Devotion: Romans 8:31-39 “In All These Things”

September 30, 2020

Romans 8:31-39

In All These Things

This is a well-loved passage of Scripture.  People hang it on their walls.  It is read in hospitals to the sick.  It is read at funerals.  And for good reason.  Paul says: “Nothing can separate us from the love of God.”  (Rom. 8:38-39)  If you are sure that nothing can separate you from God’s love, what can harm you?  What can disturb you?  What can make you afraid or anxious if you are sure that nothing can separate you from God’s love? 

It is a well-loved passage of Scripture, but it is harder to find Christians whose lives are so sure.  But Paul isn’t saying it of himself alone.  It is confidence that every Christian is meant to have and live with in every trouble, in every pain and anxiety that comes to us in life.  I am sure that nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

This confidence rests on a simple statement in verse 31: If God is for us, who can be against us?  How do we know God is for us?  Because He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all.  Paul has drawn our attention back to this fact repeatedly.  In chapter 3 he told us Jesus is the mercy seat, the one appointed by God to cover our sins with His blood.  In chapter 4 he told us that Jesus was given over to death for our sins and raised for our justification, and that the righteous person is the one who believes that God justifies the ungodly.  In chapter 5, he told us that while we were still weak, Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6) and that while human beings will rarely die for a righteous man, Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  Then in the beginning of chapter 8 Paul says, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).  God is for us.  He does not count our sins against us for Jesus’ sake, but out of pure grace justifies us.

So who will bring a charge against you?  No doubt many times your conscience or even other people bring charges against you, and many times these charges are true.  You fail to keep God’s commandments.  You fail in your callings as a mother or a father, a wife or husband, a son or daughter.  But through faith in Jesus, these charges do not enter God’s courtroom.  They are thrown out of court, because God has already declared you righteous for Jesus’ sake.  His blood has answered for all your sins.  Much less can the devil or your own conscience condemn you to eternal damnation, because Jesus who died for you and rose from the dead is at God’s right hand as your defense attorney.  He not only defends you, but as your priest, He intercedes and prays for you so that the Father grants you His Spirit, His blessing, and His favor, and makes everything work together for your good until you share in His glory.

What will separate you from this love of Jesus, by which He covered your offenses, by which He frees you from condemnation, by which He continually stands for you before the Father?  St. Paul says: I am persuaded that nothing is able to separate us from God’s love.  In the sufferings of this present world we are conquerors through Jesus who loved us; and not only conquerors—“more than conquerors.”  There is one thing only that gives us this victory—the unearned love of Jesus, revealed in the Gospel. 

No angel and no gladness,

No throne, no pomp, no show,

No love, no hate, no sadness,

No pain, no depth of woe,

No scheming, no contrivance,

No subtle thing or great

Shall draw me from your guidance

Nor from you separate.  Amen.  (LSB 724 st. 9) 

Trinity 17 2020. Built Down Into Christ.

The Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Emmaus Lutheran Church

St. Luke 14:1-11

October 4, 2020

Built Up As A Spiritual House

Week 1: Built Down Into Christ

Jesu juva!

In the Name of Jesus.

As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-5). 

These verses from 1st Peter are our theme for the next few weeks: You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house. 

A spiritual house means a temple.  A dwelling place for God.  A house for God.  You who believe in Jesus Christ are being built into this house together.

But the dwelling is not complete.  It is being “built up.”  You are being built up.  God is fitting you together, applying the mortar, polishing you according to His blueprint.  And the process of building you up to be a spiritual house in which spiritual sacrifices are offered that God accepts is the process of becoming better stewards.

When we talk about “stewardship” in the church, we are talking about managing what God has given us as He would have us do.  It means managing our money not only so that we are able to provide for our families but also so that we are able to contribute to the preaching of His Word and the building up of His church.  It means using our time so that we have it available to give to others—not only in the church, but also to our relatives and neighbors who need us. 

Unbelievers spend their time, energy, money, and talents on pleasure, entertainment, their careers—on false gods of one sort or another all in the interests of raising themselves higher, exalting themselves.  It is futile though.  No matter how big a mark you make in your career, no matter how nice a house and car you have, in the end it will perish with you.  You won’t be able to take it with you.

But Christians grow to manage, to steward their time and wealth not to make themselves rich or powerful.  Christians grow to manage what God has given them in service to Him and the people around them.  Christians do this because we have an eternal reward and eternal pleasure that is greater than money, greater than the pleasures the world offers, and God has given it to us as a free gift. 

Christian stewardship is learning to manage time and money by faith in Christ.  Because Christ is our reward and our treasure, the way we use our time and money is different from the way the world uses its time and money.  Of course we still have to eat and wear clothes, and we still have to relax and enjoy ourselves.  But for Christians, eating, drinking, and enjoying ourselves are not ends in themselves.  Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we do it to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). 

Or at least we want to.  And God is building us up to be a spiritual house in which we together are growing in the image of Christ, in which our time and wealth and our whole selves are for the glory of God.

Stop and consider what an amazing thing Peter says is happening in the church, among Christians, among those who come to Him, a living stone rejected by men (1 Peter 2:4). 

Peter says: “You yourselves are being built up as a spiritual house.”  The eternal God, the Triune God is holy.  The hymn of invocation this morning said:

Surely in temples made with hands, God the most High is not dwelling. 

High above earth His temple stands, All earthly temples excelling.

Yet He who dwells in heav’n above  Chooses to live with us in love

Making our bodies His temple.  (LSB 645 st. 2)

The hymn is quoting the Scripture, from Acts 7, where Stephen says: “Yet the most High does not dwell in temples made by hands, as the prophet says: ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.  What kind of house will you build for me, or what is the place of my rest?’”  (Acts 7: 48-49)  God is too high and holy to dwell in a house made with human hands, the way pagans built temples to their false gods.  Yet He is building us into His house so that He may dwell in us.  He dwells in the body of every Christian.  But He is building each one of us together into His resting place.  And He is doing it among us right now through the preaching of His Word and the administration of His Sacraments.  Through those means He works, when and where He wills, faith in His Son.  And where that faith is worked He comes to dwell in a person.  And through the same means  He builds us up together a holy temple in the Lord.  That is an amazing honor that He has given us at Emmaus.  It should create in us a humility, a fear and trembling as we consider what a great and awesome thing He wants to do among us.

