of promise. In Christ you have been set free. By faith, you are true
descendants of Abraham and are members of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom.
Dr. Pieper taught
us that there are only two religions in the world, Biblical Christianity and
works-righteousness. The latter says, “Do” and “Don’t.” True Christianity
confesses with Jesus, “It is finished!”
Christians get Christianity wrong. Centuries after the Reformation, many
American Evangelicals are theologically indistinguishable from medieval Roman
Catholicism. Human opinions, recent traditions, and faddish practices are
elevated to be equivalent to the authority of Scripture, whether decision
theology, contemporary entertainment worship, the explosion of Christian media
that isn’t really that Christian, and the disturbing trend of overemphasis of
our role in the Christian life.
Centuries after the
Reformation, worship among some Christians has again devolved to be again more
about what we do than what God does for us. If we know we are saved by grace
alone through faith alone in Christ alone to God’s glory alone, that we are
saved by God’s action and not ours, why do so many allegedly Christian
theologies of worship put more emphasis on what we do on Sunday morning than on
what God does? Consider this Lutheran alternative:
Our Lord speaks and
we listen. His Word bestows what it says. Faith that is born from what is heard
acknowledges the gifts received with eager thankfulness and praise. Music is
drawn into this thankfulness and praise, enlarging and elevating the adoration
of our gracious giver God.
Saying back to him
what he has said to us, we repeat what is most true and sure. Most true and
sure is his name, which he put upon us with the water of our Baptism. We are
his. This we acknowledge at the beginning of the Divine Service. Where his name
is, there is he. Before him we acknowledge that we are sinners, and we plead
for forgiveness. His forgiveness is given us, and we, freed and forgiven,
acclaim him as our great and gracious God as we apply to ourselves the words he
has used to make himself known to us.
The rhythm of our
worship is from him to us, and then from us back to him. He gives his gifts,
and together we receive and extol them. We build one another up as we speak to
one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Our Lord gives us his body
to eat and his blood to drink. Finally his blessing moves us out into our
calling, where his gifts have their fruition.
How best to do this
we may learn from his Word and from the way his Word has prompted his worship
throughout the centuries. We are heirs of an astonishingly rich tradition. Each
generation receives from those who went before and, in making that tradition of
the Divine Service its own, adds what best may serve in its own day--the living
heritage and something new.
Introduction to Lutheran Worship
There are only two
religions in the world, Biblical Christianity and works-righteousness. Religions
based on what we do, whether new or ancient say, “Do” and “Don’t.” True Biblical
Christianity confesses with Jesus, “It is finished!”
Consider the two
covenants of Galatians 4:
21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law,
do you not listen to the law? 22 For
it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free
woman. 23 But the
son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free
woman was born through promise. 24 Now
this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is
from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount
Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in
slavery with her children. 26 But
the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who
does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the
children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a
Few people anymore
are blatantly honest enough to say that they think they’re getting into heaven
for being good, for doing more good than evil. Yet, that is the comfort many
seek at a modern funeral. Jesus is downplayed even in some Christian funerals.
The good works of the deceased and amusing stories about them are the only
pseudo comfort left. Lutherans discourage eulogies because they come from
traditions that place some responsibility for earning and deserving salvation
with the deceased. Since a Lutheran Christian funeral is a worship service of
Jesus Christ, we don’t do eulogies. Either Jesus is a 100% Savior or He is not.
What a memorial service looks like reflects what those involved believe about
the Bible, the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the gift of salvation in Christ alone.
You will see unique Scriptures, Psalms, hymns, and personal accounts in my sermon
at one of our funerals so you can actually tell who we’re laying to rest in
Galatians 4 reviews
Genesis, especially the promises of God and the mistakes of Abraham and Sarah.
Sarah was unable to conceive. She thought her husband could have a son with her
slave woman, Hagar. Unsurprisingly, Abraham thought this was a good idea.
Ishmael, father of all Arabs is that son. Yet he was not the son the good Lord
promised Abraham and Sarah. He was one born of blood, of the will of the flesh,
of the will of man. He was born according to the flesh, not according to
Promise. Promise is a wonderful Old Testament Gospel word!
