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Archive for November, 2012

 Marxist Theology:  Groucho that is!Groucho Marx said, “I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as one of its members.” Apply his comment to the Church: I don’t want to be a member of any Church that would have me as one of its members. I have heard people say something like that: “Oh, I can’t go to church….it’s for good people”. If that’s true, then church buildings should be empty. Remember this is the Lord who came not to seek the right people, but the wrong people.

Election is selection—in some clubs, if you have the right stuff you are elected by the membership. Sometimes that kind of election is in secret and someone may “blackball” the candidate. For the Church, one is also elected, but not by the membership. The Lord elects. Why is someone chosen for the Church by the Lord? Look at the Bible: Moses…a murderer; King David…a shepherd boy wet behind the ears; St. Paul…persecutor of the Church! The thief on the cross! All those people had been blackballed by their sin and they found out about their sin, and were cut to the core. Someone chosen because she is the best candidate? Just the opposite! There’s more. I have the wrong stuff and I need some work, in fact a total makeover in my soul! In the TV show, M*A*S*H, Hawkeye was explaining triage, the process of choosing those first for surgery: “See, it’s the person who is the bleeding the most, who has the most hurt, who’s admitted first. This is the only place where being the worse gets you to the head of the line”. Incorrect, Hawkeye: the other place is the Church and Jesus is the Physician.

Divine Election Day—  The Lord elects us. We do not elect Him! A candidate says:  “I need your vote”.  Jesus is no candidate.  He is the elect One.  We need His vote. Unlike the assertion in an election day billboard pictured here!  In the Lord’s election only one vote counts: His. Not yours, not mine!   “Has He elected me?” This is the fearful question.  Where and when has the Lord cast His vote? IN some secret incense smoke caucus in heaven behind closed doors? NO. From the Bible we know exactly when the Lord has cast his vote: Good Friday. Where? Golgotha is where and when the 

Lord was crucified. The red ‘x’, His Cross, marks the spot and the ballot electing you. Many are saying this is the most important election of our time.  No, it is not!  Good Friday is still the most important Election Day of this time and of all time.  Jesus Christ has won the election.  His red ‘ink’ is not dry. There He elected us all. He died for you. We so need His vote, His election. There He died and rose for us and our election, a very public election, for all to see. It’s like the Cross is put onto a billboard and the slogan HE”S ELECTED YOU! (See Galatians 3: 1) and pastors and ministers are the imbedded reporters announcing His election results for you. As another pastor, an Apostle no less, preached: For he says,    “In a favorable time I listened to you,   and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”   Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 2 Corinthians 6: 1-3  Everyday is election day because of the Friday called Good. When the election results are announced, then today is the day of salvation! Every day we turn to Him in repentance, prayer and thanksgiving is the Lord’s salvation. The election result is His:  faith.

The Contested and yet the Utterly Necessary Election–Some will believe the message and Him. Others will not. Some will contest Him and His election. Many will embrace the election results because He loved you so much on that Friday, Election Day. He died for an electorate that was His enemy. The Holy Spirit announces Christ Jesus’ election results in the morning, Easter morning, the Lord’s Candidate  has won!  His enemies are defeated. Death where is thy sting? Devil, where is thy temptations?  Sin where are thy chains?    He is risen and you are  forgiven, one for all, once for all. He elects us. I need it so!

The Most Important Election of All Time:  The Lord’s election can not be bought: His election has bought us. I have heard that this election will cost $1 billion but that is chump change in comparison to the blood of God shed for sinners. The costliest election ever?  Hardly!  Good Friday  is the costliest election ever held, the blood of God shed for us all and for an electorate who didn’t care and did not turn out for the results on Good Friday, instead His own elected apostles fled at the costliest defeat ever in an any election imaginable (see Mark 14: 50)! The costliest defeat became the greatest victory in the world.  Jesus Christ’s  merciful election is for the worse candidates imaginable, liberal or conservative! And the Lord wants everyone to win His election. It was a hard won campaign still going on. See, it’s the person who is the bleeding the most, who has the most hurt, who’s admitted first. This is the only place where being the worse gets you to the head of the line. See it is the wounded and risen Jesus Christ: the Head of the line, for you, you: the most unlikely candidate who should not elected but needs to be! You have been elected! The victory party rejoices in the heavenly caucus over His finding you, His electorate!  (see St. Luke 15: 7)

The Prayer to See God’s WaysSpeak, Lord, for Your servant hears. Please show me now Your ways, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which comes through faith in Christ. Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Give me life, O Lord, according to Your Word, and I will declare Your greatness. Amen.