But oftentimes it does not.

We don’t take it to heart.

In the Gospel reading Jesus our Lord visits the house of a Pharisee.  There is a man there with dropsy, what we now call “edema.”  He is retaining water.  His limbs are swollen.  It is the Sabbath, when all work is forbidden, and the Pharisees are trying to find fault with Jesus.  So when He heals the man, they judge Him as a breaker of the Sabbath instead of seeing that God has sent a man into their midst who is able and willing to cure those who are suffering.  Then, despite their outward piety and religiosity, they all contend with one another to sit in the places of honor at the dinner.  Jesus tells them they should take the lowest seat so that the giver of the banquet can invite them to move up higher, instead of sitting in a seat of honor and risking being sent down to the bottom. 

The Pharisees probably don’t realize that Jesus is not simply giving them instruction on table etiquette.  He is telling them what is happening in their midst.  God has invited them to the wedding feast of His Son.  But because they are all striving for honor and wealth, all striving to exalt themselves, they are not going to be built up.  They are going to be cast down into the lowest place.  They are not going to receive honor and exaltation because God’s honor comes not to those who climb upward, but to those who receive His Son.  Jesus is God’s honor and exaltation.

Like the Pharisees, our flesh does not see exaltation in Jesus.  Instead, we see Jesus rejected by men.  We see Jesus denied all comfort, spit on, and nailed to a cross.  He does not appear to be the way to be built up, lifted up, exalted.  He doesn’t even appear to be the way to hold still in the place that you are.  He appears to be the way to be cast down and lose everything.

This is the reason why we are constantly mismanaging the abilities God has given us, and the time, and the material goods.  It is because we are weak and we always think more food, drink, money, and so on will satisfy us.  But it is also because we doubt that God is building us up when He gives us His Son.  It appears instead that Jesus was torn down and that we will be also if we hold on to Him.

This is why it needs to be said clearly—the way we are built up to be a spiritual house is not the way we are built up as successes in earthly things.  It doesn’t come about as a result of your striving.  We are built up as a spiritual house by first being built down.

Built down in the way Peter was.  Peter knew he was a sinner when he first began to follow Jesus.  When Jesus had him let down his nets on the Sea of Galilee, and they brought in so many fish that the boat began to sink, Peter said, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  He already knew he was a sinner, but he continued to learn it painfully.  He learned it when he denied his Lord.  He learned again and again in his life that there was nothing good in him.  He learned to take the lowest place.  He was “built down.” 

But there in the lowest place is where Jesus is.  Down in the lowest place is where the Son of God is.  He did not merely come to earth as a conqueror and a winner.  He came first and descended to the lowest place.  God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21) says St. Paul in 2nd Corinthians.  In another place St. Paul says Jesus was made a curse for us by being hung on a tree (Galatians 3:13) and so redeemed us from the curse that God pronounces in the Law on those who do not keep it.  In Psalm 22 Jesus cries out from the cross: I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people (Ps. 22:6), and He cries out that God has forsaken Him.

Jesus went down to the lowest place and made Himself the bearer of our sin.  When God builds us up to be His spiritual house in which He dwells, He does it by building us down into Jesus His Son, who humbled Himself, bore our sin, death, and the wrath of God.  As He builds us up we become more faithful stewards.  We are faithful in attending the Divine Service to receive His gifts.  We become more faithful in reading the Scripture, studying it, and in learning to pray. We become more faithful in serving, both in the Church and in our callings outside of the church.  We become joyful givers who support the Church and the needy with offerings and alms.  And finally we become joyful witnesses to Jesus Christ not only with our words but with our lives. 

God is building us up into a people whose lives are marked by these six things.

But at the same time He is building us down into the one thing needful—Christ.  He builds us down into Him by contrition and faith in Him who took the lowest place for us.  He is the foundation stone on which our whole lives are built.  There can be no growing up without us growing down into Him who humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross.  As we grow down into Him by faith, coming to Him, the living stone, as Peter did, again and again, with new awareness of his need, then we also begin to grow up into Him who is risen from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Father.

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria

St. Michael and All Angels 2020. (adapted from J. Gerhard)

St. Michael and All Angels (observed)

Emmaus Lutheran Church

Mt. 18:1-11

September 30, 2020

(adapted from Johann Gerhard’s sermon in Fred H. Lindemann, The Sermon and the Propers vol. IV, CPH, 1962, pp. 70-78)

Jesu juva

INI

Yesterday in the youth bible study we read the Gospel from Easter Sunday. There the women come to the tomb expecting to find Jesus’ body. But they did not find Him. Instead they found a young man in a white robe. Everyone knew that was an angel. Yet many times when angels appear they appear in forms less human and familiar. Ezekiel saw angels that were called “four living creatures” that had 4 faces and 4 wings. They appear in the book of revelation. When you read about those angels it is easy to understand why people are frequently afraid in the presence of angels.

  But the angels are our companions in the Christian Church. They are invisible, but they are with us. When Jesus comes to us in His body and blood, we sing praise to Him “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.” They are with us and we are with them because we are in the presence of the Lord. But they are also with us outside of the Divine Service in our daily lives as Christians. The letter to the Hebrews says angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” (Heb. 1:14)  They are great and mighty, but the Lord God sends them to serve us, to minister to us. Our Lord Jesus says that very thing in the Gospel appointed for the feast of St. Michael and All Angels – “see that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my father in heaven.” (Mt 18:10)  The angels are assigned to care for the little ones – the little children, but also all little ones who believe in Christ. Tonight we consider 1: The attitude of the angels toward God and us and 2: What our attitude should be toward the service of the angels.

First of all the angel’s attitude toward God is described by our Lord: “I tell you that in heaven the angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

Angels always see the face of God, the highest good, and in result they have an inexpressible joy. And when the angels see God’s goodness, loveliness, glory, and joy, that same goodness and joy is always communicated to them. Whenever you see the angels in scripture they shine. That is because they reflect the glory of God. When Moses and Elijah appear at Jesus’ transfiguration they also shine, because they also see the face of God. The angels have right now what we hope to have. And they have been given this as a reward for remaining faithful and not turning from God, as many fallen angels did.