The analogy that
Paul fleshes out is that those who want to work their way to heaven are really
illegitimate sons of Abraham. His true sons, even if not descended from him
genetically, are those who shall live by faith. Slavery awaits all who remain
under the burden of the law, to do it all. We, of the heavenly Jerusalem are
free in Christ. Father Abraham had many sons. No wonder Isaiah 54 urges Sarah
to rejoice. Her descendants through Isaac include those of Israel who believe
in Christ in addition to all Christians who believe in Christ, including you.
28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children
of promise. 29 But
just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who
was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the
slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with
the son of the free woman.” 31 So,
brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
Confessions, in article IV of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession explain
the difference between depending upon law versus the promises:
84Fourth. Forgiveness of sins is something promised for Christ’s
sake. It cannot be received except through faith alone. For a promise cannot be
received except by faith alone. Romans 4:16 says, “That is why it depends on
faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed.” It is as
though he says, “If the matter were to depend on our merits, the promise would
be uncertain and useless. For we never could determine when we would have
enough merit.” Experienced consciences can easily understand this. So Paul says
in Galatians 3:22, “But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that
the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” He
takes merit away from us because he says that all are guilty and included under
sin. Then he adds that the promise (namely, forgiveness of sins and
justification) is given, and he shows how the promise can be received—by faith.
This reasoning, derived from the nature of a promise, is the chief reasoning in
Paul and is often repeated. Nor can anything be devised or imagined by which
Paul’s argument can be overthrown. 85
Therefore, let not good minds allow themselves to be forced from the conviction
that we receive forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake, through faith alone. In
this they have sure and firm consolation against the terrors of sin, against
eternal death, and against all the gates of hell.
of promise. In Christ you have been set free from sin and its guilt. By faith,
you are true descendants of Abraham and are members of the Lord’s heavenly
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
McCain, P. T. (Ed.). (2005). Concordia:
The Lutheran Confessions (pp. 93–95). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing
Have you ever heard
it said, “The ends justify the means”? The basic thought expressed here is that
if some end goal is so incredibly important, then nearly anything that gets
that goal accomplished is acceptable. No, I didn’t think you would be in favor
of this idea. Its consequences are far too severe. Principle is sacrificed to
expediency. End results do matter, but so does “how we get there.”
In the Holy Gospel
for Lent 3, Jesus is accused of performing exorcisms by the power of the devil.
This makes no sense. Yet, in the Old Testament Reading, the Egyptian magicians
try and fail to imitate what Moses does by the power of the Lord.
16 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron,
‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become
gnats in all the land of Egypt.’ ” 17 And
they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of
the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth
became gnats in all the land of Egypt. 18 The
magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So
there were gnats on man and beast. 19 Then
the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart
was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.
This is the Third
of the Ten Plagues. The Lord told Moses what to say and do. Aaron did as Moses
directed. This is how life is supposed to work under heaven. God says it, we
hear it, believe, teach, and confess it, faithfully do it, and keep on hearing,
believing, teaching, confessing, and doing what the Lord has directed. Pharaoh
would not listen.
“No, I don’t want
that,” some will say. They may be contrarians on principle, are content in
their sin, or just plain stubborn. Such things are the status quo for sinners
in a fallen world, dead in trespasses and sins, hostile, rebellious, and
enemies of God. No, there is none righteous, not even one!
magicians’ attempt to get the same results by their own means, secret satanic
arts, actual black magic. Why one would even want to make one’s own gnats is
beyond me. They tried and failed to imitate the inimitable and only Creator,
the Lord. Those who venerated creatures like flies and beetles and calves and
cats look foolish in the light of actual creative results from the servants of
the one true God.
Would Pharaoh bend
his hardened heart to submit to the one true God? Would he worship the one true
God? Would he let servants of the one true God leave Egypt to worship the one
20 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise up early
in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water,
and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.