 For Further Study:

Note:  I based this reflection on Article XI:  Election, Epitome of the Formula of Concord (1577), in the Book of Concord:  the Confessions of theEvangelical Lutheran Church (Wengert/Kolb) which is cited below for further study.     In the Christ, Pr. Schroeder

XI. Concerning the Eternal Predestination and Election of God

On this article there has been no public conflict among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession.  However, because it is an article of comfort when properly treated, it is also explained in this document so that no offensive dis­pute may arise in the future.

 Affirmative Theses

The Pure, True Teaching concerning This Article

1. First of all, the difference between praescientia and praedestinatio, that is,  between God’s foreknowledge and his eternal election, must be carefully noted.

2. God’s foreknowledge is nothing else than that God knows all things  before they happen, as it is written, “God in heaven reveals mysteries. He has disclosed to King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in future times” (Dan. 2:28).

3. This foreknowledge extends equally over godly people and evil people, but it is not a cause of evil. It is not the cause of sins, when people act wrong­ly (sin proceeds originally from the devil and the wicked, perverted human will), nor of human corruption, for which people are responsible themselves. Instead, God’s foreknowledge provides order in the midst of evil and sets lim­its to it. It determines how long evil can continue and determines also that everything, even if it is evil in itself, serves the welfare of God’s elect.

4. Praedestinatio, however, or God’s eternal election, extends only to the  righteous, God-pleasing children of God. It is a cause of their salvation, which God brings about. He has arranged everything that belongs to it. Our salvation is so firmly grounded on it [cf. John 10:26-29] that “the gates of hell will not prevail against it” [Matt. 16:18].

5. This election is not to be probed in the secret counsel of God but rather is to be sought in the Word, where it has also been revealed.

6. However, the Word of God leads us to Christ, who is the “Book of Life” 7 [Phil. 4:3Rev. 3:5], in whom are inscribed and chosen all who shall be eter­nally saved, as it is written, “He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world” [Eph. 1:4].

7. This Christ calls all sinners to himself and promises them refreshment. He is utterly serious in his desire that all people should come to him and seek help for themselves [cf. Matt. 11:28]. He offers himself to them in the Word. He desires them to hear the Word and not to plug their ears or despise his Word. To this end he promises the power and activity of the Holy Spirit, divine assis­tance in remaining faithful and attaining eternal salvation.

8. Therefore we are to make judgments regarding our election to eternal life neither on the basis of reason nor on the basis of God’s law. Such a course of action would lead us either into a wild, irresponsible, Epicurean life, or into despair—and would awaken harmful thoughts in human hearts. Whenever people follow their reason, they can hardly escape such reflections as these: “As long as God has chosen me for salvation, I cannot be condemned no matter what I do!” or, “I have not been chosen for eternal life, so it does not help when I do good; everything is really in vain.”

9. Instead, the true meaning of election must be learned from the holy gospel of Christ. It clearly states, “God imprisoned all in unbelief that he may be merciful to all,” and that he wants no one to be lost but rather that everyone repent and believe on the Lord Christ [Rom. 11:321 Tim. 2:4; cf. Ezek. 33:11;18:23].

10. This teaching is useful and comforting for all those who are concerned about the revealed will of God and follow the order which St. Paul observed in the Epistle to the Romans. There he first of all points people to repentance, acknowledgment of their sins, and then to faith in Christ and obedience to God before he speaks of the mystery of God’s eternal election.

11. That “many are called and few are chosen” [ Matt. 20:161 does not mean that God does not want to save everyone. Instead, the reason for condemnation lies in their not hearing God’s Word at all or arrogantly despising it, plugging their ears and their hearts, and thus blocking the Holy Spirit’s ordinary path, so that he cannot carry out his work in them; or if they have given it a hearing, they cast it to the wind and pay no attention to it. Then the fault lies not with God and his election but with their own wickedness [cf. 2 Peter 2:9-15Luke 11:47-52Heb. 12:15-1725].