Since the angels always look upon the goodness of God they also live in the praise of God, because no one who sees God’s glory and goodness can refrain from praising Him. When Isaiah saw the seraphim they were calling to one another “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God of Sabaoth.”

Because they look on God’s face, they also have insights into the mysteries of God. Peter says in his first Epistle that the angels long to look into the things that are announced in the Gospel. Saint Paul writes that through the church “The manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places… according to the eternal purpose which He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The angels need never fear that they will fall from their happiness in seeing God’s face, just as the elect believers in heaven will never fall. They are confirmed in their bliss.

Finally, the angels who see God’s face also have the bliss of serving Him and carrying out His commands. “His commands are not burdensome,” St John tells us. It is part of the bliss of the angels.

What is the attitude of angels to men? Jesus shows us in the same verse. Jesus calls angels “their angels” – the angels belong to the little children and believers in Christ. They render service to Christians in a multitude of ways. When we are children He assigns our angels to guard us, as we heard from Jesus here. When we are older He assigns angels to guard us in the calling Jesus has given us, as the Psalm said: “He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” (Ps. 91:11-12) Your ways are the ways in which Jesus has called you. When we sleep, the angels guard and protect us against the devil; when we die they carry our soul to Abraham’s bosom.

They guard us in both soul and body. Whatever you read in the Scriptures that the angels did visibly they are still doing today, every day, although we don’t see it with our eyes. God has made it a matter of faith. They do not have visible bodies like we do. When they appeared in visible form to do their works it was to teach what kind of works they do.

God sent an angel to Hagar in Gen. 16 commanding her to return to her mistress Sarah. We marvel at this and wish it happened to us. But it still happens daily. When we have departed from God’s service through sinning, God’s angel often gives us a deep-felt good thought to repent. You may never have considered this but consider that if the devil and demons are able to plant evil thoughts in your mind and heart, a good angel can likewise give us good thoughts.

An angel also showed Hagar a fountain in the desert when her child was dying of thirst. This happens daily also. Often we are weak and powerless in temptation of the soul and God sends His angel to strengthen and comfort us, as He did the Lord Jesus in the agony of His soul. Elisha’s servant saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire which protected the city against the Syrians. This also happens daily because, through the angels’ protection, God is a wall of fire around the church against her enemies.

We are impressed with how God sent His angel to shut the lions’ mouth. But this also happens daily. The devil is a roaring lion seeking someone to devour according to 1 Peter 5. That he is not able to take your soul is due to the protection of the holy angels every day.

Why do the angels serve us though they are so much greater than us? First because they are confirmed in good and always do God’s will. And it is His will that these mighty beings protect and serve us. Secondly, in Christ He has raised our nature above the angels. Now a human being with our flesh and bone and blood sits in the highest place, at the throne of God. God is truly man. Our brother in the flesh and blood, Jesus, is Almighty God. One day we too will be exalted above the mighty angels. They serve us willingly because their God and ours has become what we are. And one day we will join in their choirs seeing the face of God, and praising the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, even as we now join them in His praise here, seeing Him only by faith.

But what should our attitude be toward the service of these powerful creatures whom God has assigned to serve us?

First, we should recognize the great love of God toward us. He has not only ordained that the sun, moon, stars, the grain, the animals should serve us, but also these Holy and powerful beings – the angels. Second, we should persevere in prayer that God would send the Holy angels to guard us. All God’s gifts are given in answer to our prayers – His Spirit, His Kingdom, our daily bread. We should pray as Luther teaches in the Catechism – “Let your holy angel be with me…”

We should do as our Lord instructs in the Gospel reading and “not cause one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin.” Consider that the angels see everything we do. God asked the devil, “Have you considered my servant Job?” Consider what kind of answer the angel assigned to you would have to give in response to the Lord’s question. If we would have the service of the angels, we must be those who are to inherit salvation by repentance and true faith in Jesus. We must walk in the ways of our calling and not stray from it because the promise is that His angels will guard us “in all our ways” – that is, when we are in the callings God assigned us. We must continue in repentance – sorrow for our sins and faith in Christ.  “There is joy in the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

We must fight valiantly with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, as Jesus did in His temptation.  Then the angels will minister to us and strengthen us as they did Him.

Finally, we must have our hearts set on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God – where the angels always see their Father’s face – if we would have the fellowship and protection of the Holy angels.  We must cut off and throw away whatever makes us stumble and put to death the flesh and its desires.

And when we have done all these things we must say, “We are unprofitable servants” who rely solely on the mercy of God and the blood of Christ.  Then we show ourselves to be the little ones to whom our Lord sends His angels to protect and care for them.

God help us to do this and grant that we remain in fellowship with His saints and angels.

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

Devotion: Romans 6:12-23 “Slaves To the One You Obey”

September 25, 2020

Romans 6:12-23

Slaves To The One You Obey

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16) 

One way you became a slave in the ancient world was through defeat in war.  It was common for conquering armies to put chains on defeated populations and sell them into slavery. 

When you became a slave in this way, you didn’t have much of a choice.  If you resisted you would either die or be beaten into obedience.  If you submitted, your body was no longer your own.  You were under the control of the one who owned you.

Before faith in Christ came we were slaves of sin.  We were not free to disobey sin.  We were in bondage.  But in the Gospel Jesus pronounced us free and forgiven of our sins.  And in Baptism with Him we died to sin and rose from the dead with Him that we might live a new life.  Now our sins are not counted to us. 

But then what shall we say?  Since we are no longer under the Law but under God’s grace, where He does not count our sins to us, should we give free reign to sin and not worry about it?  God forbid, says St. Paul.  Whoever you yield yourself to to obey, that person is really your master. 

So our daily life in Christ is one of presenting ourselves or yielding ourselves to our Lord.  Our Lord used to be sin, and we had no choice but to present our members to sin as obedient slaves.  And the reward for our service to sin was death—the first death in which our soul is separated from our bodies, and the second, eternal death in the lake of fire.

