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Posts Tagged ‘justification’

Lessons:  Acts 15: 12-22a, Psalm 133, James 1: 1-12, St. Matthew 13: 54-58

Prayer of the Day:

Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Biography: St. James of Jerusalem (or “James the Just”) is referred to by St. Paul as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). Some modern theologians believe that James was a son of Joseph and Mary and, therefore, a biological brother of Jesus. But throughout most of the Church (historically, and even today), Paul’s term “brother” is understood as “cousin” or “kinsman,” and James is thought to be the son of a sister of Joseph or Mary who was widowed and had come to live with them. Along with other relatives of our Lord (except His mother), James did not believe in Jesus until after His resurrection (John 7:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:7). After becoming a Christian, James was elevated to a position of leadership within the earliest Christian community. Especially following St. Peter’s departure from Jerusalem, James was recognized as the bishop of the Church in that holy city (Acts 12:17; 15:12ff.). According to the historian Josephus, James was martyred in AD 62 by being stoned to death by the Sadducees. James authored the Epistle in the New Testament that bears his name. In it, he exhorts his readers to remain steadfast in the one true faith, even in the face of suffering and temptation, and to live by faith the life that is in Christ Jesus. Such a faith, he makes clear, is a busy and active thing, which never ceases to do good, to confess the Gospel by words and actions, and to stake its life, both now and forever, in the cross. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Reflection:

James repeatedly addresses in his epistle “my brothers”.  In 2: 15, he speaks about ‘a brother or sister” being poorly clad.  If “brothers”  refers to the entire congregation, sisters included, regardless of sex, then why would he add “sister” at 2: 15?  Wouldn’t “brothers” be enough at 2: 15?  Yes, it would have but the case has been made that “my brothers” refers to James’ brother pastors (1), therefore like Paul’s letters to Timothy, James is also a pastoral epistle, that is, addressed to a pastor or pastors. This is further corroborated in 3: 1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”  James wants to impress fellow pastors to be strict about the doctrine they teach.  In this chapter, he uses many analogies, one being the human “tongue” (verses 4-5):  

 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

A week from tomorrow  is October 31st, the Feast of the Reformation.  The blessed Reformers were very much concerned with the preaching and teaching Office of Pastor.   Priests at the time of the Reformation were beating congregations down with the Law, both God’s and man made churchly rules and regs that by them we can attain heaven.  It was a curse.  Pastors are called as  ordained Servants of the Word so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His single-Handed salvation of us all be preached for the increase of saving faith.  James further writes  that with the tongue we bless the Lord and curse our neighbors.  James was encouraging his brother pastors to be clear in preaching the Word, rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel so that a “harvest of righteousness” come to fruition in the making of “peace” (verse 18), God’s peace which surpasses all understanding.

 Many pastors/ministers/ priests,  at the time of the Reformation,  and now  concentrate the people’s attention on themselves and not Jesus Christ, even fleecing the flock to have mega-churches with mega-incomes. Dr. Scaer in his commentary on The Epistle of James:

“The problem of poverty in the congregations seems to have caused some members and especially the clergy to cater to the rich during the worship services in a most conspicuous way. The rich did not provide for the poor and, worse, were dragging members of the congregation into court, probably ecclesiastical ones. They did little, if anything, to provide for the support of the clergy, a problem later faced by Paul (2 Cor. 11:9; Acts 18:3).”

Has the Lord’s salvation come from the heart of Joel Osteen or your pastor or the Pope or your income? By no means! Pastors are called to preach Christ, not the Christian, and the riches of His grace for sinners.  The place of salvation is not the creature, but  the Creator who sent His only-begotten Son.  Preaching the Christian will set the ship of the Church (Latin: navis, ship and from it, nave, where a congregation sits), the wrong way, not Jesus Christ’s way.  Bitter jealousy and rivalry, over “ministries” will result (see verses 14-16) and will result in “every vile practice”, like a mega-church pastor building a million dollar home.  Many such pastors sell their books and preach their books, but not The Book, the Scriptures. Such bitter jealousy for more is not of the Lord, and as James wrote, saving wisdom, the Word made flesh comes from another source,

