Archive for March, 2012

What was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.

This is a comment from the Lutherans and Procreation blog that got me thinking about something I’ve thought about before regarding the purpose of marriage:

Gregory K. Laughlinsaid…

I assume Erich can and will provide a better answer than I can, but here is my response:
God’s Word tells us clearly that children are blessings from Him (see, for example, the many times that God blesses someone or a group of people with a blessing to be fruitful and multiply — Genesis 1:28, Gen. 9:1, Gen. 17:6, Gen. 17:20, Gen. 35:11, Gen. 48:4, Leviticus 26:9, Psalm 105:24, Jeremiah 23:3, Ezekiel 36:11), that the man who has many children is particularly blessed of God (see, for example, Psalms 127 and 128 and 1 Chronicles 25:5) and that God gave us marriage because He is seeking Godly offspring (Malachi 2:15).
Why do married couples use artificial birth control or engage in completed sexual acts other than coitus with the intent to avoid pregnancy? Absent some serious and unusual situation (for example, a medically diagnoses that pregnancy poses a grave risk to the wife’s life), isn’t it because we reject God’s word that children are a blessing from Him? Don’t we use artificial contraception in the vast majority of cases because we disbelieve His word that children are a blessing or that more children are a blessing? And in doing so, don’t we deny God the Godly offspring for which He gives us marriage?
John Chrysostom said it best when preaching against contraception, “What then? Do you contemn the gift of God [children], and fight with his laws? What is a curse [infertility], do you seek as though it were a blessing?” Artificial contraception is a sin because it is the means by which we reject the potential of God’s blessings and show our contempt for this particular gift from Him.
This was a teaching that was accepted universally among orthodox Christians until the last century. The Catholic Church taught it (and still does); the Orthodox Church taught it (and many Orthodox pastors still do); Luther and the churches named for him taught it until well into the 20th century; Anglicans taught it and did until 1930; Calvin taught it and Reformed and Presbyterian churches taught it until well into the 20th century; Baptist taught it; Methodists taught it; etc. (See, for example, Allan Carlson’s “Godly Seed”, David Kennedy’s “Birth Control in America” and Kathleen Tobin’s “The American Religious Debate over Birth Control, 1907–1937″.)
I will not address “hard cases”. I believe that there are hard cases. But I also believe that such cases represent a very small percentage of circumstances under which couples use contraception. If we are honest, those of us who have used contraception (and my wife and I did until we studied the issue and repented) do so because we reject God’s word that children are a blessing from Him and that many children are a particular sign of His favor and blessing. Contraception is the means by which we reject what His word says repeatedly and unequivocally are His blessings. It is, I believe, an act of cruelty to those who have hard cases to use their unfortunate circumstances to justify our acts when we do not have such circumstances.
I don’t know your circumstances and so pass no judgment on your actions…


That’s a pretty good summary of the case against contraception from a Christian perspective.  But the main thing that got me thinking was the quote from Malachi, which I post here:

13 And this second thing you do.  You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth,  to whom  you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be  faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For  the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and  do not be faithless.”


Why does God reject the offerings of His people according to Malachi?  Because they divorced the wives of their youth.  He calls this “faithlessness.”  “For the man who does not love his wife…covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts.”  It is a great offense to the Lord, then, when men don’ t love their wives.

It seems that this theme returns in the New Testament, not only when Jesus forbids divorce, but also in 1 Peter:

Likewise,  husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker  vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

The Israelites’ offerings were not accepted because of their unfaithfulness to their wives.  Peter says that the prayers of husbands will be hindered if they do not “live with [their] wives in an understanding way” and do not “show honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life.”

Many times I have read this and emphasized that it says that “women are the weaker vessel.”  It does say that, and that needs to be said in this time when we have women fighting and dying for men on the battlefield, or getting shot at by criminals, or when we take it for granted that it makes no difference whether a woman or man leads the country–or the household.

But Peter is not saying it in a demeaning way.  Don’t we still censure it and find it unacceptable for men to hit women?  Why?  Because men are generally stronger. If we were consistent we might teach our children what Christians used to teach them; that husbands have a responsibility to provide for and protect and support their wives and children–financially, physically, and emotionally.

But Peter is emphasizing that women, though weaker, are fellow heirs of eternal life with men.  The Bible continually has harsh words for people who abuse those who are weaker or in need.  God is the defender of widows and orphans in the Old Testament.  The Law forbade “putting a stumbling block in front of the blind” or mocking the deaf.  It did not permit predatory lending to the poor.  It demanded that Israelites who had gone into slavery be released every 50 years.

So weakness is not a cause for shame in Scripture.  “When I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Cor 12); “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, but lifted up the lowly…” (Luke 1)  Jesus the Lord is “meek and lowly in heart.”  He has come to preach “good news to the poor…the opening of the prison to those who are bound…”

When a husband is not understanding with his wife, his prayers which are supposed to be offered to God like the offering of incense are hindered.  Just as God didn’t receive the offerings of the Israelites who were unfaithful to their wives, Christian husbands who are harsh, critical, not understanding, have their prayers hindered.