Now we have a new Lord.  He has redeemed us from our sins with His death so that they are no longer counted to us.  We no longer stand under the Law with its demands, but in grace.  God deals with us as we have not deserved.  He counts us as having fulfilled the entire Law.  And the result of having this Lord is not only that we stand in His grace now, but that we will inherit life.  When we die the first death and our souls are separated from our bodies, soon thereafter we will see death swallowed up in victory.  We will rise again and never see death into eternity.

Now to which Lord will we present our bodies to serve?  We are not free to serve no one.  We will serve one or the other—God or sin.  The Christian life is a life of faith in Christ.  We not only say, “I am forgiven by Christ.”  We also say, “I am a new man in Christ.  I have died and risen from the dead.”  Each day we claim this by yielding our bodies to our Lord Jesus.  We do this not only by daily resisting the sinful desires that live in us, but also by presenting ourselves to the Lord to do His will, to carry out what He has called us to.  We are slaves, but slaves to a Lord who sanctifies us, gives us life, and brings us to see the glory of God.

Grant me the strength to do

With ready heart and willing

Whatever You command,

My calling here fulfilling;

That I do what I should

While trusting You to bless

The outcome for my good

For You must give success.  Amen.  (LSB 696 st. 2)

Trinity 16 2020. Death Is Surrounded.

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

Emmaus Lutheran Church

St. Luke 7:11-17

September 27, 2020

Death Is Surrounded

Jesu juva!

In the name of Jesus.

The artist Hans Holbein made a series of illustrations called “The Dance of Death” around the time of the Reformation.  In them are pictures of every class of people that lived in his day—bishops, priests, monks, kings, lords and ladies, merchants, peasants.  And in every one there is a little rhyme and a picture of a skeleton visiting them.  Sometimes the skeleton looks like he’s having a good time.  He is dancing or playing an instrument.  The pictures are almost comical.  Then you realize that the point is that death is near you, too. 

We act as if it isn’t.  We are busy with all sorts of vanities.  But death doesn’t care who you think you are.  It doesn’t care if you are a pastor, or a congressman, or a supreme court justice, or a Marxist in a black sweatshirt throwing a Molotov cocktail.  Death doesn’t care if you have an AR-15 on a sling and a constitution in your back pocket.  He is coming in his time, and he won’t care who you think you are or whether you want to go with him.

We know this is true, yet we can’t ever seem to take it to heart. 

It’s hard for us to understand why an artist would have drawn pictures like this.  We don’t like to think about death in our culture.  We go to great lengths to avoid it. 

But perhaps something like Holbein’s woodcuts would be helpful to people in our time.  Death is one law, one authority, that we can’t protest or resist.  You can throw fireworks at the police and you can resist wearing a mask.  But you can’t protest death. He will carry you away regardless.

Probably there was a reason Holbein’s contemporaries could stand to look at these pictures of death dancing.  They knew, even as they looked at death having a party at the expense of human beings, they knew that there was One who had overcome death and promised victory over death.  They had heard and confessed in the third article of the Creed that they believed in the resurrection of the body.  And many people in Holbein’s day not only believed that there would be a resurrection of the body, but they had confidence that they themselves would be raised and receive everlasting life.

In the Gospel reading Jesus shows a picture of the resurrection of the body.  When He raises the widow’s son at his funeral it is a picture of how, on the last day, He will raise all who are in their graves by His Word.  The blessed good news is that He has come to give us resurrection

1.  of the body

2.  and before that, a spiritual resurrection, so that we have eternal life even in these bodies of death.

1. 

In the Gospel reading Jesus is coming into a town as a funeral procession is going out through the town gates.  That procession is a picture of the way death has us surrounded.  Holbein’s pictures show death sneaking up on those who are so blind they think death will never come for them.  But actually death is near all of us throughout this life.  Luther’s translation of a medieval hymn that we sang at the beginning of the service says it very well:

            In the very midst of life

            Snares of death surround us.

You think death is far away, over the hills, past the horizon.  You don’t know that.  It could be tomorrow.  It could be tonight for you.  But even if it isn’t, death is still not far away.  It is with all of us today. 

It’s like the oil in the sanctuary lamp.  That candle is steadily burning.  It will be a long time before it is all burnt up.  A long time—relatively speaking.  It will be many services before the oil burns up.  But it won’t actually be that long.  If no one refills it it will burn out in a few months.  But regardless of how long it takes, the oil is burning right now.  The death of that candle is already happening.

And it is the same with you and with me.  And one day, as Ecclesiastes says: “those who look through the windows are dimmed, the doors on the street are shut…the silver cord is snapped…the golden bowl is broken…the pitcher is shattered at the fountain…the wheel is broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”  (Eccl. 12:3-4, 6-7)

Death has us surrounded.  We are like people in a besieged city.

And you are all well aware of why this is.  It is because God told Adam, “In the day you eat of it you will surely die.”  Adam disobeyed God.  And although he didn’t cease breathing the moment he sinned, sin and death entered him.  He passed it on to his offspring. 

Through all our pow’rs corruption creeps

And us in dreadful bondage keeps

In guilt we draw our infant breath

And reap its fruits of woe and death (LSB 562 st. 2).

That is not how we were created.  We were created in the image of God “who alone has immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16). We were created incorruptible, to never grow old and never burn out.

But the mourning widow in the Gospel is a picture of our misery.  We live in a life in which death is present even while we live.  Our bodies are called “bodies of death” (Rom. 7).  And even as death and corruption works in us, and we try to avoid it, we are forced to watch also as death works in those we love. 

But in the Gospel reading we also see and hear good news to us who are born under the power of death, in death’s dance.  We see the Lord Jesus draw near the funeral procession and the crying widow who has lost her only son.

Often the Lord does His miracles for those who approach Him and in faith ask for His help.  But nothing like that happens here.  No one thinks to ask Jesus for anything.  Perhaps no one believes that He is able to do anything.  Without being beseeched, without being petitioned in faith, our Lord acts on His own.  He has compassion on the sorrowful widow.  Do not weep, He tells her.  He puts His hand on the coffin and tells the young man, who is dead, I say to you, arise.  The man sits up, begins to speak, and Jesus gives him back to his mother.

