformation?

It is not a stretch to say that we live in a volatile society. This is nothing new in a sinful world but, it seems, perhaps because we are living in it, that our culture is deteriorating more rapidly and unpredictably. Today we hardly know what to believe as social and political interaction and converse become increasingly more disruptive, turbulent, and strained. In many instances this volatility is attributed to the spreading of misinformation and disinformation. 

The distinction between the two is subtle. The end result is the same—the information dispensed is faulty or not true. There is a legitimate use of either. For example, in the exercise of its national security responsibility a country may resort to disinformation or misinformation to conceal its military capability or strength, as occurred during the so-called cold war. In an active war the government or military may deliberately put out false information in order to mislead enemies.

But what is the difference between the two? Unlike misinformation, disinformation (Propaganda) is always consciously spread without regard for truth. It is intentionally biased and deceitful and is disseminated to serve a personal agenda, destroy another’s reputation, or manipulate facts to serve one’s own interest. Disinformation is a lie. Scripture frames it thus: “You give your mouth to evil, and your tongue frames deceit…” (Psalm 50:19).  

Misinformation may have the same effect as disinformation, but it is not consciously done with the intent to harm, mislead, or ruin a reputation. One may introduce something with, “I heard that…I read about…”. Misinformation occurs when the teller may have forgotten something, misunderstood, or misread something, and as a result passed on a garbled message. The question is whether one should talk about something about which he does not have all the facts or which he misunderstands.  With respect to misinformation a rule of thumb is to know what one is talking about. Also, misinformation might be gossip, which is an issue itself.

In a world in which truth is whatever one subjectively wants it to be, where can one find certain truth, objective truth, that is neither disinformation nor misinformation?

Turn to the Scriptures. The God of truth has left us absolute, objective truth in His Holy Word. God’s Word, the Bible, is not simply true; it is truth! “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good” (Numbers 23:19)? Jesus the very Son of God, One with God, testified: “Your Word is truth.” (John 1:17).

The divine Truth teaches the truth about our existence, about the past, about life, about the cause of evil and the consequence of evil. Where do we find  the solution to evil, or learn of love, grace, forgiveness, comfort, hope, and the future? Where is the manual about relationships, about interaction with our neighbor, about the future? All these things are of interest to earth dwellers, whether Christians or unbelievers. If truth is hard to come by in our fallen society, where do we go for reliable information—unvarnished, honest, unchanging, truth?

We go to the inspired Word—the Bible–which is its own witness. Within it God’s truth is validated and confirmed by His promises kept! It is sealed by the birth of Jesus as promised, by Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of the world as promised and by His resurrection from the dead as promised.

None of the problems in the world and society are a consequence of God using Scripture to disinform or misinform. There is no sinister purpose behind what God has said. Every evil and all problems in the world have occurred because sinful mankind has turned a deaf ear to God, rejected His counsel—Law and Gospel. The problems in the world are due to the fact that, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God,’” (Psalm 14:1), or at very least says, “We know better than God.”

Consider, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”(Genesis 1:1). Is the divine word about the origin of things disinformation or misinformation? No! But the teaching of evolution and deistic evolution is.

Scripture—God’s Book–speaks to the nature of God and the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. “The Lord, our God, is one Lord (Deuteronomy 6:4). “All should honor the Son just as they honor the Father…”(John 5:23). Baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:20). Is this word disinformation or misinformation? No! But the promotion of idolatry and denial of the Trinity is.

The Bible speaks God’s will in the Ten Commandments and says, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord  your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). It uncovers the human condition, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Scripture describes the consequences of sin, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). Is the Bible guilty of disinformation or misinformation? No! But denial of sin, and the divine judgment of the sinner is.

With respect to the divine directives, on one hand, Christ-believers are compelled to confess sin, and be reminded, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). On the other hand, the penitent find comfort in “If we confess our sins, He [the Heavenly Father] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (v.9). We pray further, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me… (Psalm 51:10).

The Lord has given His Word and instructed those who go in His name to “speak My Word faithfully” (Jeremiah 23::28). Is it disinformation or misinformation when the world is offended by the truth of the Word? No. But teaching contrary to God Word is. Are those who speak the Word of God faithfully guilty of disinformation or misinformation? No. But those are who add to, subtract from, deny, or subjectively interpret Scripture.

As Scripture is honest about sin and its consequences, so is it honest about the solution to the sin problem. The solution is found in Christ Who bore the sins of the world. The Spirit promises eternal life to as many as believe on and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28) and is “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). The apostle Paul, a former Pharisee wrote by divine inspiration, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8). Is it disinformation or misinformation to hold fast to and to teach justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. No! But it is when it is taught that man is saved by his own effort, his works, his personal contribution, his “holiness” apart from the righteousness that is in Christ Jesus. As we contemplate the blessings of the Reformation, was Martin Luther, who glorified the Lord for his salvation, guilty of disinformation or misinformation or was it the pope who, to build St. Peter’s in Rome, was selling indulgences on the street, promising relief for sinners from an alleged purgatory?  