God wants Christian husbands to love their wives.  It is such a serious thing when they don’t that He says “the man who does not love his wife, but divorces her, covers his garment with violence…”

I am frequently critical of my wife and others I am supposed to care for–particularly when I feel that my authority is being attacked or undermined, or that I am being denied the respect I am owed.  As with so many things that people get angry about, I’m pretty sure that my feelings of anger are justified.  But the thing is that the anger almost always leads into sin; I become critical, irritable, harsh, resentful.  Then the resentment leaks out in a generalized hostility toward the world, and those who are closest to me get to experience my general hostility up close.

I am not called to criticize my wife.  If my wife or my son or my parishioner sins against me or continually sins against me, am I called to dwell with them in an understanding way or to continually be angry at how my rights are being denied me?

Thus you can cover your garment with violence without actually divorcing your wife or even wanting to.  By being harsh, critical, loveless, not understanding–even in part–a husband can spiritually divorce his wife.  Or partially divorce her, wounding her and damaging their intimacy.

Why is this so displeasing to God?  One answer would be to talk about marriage’s significance as a picture of Christ’s love for the Church.  Christ doesn’t complain about His bride’s sins.  He dies for her in order to wash her in Baptism and make her radiant, just as Naaman’s skin defects were washed away in the Jordan River water by means of God’s Word.

But a second answer, to come around to the original point, would be that God puts people together in marriage because He desires godly offspring.  God eagerly desires to have His people, His Church, His elect be brought into being.  The verse from Malachi indicates what Lutherans should already know–the best place to create and form Christians is in the bedroom of a Christian marriage, at the baptismal font, at Sunday School or the parochial school, and at the kitchen table.  Yes, make disciples of all nations, but first be fruitful and multiply.

God loves His people.  He wants to make those who are in His Church and know His Word fruitful.

This is where I think the sin comes in that has greatly harmed the Church.  Since we have been trained to think that the number of children we have is a matter for us to decide–an option; and since we have been trained to think that children are not a blessing from the Lord (even though Scripture says differently in Gen 1, Psalms 127 and 128)–we reject God’s purpose for marriage.

Marriage is for companionship and love.  But a deeper kind than we normally want–the two become one flesh.  The oneness between a husband and wife is so deep that it involves even the joining of their bodies.  Out of this union God creates life through us.

But Christians have been tricked.  We think the purpose of marriage is love in a much shallower sense–cupid hearts and being soul mates, etc.  But real love is not always pleasurable.  Jesus’ passion for His bride did not look like our idea of love at all–it looks like an ugly cross.  Just like church life gets ugly and disillusions people, so can marriage.  But God’s idea of love is not so superficial.  If He loves you, then He is willing to pay a great price to love you–even though one wonders why He would do it.  Also the relationships in the Church–between fellow Christians, between pastor and congregation–Christ calls us into His body, He reveals His love to us, which overcomes all of our sins by His death, which continually covers and forgives our sins, on a daily basis.  Then He asks us to love one another.

So even though the pastor might feel battered and chewed up, because he has tasted a little of Christ’s unfathomable love toward himself, he sticks with his congregation, even if he feels as if they are mistreating him and rejecting God’s word.  These are the people Jesus called him to love, and he did not say, “Love them as long as it doesn’t get too bad for you.”  Imagine if Jesus only loved us that much!

Similary a congregation might feel that they have a pastor who is incredibly immature and lacking in the human characteristics they think is necessary to keep them together.  But the mature members of the congregation, because they have tasted Christ’s love for them, encourage and teach the others to bear with their pastor and pray for him, since he preaches God’s word faithfully even though he is burdened with many faults and weaknesses.  Jesus didn’t say, “Love your pastor as long as he is no burden to you.”

So in a marriage.  It is not God’s will that the husband and wife (or the church and congregation, or individual members of the congregation) stay stuck in sinful burdensome behavior; but by patience, faith in Christ, prayer, and love that does not abandon the sinner, God wants to deliver them from their sins and bring about union–love.

In a marriage, impaired intimacy, or shallow intimacy, goes together  with unwillingness to have children.  Sometimes a husband or wife wants to avoid children because they don’t want the pain–but this also is symptomatic of unwillingness to depend on others or be open to them.  If I don’t want more kids because I don’t want to have to pay for them, I reject the intimacy with God which more children would drive me to, because I would have to rely on Him.  I reject intimacy with my wife, because I am saying, I’m not willing to trust you either.  I don’t want to give up the money or free time that another child would cost.  I’m not willing to sacrifice this for another link in the chain that binds us together as one.  I’m not willing to give you access to this part of my body–my power to create life in union with another.  That part of our union is closed.

But also a failure in intimacy leads to unwillingness to have children.  If I do not support and care for my wife with honor and understanding, I attack her confidence in herself and in me; she begins to think, “I can’t have another child–how could I do it?”

The misunderstanding of love that is behind the way American Christians have come to limit their number of children has led to the breakdown in marriage.  Instead of spouses seeing their calling as being to allow God and their spouse access to all of them, we see marriage as being a place for our needs to be met.  The majority of American marriages fail, presumably because the majority have found that marriage does not lead to satisfaction–that it is a sacrifice–that loving and being open to another person often means we feel let down or robbed.  At least sometimes it means that.