Sixteen chapters later Jesus will be in the position of the young man and the widow.  He will be walking out of a city gate followed by a large crowd.  This time He will be carrying something—not a coffin, but His cross.  He will tell the great crowds that follow Him, Do not weep for me, but for yourselves and your children.  And when He is lifted up on the cross, many will ask Him to do a miracle and save Himself.  But He will not.  Death will come for Him.

When He raises the widow’s son, Jesus reveals Himself as the son of God.  He shows Himself to be the author of life with the authority and power to raise the dead and forgive sins.  And when He comes to this widow and raises her son without being asked, He shows that He has come to deliver us from this life in which we are surrounded by death, and give us eternal life. 

When we suffer, when death breaks in on us and takes our loved one with its cold hand, we do not feel that God will have compassion on us.  After all, doesn’t He hold the power of death?  Couldn’t He stop it if He wanted to?  When our loved ones die or we are dying, we don’t feel God’s compassion.  We feel the iron law of sin and death.

But in the way He does this miracle our Lord shows that His compassion is sincere and more powerful than death.  He stops the funeral without anyone asking.  He raises the dead man without anyone’s faith.

And in the same way, He also had compassion on all of us without our asking Him or turning to Him.  He stopped the dead man’s coffin and raised him with a word.  But He put Himself under the weight of the cross and spoke no word to free Himself from the nails and from judgment and death.  He bound His life-giving, omnipotent power, His immortality, to our human nature.  He took upon Himself our corruption, guilt, and curse.  And He put it out of the way and rose victorious over it, so that on the last day He will come with a cry of command and all the dead will arise from their graves and come forth.  This is what we confess in the Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”  By bearing His own cross, by tasting death and rising again, He won for the whole human race to rise from the dead—not temporarily, like this young man, but forever.  Not to come out of the coffin to once again labor and cry and die again, but to see God’s glory.

2.

But there is a resurrection that takes place before the resurrection of the body on the last day.  Without this resurrection, the resurrection of the body will not benefit us.  Those who are not raised spiritually before the last day will be raised bodily only to be condemned, to be cast, body and soul, into the eternal fire.

This spiritual resurrection that happens first is called “conversion” or “regeneration.”  Just as truly as the widow’s son was raised, so it is with everyone who is converted or regenerated.  A person who is converted is raised from death to life.  He or she goes from being lost and condemned to having judgment and condemnation pass away from him. 

How does this spiritual resurrection happen?  By the same means that raised the widow’s son.  Jesus speaks His powerful word, and it raises the dead to life.  It raises those who are spiritually dead to life.  In the Gospel He declares to those who are spiritually dead that their sins are forgiven for His sake.  That is the same as saying, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”  If God forgives your sins, He also releases you from death. 

There is a time lapse between forgiveness of sins and spiritual resurrection and bodily resurrection, just as there is a time lapse between lighting that candle and it going out.  Yet you know when that candle is burning, it has already begun the process of burning out.  But when you have been raised spiritually, you have already begun to live eternally even though you do not yet see your body raised to live forever. 

By the power of the Holy Spirit working in the Word, when Jesus speaks the Gospel now from the right hand of God through a human mouth, whether of the minister or someone else—some people believe the good news.  Those people who believe are raised from the dead spiritually.  They are alive.  Jesus said it this way in the 5th chapter of St. John’s Gospel: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”  (John 5:24)

Already those who believe in Jesus have passed out of death into life.  When you were baptized you began to believe.  And when you fell, the Lord spoke the Word of the Gospel that declared you forgiven and raised you to life again. 

We are living in bodies of death in which the corruption of sin is still working, but we have already entered into Christ’s life.  The Lord says we do not come into judgment.  We have passed out of death into life.  We have entered into Christ’s life.  In Him all the life of the eternal God was present in a body.  Though He died, in His flesh that life swallowed up our sins and death.

Now through His Word you are raised up into His life.  Now when death comes to take you away, it comes as Jesus’ servant to escort you to His dressing room to put on your wedding clothes, to take off this mortal body with its corruption and wait for Jesus to clothe you with your heavenly garments, an immortal body made like His glorious body.

When death surrounds you you know the One who has power over death.  He came to you when you were dead and could not even ask for His help, driven by His great compassion.  He has death surrounded.

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

Devotion: Romans 6:1-11 “Set Free From Sin”

September 22, 2020 Leave a comment

September 22, 2020

Romans 6:1-11

Set Free From Sin

It’s not uncommon to hear critics of justification by faith alone say, “So you can just sin as much as you want and still go to heaven as long as you believe in Jesus?”  That is not what we teach, nor is it what the Bible teaches.  The Bible teaches that those who believe in Jesus do not want to sin.  The problem is that we can’t free ourselves from sin.  Luther sings about this in his famous hymn, “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice”:

            Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay;

            Death brooded darkly o’er me.

            Sin was my torment night and day;

            In sin my mother bore me. 

            But daily deeper still I fell;

            My life became a living hell,

            So firmly sin possessed me (LSB 556 st. 2). 

But as we have heard from Paul, sin no longer possesses Christians because we are justified by faith.  God no longer counts our sins to us.  Instead He counts Jesus’ righteousness to us. 

And at the same time we are declared not guilty of sin, He also frees us from sin’s power.  Christians don’t sin freely that grace may abound (Rom. 6:1) because we can’t.  We died to sin when we were baptized into Jesus Christ and believed in Him.  We were pronounced not guilty and at the same time we died and rose again, set free from sin.  We were buried and placed in the tomb with Jesus so that we might rise again with Jesus to live a new life in which sin is not our Lord, but the Triune God.

This is a tremendous comfort to everyone who, like Luther, is tormented by sin.  You are forgiven your sins through Jesus death and resurrection.  That is the Gospel.  You are also released from the old life of serving sin so that you might go forth from the tomb and live a life in service to God.

This is difficult for us to see because every day we feel sin’s presence in us and with us.  We have been baptized, but our old man and his bad temper, pride, unwillingness to serve our neighbor, his unbelief, very much appears to be alive.  But the reality is that God says he has died in Baptism.  He has been nailed to the cross with Jesus and put in the tomb.  