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. verse 17

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 1: 17

Almighty God, grant to Your church Your Holy Spirit and the wisdom which comes down from heaven, that Your Word may not be bound, but have free course and be preached to the joy and edifying of Christ’s holy people. In steadfast faith, we may serve You and in the confession of Your name, abide to the end through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

(1)  From James:  The Apostle of Faith commentary by Dr. David Scaer

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 Lord God, heavenly Father, You promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, You led him to the land of Canaan, and You sealed Your covenant with him by the shedding of blood. May we see in Jesus, the Seed of Abraham, the promise of the new covenant of Your Holy Church, sealed with Jesus’ blood on the cross and given to us now in the cup of the new testament; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

About Abraham Abraham (known early in his life as Abram) was called by God to become the father of a great nation (Genesis 12). At age seventy-five and in obedience to God’s command, he, his wife, Sarah, and his nephew Lot moved southwest from the town of Haran to the land of Canaan. There God established a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:18), promising the land of Canaan to his descendants. When Abraham was one hundred and Sarah was ninety, they were blessed with Isaac, the son long promised to them by God. Abraham demonstrated supreme obedience when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. God spared the young man’s life only at the last moment and provided a ram as a substitute offering (Genesis 22:1-19). Abraham died at age 175 and was buried in the Cave of Machpelah, which he had purchased earlier as a burial site for Sarah. He is especially honored as the first of the three great Old Testament patriarchs—and for his righteousness before God through faith (Romans 4:1-12). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, cph.org)

Reflection:  With the war, and the previous wars in the Middle East involving Islam, many assert that since Abraham is the father of faith, there are three Abrahamic religions:  Islam, Judaism and Christianity.  In Romans 4: 16, the Apostle Paul calls Abraham, “…the father of us all”, that is Jew and Gentile. The problem is that there is a stark difference in understanding the nature of faith between Christianity on the one side, and Judaism and Islam on the other. Here is the difference:  

For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.(Galatians 3: 18)

The basis of Judaism and Islam is law, or even man-made law. Keep it, you are saved, except the Law of God is whittled down into man-made rules and regs which appear strenuous and strict…. and keepable.  Faith is based upon the promise.  “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:3 The law had not been given at this time, not until 430 years later (Galatians 3:17). When the Lord showed the stars in the sky to Abraham, the sign of the promise that Abraham would conceive a child, then did he believe.  Abraham seized the promise, God’s faithful Word of promise. Faith comes by the Word of promise, not the law.  Law is about no. Promise is about Yes, that finally and fully all the promises of God find their Yes in Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20).  

When it comes to the Law of God, we do not keep it.  The Law of God is for life, but does not give life, only God does. We usually do not have to go further than the first commandment to see in our wills that we worship and adore other people, place, things and devils as more important than the one true God. After the fall of Adam and Eve, murder, vengeance, violence, sexual immorality and idolatry entered the world.  Genesis chapters 3-11 are the sad news and it reads like a the daily news.  Then in chapter 12: 1, out of nowhere, the Lord calls Abram (as he was known then):  

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”So Abram went, as the Lord had told him

This is the Lord’s promises one after another:  four “I wills”.  Abraham obeyed by faith, not by the law, for faith comes by the Word of promise. Law is based upon “I will” and I don’t (Romans 7:15).  Promise, or Gospel, is based upon, God’s “I will” and all is done  (Romans 7: 24-25)  so that the fruit of faith abounds:  love, joy, peace…against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-24).