God is after a much greater thing in marriage than “finding your soul mate” and being in love until you’re 80. He’s after life.  In a sinful world, the intimacy required to sustain life is painful; birth is painful; life itself is painful.  If the act of procreation were not exceedingly pleasurable, God would not get what He desires–godly seed.

I’m done with this for now.






The Martyr’s Life. Phil. 3:7-14. Wed. after Judica

Wednesday after Judica

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Philippians 3:7-14

“Martyria: The Martyr’s Life”

March 28, 2012



Beloved in Christ,

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


Witness.  Why has this been the theme put before you during Lenten services?  Because as we’ve all heard since Sunday School, we should “tell people the good news about Jesus.”  A witness tells people what he saw. 


Jesus told His disciples that they would be His witnesses.  They would bear witness that Jesus died and rose from the dead.  As they told people about what He had done and taught people His teaching, Jesus would be with them and would work through them to call more disciples. 


We, Christ’s Church, are the keepers of the witness of the apostles.  We tell people what the apostles handed down in the Scripture.  But as we bear witness to Christ, we become witnesses ourselves.  Christ works in us and among us, and we see and know His work among us through faith in His promises.  Faith makes us see Christ among us; makes us witnesses. 


All Christians—every single one—has been called by Christ to work together with the rest of the members of His body to bear witness to Him and what He has done for us.  Every part of our lives, every moment of our lives, are meant to bear witness to Jesus.  We are called to bear witness to Christ as we live by faith in Him in our families, at work, at play, in Church.  We bear witness by showing mercy and bearing with one another.  We bear witness when we give our offerings so that God’s word is preached here and far away; we participate in Christ’s work as we continually pray for the Church here and throughout the world, as we pray for our families and our neighbors who do not know Christ.  We also bear witness when we personally tell people about Jesus or invite them to church.  And it ought to be our highest joy to see another lost sinner receive the Church’s witness to Jesus, believe in Him, and be saved.


But being a witness to Jesus comes at a cost.  To bear witness to Christ we must die.  The old man will not and cannot bear witness to Jesus.  The old man insists on his own righteousness and does not wish to suffer anything from people whom we show love to; the old man wants punishment for those who do us wrong.  So our old nature must die if we are to bear witness to Jesus.


In the reading from Philippians St. Paul describes his life as a martyr or witness of Jesus Christ.  He explains why he still willingly goes to tell people about Jesus when they reward him with whippings and imprisonment and being stoned.  He explains why he does not lose heart even though he is not a perfect witness to Christ.  We are called by Jesus Christ Himself to be His witnesses—to live among sinners, to seek their good in this life and in eternity ahead of our own, and to be rewarded with rejection, suffering, and death for this service.  The reasons Paul was willing to live as Christ’s martyr and what enabled him not to despair at the impossibility of the task apply to all of us at St. Peter who want to be Christ’s witnesses not only in name but in truth.  They apply to all of us who want to be acknowledged by Christ on the day He returns to judge the living and the dead and have Him say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant…Enter into the joy of Your Lord!” (Matthew 25)


Let all of us then who desire this and who fear being cast out by Christ on the last day listen carefully to the word of God which tells us

  1.       What makes a martyr willing to bear witness to Christ crucified not only in words, but in willingly bearing the cross, and
  2.   What makes a martyr not lose heart.


We pray:  O Father in heaven, without Your Spirit we cannot believe in Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, nor come to Him, and of ourselves the darkness of our hearts can only shut out the light of Your Word.  May your Spirit guide my tongue to rightly teach Your Word, and may He enlighten our hearts, so that we live in true faith which strains toward the prize of knowing Christ and sharing in His suffering, death, and resurrection; through Whose Name we bring our prayer. Amen.


  1.    What makes a martyr willing
    1.      The surpassing excellence of knowing Jesus Christ
      1.         Christ’s excellence
      2.         Why unbelievers do not see it
    2. That the martyr considers everything else excrement in comparison to knowing Jesus
      1.          Human righteousness/talent/glory is considered worthless because     It actually keeps us away from Christ.

                     Pride, self-love, love of riches, praise of men, power—these keep us from  praising Christ, glorifying Him, and bearing witness—which means that other people are given offenses that interfere with them coming to know Christ.

    3.   The world considers Christ to be worthless because
  1. He calls us to come and die with Him, seeking God’s glory and neighbor’s blessing instead of self.
  2. He calls us to lose everything else so that we may have Him.
  3. How can you tell me to repent of what I am?  How can God punish me for being what I was born?  It’s not really a fight about changing morals–it’s rejection of the cross which declares that everything we are by nature must die, must be repented of, and the righteousness we are capable of performing on our own is sin in the sight of God.

2.       What gives a martyr joy and keeps him from losing heart and forsaking Christ.

A.  The power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in the martyr

  1. The Holy Spirit works in the martyr through the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).  1.      This is why Christians are not ashamed of the Gospel2.      The human voice that proclaims that God became a man

    3.      And instead of taking vengeance and showing power allowed the wicked to kill Him, while He continued to love them and seek their good.

