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Almighty God, our Father, Your blessed Son called Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul. Grant that the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lessons for the Day:

Psalm 147:1-7
Isaiah 35:5-8
2 Timothy 4:5-15
Luke 10:1-9

St. Luke, the beloved physician referred to by St. Paul (Colossians4:14), presents us with Jesus, whose blood provides the medicine of immortality. As his traveling companion, Paul claimed Luke’s Gospel as his own for its healing of souls (Eusebius). Luke traveled with Paul during the second missionary journey, joining him after Paul received his Macedonian call to bring the Gospel to Europe (Acts16:10-17).  Luke most likely stayed behind in Philippi for seven years, rejoining Paul at the end of the third missionary journey inMacedonia. He traveled with Paul to Troas, Jerusalem, and Caesarea, where Paul was imprisoned for two years (Acts 20:5-21:18). While in Caesarea, Luke may have researched material that he used in his Gospel. Afterward, Luke accompanied Paul on his journey to Rome (Acts 27:1-28:16). Especially beloved in Luke’s Gospel are:

  • the stories of the Good Samaritan ( Luke 16:29-37),

  • the prodigal son (Luke15:11-32),

  • the rich man and Lazarus  (Luke16:19-31),

  • and the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).

  • Only Luke provides a detailed account of Christ’s birth (Luke 2:1-20)

  • and the canticles of Mary (Luke1:46-55),

  • of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79),

  • and, Simeon (Luke2:29-32).

To show how Christ continued His work in the Early Church through the apostles, Luke also penned the Acts of the Apostles. More than one-third of the New Testament comes from the hand of the evangelist Luke.  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

A few takeaways about Luke, the Gospel and the early Church history he wrote: 

One:     It is clear from Luke’s introduction, in flawless Greek, he wants to give Theophilus an accurate account of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.  Luke knew the people who were there and he interviewed the “eyewitnesses”.  We were not there from the beginning but Luke was. He probably knew Mary, Mother of our Lord.  He knew the apostles, including Paul.   Luke tells us he did this carefully. He is also a brother in Christ.  A brother in Christ is honest and trustworthy.  It is clear Luke did not write his Gospel for personal financial gain at all.  What did he stand to gain from writing a dishonest narrative?  Nothing. He wanted Theophilus to know the certainty of the Way in which he had been “catechized”, taught the Way, because Jesus Christ is our Savior. Luke’s gain is only Christ’s gain:  a baptized and saved Theophilus and you as well.

“The ‘us’ among whom these ‘things which have been accomplished’ (1:1-4) would be all the Christians whose testimony is borne in the narrative.” (Dr. Just’s Commentary)

“For us and our salvation He came down from heaven”.

 Two:    Luke uses the word “catechized”.  The Gospels are history and as the history of our lives, there is meaning.  Theophilus was catechized, taught in the Way, as a “follower of the Way”, the meaning of the Word and Work of Jesus Christ.  Theophilus was taught God’s Word and  many were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word.  The fruit of faith is shown in works of love.  “Theophilus” means “love of God”.  Many have asked, Who was Theophilus?  One answer:  all of us, the love of God.  We are all Theophilus. Luke writes, most excellent Theophilus.  “Excellent” was term of respect for a high, noble official.  God’s Word is for the poorest of the poor and the most elite of the elite!  God’s love in Christ had taught Theophilus and now Luke connects the dots for him and us. This history of Jesus is the good news, the Gospel which not only informs but forms us in His Word, sinners who are simultaneously saints by faith, given through grace.

“Paul says that in the Christian assembly, he prefers rational words, “five words of knowledge” than a thousand in tongues, so that he may “catechize” those present (1 Cor 14:19)…” (Dr. Just)

This faith comes through the gospel’s  catechesis  that assures of certainty of the facts narrated regarding Jesus. “Catecheo”  (“to catechize, instruct, inform”) occurs four times in Luke-Acts (Lk 1:4; Acts 18:25; 21:21, 24) and three times in Paul (Rom 2:18; 1 Cor 14:19; Gal 6:6). Acts 18:25 has the same meaning as here: Apollos “had been catechized in the way of the Lord.” We can know the facts of the way a bike works, which is important, but the way we learn a bike is to learn to ride it, catechized in the way of the Lord and His heart towards us, for us, with us.