Abraham was truly a man by faith alone. How does faith come? Faith can not come by the Law. Law, even God’s Law, shows us His will, what is not permitted.  Law takes no faith. It’s spiritual use focuses inward upon our souls. False law, like the 5 pillar of Islam, creates false works faith. God’s Law also focuses us inward to spiritually to show us our sin.  True faith does not look inward, for then I see nothing but sin and death,but outward to the One who forgives and gives life.  It comes by preaching and teaching of the Word and the Word is Christ.  The Lord was with Abram and he heard and he believed.  Abraham never saw the fulfillment of his offspring as the stars in the sky: only one son, Isaac.  One son is enough and the one Son is more than enough. Still Abraham did not see for he walked by faith and not by sight, as we all do. He did not found a new religion but Abraham is  the father of Faith. In fact, he was not a Jew, but a believer in the God Who called him, and that is why the Lord renamed Abram, Abraham, literally, father of a multitude, of all those who believe in the Lord who forgives in the Seed of Abraham, Jesus and are now children according to the promise:  

15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed,who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

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I recently received an e-mail from our TV provider with this subject line: “Don’t let your Sundays go to waste!  Every game, every Sunday.  GET NFL SUNDAY TICKET”

If we don’t receive every game, every Sunday then the Lord’s day goes to waste? I don’t think so.  I like football but football is not the main attraction on a Sunday.  When Bill Clinton was president, The New York Times had an ad for their rag showing  Bill Clinton holding up a copy of the Times’ Sunday edition with the caption:  “Sunday was made for The New York Times”.  I don’t think so.  We go to waste without His forgiveness, His Body and Blood, His every Word in preaching and praise:  go to waste as in starving to death.  No wonder our nation is going to waste.  There are no tickets to buy in the Church, Christ’s own Body but His Cross the sign of our admission, His price, in repentance and His peace.  Indeed, don’t let the Lord’s Sunday go waste!

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Note:  This past Sunday (August 30) Bible Class resumed.  The appointed Epistle Reading is Ephesians 6:10-20 in which the Apostle Paul encourages the Ephesian Christians to put on the whole armor of God with the armor’s various unitive components.  This past Sunday was also “Rat” Sunday in Lexington, VA, in which congregations welcome the new “rats” (first year students) at the Virginia Military Institute.  This lesson was quite appropos!  I led the Bible Class on this Reading but did not have time to go through the whole Epistle.  Below are my notes on the verses we did cover. This passage could be Scripture mini-course!-Pr. Schroeder


10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. “The power does not come from the believer but from an external source.”[i] The power is not as a pumped up football player, a great athlete or soldier in any army on earth, but in the One Who is the Lord God Sabaoth, literally, the Lord of the heavenly Armies who dispatched His beloved Son, an army of One, to quell the evil one and free us from Satan’s tyranny. This is not natural strength, but supernatural, from the Lord into our hearts, minds and souls by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  His might is His resurrection, the defeat of sin and death:  see Ephesians 1: 18-20. 

 11 Put on the whole armor    Greek: panopliav, “… the suit of armor of a Roman foot soldier.” [ii] Paul at the time of the composition of Ephesians was in Rome and under arrest, awaiting trial, and Luke tells us that Paul was guarded by a soldier.  Paul maybe became interested in the armor of a Roman foot soldier.  Paul may have asked about his guard’s panoply.    

 of God,  The armor of God does not come from Rome, but the Lord. This is the standard issue of every Christians.

 “In ordinary battles the generals do not arm women or children or the aged.  But our general, Christ the Lord, distributes this royal armory to all alike.  He then teaches them the stratagems of the devil.  This is what he means by the devil’s wiles” (Theodoret, ACC,volVIII, page 208)

that you may be able to stand against the schemes (Gk: μεθοδείας:  schemes, wiles, cunning)  of the devil.    What are the devil’s schemes?

  1. Lies:  He is a liar. The devil said he had the authority to give Jesus the kingdoms of his world.  He didn’t, he doesn’t.  He lied. He gives the same lie to the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.  He lies.  John 8:44
  2. Camo: The devil comes “disguised” as an “angel of light” but that is a subset of lying. He looks good, the devil doesn’t come looking devilish, but offering “just what we need”.   2 Corinthians 11:14
  3. Temptation: He is the tempter.  By his tricks, his schemes he desires the fall of the Christian by working on the Christian’s Adamic desires “to be like God” (Genesis 3: 1ff) and from that his desires/lusts for more and more.
  4. Accusation: he accuses the brothers night and day. (Revelation 12:10)  These are spiritual temptations. It is the devil who whispers, Be a better Christian, You’re not you know.  Luther would retort:  Tell me something I don’t know, Satan.  But I have Christ as my Savior and to Him I shall flee!   