It is sufficient to ask, is it disinformation or misinformation to teach contrary to anything recorded in Scripture? It is both. Finally, it makes no difference which it is–whether the denial is by disinformational intent or misinformational ignorance. Because any false doctrine is dangerous to the faith, the Lord has directed the faithful to avoid, “those who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you learned” (Romans 16:17-18).

Jesus prayed for His disciples and for us, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus said in His good confession before Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). People of God who are one in faith and hope pray, “Lord, by Your Spirit guide us into all truth and sanctify us by Your truth.” (Cf John 16:13).

That is a tall order in this day of patent disinformation and rampant misinformation in society. But our God has been good. He has preserved His truth in this world. His Word is the final authority on all matters of doctrine. His Word prevails in spite of intense satanic efforts to undermine it. So it shall ever be, for heaven and earth will pass away but His word will not (Luke 21:33)! Not one word of it has changed or will change. All whose faith is built on the inspired word are built on the firm foundation, that neither wind or storm, Satan or hater of truth, false doctrine or human reason can destroy.  

As His people immerse themselves in His Word they are assured of His love and they grow in confidence of salvation. Furthermore as they share the Word of truth with others, the Lord gives assurance that His Word will bring others into His fold (Isaiah 54:9). They who spread misinformation on about Scripture by ignorance or lack of understanding, upon being aware of it, will faithfully study the Scriptures to correct their errors.

“God is love” (1 John 4:8). The God of love spoke the Law—”You shall, and you shall not.” He named sin. He spoke of the consequences of sin which is death. Why? That He might save those who listen, repent and believe the Gospel, for He does not delight in the death of the sinner (Ezekiel 33:11, 2 Peter 3:9). Is it disinformation or misinformation when the faithful, sinners in their own right, call out and name sin? Love speaks the truth, regardless of how the truth is received by the hearer or interpreted by the world. We do not expect that the world without respect for the Lord has any compunction about divine truth. “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25), and “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren” (James 4:11). Though addressed to Christian brethren, what does the world find offensive about that divine counsel?  

Christ-believers who accept the Scriptures without qualification and are conscience bound by its truth will share the Word without regard as to who might be offended by the truth. At the same time, they understand, how one speaks is one thing. What one says is another. Scripture says: “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:5-6). Not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, we cannot but speak the truth! Speaking God’s truth is neither disinformation nor misinformation.  It is the message of life!                   (10-6-22)

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Thus Says the Lord

Thinking back to your youth, do you remember how many times you challenged your parent’s request or exhortation, or your teacher’s direction with, “Why?” Have you ever responded to your own children’s similar question with, “Because I said so”?! Assuming the best, let us grant that parents and teachers, in their authoritarian role, always had your best interest in mind. May we assume the same of your response to your own children or students? In this world of sin, and given that in the flesh all sin, the assumption defined by always may be a stretch.

The Lord could have said, “Because I said so.” As one looks into a Bible Concordance one sees that innumerable times the Lord in a gentle though authoritarian manner spoke as He introduced His instruction, His directive, His will, with, “Thus saith the Lord,”  or “Thus saith the Lord of Hosts,” or “Thus says the Lord God.” In every case, what the Lord was about to say was well-considered, spoken with purpose, and above reproach. “Thus says the Lord… ‘I, the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right’” (Isaiah 45:1…19).

Whether He was addressing a circumstance or situation or was about to make an announcement to which the hearers were to give heed, He meant what He said. “Thus” carries with it the idea of now. “Now, hear this…”. “Thus saith the Lord” might introduce the law. “Thus says, the Lord: ‘Let My people go that they may serve Me’” (Exodus 8:1).

Sometimes “Thus says the Lord” introduced a word of assurance: “Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there…For I will defend this city to save it, for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake’” (2 Kings 19: 32-34). It may have been a word of direction: “Go and tell My servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord: You shall not build Me a house to dwell in’” (1 Chronicles 17:4). It often introduced an impending action: “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’” (Acts 21:11). It sometimes sounded a disciplinary warning, “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, My anger and My fury will be poured out on this place…’” (Jeremiah 7: 20). It could introduce a word of comfort, “But, now thus says the Lord… ‘fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine’” (Isaiah 43:1). It introduced a divine exhortation: “For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: ‘Seek Me and live…’” (Amos 5:4).  “Therefore” as God had shown His grace and mercy to Israel, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel…Now therefore fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the river and in Egypt. Serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:2,14)! It introduces the content of the Gospel, “For thus says the Lord God: ‘Indeed I will search for My sheep and seek them out’” (Ezekiel 33:11).”