12. A Christian should only think about the article of God’s eternal elec­tion to the extent that it is revealed in God’s Word. The Word holds Christ before our eyes as the “Book of Life,” which he opens and reveals for us through the preaching of the holy gospel, as it is written, “Those whom he has chosen, he also called” [Rom. 8:30]. In Christ we are to seek the Father’s eter­nal election. He has decreed in his eternal, divine counsel that he will save no one apart from those who acknowledge his Son Christ and truly believe in him. We should set aside other thoughts, for they do not come from God but rather from the imagination of the evil foe. Through such thoughts he approaches us to weaken this glorious comfort for us or to take it away com­pletely. We have a glorious comfort in this salutary teaching, that we know how we have been chosen for eternal life in Christ out of sheer grace, without any merit of our own, and that no one can tear us out of his hand [John 10:28-29]. For he has assured us that he has graciously chosen us not only with mere words. He has corroborated this with an oath and sealed it with the holy sacraments. In the midst of our greatest trials we can remind ourselves of them, comfort ourselves with them, and thereby quench the fiery darts of the devil.

13. Along with this we should strive as diligently as possible to live according to God’s will and to “confirm our calling,” as Saint Peter admonishes [2 Peter 1:101. We should especially abide by the revealed Word that cannot and will not fail us.

14. This short explanation of God’s eternal election gives God his honor 15 fully and completely. On the basis of his pure mercy alone, without any merit of ours at all, he saves us “according to the purpose of his will” [Eph. 1:111. In addition, no one is given reason either for faintheartedness or for a reckless, wild life.

Antitheses or Negative Theses

False Teaching regarding This Article

Accordingly, we believe and maintain that those who present the teaching of  God’s gracious election to eternal life either in such a way that troubled Christians cannot find comfort in it but are driven to faintheartedness or despair, or in such a way that the impenitent are strengthened in their arro­gance, are not preaching this teaching according to the Word and will of God but rather according to their own reason and at the instigation of the accursed devil, because (as the Apostle testifies) “whatever was written was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope” I Rom. 15:41. Therefore, we reject the following errors:

1. When it is taught that God does not want all people to repent and believe  the gospel.

2. Likewise, that when God calls us to himself, he does not seriously intend  that all people should come to him.

3. Likewise, that God does not desire that everyone should be saved, but  rather that without regard to their sins—only because of God’s naked decision, intention, and will—some are designated for damnation, so that there is no way that they could be saved.

4. Likewise, that the cause of God’s election does not lie exclusively in God’s  mercy and the most holy merit of Christ but that there is also a cause in us, because of which God has chosen us for eternal life.

These are blasphemous, horrible, and erroneous teachings, which take away  from Christians all the comfort that they have in the holy gospel and in the use of the holy sacraments. Therefore, these errors dare not be tolerated in the church of God.

This is the brief and simple explanation of the contested articles which for a  time theologians of the Augsburg Confession taught and discussed in ways that contradicted each other. From this every simple Christian can recognize, according to the direction of God’s Word and the simple catechism, what is correct and incorrect. For here we have set forth not only the pure teaching but have also exposed and rejected contrary, erroneous teaching.  In this way the offensive divisions that had arisen are completely resolved.  May the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus grant the grace of his Holy Spirit, that we may all be one in him (John 17: 20-21) and steadfastly remain in this Christian and God-pleasing unity.

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Lessons:

The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine 7: 2—17   Psalm 149 1 John 3: 1—3 St.Matthew 5: 1—12

Almighty and everlasting God,  You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

In an excellent article on Brothers of John the Steadfast blog, “Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Hallowe’en: A Short history“, Pr. Joseph Abrahamson, has a good introduction to the origin of All Saints Day to show that All Saints was not derived from pagan holidays.  I quote only the sections pertinent to the All Saints:

In the first three centuries after Christ’s resurrection, the lives of the martyrs of the Church were commemorated on the day and in the place where they were killed.

There were so many who were killed because of their faith in Christ during those centuries. Throughout the Christian Church different days were set aside not only for each martyr, but a special day for all Saints.

The earliest reference to a day being dedicated to the commemoration of All the Martyrs and All Saints of the Christian Church comes from the 2nd century. The document is titled “The Martyrdom of Polycarp.” Polycarp was a Christian killed because he would not deny Christ. The document says:

Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps. (Chapter 18) [Emphasis added]

Later, a Christian Bishop named Ephraim the Syrian mentions a common All Saints’ Day in 373. In 397 St. Basil of Caesarea chose a day when the churches of his bishopric would honor the memories of all Saints known, and unknown, alive or in heaven. Later, John Chrysostom mentions a common day of memorial for the Saints in 407 AD.