“Then comes the devil, inciting and provoking in all directions, but especially agitating matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs, namely, to induce us to despise and disregard both the Word and works of God, to tear us away from faith, hope, and love, and bring us into misbelief, false security, and obduracy, or, on the other hand, to despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and innumerable other shocking things.” (Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation”)

 12 For we do not wrestle

“…the struggle is not physical but supernatural. It is a spiritual battle against spiritual “Mafia.” The “Wrestling” in the Greek can also have the more general idea of “conflict, struggle.”‘ …it  occurs only here in the NT. With regard to its usage in this text, if Paul meant “battle, conflict” in conjunction with armor… “wrestling” … was used to indicate that the fully armored soldier was an accomplished wrestler who on occasion would be involved in close-quarter struggle against a cunning opponent.’ Due to the cunning schemes of the devil, believers need to be ready for both remote and close-at-hand assaults. (This is) a face-to-face encounter. The context determines whether it is friendly or hostile. In this context, it is a hostile conflict that is not directed toward or against …. “blood and flesh.” In other words, it is not a physical struggle or a wrestling match.’ In fact, nowhere in this passage is there any indication of a human struggle. Although throughout the paragraph the second person plural is addressed, here the personal pronoun …is the first person plural, which indicates Paul’s identification with the Ephesian believers in the spiritual conflict. It is a dative of reference (“the struggle with reference to us”) though it is translated as a possessive (“our struggle”).

… “but against the rulers, against authorities.” The conjunction … “but,” is adversative and introduces the opposite of physical struggle, namely, the spiritual struggle.” [iii]

against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

  14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth,

Three points about the Belt of Truth:

  1.  The Roman soldier’s belt would have the scabbard for his sword.  God’s truth holds the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit.
  2.  Generally speaking, in Palestine and the Roman Empire, a belt was used to hold up the robes so that one would not trip on the robe!  Falsehood causes us to trip up and we fall.  Truth, God’s truth made flesh in Jesus, girds our loins, holds up the hem of our garment, that we walk in the way of the Lord. God’s truth is written literally in the Bible, in His Word and Life in Israel and the Church.  So girded, encircled by God’s truth, will not be comfortable but for His truth we are thankful we do not fall down. When we do, He will pick us up in His body, His militia Christi, the Church.
  3.  The Belt of Truth reminds me of weight belts I see guys wearing when I gothe gym. Their purpose is given in this quote from a web-site about weight-lifting: “A weight belt wraps around the lower waist and should be tightly secured. It is meant to stabilize the lower back and core by preventing the spine from bending.”  

That random quote speaks to the Lord’s belt of truth.  His truth will stabilize us, so that we are not, “…tossed to and from by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes”(Eph. 4: 14).  It stabilizes the backbone.  A Roman Catholic theologian, Hans urs Von Balthassar, said that the Roman Catholic Church is accused of being “rigid”.  He pointed out that the Church is the Body of Christ and like a body has a backbone.  We are not called to be jellyfish!  The Church has a backbone, he went on to say, to bend and serve the world in His mercy. May the whole Christian Church on earth be accused of being rigid!    There are exercises  in working out to develop the body’s core. His truth protects and works the core, the  body’s core, the body of Christ, through His Word of Law and Gospel, so that we may serve the saving Word to others as we have been so girded.  

Integrity gird You round to impart/The truth of His Word As truth in your heart/His righteousness wearing As breastplate of mail/His victory sharing,  Be strong to prevail.  (“Be Strong in the Lord”, #665, stanza 3, Lutheran Service Book)

 and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 

 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. “The Roman legionaries wore heavy sandals (caliga, a  low half-boot) with soles made of several layers of leather averaging  ¾ inch thick, studded with hollow-headed hobnails. They were tied with leather thongs half-way up the shin and were stuffed with wool or fur in the cold weather…These were not running sandals but ones able to dig in with their hollow-headed hobnails an stand against the enemy.”