Whether it is law, discipline, directive, guidance, or a Gospel comfort, the Lord does nothing on a whim or in a moment of pique. “Thus says the Lord” is confirmed by, “The Lord has sworn saying, ‘Surely, as I thought, so it shall come to pass, and as I have purposed, so it shall stand…’” (Isaiah 14:24). “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

In this ungodly world of lying, deceit, self-serving, and selfishness, the Christ-believer thanks the Lord God “Who cannot lie.” By His Spirit, He has through His Word given the faith to live  “in hope of eternal life” (Titus 1:2).

The Word of God is the very truth. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God [is God breathed]” (2 Timothy 3:16). Genesis could well have been prefaced, “Thus says the Lord….” Every word between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21 is of God, so that Revelation could have concluded with “Thus has the Lord spoken.” The Bible does not simply contain the Word of God.

It is the Word of God.

To deny or question any part of Scripture is an attack upon the Lord Jesus, Who is the embodiment of the divine Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.…And the Word became flesh and  dwelt among us…” (John 1:1-2,14). In Revelation 19:13 we read, “He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.”  He bore the sins of many, of the whole world. He alone fought the battle and was the Victor over sin, death and the devil. Here, though not introduced with thus says the Lord are the words of the Lord, “It is the Spirit Who gives life; the flesh profits nothing, The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Here is another thus saith the Lord: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This word of truth and comfort was foretold in the Old Testament, and testified to by Jesus Who said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness [Numbers 21:9], even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

“Thus says the Lord,” applies to all of Scripture. However piously one otherwise speaks of the Bible, if he denies any part of it he cannot be sure of his salvation. The Scriptures that he questions, doubts, or denies, is the same source of that which he claims to believe. Because God declares Himself the Author of the whole divine record, whoever denies what is on page one, cannot be sure of what is taught on page two.

Lutherans who reflect Reformation theology accept the whole written Word of God in all points it addresses whether they are considered fundamental or non-fundamental doctrines.* By the same token “it accepts no teaching as an article of faith which is not contained in God’s Word and is therefore not absolutely sure and certain (The Lutheran church the true Visible Church, Article XIX). No Word and no doctrine in the Bible, in as much as it is of God, is superfluous.

True Lutherans confess with the Brief Statement: “Since the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God, it goes without saying that they contain no errors or contradictions, but that they are in all their parts and worlds the infallible truth, also in those parts which treat of historical, geographical and other secular matters”—”Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Every doctrine taught in the church, every sermon delivered from the pulpit, every teaching of which the claim is made that it is from God, must be affirmed by “Thus says the Lord.” 

Scripture is its own interpreter. Dark passages are interpreted in the light of clear passages. Where there may be a lack of understanding or a difference of interpretation in the church, no interpretation, however difficult it may be, can be correct if it contradicts another clear word of Scripture.

The God Who introduces His exhortation with “Thus saith the Lord,” also says through His incarnate Son, “It is written” (Matthew 4: 4, 7, 10). “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Speaking through the apostle John, the Lord said, “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:9-13).

Today, many churches in Christendom have gone off the rails. The reason for the departure from “Thus says the Lord,” is not so much a matter of interpretation—though that is a contributing factor. The reason is outright  denial of “All Scripture is God-breathed.”

Apostacism cannot destroy the truth, but it undermines the certainty of what God said and thereby robs the yearning sinner of the certainty of salvation because it undermines and questions what is written. How can we know that we have eternal life if we are led to doubt a single word of God?

Furthermore, by the imposition of human reason, rationalism, and personal subjectivism upon Scripture and “Thus says the Lord,” the apostate church calls God a liar. It is the deepest form of disrespect toward the Lord. It is the highest degree of arrogance of the corrupt mind of man to claim that one knows better than God. It is the grossest deception to suggest that Scripture is passé, out of touch with reality, to call what God calls evil, good, and what He has said is good, evil. Instead of covering for sin by adopting the ways of the world for fear of offending the sinner, the faithful church listens to what the Lord says and teaches the Law—“You shall and you shall not.” It believes and teaches what is written. “Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things’” (Luke 24:46-48). 

“Listen to Me, My people…The earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished” (Isaiah 51:1…6). Speak the Word—all of it, faithfully. That is what contending for the faith is all about—the salvation of sinners.

“Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’s house all the words I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word” (Jeremiah 26:2).

*Fundamental Doctrines are those doctrines which are confessed in the Apostolic Creed as confessed in the three articles of Martin Luther. Faith in the inspired, inerrant, Word of God recorded in Scripture, acceptance of the person of Christ, recognition of sin and its consequences,  justification by grace through faith in Christ alone are fundamentals apart from which no one can know the way of salvation. Non-fundamental Doctrines, as distinguished from the fundamental doctrines, are those Scripture truths which are not the foundation or object of faith in so far as it [faith] obtains forgiveness of sins and makes men children of God but with which the faith of those who have already obtained the forgiveness of sins should and does concern itself” (Pieper- Christian Dogmatics, Vol I, p. 91).

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