    4.      The sinful mind considers it shameful to love those who abuse us, but the mind controlled by the Holy Spirit finds joy and glory in loving enemies; because this is what it means to know Jesus Christ. We know Him by faith in the Gospel.  We participate in the power of His resurrection by the Holy Spirit, and we have communion in His suffering as by faith we live in Him.

B.  The risen Lord lives in the Christian witness, and enables him/us to bear witness to the One who was crucified for sinners by participating in His suffering and becoming like Him in His death.

         1.  Christ suffered because He came to live among sinners, loved them and dwelled with them.

         2.  But He was not content to live among them and let them stay in their sins.  He loved them and sought their salvation, calling to repentance, and promising forgiveness.

         3.  People say, “Preaching to sinners that Jesus died for them–being witnesses to Christ among the ungodly–is more likely to get you killed than to get them salvation.” 

                                 a.  That is true. 

                                  b.  Jesus doesn’t suggest that following Him may be hazardous.  He says that      everyone who follows Him is going to crucifixion. 

                                  c.  Whether a death like his means literal death or physical suffering or the metaphorical death of no longer living as though we are free to live life for ourselves, in every case a true Christian bears witness to Jesus by sharing in His death.  Without that there is no Christianity.

C.   The martyr has joy under the cross because he believes that suffering and death with Jesus is the way to the prize of resurrection with Jesus.

          1.  We know Christ and participate in His life.

           2.  We live life together with Jesus under the cross, looking to inherit glory together with Jesus.

          3.  We have intimacy/communion with Jesus, so we don’t lose heart.  We have this intimacy because we share in the power of His resurrection by faith, and as we continue in faith we begin to embrace not only Jesus suffering on the cross that takes away our sins but also the crosses that kill the false hopes of the old Adam.  As we participate in the sufferings of Jesus we rejoice that we know Him and that we will certainly be united with Him in His resurrection  (Rom. 6)

D. The martyr is not afraid because what he is striving to gain—death, resurrection, exaltation with Christ—he already has.

  1.                     Our flesh says, “What do you mean?  I haven’t died.  My sinful nature hasn’t died.”
  2.                       God says that it died with Christ; “he was pierced for our transgressions…”
  3.                      God says you died and rose with Christ in Baptism.
  4.                       Baptism works forgiveness of sins….
  5.                        You don’t have to understand it, but take Christ at His Word.

E.  He keeps Christ before his eyes.

  1.    It is finished
  2. Forgetting what is behind, eagerly running for the prize ahead.
  3.  Even if I fall a thousand times, He has done it.  He has promised.

Here we have a firm foundation, here the refuge for the lost…

 Christ the rock of our salvation is the name in which we boast.

Lamb of God for sinners wounded, sacrifice to cancel guilt,

None shall ever be confounded who on Him their hope have built.


Kill your conscience, Kill your reason

Once a man has killed his conscience in even a single point, natural reason brings forth nothing but error.

This is an  article about contraception from a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod theological journal published in 1917.  It’s interesting to see the certainty that the Missouri Synod possessed about contraception, even though now we “don’t have an official position.”  I guess at that time, less than 100 years ago, all Christian Churches had an “official position” on contraception, whether they were Baptist or Episcopal or Lutheran, or Roman or Eastern.  The position was, “it’s a sin.”

The quote above is also instructive.  Why do we consistently fail to convince anyone that Christian opposition to homosexual “marriage” is something other than bigotry?  Over time it’s easy to start to recognize that nature puts sexuality, conception, and marriage/fidelity together.  But try to explain this very simple moral point in a college setting, and you’ll be blacklisted, laughed out of the room, ostracized.  Why are otherwise very intelligent people so unable to follow a very simple train of thought with regard to moral issues?  Because once you’ve martyred your conscience in regard to one thing, you lose the ability to reason.  I suppose this is connected to Paul’s argument, that God gave people over to a “reprobate mind” that is no longer able to perceive basic things like, “An image made to look like a snake or a dragon” can’t be the true God. 

It explains very well why otherwise intelligent people show themselves so incapable of making correct judgments about facts like the one above.  Natural reason tells you that the true God can’t be a reptile or a bird, since He is omnipotent and eternal.  But once we reject the light of simple moral truths which even the pagans understand, we get to where we are unable to reason morally.  That’ s where we are now. 

Lehre und Wehre (1917), p. 138

More dangerous still than the shameless “birth control” movement is the slogan preached for years in so many American newspapers: “Fewer children and better ones.”  The Congregationalist Advance shows in a recent lead article the deception on which this hypocritical proposition of the eugenicists is based.

 “The families where there are fewer children have on them the burden of proof.  Are there better children in those homes where there are fewer?  The contrary is the experience of many homes.  The one child is a petted and spoiled child.  The men and women who make their mark in the world have largely come out of large families.  The reasons are partly apparent.  The child who has grown up in a large family has already met a considerable number of life’s social problems and adjusted himself to them.  In the large family there must be give and take.  There must be adjustment and division and compromise.  There must be the constant measuring of one’s own desire against another’s right.  A child so reared has met the world, and settled some of its essential problems before he leaves the home.”