 With eagerness shod Stand firm in your place,

Or go forth for God With news of His grace;

No foe shall disarm you  Nor force you to yield,

No arrows can harm you  With faith as your shield.

 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, “shield” Greek only here in NT and related to Greek word for “door” in order to cover the whole man…and one’s fellow soldiers. “Close ranks”: Testudo= “tortoise”  with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one  “…before battle the shields were immersed in water, soaking the leather cover and canvas beneath the leather, which also aided in extinguishing the flaming missiles.”[iv]


[i] Ephesians:  An Exegetical Commentary, Hoehner

[ii] Matthew Henry: “To the Christian armed for defense in battle, the apostle recommends only one weapon of attack; but it is enough, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. It subdues and mortifies evil desires and blasphemous thoughts as they rise within; and answers unbelief and error as they assault from without. A single text, well understood, and rightly applied, at once destroys a temptation or an objection, and subdues the most formidable adversary.”

[iii] Hoehne page 825

[iv] Ephesians:  An Exegetical Commentary, Hoehner page 848

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In 1924, Paul E. Kretzmann, Ph. D., D. D., confessional Lutheran pastor and professor published his 4 volume, 3,000 page, commentary on the Bible.  The Gospel reading for 12 July A.D. 2015, 7th Sunday after Pentecost is the narrative of the beheading of John the Baptist: St. Mark 6: 14-29. The circumstances that led to John’s decapitation was at a banquet that King Herod (Antipas) held.   The quote from Dr. Kretzmann’s commentary is his two quotes on verses verses 26-29:  the first from  Dr.Stoeckhardt, Biblische Geschichte des Neuen Testaments  and the second  from Martin Luther.  There is a powerful and mournful timeliness to both quotes which is at the same encouraging for us in these dark days:

 “What here is related of the court and court life of King Herod is a faithful picture of the world, of the life of the world, and of the lust of the world. The smooth, pliant children of the world are for the most part, even when they pretend to be honorable, what Herod and Herodias were, harlots and adulterers, and if not murderers, yet thieves, deceivers, perjurers, etc, But the chief sin of the world is this, that she will not listen to admonition, that she spurns the Word of God, and is angry against those that warn her against destruction and perdition. Wherever the world, even the apparently decent, cultured, fashionable world, celebrates her festivals, there the delights of feasting, of reveling and drunkenness, are indulged in, there one finds swearing, blaspheming, cursing, there gambling and dancing and rioting are the order of the day, and wine and passion inflame heart and mind. There a dissolute, godless conduct is in evidence, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life. And the end of the wild delight and joy is often murder, the shedding of blood, and other great shame and vice.”

On the other hand, there is a lesson for the faithful believers in this story. “Therefore let no one have a terror concerning suffering and cross. Let no one envy the persecutors of the Gospel that they are enjoying honors, are great and mighty. For cross and suffering is the only way by which thou shalt come to the heritage and the kingdom of Christ; and all saints, and Christ Himself, have gone this way. Who, then, would be terrorized and complain about it? And it will be seen how quickly the change will come for the tyrants, that their suffering will come upon them in due time and finally last in eternity. From this may God mercifully keep us, and rather let us, with the sainted John the Baptist, suffer all manner of ignominy and disgrace, that we may but come to the kingdom of God; as our Lord Christ says that it is appointed to us, as to Him, cross and suffering.”

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Appointed Scripture Readings:  Acts 15: 1-21   Psalm 46   Galatians 2: 1-10   St. Matthew 16: 13-19

Prayer of the Day

Merciful and eternal God, Your holy apostles Peter and Paul received grace and strength to lay down their lives for the sake of Your Son. Strengthen us by Your Holy Spirit that we may confess Your truth and at all times be ready to lay down our lives for Him who laid down His life for us, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles

The festival of St. Peter and St. Paul is probably the oldest of the saints’ observances (dating from about the middle of the third century). An early tradition held that these two pillars of the New Testament Church were martyred on the same day in Rome during the persecution under Nero. In addition to this joint commemoration of their deaths, both apostles are commemorated separately: Peter on January 18 for his confession of Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13-16) and Paul on January 25 for his conversion (Acts 9:1-19).