In our funeral rite we read these words from Romans at the beginning of the service while the pall is draped over the casket.  The pall is a white cloth, usually with a cross emblazoned on it.  It signifies that everything the deceased person is has been covered by Jesus’ death.  Even their dead body has been united to Jesus’ body in Baptism.  And so, just as Jesus was buried and rose from the dead, so will the departed, because we were buried with Him by baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). 

The beautiful Gospel in this is that our resurrection does not begin on the last day when Jesus returns in glory.  It begins today.  If you believe the truth of your baptism—that you have been crucified with Christ, buried with Him, baptized into His death—then each day you will also rise to a new life in which Jesus Christ lives and reigns within you instead of Adam.  The wonderful news is that your Baptism is a fact, accomplished by God, not by you.  So your victorious resurrection over sin each new day is a promise from God in your Baptism.

With one accord, O God, we pray:

Grant us Your Holy Spirit.

Help us in our infirmity

Through Jesus’ blood and merit.

Grant us to grow in grace each day

That by this Sacrament we may

Eternal life inherit.  Amen. (LSB 601 st. 2)

Trinity 15 2020. Freedom from Anxiety

September 21, 2020 Leave a comment

Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Emmaus Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 6:24-34

September 20, 2020

Freedom from Anxiety

Jesu juva!

In the Name of Jesus.

When Jesus says, “Do not be anxious,” it is because He really wants us to be free from anxiety.  He does not want us to live our lives anxious and full of fear about our life, our soul, what we will eat and drink, and about our body, what we will wear.  He wants us to be free from anxiety.  That is good news, because we live in an anxious age.  I’m sure that people have always been anxious, but maybe we have had more leisure and wealth to notice it.  We all used to talk about how much medication was being prescribed for anxiety and depression.  Statistics say that the younger generations are orders of magnitude more likely to say they have few or no friends.  So much anxiety and loneliness among our neighbors and even ourselves, when we have so much more material prosperity than our ancestors, when we have never been worried about what we would eat and drink or what we would wear!    You see that anxiety is not prevented by having more money, or more distractions to distract yourself with. 

One thing prevents anxiety—faith in God.  First article of the Creed faith, which tells us that God has made me and all creatures, He has given me my body and soul, my eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.  He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home…He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. 

And He does this all out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.  Consider the birds of the air, says the Lord.

By the way, have you noticed how hard it is to consider the birds of the air, or the lilies of the field, or the stars in the sky?  Have you noticed how hard it is for us to really consider anything besides the anxieties and the cravings and the desires that war within us? 

But if we considered the birds of the air, we would notice that they do not sow, reap, or gather into barns, yet, says our Lord Jesus, your heavenly Father feeds them.  He isn’t saying we shouldn’t plan for the future.  We have been given reason so that we can plan and put the time and resources God has given us to work.  But what is Jesus saying?  Even as we do what is given to us to do, we should look to God alone to feed us and provide for us.  The way the birds do that hop around in my backyard in the dry grass.  God feeds them, not because they earn it.  He feeds them because He is good.  He feeds them because He loves everything that He has made.  That is why He feeds human beings, too—both the evil and the just. 

Yet, nevertheless, we are very anxious.  I see it in you, but I hear it in myself.  We are anxious now about political turmoil and about a pandemic.  Yet if these things were not here, we would be anxious about something else.  Why is it?  Because we don’t recognize that God gives us our lives and provides for our lives.  We don’t recognize God as God. 

But also we doubt whether God will provide us with what is good.  If for instance, God allows us to go without food for a time, would we think that God is still God, that He is still caring for us and providing for us? 

What if God wants us to go without our distractions?  What if He wants us to play a little less, drink a little less, be on the internet a little less, so that we can seek first His kingdom?  Our Lord says something beautiful and yet deeply convicting in this text: Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matt. 6:25).  In my lifetime it seems that the sense that the life or the soul is more than food, more than eating and drinking and physical pleasures—that sense has been ground out of people more and more.  Pop culture encourages us to live like animals, like creatures of instinct.  Yet we are all too easy prey for this.  There is a time for everything—for refreshment, for games, for rest.  But the life is more than food; the body is more than clothing.   “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body,” St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6 (13).  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God (1 Cor. 6:19)?  Our bodies are far more than simply wearing clothing—they are the dwelling place of the Lord.  And life is far more than having food to eat.  Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).  Our lives were not meant to be lived chasing after food and pleasure but by faith in God’s Word, in union with the triune God.  With that, food and drink and what we need to live comes.  Seek first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you as well.  Just as the disciples brought their loaves and fish to Jesus and with them He fed the crowds in the desert.  And when the disciples had finished distributing to the crowds, they gathered up the broken pieces and were fed along with them.

But we have not wanted to be fed with the broken pieces, with the leftovers.  We preferred different food, even though the broken pieces came with the greater gift of the Lord Jesus.

But Jesus tells us again today, though we have done this: Do not be anxious.  The body is more than clothing, life is more than food, and God has provided you with the bread of life and the robes of righteousness.  He provides them to you today as He has provided them to you in the past.  Just as the Father feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the field more splendidly that Solomon, so He feeds and clothes you.  He does it without asking what you have deserved or how obedient you have been.  He gives because He is God. 

The food He gives you that is more than mere food, that is life, is the bread of Jesus’ flesh.  That bread was given for the life of the world on the cross.  Just as Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and broke them for the crowd on the far side of the Sea of Galilee, so He offered Himself on the arms of the cross for your sins.  And now in the Gospel He distributes Himself to you to take and eat by faith.  Whoever feeds on Him will live—whoever believes that the Son of God gave Himself into death to freely give us life—that person eats His flesh and has eternal life.

Yes, and He beckons you to His table to eat His body and drink His blood given in the bread and wine that you may be certain that you have life indeed, that you live in Him and He in you.