Not only is restricting the number of children according to the principle “fewer children, but better” immoral and godless; it is untenable even when judged according to reason alone.  How unreasonably the case is made in favor of child-impoverished families is evident from a statement in the Brooklyn Union Standard  from 1908, which recently came into our hands again.  It was argued at the time that, since the era of protracted warfare is behind us, homeland defense is no longer a contemporary problem.  For that reason we can safely limit the number of children!  We let the words follow:

“It is now recognized in this day of universal education that it is better to raise three children, so their minds shall be reasonably equipped for the battle of life, and their bodies strong, so as to withstand the hardships of adversity, than to bring five children to the age of maturity in a condition which foretells their filling the ranks of the lower strata of society.  With frequent and protracted wars a thing of the past, with the questions of national defense less pressing than ever before, with the conquering of plagues, which in other centuries claimed their thousands yearly, the common welfare does not demand families with eight or ten children, particularly if their parents are poor.”

 Is it necessary to repeat more of this today?  [At the time this was written the US had recently entered the first world war, by far the most bloody conflict the world had ever seen up until that point.]   Even the first sentence with its reference to the sinking down of children into the lower strata of society when their number in the family rises above five is complete nonsense and goes against daily experience. 

 Once a man has killed his conscience in even a single point, natural reason brings forth nothing but error.  G.

Prayer on the Fifth Sunday in Lent–Evangelical Lutheran Prayer-Treasury

March 21, 2012 1 comment

English: Jesus Christ - detail from Deesis mos...

Prayer on the Fifth Sunday in Lent:

O Lord God, Heavenly Father! Your beloved Son, our Redeemer, Christ Jesus, said, “Whoever keeps My Word will not see eternal death.” We beseech You: since You come to us in Your Son’s Word, and have allowed us to hear it, grant us also Your Holy Spirit in our hearts, so that we may also keep it, depend on it with our whole hearts, and be consoled by it in the midst of dying, so that in eternity we may not see death, according to the will of Your beloved Son, our Redeemer. Amen.

Your sins are taken away from you by Christ and destroyed forever.


In the third place: That this may be done in us, God, our dear Lord, sends diseases, even death unto us, not as if He were angry with us and meant to destroy us, but out of His great mercies, because He desires to lead us to true repentance and faith in this life, and finally to deliver us from sin that still besets us, and from all evil, both bodily and spiritual; as the Holy Scriptures testify.  For thus St. Paul says 1 Cor. 11: When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. …

In the fourth place: Since this is a truth, and since you have been most certainly assured out of the Holy Gospel, preached to you through the mouth of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and verified by His death and resurrection, that all your sins have been put away from you upon Christ, yea, also from Christ are taken away, every one of them, and destroyed forever; And since thus in the sight of God there is no more ground left for wrath and condemnation, but only grace, comfort, life, and salvation for the believers; and since then God our dear Lord now looks upon you not as a wicked, condemned sinner, born of Adam, but as upon a perfectly just, holy, dear child in Christ, in whose righteousness and life you, in believing it, shall live and be saved eternally, as certainly and truly as He has borne the wrath of God, and has not died in His own sins, but in yours: Do then give heed and receive comfort in such grace, and be assured that sin, God’s judgment, death, and hell have no longer anything to do with you; but Christ, the only Lamb of God, bears them, who has not only taken them upon Himself, but also  overcome them by Himself and destroyed them forever.  Through and in this your Lord Jesus Christ, therefore, you shall confidently expect of God the Father, every grace and comfort, redemption and salvation, and in this comforting confidence you shall give yourself to His gracious will and say: The Lord is my light, whom shall I fear?  My Father in heaven, thy will be done.  Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.  Amen.


The long forgotten translator is this guy–August Crull.  Now we see at least one precedent for Pres. Harrison’s giantic mustache within confessional Lutheranism:

A proof text of biblical errancy for feminists

“Several studies show that more than 89 percent of women who learn they will give birth to a child with Down syndrome choose to terminate their pregnancies.”

Isaiah 49:14-15
14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me;

my Lord has forgotten me.”

15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child,

that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? ”

Well, that depends. Does the baby have down’s syndrome? Is the woman an American?

Notice how feminists never trot this verse out as a proof of the Bible’s errancy. The obvious answer to Isaiah’s question is, in the United States, in 90 percent of down’s syndrome pregnancies, a resounding YES.  Can a woman forget her child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?  Like so many debates in our society, everything hinges on the way one defines the word “compassion.”

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.

Oh wait, I guess God did foresee the United States in 2012.  Never mind.

No sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir…

You are the ultimate scourges of the world, the Antichrist together with your sophists and bishops.

From Against Latomus, pg. 147 of Luther’s Works, Vol. 32

We leave you to your own devices, for nothing properly suits you except hypocrisy, flattery, and lies.

From Against Latomus, pg. 143 of Luther’s Works, Vol. 32

It is the old dragon from the abyss of hell who is standing before me!

(oops deleted reference)

You rush forward as an ass under the pelt of a lion.

From Against Latomus, pg. 159 of Luther’s Works, Vol. 32

You are admirable, fine, pious sows and asses.