Third:  We understand the truthfulness of Holy Scripture by Luke’s phrase, regarding the ministers of the Word,  “delivered these traditions to us…”  The use of the verb “delivered” is used by Paul (Luke was his companion on some of the Paul’s missionary journeys) for handing over the Words of Institution of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23) and the eyewitness accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3)  Traditions here are not man-made traditions, but rabbinic traditions precisely delivered:  verbatim. These were tools for memory but also pointing out that without all our information technologies, the mind can remember a lot.   These brothers had the highest regard for the written and spoken Word of God and were not going to mess around with it, because man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  In Dr. Luke’s second book, Acts of the Apostles, there are the “we”sections, in which Luke was with the apostle Paul.  Paul refers in his letters to “my gospel”.  Paul’s Gospel sure well have been Luke’s.  Both Paul and Luke knew the other apostles, Mary, James, brother of the Lord, the 70 Jesus had sent out.

Luke wrote a travelogue, the Gospel and Acts of the Apostles.  He wrote a never-ending story, a true story.  Jesus and His Church met so many people of all walks of life, including you dear reader. Some in his two volume work we read about the following:  the first martyrs, others, unlikely born, like Paul, became an apostle but more than even that, called and baptized,along with prostitutes, tax collectors, centurions, Pharisees, poor men and women, Roman officials and soldiers, tent makers, a business woman…in all walks and vocations of life, and in the Lord’s Name given new life. The sign post of our travels is the Cross and as He lives He points us ever to our citizenship in heaven.

 

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“Glorious is God with His saints and angels: Oh, come let us worship Him.”

 

About Ignatius: He was the bishop of Antioch in Syria at the beginning of the second century A.D. and an early Christian martyr. Near the end of the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan (98–117), Ignatius was arrested, taken in chains to Rome, and eventually thrown to the wild beasts in the arena. On the way to Rome, he wrote letters to the Christians at Ephesus, Magnesia, Tralles, Rome, Philadelphia, and Smyrna, and also to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna. In the letters, which are beautifully pastoral in tone, Ignatius warned against certain heresies (false teachings). He also repeatedly stressed the full humanity and deity of Christ, the reality of Christ’s bodily presence in the Lord’s Supper, the supreme authority of the bishop, and the unity of the Church found in her bishops. Ignatius was the first to use the word catholic to describe the universality of the Church. His Christ-centeredness, his courage in the face of martyrdom, and his zeal for the truth over against false doctrine are a lasting legacy to the Church.  (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

The Apostle Paul was probably martyred between A.D. 64-67. Ignatius became the 2nd Bishop of Antioch in A.D. 69.   Antioch was the city from which Paul and Barnabas began their great missionary journey as recorded in Acts 13-14.  Ignatius is a direct link to the apostles and the apostolic doctrine.  (information from The Apostolic Fathers, edited by Jack Sparks)

Some have written that Christian doctrine evolved from the original sayings of Jesus  into the Christianity we have today. But given the chronological proximity of Ignatius to the Apostolic era, this can not be so and especially when we read his letters.  In them,  it is clear that Ignatius and the earlier Church were continuing the apostolic doctrine as taught verbatim by Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, as the continuation and fulfillment of the Old Testament.

One of first great crises of the earlier Church was when the last of the 12 Apostles died.  Who could ever replace them?  Already the Lord provided the answer: bishops.   When I hear the word “bishop”, visions of church finery come to mind:  croziers, mitres, elaborate vestments and the like.  Not in the 1st  century nor for next 2-3 centuries!  Bishop is the word used  to translate  the New Testament Greek:  episcopos which means “overseer”, one who provides oversight to the doctrine and faith of the congregation.  An “episcopos” preached and administered the Sacraments which means a bishop is  a pastor.  He presided at the Table of the Lord…and he was a target when persecution arose.

In the Roman Empire, there were many gods and goddesses and their temples and shrines were massive and impressive and they held elaborate and overwhelming services in them. A Christian episcopos presided over a simple meal of  bread and wine, announcing this is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  He preached the Word of Law and Gospel to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.  Nothing outwardly impressive, yet by such the Lord spread His Word as He had promised He would “to the ends of the earth”.   The Word of Jesus Christ was so spread against overwhelming odds without gimmicks, strategies, mission models, massive denominational budgets, etc.  (insight courtesy of Rev. Prof. Hermann Sasse)

For Ignatius the central  aspect of the Church was unity with the bishop, the pastor in the preaching and teaching of the Scripture and administration of the Sacraments, according to the Apostolic Doctrine set forth in the Holy Scriptures.:

“…it is fitting for you  run your race together with the bishop’s purpose–as you do.  For your presbytery–worthy of fame, worthy of God–is attuned to the bishop  like strings to a lyre.  Therefore by your unity and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung.”