And He takes away your anxiety by clothing you with garments more beautiful than the lilies of the field.  In your baptism He has clothed you with the garments of salvation and covered you with the robe of righteousness (Is. 61:10).  In Baptism He pledges that His obedience and His death clothes you.  You are decked like a priest in a beautiful headdress, like a bride with her jewels (Is. 61:11).  You are a lily of the valley, a rose of Sharon, beautiful in the eyes of the heavenly bridegroom.  He presents you to the Father without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish (Eph. 5).  Because His holiness and righteousness covers you.  So your body, covered in Jesus’ righteousness, has become the dwelling place of His Spirit, a temple.  And it awaits the day when it will be raised in the image of Christ, in His splendor.  Truly, the body is more than clothing.  Your body is to be united to Christ’s body forever.  Do not be anxious.  You are so valuable to your Father in heaven that He paid for you to be clothed this way with His Son’s blood.

Amen.

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria

Wed. of Trinity 14. Sermons on the Liturgy: The Agnus Dei. “The Bread of Mercy”

September 21, 2020 Leave a comment

Wednesday of Trinity 14

Emmaus Lutheran Church

The Agnus Dei (John 1:29-34)

September 16, 2020

The Bread of Mercy

Jesu juva!

In the Name of Jesus.

You are starving, thirsty, and naked, sitting on a roadside, begging for someone to take you in and have mercy on you.  The cars speed past in the snow, spray slush on you.  Then one stops, takes you in.  The kind man drives you to a café and buys you something to eat.  And you gulp it down, taking the food in your dirty hands.

That is the way we were at the beginning of the service.  “Lord, have mercy upon us.  Christ have mercy upon us.  Lord, have mercy upon us.”  Beggars and homeless people, asking for a gift in utter poverty.

Now the language of beggars is on our lips again.  “O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.  O Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us.  Oh Christ, Thou Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant us Thy peace.”  Now we ask for a specific mercy from Jesus whom we have been addressing as present with us in the service.  He is present not as a ghost but in flesh and blood.  And in flesh and blood Jesus came to take away the sins of the world.  We ask Him to do for us, here and now, what He came to do centuries ago.  The mercy we ask is the forgiveness of our sins from Him and with this mercy—peace.

The words we use came from Jesus’ cousin John. John came before Jesus.  He preached repentance and baptized the repentant.  But the purpose of His baptizing was to reveal Jesus.  His baptism was for the forgiveness of sins, but forgiveness of sins is not bought and paid for by baptism.  Baptism conveys the forgiveness of sins, but forgiveness of sins is accomplished by Jesus.  Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  He is God’s Lamb.  He is also God’s Son, John tells us. 

A lamb, helpless and trusting, not a lion, not a bear, not a dragon.  A lamb had died on the first Passover to redeem Israel from slavery in Egypt and from the angel of death.  Its blood paints the three beams of their doors while inside they eat its roasted flesh.  And after the Israelites go out, God prescribes numerous sacrifices in which lambs die for the many and various sins of the people.  There was a stream that flowed out of the city of God in Jerusalem into the valley that was red with the blood of all the lambs dying there every day in a never ending current to wash away the sins of the people.  But they were never finished dying.  And you and I understand this.  Our whole lives there has been a stream pouring forth from us of uncleanness, of the filth of sins needing to be washed away.  Sins we did in spite of our desire not to do them.  Sins we did willingly.  Sins done because we were negligent.  Sins done rebelliously.  The more we tried to clean up this stream the dirtier it became.

Now John says there is one lamb, the Lamb of God, the Lamb provided by God, who also turns out to be His Son.  He is going to wash away sin forever, once and for all.  Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.  John pointed Him out so that the people would believe in Him and become clean.

Around thirteen hundred years ago this hymn entered the Divine Service.  It was the last great hymn of the Divine Service until Lutherans, following Luther, began singing the Nunc Dimittis after communion.  Before that the Divine Service ended after you had received the body and blood of the Lord.

The hymn teaches us what to look for from Jesus, who is with us in the service not as a ghost but in flesh and blood.  When we cried to Him for mercy as beggars on the side of the road, He took us in.  He took us in to the Divine Service, into the presence of His Father, into His Father’s house.  And now He seats us at His table to give us mercy, to take away our sins, to give us peace.  He puts before us the bread by which the sin of the world is taken away—His body.  He gives us the cup of peace, the cup of His blood.  We drink it and are given peace with God.  The stream of uncleanness that is our lives is made clean.  The endless stream of the blood of lambs that had to flow out of the temple into the Kidron valley has been stopped up because this lamb has been offered up once and taken away sin forever. 

But He continually feeds our hungry souls with this bread of mercy.  We are dying.  We have no life in ourselves.  But the Lamb of God is our life.  Just as the Passover Lamb died and its blood was daubed on the door, while inside they ate its roasted flesh, so with us.  The Lamb of God died to cause death and God’s wrath to pass over us; He died to make us free.  But He also died to feed us and give us life.  When He gives us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink He is feeding us with real food and real drink so that we may eat and not die. 

And when He gives us the cup of His blood He is giving us peace.  There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked, Isaiah the prophet proclaimed (Is. 57:21).  Everyone who has experienced a guilty conscience has experienced the truth of the prophet’s word.  Nothing you can do, no arguments you can make, can erase the sins of your past, or the sins that continue to appear and tempt you.  But the blood of the Lamb of God gives peace, because it has washed away our sin and guilt before God forever.  And when you come to the Lamb of God asking for mercy and for peace He gives you the cup of His blood.

The Son of God was called the Lamb of God.  It is so stunning that God would want to be known like this.  Meek and quiet, gentle, having salvation.  Not opening His mouth before those who put Him to death, patiently enduring the shedding of His blood and the piercing of His body to give you peace. 

When He gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink, He is giving us all of Himself.  All of His life.  His spotless life in which there was no fault.  All of it is ours.  He is our life.

We came as beggars asking for mercy here and now, in this hour of our lives.  We asked that the Lamb of God whose whole life was to take away the sins of the world would do for us now in our lives as He had done for all the sinners who came to Him in His life on earth.  They came near so that He would touch them.  They anointed His feet and washed them with their tears.  They touched the hem of His garment.  They climbed up in a tree to get a look at God’s Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

Who would have imagined that the Son of God would answer our cries for mercy and forgiveness with such rich grace?  He did not take us off the street to an inn.  He takes us to His own Father’s house.  And the bread and wine of mercy that He puts in our grubby hands gives us peace with God, takes away our sin.  It is His own flesh and blood.

