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Archive for November 13th, 2018

Text: 1 Corinthians 1: 1-3

All the saints are Lutheran but it does not necessarily follow that all Lutherans are saints.

The first part of that sentence:  All the saints are Lutheran. I know that statement seems “out” there because historically that can’t be true since it was only in the Reformation that “Lutheran” was coined.  But in another sense, it is true.  Now, we are not baptized unto Dr. Luther. He is not our God and Savior. I do not believe in him and will not be saved through him. Therefore, in this sense I am not a Lutheran. When I am asked however whether I confess with heart and mouth the doctrine which God has again given to me through his instrument Dr. Luther, then I do not hesitate nor am I timid to call myself Lutheran. And in this sense, I am and may I remain a Lutheran all my life.*

What is the doctrine? The saints are remade saints on account of Jesus Christ alone who did for all the world atone.  It is by faith a saint in Christ is saved because of Christ Jesus.  Christ is the whole megillah, true man and true God, who bore every saint’s, and would-be saints’ sin. The doctrine is the teaching of justification by faith through grace alone on account of Christ alone. This is the doctrine in the Bible and so the Holy Spirit, through the written, incarnate and spoken Word has woven the teaching of Christ the life of all the living, Christ the death of death our foe, into the very warp and woof of His Church.  It was granted to Luther to see plainly and clearly this doctrine which had become obscured and muddied by man-made works and traditions, even trying to keep God’s Law perfectly to attain heaven. From the apostle Peter to the child or adult who is being baptized this very day, in Kenya or China or Virginia, this one-way grace, from the Lord to the baptized is administered, on account of the Lord’s death and resurrection.    So, in a very real sense, the name “Lutheran” is correctly and intimately with the doctrine of justification from day one of the Church, the communion of the saints. Lutheran can describe all the saints who thus believe.

The Apostle Paul consistently in his epistles’ greetings is to all the saints as this morning’s sermon text attests:

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When the called Apostle Paul so wrote to those “called to be saints”, he was calling the whole “church of God that is in Corinth” “saints”. The Apostle does not call “saints” some super-spiritualized group within the Corinthian congregation but all of them, including those brothers and sisters in Christ who were going back to the ways of sin and death.  In his greeting, the Apostle Paul writes they are sanctified, made holy in Christ Jesus. How?  Their vocation: “called to be saints together with all those in every place call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”. Being a saint is not our call!  It is the Lord’s call and we need His call! Everyone needs to be a saint because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Wouldn’t “everyone needs to be saint” be a way of describing evangelism?  

Luther said:

“The most damnable and pernicious heresy that has ever plagued the mind of man was the idea that somehow he could make himself good enough to deserve to live with an all-holy God.”

The saints found that out:  they were not good enough  to make themselves good enough to deserve to live with an all-holy and good God.  This very God and Lord called them and us, and The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps her united in Jesus Christ. As sinners were and are, “… called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.”  Please notes:  In every place!  In Facebook, every day pastors and laity from around the world “friend me”:  Christians in Uganda, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Brazil, Madagascar…in every place!

Dr. C. F. W. Walther, founder of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and Concordia Seminary/St. Louis brought forth the clear contrast between the Christian faith and other religions:

“All other religious say to man:  “You must become just so and so and do such and such works if you wish to go to heaven.”  Over against this the Christian religion says: “You are a lost and condemned sinner; you cannot be your own Savior. But do not despair on that count.  There is One who has acquired salvation for you.  Christ has opened the portals of heaven to you and say to you:  Come, for all things are ready.  Come to the marriage of the Lamb.”“…grace is not something for which I must look in my heart.  It is in the heart of God.”

So Walther also points out that all the saints are Lutheran but it does not necessarily follow that all Lutherans are saints:

“Why must it be the name ‘Lutheran’ that you use?” We answer: We know well that the real substance is not in the name for there are many who call themselves Lutheran who have given up the doctrine long ago, who have laid aside our church in her symbols, especially in the unaltered Augsburg Confession and the small Catechism of Luther. Such false Lutherans are however easy to distinguish from the true Lutherans because our church has published these public confessions for all the world.

As Lutherans denying the validity and inerrancy of Scripture and the enduring voice of the 10 commandments, which means the Gospel is not for atonement because there are no sins to atone and Christ’s death on the cross can be construed as solidarity with the marginalized, not the power unto salvation.  Yet there are Lutherans who have been taught the doctrine of faith alone throughout the world and in many church bodies. Walther:

“It is…an awful mistake to claim that men can be saved only in the Lutheran Church. No one must be induced to join the Lutheran Church because he thinks that only in that way he can get into the Church of God. There are still Christians in the Reformed Church, among the Methodists, yea, among the papists. We have this precious promise in Is. 55, 11: ‘My Word shall not return unto Me void.” Wherever the Word of God is proclaimed and confessed or even recited during the service, the Lord is gathering a people for Himself. The Roman Church, for instance, still confesses that Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross to redeem the world. That is truth sufficient to bring a man to the knowledge of salvation. Whoever denies this fact is forced to deny also that there are Christians in some Lutheran communities in which errors have cropped out. But there are always some children of God in these communities because they have the Word of God, which is always bearing fruit in converting some souls to God.

 John wrote, Beloved, we are God’s children now.  Who we are is on account of Who’s we are:  we are the Lord’s in every place.

The other day, a hospice patient said to me, “I don’t know about people saying those in heaven are looking down on us, they can’t be, they’re too busy.”  Yes! What are they doing if not ‘looking down to us’?

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb

Yes, very busy waiting in joy in heaven for the Resurrection, as they look to the Lord alone as they were saved by Him alone. They were allowed to give and receive good here on earth. Surely, some are more noted saints than others, but are they boasting and saying look at me?  Surely not! They are saying, “Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. The great multitude knows that the Lord will take care of His own, and now their trust is fulfilled.  The communion of saints is likewise encouraged to look to Jesus, here and now:

12 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,looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter 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 God.

*From a quote by the Margrave of Brandeburg at Augsburg, 16th Century, quoted by C. F. W. Walther

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