21 Or else, if you
will not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your
servants and your people, and into your houses. And the houses of the Egyptians
shall be filled with swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. 22 But on that day I
will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of
flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the
earth. 23 Thus I
will put a division between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall
happen.” ’ ” 24 And
the Lord did so. There came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and
into his servants’ houses. Throughout all the land of Egypt the land was ruined
by the swarms of flies.
Elsewhere in the
five books of Moses we 1) hear what the Lord says for His servants to say, 2)
hear His servants repeat the message the Lord gave them to say, and then 3)
observe the consequences. This paragraph is different. We get to hear the Word
of the Lord Moses is to proclaim to Pharaoh, but there is no repetition. We
jump right to the consequences, judgment:
23 Thus I will put a division between my people
and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen.” ’ ” 24 And the Lord did so.
There came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and into his
servants’ houses. Throughout all the land of Egypt the land was ruined by the
swarms of flies.
Thus. Tomorrow. No
response from Pharaoh is recorded. “And the Lord did so” is the next thing we
hear. The Fourth Plague has come.
There was in Moses’
message to Pharaoh an invitation from the Lord Himself to repent and believe: “Let
my people go, that they may serve me… that you may know that I am the Lord in
the midst of the earth.” In other words, serve me by allowing my servants to
serve me. Believe my words. Or else believe my deeds. Pharaoh did not repent.
He did not believe.
Scripture are all the result of sin, unfaithfulness, disobedience-unfaith. They
were the consequences of unbelief. The Egyptians refused to believe in and
follow the one true God. They were devoted to their man-made idols. False gods
replaced the one true God.
The Lord is
gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. This is
most clear in God’s Gospel words of the New and Old Testaments. Jesus, God in
the flesh, is the manifestation of this steadfast love, grace, and mercy to all
The Exodus era was
not Egypt’s first contact with true believers. The man named Mizraim, whom
English Bibles call Egypt, was a descendant of Noah. Genesis 10:6 says Egypt
was a son of Ham, and therefore a grandson of Noah. How quickly the faithful
fall away! His nation was named after him. Read Genesis 12. Abram and Sarai are
in Egypt way back then. Joseph gets to Egypt when his brothers sell him into
slavery in Genesis 37. By chapter 41, the Pharaoh then puts Joseph in charge of
the place. And then there was a Pharaoh “who knew not Joseph.”
The Egyptians of
Moses’ day, like people in many times and places, prefer to go their own way.
They reject the Lord, His Word, His Will, and His Ways, and pick or even invent
their own. They have fallen for a lie: “There are many roads to God.” No, there
are not. Wide is the way to destruction. Narrow is the way to life. It is as if
the Lord planned the pathways based on anticipated traffic flow!
Another lie that
plagues the Egyptians and us is that of sincerity. Some believe that it doesn’t
matter what you believe as long as you are sincere. Not so! You can sincerely
believe that iron sulfide, commonly called pyrite or “fool’s gold” is gold, but
no metallurgist or coin shop would ever be fooled.
It takes more than
sincerity to make faith powerful. It takes Christ and Him alone as the Way, the
Truth and the Life, the One Name given to us for salvation. Certainly, one may
be a sincere believer in this or that world religion apart from Christ. But
personal experience teaches us that it is possible to be sincere and wrong at
the same time. Investors in Enron-remember Enron?-were sincere in the financial
stability and profitability of the company. They were sincerely wrong. The
truth was hidden from them. So too with the devout followers of non-Christian religions
and so-called Christian groups that deny the clarity of what Scripture proclaims.
Burger King may let
you “Have it your way,” but the Lord taught Christians to pray, “Thy will be
done.” And He practiced what He preached by His prayer in the Garden of
Gethsemane and obedience, even to death on a cross.
It matters what you
believe. It matters what you do. The Lord punishes all who refuse to believe
and obey. There are not many roads to God. And the ends do not justify the
What does the Lord
expect? For us to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things! The Lord told
Moses what to say and do. Aaron did as Moses directed. This is how life is
supposed to work under heaven. God says it, we hear it, believe, teach, and
confess it, faithfully do it, and keep on hearing, believing, teaching,
confessing, and doing what the Lord has directed.