From On the Councils and the Church, pg. 54 of Luther’s Works, Vol. 41

rom Defense and Explanation of All the Articles, pg. 66 of Luther’s Works, Vol. 32


Categories: Ezekiel's Forehead, Luther Tags: ,

Fragments of Sermon, Wednesday after Reminiscere (2012)

Wednesday after Reminiscere

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Philippians 3:17-4:1

March 7, 2012

Martyria: Our Great High Priest’s Mission

“Witnesses and Enemies of the Cross within the Church”

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

  1. Introduction
  2. True Christian walk
  3. False Christian walk
  4. Self-examination

2.  “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us,” Paul writes (Philippians 3:17).  That is a bold thing for St. Paul to say, isn’t it?  “Imitate me, and follow the examples of those who follow my example.”

What does this tell us?  It tells us that it is possible to walk as a Christian.  It tells us that it is possible to know that one walks as a Christian ought to walk.  It tells us that the life of a Christian ought to bear witness to Jesus Christ without the Christian saying a word.

One time I debated at length with a Lutheran layman about why Lutherans appear to be unsuccessful at evangelism and how that could be remedied.  The man insisted, “If we aren’t willing to change the way we do church, we simply don’t care about whether unbelievers hear the Gospel.  It is necessary for us to have the type of music people can relate to to draw them to hear the Gospel.  The Sunday worship service has to attract people so they can hear the Gospel and be saved.”

Really?  Is there an example—even one example—of the Bible saying that what should attract unbelievers to hear God’s Word is the attractiveness of the worship service?

There isn’t.  If someone can find a single example of that in Scripture, I would like to see it.  You will see the attractions of pagan styles of worship seducing God’s people into idolatry and God’s wrath.  But what the New Testament repeatedly emphasizes is that the Christian’s life is the most powerful witness to Christ; that is because Christ lives in Christians.  And just as He loved His enemies and faithfully bore witness to the truth, even when He suffered, so Christ continues to do in His Christians.  He bears witness in us as we, following our master, serve rather than demanding to be served—as we give up our rights as God’s heirs and make ourselves least, slaves of one another in the Church, servants of those who do not believe.  For instance: St. Peter writes: Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do not obey the word, may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, when they see your reverent and chaste behavior.  (3:1-2)  And Jesus said, “If I, then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.  Truly, truly I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”  (St. John 13:14-16)  Jesus is saying, “Am I your Lord?  Not your servant, but your master and teacher?  If so, then you are to follow my example and wash each other’s feet—that is, humble yourselves and serve one another.”

This is what Paul is talking about when he says, “Follow my example.”  In Philippians Paul has just gotten through talking about how he has gotten rid of all the things in his flesh that he trusted in before.  In Judaism, Paul had every reason for confidence.  He was born of the right tribe, he was circumcised correctly, and he was strict about observing traditions and commandments that were practiced by the Pharisees.

But now, says Paul, I count all of that to be dung.  Anything in me that I could brag about I have thrown away, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.

If we have anything in us in which to be confident or boast, then we can relax and be secure.  And this is what human beings want in the flesh.  We want to be able to take it easy, enjoy life.  And if anything goes wrong, we want to believe that either it’s someone else’s fault, or else we just need to make some minor adjustments in the way we’ve been doing things.

But Paul lost all that confidence when he became a Christian.  There he was, righteously pursuing the Christians to silence their heresies, trying with all of his zeal to please God.  And in the middle of this, Jesus appeared, blinding him.  Jesus said, “All of your righteousness amounts to this, Paul—you are persecuting the Son of God.  You are trying to crucify me again by attacking my Church.”

So it is with a true Christian life.  Everything we have in the flesh amounts to excrement.  The Law reveals to us that unless we change we will be damned with all our righteousness.  So in terror we flee from our sins and wish to live in them no more.  Jesus says, “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.”  And then with that same terror of sin, but also with increasing faith and love toward Christ, we follow Him in the way of the cross, which is the way in which we lose all the things that the flesh loves—honor, pride, self-confidence.

Paul was willing to endure beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, mockery, opposition from false Christians.  Why?  Because his eyes were fixed on Christ’s promise.  Those who share my sufferings will also share in my glory.  Because Paul’s eyes were fixed on the inheritance Christ won for him and for us by His death and resurrection, he did not look at things like the world does.  He looked at Christ raised from the dead, seated at the right hand of the Father, coming in glory on the last day, and saw that Jesus in His glory is the same Jesus who suffered and was cast out and hated.

That is the Jesus with whom we were crucified and buried in Baptism, and also resurrected to live a new life.  So to follow Christ, to follow St. Paul’s example, is this—moment by moment we forget all that is behind us and we go forth to live a new life in Christ, pressing forward to take hold of the glory that has been promised us.

We live not to get rich or to have an easy life; we live to have Jesus.  That means we live fearing the sin that lives in us.  It cost Jesus His blood and the wrath of God; it cost Jesus the shame of the cross, the spit, the slaps, the betrayal of Judas.  And we want to willingly live in it?  It can’t be.  Christians daily run away from all sin and do not willingly live in it.  If there is some part of your life that you know is displeasing to God and you are hanging on to it, repent!  Deny yourself, take up the cross.