Amen.

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria

Devotion: St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

September 21, 2020 Leave a comment

September 21, 2020

Matthew 9:9-12

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Jesus came to call sinners, not the righteous.  Nobody expects to hear this.  When Jesus called Peter, he was cowering at Jesus’ feet.  They had just caught so many fish the boat was sinking.  Peter said, “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord (Luke 5: 8).”  That’s the kind of thing demons often say to Jesus: What do you want with me?  Peter felt like an unclean spirit, a subject of God’s wrath.  He expected Jesus to punish him when he realized who Jesus was.  Instead Jesus called him.  And while that was to make Peter a fisher of men, it was also to make Peter a caught fish.  Peter was a sinful man, and he needed to be with Jesus, so Jesus could minister the forgiveness of sins to him.

Today is St. Matthew’s feast day, not St. Peter’s.  St. Matthew’s life is an even better illustration of the truth that Jesus came to call sinners, not the righteous.  When Jesus called St. Matthew, he was not in a boat catching fish.  He was in a tax booth stealing, a notorious sinner, despised by his own people. 

We expect God to save and bless those who are good and righteous in His sight.  But Jesus says He has actually not come to call the righteous, but sinners.  The righteous don’t need Jesus.  They can stand on their own.  That is, they could if there were any righteous, but there is not one (Rom. 3:10).  It is sinners who need Jesus, because they are sick, and Jesus is the physician, the healer of those sick with sin.  This is why it is good if you discover yourself to be a sinner, even while you are seeking to be justified in Christ (Galatians 2:17).  If you are a sinner, then there is a physician who has come to call you to Himself and make you well.

We don’t stop needing His attention once we have been called and have come to Him.  Peter discovered this.  He left everything behind to follow Jesus, but then was not able to finish the journey with Jesus that ended at the cross.  He learned that he was thoroughly sick and weak, and it was necessary for Christ to die for the ungodly, including him (Rom. 5:6).  But whenever Peter saw his ungodliness and the weakness of his flesh after Jesus ascended to heaven, he could remember how the Lord did not depart from him because he was a sinful man.  Instead He called him to himself to learn to catch other sinful men.  He could remember how Jesus called him again to take care of His sheep after Peter denied Jesus at His passion.  And St. Matthew could remember how Jesus found him sitting at his tax booth, written off as a sinner by his neighbors.  He could remember how Jesus called him and said that He had not come to call the righteous but sinners.  And as Matthew went out and preached, and as he wrote his Gospel bearing witness to the life and death of Jesus to heal sinners, Matthew would remember that the Lord Jesus was calling sinners to himself through Matthew as He had once called out to Matthew, lost in his sin.

This is the joy that Jesus also gives us in our congregation.  We rejoice together that He has called us to Himself, and, reclining with Him at the table, He gives us healing and the forgiveness of sins together in His body and blood.  But through us He is also at work to call other sinners to Himself to receive healing and forgiveness with us.

Praise, Lord, for him whose Gospel

Your human life declared,

Who worldly gain forsaking,

Your path of suff’ring shared.

From all unrighteous mammon,

O raise our eyes anew

That we in our vocation

May rise and follow You.  Amen.  (LSB 518 st. 25)

Devotion: Romans 5:12-21 “Grace Reigns”

September 18, 2020 Leave a comment

Romans 5:12-21

Grace Reigns

Sin is not reckoned where there is no law (Rom. 5:13).  Even so, from the time Adam fell until God gave Moses the Law, “death reigned” (Rom. 5:14).  People did not sin during that time the way Adam did.  He had a direct commandment from God that he disobeyed.  “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die (Gen. 2:17).”  Adam broke God’s one commandment.  However, Cain had no such direct commandment from God.  Neither did Seth, Enosh, Kenan, or Methuselah.  But they all died.  God did not need to reckon any of their own sins to them.  The sin of their father corrupted them from birth.  Later God gave commandments to Moses, and these just revealed that sin was latent in every child of Adam.  It is in us even when there are no direct commandments to break.  But when God commands us it gives sin an opportunity.  This is why Paul says, The Law came in to increase the trespass (Rom. 5:20).  But one sin is enough to bring condemnation and death not only to Adam, but to all who are born from him.  This is the awful power of sin.  When it hits home what this means, we give up hope of ever trying to deliver ourselves from it.

But God’s grace is greater than human sin.  Even though Adam was a sinner who brought guilt and death on all his descendants, he was also, amazingly, a type of Christ, a picture of the one to come (Rom. 5:14).  Even in his fall, Adam was a picture of his Descendant, Jesus Christ.  His fall was the occasion for God to show how much greater His gift is than our sin. 

Adam sinned once, and that one sin brought death and condemnation to everyone after him.  But God’s gift of His Son followed innumerable transgressions and brough righteousness and life.  Adam’s one trespass brought the lordship of death upon all his descendants.  But now much more those who receive the gift of righteousness in Christ reign in life forever.  Through Adam’s trespass all human beings were condemned.  But now Jesus’ righteous deed, His completion of the righteousness of God on the cross, brings justification and life to all men. 

This is not something God has prepared, but is waiting for us to pull the lever to activate.  Christ has accomplished the justification of all men just as Adam by taking the fruit accomplished our condemnation.  Adam took from the tree of knowledge and brought us the curse of God.  But Jesus, by His knowledge, became a curse for us by being hung on a tree (Galatians 3:13), and thereby justified the many (Is. 53:11). 

Now death does not reign over you.  Where sin abounded, God’s grace much more abounded.  His grace has swelled up and flooded over your sins.  It was not just Adam’s sin that was overcome by God’s grace in Jesus’ death on the cross.  It was the full measure of your sins as well.  And now God’s grace reigns over you in the righteousness Jesus accomplished for you.

As by one man all mankind fell

And, born in sin, was doomed to hell,

So by one Man, who took our place,

We all were justified by grace.  Amen.  (LSB 562 st. 5)

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