The confession of St. Peter did not arise in the imagination of Peter’s heart but was revealed to him by the Father. The reason this confession is important is seen in Jesus’ response: “You are Peter [Greek Petros], and on this rock [Greek petra] I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). As the people of God in the Old Testament began with the person of Abraham, the rock from which God’s people were hewn (Isaiah 51:1-2), so the people of God in the New Testament would begin with the person of Peter, whose confession is the rock on which Christ would build His Church. But Peter was not alone (the “keys” given to him in Matthew 16:19 were given to all the disciples in Matthew 18:18 and John 20:21-23). As St. Paul tells us, Peter and the other apostles take their place with the prophets as the foundation of the Church, with Christ Himself as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). The confession of Peter, therefore, is the witness of the entire apostolic band and is foundational in the building of Christ’s Church. Thus the Church gives thanks to God for St. Peter and the other apostles who have instructed Christ’s Holy Church in His divine and saving truth. 

St. Paul’s life-changing experience on the road to Damascusis related three times in the Book of Acts (9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:12-18). As an archenemy of Christians, Saul of Tarsus set out forDamascus to arrest and bring believers toJerusalemfor trial. While on the way, he saw a blinding light and heard the words: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” In Damascus, where Saul was brought after being blinded, a disciple named Ananias was directed by the Lord in a vision to go to Saul to restore his sight: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine to carry My name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts9:15). After receiving his sight, Saul was baptized and went on to become known as Paul, the great apostle.

Those who would remake the Church into what they want and desire, will eventually have Christ Jesus remade into their own image, that is, an idol.  Too many build the Church upon men’s opinions of Jesus Christ.  Our Lord’s question to the disciples, Who do men say that I am? was never intended by the Lord to be an eternal discussion question for so-called Bible studies in too many congregations. Every year, before Christmas and Easter, come the articles debunking some portion or portions of the Bible about Jesus, like clockwork.  The Lord’s question to Peter surfaced the rumors about Him and they were just that rumors, conjecture, innuendo. Peter and Paul knew that Christ  is the only Cornerstone of His Church and that all who were being baptized, were being built onto the Cornerstone,not the cornerstone upon them! See Acts 4:11,Ephesians 2:20, 1 Peter 2: 5-7.  The Holy Spirit conforms us to the Lord’s specs in the blueprint of His Church,  by His mercy for sinners, not according to our specs and schemes for His Church.

Peter and Paul had differences between them and much in common.  Both Peter and Paul were Jews.  Peter was an uneducated fisherman, while Paul was a highly educated Pharisee who was taught at the feet of the great rabbi, Gamaliel. Peter was with Jesus from the beginning, the first of the Apostles.  Paul, as he said, was the last of the apostles.  Both were zealous for the Law. Yet, Peter denied Christ.  Paul persecuted the Church and consented to the murder of Stephen, the first martyr of “followers of the Way”.  Both knew they were sinners whom the Law could not save and that Christ alone does atone.  Peter,
61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him,“Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”62 And he went out and wept bitterly.” 
“Behold of a sudden the lover is a liar. (Peter) finds out what he is; he who had thought too highly of himself” (St. Augustine).  Peter’s tears were of godly sorrow that leads to repentance.  Paul wrote to Timothy, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.   Paul was blinded by his sin in the glory of crucified Jesus on the road to Damascus.  Paul finds out what he is and like Peter, Paul also thought so highly of  himself and Christ taught him well:
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12: 3)
Paul’s confession of sin was also of the godly sorrow. Called by Christ Jesus, Peter and Paul both knew by faith His forgiveness of them and each and everyone of us. Both confessed Jesus is Lord. Both were martyred, tradition says on this day, in Rome, remembering that Peter and Paul, and all Christian martyrs, unlike the Islamic variety, do not try to take people with them in death, but ever preached and taught, the Way to heaven, in faith, not to kill the infidel, but that the infidel come to faith and  live eternally in Jesus Christ.  

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