To have Jesus means to follow Him.  This does not mean we are not forgiven when we fall.  It means that we do not consciously rebel against Him.  And when we see our sins and weaknesses we run to Him for forgiveness and deliverance.  That is why Luther still went to confession and humbled himself till he died.  That is what ought to drive us to the Sacrament of Jesus’ body and blood—that we desire His help to forgive our sins, to enable us to overcome them, to keep us safe against Satan who seeks to destroy us.

We follow Christ, finally, by serving and loving our neighbor just as Christ served us.  Is a master greater than his servant?  Of course.  And yet our master scrubbed the feet of His disciples.  He became the sin offering, the scapegoat, the castaway, for His creatures.  He bore the wrath of God and the shame of the cross for us.  So we cannot willfully refuse to serve our neighbor.

But neither did Paul allow his failings in following Christ to make him despair.  “Forgetting what is behind, I press on…”  The Christian life means this—we do not try to atone for our own sins.  If I fall into sin, I repent.  I climb back into the boat of Baptism, and get busy following after Christ, trusting in the blood that He shed for me.


Wednesday after Reminiscere

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Philippians 3:17-4:1

March 7, 2012

Martyria: Our Great High Priest’s Mission

“Witnesses and Enemies of the Cross within the Church”

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

  1.  Jesus, our great High Priest, is also a martyr, or a witness, to the world.  He bears witness that

the Father is reconciled to the world through Jesus’ suffering, and that He no longer counts our sins against us.  He bears witness to the truthfulness of God against the lies of the devil; the devil claims that the way to peace and joy is through sin, through accepting Satan’s reign.  Satan’s domination of human beings makes us slaves to sin; either we openly live in sin, consciously and willfully breaking God’s law, or we become self-righteous and arrogant, believing that our efforts to contain our sinful nature make us righteous in God’s sight.  In both cases the devil deceives and controls people.  But by His death and resurrection Jesus bears witness that God forgives sin and at the same time makes us free from slavery and bondage to sin and the devil.

Jesus bore witness in His earthly ministry—He bore witness to the utter sinfulness of human beings, our lack of excuses, and God’s certain judgment.  He also bore witness to God’s righteousness—that is, the righteousness that God counts or reckons to the ungodly and to sinners.

[Before His arrest in Gethsemane Jesus warned His disciples: If you were of the world, the world would love [you as] its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you…If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin…But when the Comforter comes…the Spirit of truth…He will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.  (John 15:19, 22, 26-27)  Jesus bore witness to God’s unrelenting judgment and to His righteousness.  He is the righteousness of God, the only Savior.  Why was He hated then?  Because those who receive Him and believe in Him belong to Him and follow Him; they become witnesses together with Him.  And this means that they walk after Him, in His way—and this means that Jesus’ true disciples also bear the cross.  They suffer and they are hated by the world just as Jesus was hated by the world.]

[When Jesus speaks to the 7 churches in the Book of Revelation, the last church He addresses is one that is apostate or nearly so.  It is lukewarm, and the people in it say, “I am rich; I have everything I need.”  Jesus says to them, “I am about to spit you out of my mouth; you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”  And at the beginning of the letter to this church, Jesus is called “the faithful witness.” (Revelation 3:14)]

Jesus’ witness to the world concerns God’s judgment and His righteousness.  Having ascended to the Father’s right hand, He now bears witness through His royal priesthood, the Church—through her preaching and the testimony of her members, but also through her life.  Christians may not bear witness to Jesus only in words, but also in deeds—by a life that is not focused on earthly comfort but on the promised inheritance in heaven.  By a life that is lived carefully with a desire to glorify God and adorn the Gospel, so that people in the world glorify God for the good deeds of Jesus’ witnesses.  If you are a Christian, you must follow Jesus; faith in Jesus that does not daily run away from the desires of the flesh to follow Jesus in the way of the cross is not saving faith; it is faith without repentance.

The church, as we see it in the world, is mixed.  It has believers and unbelievers, true Christians and hypocrites, and not all of the hypocrites are evident by an openly unrepentant life.  Only God can see who has true faith in Christ and who doesn’t.  But in the passion reading we see how the disciples that Jesus called have become “enemies of the cross” or at the very least are drifting from the cross and therefore from Jesus.  And Paul warns the Philippians that there are many who bear the name Christian who are “enemies of the cross”, whose lives do not bear witness to Christ, but rather to the idolatry by which they worship the pleasures of this world.  So Paul exhorts the Philippians to follow his example—and also us.

May God help us meditate with repentance on 1. the walk of a witness of Christ and 2. the walk of enemies of the cross, and may He grant us neither to be hard-hearted and self-righteous, nor to despair, but daily to take up our cross, to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and find comfort in His obedience when our weakness and sin overwhelms us.

True Christian walk: Jesus, Paul

Paul; not confident in the flesh.

The flesh would give him reason to take his ease: he was a good Jew.

But now all of that is garbage:

Not a righteousness of his own, coming from the Law, but that which is by faith in Jesus Christ; the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, sharing His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death—that I may obtain the resurrection of the dead.

I have not already attained this, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me.

Paul’s focus is on eternal life, and so he has no relaxation in His flesh but lives each moment by faith in Jesus.  And he forgets what is behind and presses on toward that which is ahead. (Good and bad that is behind is forgotten)

(This is what leads us to confession and the sacrament of the altar—how often we see that we do not want to leave the comforts of the flesh.)