In the year 609 or 610 Pope Boniface IV established a date for All Saints’ Day on May 13th. And later, in the early 700s AD, Pope Gregory III changed the date to November 1st. Decrees like this took some time to propagate from Rome to the more remote areas where the Church was found. But the change in date had nothing to do with any pagan practices. Pope Gregory IV extended the celebration on this day to the entire Western Church in the early 800s. And again, the change took time as it spread from Rome.

The point is this: a common day for commemorating the Saints has been around throughout the Christian Church from very early times. And the fact that it falls on November 1st today has nothing to do with paganism….

All Saints’ Eve (Halloween) and All Saints’ Day have a special place in the commemoration of the Christian Church because of the Reformation. It was on October 31st, Halloween, thatMartin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany. It was on that date he chose to challenge the corruption in the official church about the notion that salvation in Christ could be bought with money or works. All Saints are saved by Grace, through Faith, revealed by God’s Word in Christ.

Halloween, October 31st is Reformation Day. On October 31, 1517 the Church of Christ began to return to the authority of Scripture alone over the traditions and will of man. It was the day that the Church began to return to salvation by Faith in Christ alone over the works of human will and deeds prescribed by humans. The day that the Church began to return to salvation by Grace alone, rather than the effort of the individual or that individual’s reliance upon the efforts of the saints who had gone before him. It was the day that the Church returned to reliance upon Christ alone and not upon self…

Halloween, Reformation Day, All Saints’ Day is a very special day of the year for the Christian Church. We commemorate all saints past, present, and future with the confession that we cannot save ourselves with our own works, no price we could ever pay would be good enough. But Christ has paid for the whole world. And all believers in Christ, and these are the Saints, will be raised on the last day to eternal life. Reclaiming Halloween means knowing where it comes from, why the day was established, and the historical significance it holds for the Christian Church. Satan and the world are always willing to undermine and steal anything that is of value to the confession of the truth of Scripture. Let us not fall prey to the lies.

The Lutheran Church retained the saints but with right Scriptural understanding.  The offense of the Roman Church was the invocation of the saints:  individually prayer to the saints which has no Biblical support.  To this day, one of the requirements  to determine  if a departed Christian is a saint and thus  ‘becomes a saint’ in the Roman Church is by people praying to him  or her and  thereby two miracles are verified!  The Reformers in the Lutheran Confessions call a thing what it is: idolatry and thereby robbing the merits of Jesus Christ for us and for our salvation. 

The Scriptures use the word “saints” repeatedly, as Paul does when he addresses an epistle, “…to the saints that are in…”  The Lutheran Confessions, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession,  teaches the Biblical and clear understanding of the saints:

Our Confession approves honors to the saints. For here a threefold honor is to be approved.

The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men,  Matt. 25:2123.

The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace  truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20.

The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling. 

The first listing of all the saints is recorded in Hebrews 11.  This is the great crescendo of The Letter to the Hebrews in which the preacher puts before us for our encouragement those  in the Old Testamen twho lived by faith in the One Who was to come.  “By faith” is the refrain throughout the chapter. Out of faith in the Lord they could accomplish the impossible which they could never have done on their own.  As it says above in the Apology, this is for our encouragement.  In fact, “encouragement” is the preacher’s goal in Hebrews because his fellow Christians were losing heart.  Everyone listed in Hebrews 11 was a sinner and by faith, a saint.  Sinner and saint and the line between the two was not a fixed line: this part of me saint, this part sinner, but ever being sanctified, make holy by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Marines recruiting motto has been: Never given always earned.  For the saints, it is Never earned, ever given.  And another motto:  Ever given, always learned.  

The saints are models of the godly life, not achieved, but received by faith.  The 11th chapter of Hebrews reaches it’s high point in the first three verses of chapter 12.  The saints’ eyes and souls are fixed, not on themselves, but Jesus Christ, especially those who are asleep in Christ awaiting with us the last Day.  So when we come together for Holy Communion, it is not just us present on a Sunday morning, but all the company of heaven, looking to Christ.  The saints preach Christ and never the Christian.  We need this encouragement in these dark days:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

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