The episcopos was to give oversight to the true saving doctrine of justification but not to overlook false doctrine. Case in point:   Ignatius warns the Church in Smyrna about  the docetists. ‘Docetist’  means ‘appearance’ and they said that Jesus only appeared to be a man but was only God  and so they changed the clear meaning of Scripture and they denied the Body and the Blood. And so Ignatius warns the Smyrnaens about them and their teaching on Holy Communion:

“They abstain from Eucharist and prayer because they do not acknowledge that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ which suffered for our sins, which the Father raised by his goodness. Those who deny God’s gift are dying in their squabbles; it would be better for them to love so that they may rise. It is fitting to keep away from such men and not to speak about them either privately or publicly, but to pay attention to the prophets and especially to the Gospel, in which the passion has been explained to us and the resurrection has been accomplished. Flee from divisions as the beginning of evils.”

What is the Biblical and evangelical understanding of the Lord’s Supper in relation to our lives and souls in His Church?

“Be eager, therefore, to use one Eucharist–for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ and one cup for union with the blood (cf. 1 Cor. 10: 16), one sanctuary, as there is one bishop, together with the presbytery and the deacons my fellow slaves–so that whatever you do, you do in relation to God (cf. 1 Cor. 10: 31;  Col. 3: 17)

Furthermore, the docetists believed Jesus was purely “spiritual” and He could not give us His Body and Blood.  Using an oft-used phrase in our day, they were not religious but ‘spiritual’. Sound familiar? Maybe Ignatius was too negative?  Maybe he should have ‘dialogued’ with them and formed a Bishop’s Study Task Force of Ecumenical Dialogue with Docetism?  Of course not.  Ignatius did a pastor’s work.   The heretics are actually the ones who want Christian doctrine to ‘evolve’: actually devolve into something totally different and more to their liking and their flesh and so it is no longer saving doctrine. Heresy is dividing;  orthodoxy is uniting.  It is as old as Israel finding more suitable deities in the Baals.   This is the devil’s work.   The only conversation is to warn and  call to repentance in the true Faith, clinging to Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father in His Church. As Ignatius wrote to the  Magnesians:

As, then, the Lord did nothing apart from the Father [cf. John 5:19; 8:28], either by himself or through the apostles, since he was united with him [cf. John 10:30; 17:11,21,22], so you must do nothing apart from the bishop and the presbyters. Do not try to make anything appear praiseworthy by yourselves, but let there be in common one prayer, one petition, one mind, one hope in love, in blameless joy—which is Jesus Christ, than whom nothing is better [cf. John 10:16; Eph. 4:3-6]. 2. All of you must run together as to one temple of God, as to one sanctuary, to one Jesus Christ, who proceeded from the one Father and is with the one and departed to the one [cf. John 8:42;14:12,28; 16:10,17

Let us pray…

Almighty God, we praise Your Name for Ignatius of Antioch, pastor and martyr.  He offered himself as grain to be ground by the teeth of wild beasts so that he might present to You the pure bread of sacrifice. Accept the willing tribute of all that we are and all that we have, and give us a portion in the pure and unspotted offering of Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

“…the majority of people in the world, by far the greatest throng, do not give God what is his. The mass of humanity is constituted by so many factious spirits and sects that we are unable to count them.  In each of these the devil attempts to create new and strange beliefs, as those spawned by the enthusiasts, Anabaptists and Sacramentarians.  Just like the papacy, they,  too, have torn Holy Scripture shreds and robbed the people of God’s Word. One and all, they are guilty of subversion within the kingdom of God. Like those within the civil state who are rebellious and think everything belongs to them and do not give Caesar what is Caesar’s, rebellious people exist within the spiritual realm.  They think that spiritual blessing and God’s Word belong only to them.  They feel that these things are theirs to adapt, bend, and pervert to suit themselves, adulterate Christian belief, and design good works according to their way of thinking.  In short, they wish to be masters of their faith and lords over all of Holy Scripture, even though in baptism they have sworn allegiance to remain true to the Christian faith and to the pure Word.”

“…when we occupy ourselves for a time with the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer, we always discover new benefit, finding and learning something we were not aware of before.

And if there is no other blessing, at least there is always this, that the devil cannot abide with you, nor is he able to harm you.  For this reason no Christian should think himself so smart that he says he already knew the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments…rather, if such a thought crosses your mind, then rather cross yourself and say, May my God preserve me, so that I am not without his Word for a single day! For if that should happen, then the devil will for sure come at me; and so, although I have already prayed today, I shall now pray again.  For you need to drive the devil and sin away, and render service to our Lord God.  If you do not do that, you do our Lord God a grievous disservice; and who want to be exposed to the wrath of such almighty Lord?”