In Jesus’ day, the
religious leaders of His own people were not like faithful Aaron and Moses. The
plagues were miracles of the Lord—horrible miracles—but miracles nonetheless.
Jesus’ healings, resurrections, and exorcisms were also divine miracles to be
believed by faith.
LCMS Pastor Paul
For believers, the
Gospel reports of miracles are proof enough.
non-Christians and any whom we wish to reach with the Good News of what
happened 2, 000 years ago, additional confirmation may prove helpful.
Is there any
non-Biblical evidence supporting New Testament claims for the miraculous,
including the greatest miracle of all: triumph over death in a resurrection?
Indeed there is, and, at times, more than mere traces of evidence. What might
be called "fallout" from the explosively miraculous can be detected
also in purely secular sources. The probable arrest notice for Jesus is a case
John's Gospel tell
us: "Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone
who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest
him" (11:57). We may have some idea of how the arrest notice read. A
rabbinical tradition recorded in the Talmud spells out the indictment against
Yeshu Hannozri (Hebrew for "Jesus the Nazarene"). Combined with the
New Testament evidence, the notice can be reconstructed as follows:
WANTED: YESHU HANNOZRI
He shall be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and
enticed Israel to apostasy. Anyone who can say anything in his favor, let him
come forward and plead on his behalf. Anyone who knows where he is, let him
declare it to the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem.
The reference to
stoning rather than crucifixion is extremely credible. Jesus had not yet been
arrested, and had he been seized anywhere or anytime the Romans were not
present, he would most probably have been stoned to death, as in the case of
Stephen (Acts 7). For the present discussion, however, the mention of
"sorcery" is quite remarkable. By definition, sorcery is something
extraordinary or supernatural accomplished with help "from below." A
miracle is the same, though achieved with help "from above." In any
case, the supernatural is conceded.
gains even greater importance from the fact that it comes from a hostile
source. Positive testimony in a negative or hostile context becomes
self-authenticating, an "admission against interest" in legal terms.
Furthermore, this arrest notice also bears out the Gospel accounts of how
Jesus' enemies responded to His miracles by claiming that they were
accomplished not through God but Beelzebul. Clearly, this notice is strong
outside evidence for the miraculous.
The Lord calls us
to faith. He gives us that faith by the working of the Holy Spirit through the
Word. The one true God calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps us in
the one true faith until life everlasting. This is a lesson that Pharaoh and
the idolatrous Egyptians would not learn. Will we? This is a lesson many of the
Jewish leaders refused to learn. They knew the Scriptures, but misunderstood
them so much that they could not and would not see Jesus for who He really was.
Rather than believe who the Scripture said Jesus was and who Jesus Himself said
He was, they invented an idol of their own, institutionalizing their unbelief
in Jesus. Sadly, even these Jewish leaders believed more about the supernatural
then than some so-called progressive Christians are willing to believe today!
They have fallen away from faith, denied the Scriptures, and constructed yet
another idol for themselves!
TLSB: The plague of
gnats is more intense than the previous plagues, and the magicians concede that
there is a God greater than the ones they serve. God’s judgment increases in
magnitude as this plague drives Pharaoh and his magicians toward despair.
People who trust Christ the Lord are drawn closer to Him in times of
tribulation, seeking His forgiveness, comfort, strength, and healing for the
sake of His cross and resurrection.  The
Lord distinguishes between Egypt and Israel by protecting His people in Goshen from
the plagues. Pharaoh wants the Israelites to sacrifice and worship according to
his expectations, but Moses could never allow this. The means and character of
worship must be subject to God’s Word rather than the will of any government or
mob. The Lord distinguishes us by His grace and redemption. 
Jesus said: Blessed rather are those who hear the word of
God and keep it! God grant that we would hunger and thirst for His Word, His
righteousness, and His Sacraments, that we would nourished by Christ, to
believe, teach, confess, and faithfully follow. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Engelbrecht, E. A. (2009). The Lutheran
Study Bible (p. 108). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
Engelbrecht, E. A. (2009). The Lutheran
Study Bible (p. 109). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.