—From Luther’s House Postils, Vol. III (pages 97-98), First Sermon for the 20th Sunday after Trinity, 1532, on St. Matthew 22: 1-14

Encouragement for Today

“…these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.”-Jude 10

17 But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. 18 They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” 19 It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude

 

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank You for Your servant Philip the Deacon, whom You called to proclaim the Gospel to the peoples of Samaria and Ethiopia. Raise up in this and every land heralds and evangelists of Your kingdom, that your Church may make known the immeasurable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

About Philip the Deacon:  Philip, also called the evangelist (Acts 21:8), was one of the seven men appointed to assist in the work of the twelve apostles and of the rapidly growing early Church by overseeing the distribution of food to the poor (Acts 6:1-6). Following the martyrdom of Stephen, Philip proclaimed the Gospel in Samaria and led Simon the sorcerer to become a believer in Christ (Acts 8:4-13). He was also instrumental in bringing about the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-39), through whom Philip became indirectly responsible for bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people on the continent of Africa. In the town of Caesarea, he was host for several days to the apostle Paul, who stopped there on his last journey to Jerusalem (Acts 21:8-15). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, cph.org)

Biblical Reflection Points on Philip in Acts 8: 26-40:

  1. Philip, like Stephen, was called to be a Deacon to serve the widows and like Stephen also preached and served the Gospel.  Philip administered the measurable riches of man for the widows and the poor and also the “immeasurable riches” of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:7) and both are crucial stewardship.

  2. There are two Biblical Greek words for time: kairos and chronos.  The latter is measurable time.  The former is immeasurable time, the time of fulfillment, the eternal moment of God’s “today”.  Philip preached to the Ethiopian Eunuch but Philip did not button-hole the court official so he could give his “witness”.  It was the kairos, God’s time.  True preaching of the Word is according to God’s time. He knows best and we need to be ready for it (1 Peter 3:15).

  3. The court official is reading Isaiah 53, prophesied some 500 years before Christ.  The chapter is almost a biography of His Passion.  I read a conservative rabbi’s understanding of Isaiah 53.  Basically, it made no Scriptural sense to him, because a veil was over his heart and eyes.  It won’t be removed  until the Gospel is preached and he so comes to faith in Christ Jesus.  It was removed for the eunuch by the called deacon preaching the Gospel. Isaiah 53 is preaching Christ and Him crucified. 

  4. Philip knew the Scriptures.  It is good to have Bible passages memorized in preparation for the possibility of a witness.  Philip had the written Scripture before him and the eunuch, but we may not have that always.  

  5.  Some people wrongly think that the Old Testament=Law and New Testament=Gospel.  This lesson, among thousands of passages, disproves those false equations!

  6. The Ethiopian did not understand the Scripture.  This is a perfect illustration of Romans 10:   14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  

  7.  Please note the sequence:  Word, then Sacrament, specifically the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. The court official asks what is to prevent Baptism. Indeed!  The Greek verb for “prevent”  or “hinder”  is the same one Jesus used when the disciples rebuked the parents from bringing their children to Him for a blessing, (Mark 10:14).  This high court official of Queen Candace received the kingdom, freely given, in Baptism as a child.  Indeed, all baptisms are baptisms of children and infants, even for an adult. The man went away “rejoicing”. This old song illustrates the eunuch’s rejoicing:   “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, little ones to Him belong, they are weak and He is strong. Yes!  Jesus loves me. Yes! Jesus loves me! Yes!  Jesus loves me, for the Bible tells me so.

  8. Queen Candace and her court probably heard of Jesus Christ from the eunuch.  From then till now, Christianity has been strong in Ethiopia, beginning with the Ethiopian Coptic Church.  One of the largest Lutheran Church bodies in the world is in Ethiopia: Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (Place of Jesus) with 5.3 million members (note:  our nation’s Lutheran membership is about the same, and we are larger in population!  Further note that Mekane Yesus severed ties with the liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and has been in discussions with the LCMS).  From one Ethiopian eunuch the Gospel spread to Africa.  We do not know in our lifetimes the impact will be of preaching Jesus Christ.  If the “numbers are not there”, the Lord’s Word will go forth according to His purposes, not ours (Isaiah 55:11).  He guides our paths.  Let us pray…

Almighty God, to know You is to have eternal life. Grant us o know Your Son as the way,the truth, and the life,and guide our footsteps along the way of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives  and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen

 

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