The pantocrator will raise up our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to bring all things into submission to Himself.

Stand fast in the Lord.

Enemies of the Cross.

By contrast—their end is destruction (not resurrection and glorification),

Their god is their stomach (not Jesus Christ),

Their glory is in their shame (instead of the cross)

Their mind is on earthly things.

They do not act like their citizenship is in heaven.

Works righteousness, pursuit of mammon…it’s all the same thing.

Hatred of the cross; hatred of suffering.

Peter—he left everything, but then expected a reward and glory on earth, and fell, could not suffer.  He also trusted in his own strength.

Judas—he was among the disciples, but betrayed Jesus because he trusted/loved money.  Under the cloak of piety.

Paul weeps over this, because our lives either bear witness or deny the witness of Christ and the cross.



Where is there enmity against the cross in me?

How have I trusted in my own righteousness?

How have I tried to walk an easy path with no cross?

How has this led me to deny Christ?

Examples to follow:


Paul (repentance)—he had a lot to be sorry of, and a lot to lose by becoming a Christian.

Peter (repentance)—how could he be forgiven after a denial of Christ at the cross?  Clearly it was impossible for him to live as a Christian.

So it is with us.


God’s Word

Daily repentance—daily running away from the world to pick up cross.

Unwillingness to Suffer

March 7, 2012 1 comment

jesus man of sorrows durerHad he only suffered, Jesus might still have been applauded as the Messiah.  All the sympathy and admiration of the world might have been focused on his passion.  It could have been viewed as a tragedy with its own intrinsic value, dignity and honour.  But in the passion Jesus is a rejected Messiah.  His rejection robs the passion of its halo of glory.  It must be a passion without honour.  Suffering and rejection sum up the whole cross of Jesus.  To die on the cross means to die despised and rejected of men.  Suffering and rejection are laid upon Jesus as a divine necessity, and every attempt to prevent it is the work of the devil, especially when it comes from his own disciples; for it is in fact an attempt to prevent Christ from being Christ.  It is Peter, the Rock of the church, who commits that sin, immediately after he has confessed Jesus as the Messiah and has been appointed to the primacy.  That shows how the very notion of a suffering Messiah was a scandal to the Church, even in its earliest days.  That is not the kind of Lord it wants, and as the Church of Christ it does not like to have the law of suffering imposed upon it by its Lord.  Peter’s protest displays his own unwillingness to suffer, and that means that Satan has gained entry into the church, and is trying to tear it away from the cross of its Lord.

Jesus must therefore make it clear beyond all doubt that the “must” of suffering applies to his disciples no less than to himself.  Just as Christ is Christ only in virtue of his suffering and rejection, so the disciple is a disciple only in so far as he shares his Lord’s suffering and rejection and crucifixion.  Discipleship means adherence to the person of Jesus, and therefore submission to the law of Christ which is the law of the cross.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, rev. ed., Macmillan: NY, p. 96.



God is the Foe of Unafraid Spirits

March 7, 2012 3 comments

Why should [Jesus] die if there were no sin or law for which he must die?  It is apparent from this that the devil’s purpose in this fanaticism is not to remove the law but to remove Christ, the fulfiller of the law.

For he is well aware that Christ can quickly and readily be removed, but that the law is written in the depth of the heart and cannot be erased.  This is clearly seen in the psalms of lamentation.  For here the dear saints are unable to bear the wrath of God.  This is nothing but the law’s perceptible preaching in man’s conscience.  The devil knows very well too that it is impossible to remove the law from the heart.  In Romans 2 St. Paul testifies that the Gentiles who did not receive the law from Moses and thus have no law are nevertheless a law to themselves, being obliged to witness what the law requires is written in their hearts, etc.  But the devil devotes himself to making men secure, teaching them to heed neither law nor sin, so that if sometime they are suddenly overtaken by death or a bad conscience, they have grown so accustomed to nothing but sweet security that they sink helplessly into hell.  For they have learned to perceive nothing in Christ but sweet security.  Therefore such terror must be a sure sign that Christ (whom they understand as sheer sweetness) has rejected and forsaken them.  That is what the devil strives for, and what he would like to see.


It seems to me that these spirits think that all who are listening to the message are pure Christians, without sin—thou in reality they are dejected and downcast hearts who feel their sin and fear God and who therefore must be comforted.  To such, the dear Jesus can never be portrayed sweetly enough.  They need much more of this, as I discovered in many of them0—to say nothing of myself.  But these spirits themselves are not such Christians, for they are so secure and confident.  Neither are their listeners, who also are secure and happy.  In one passage a find, beautiful young woman, a splendid singer, sings thus: “He feeds the hungry so that they rejoice, and sends the rich empty away.  He humbles the mighty and exalts the lowly, and his grace is with those who fear him” [Luke 1:50-53].  If the Magnificat speaks the truth, then God must be the foe of the secure spirits who are unafraid, as such spirits who do away with law and sin are sure to be.


Therefore I ask you, dear Doctor, to keep to the pure doctrine as you have always done.  Preach that sinners must be roused to repentance not only by the sweet grace and suffering of Christ, by the message that he died for us, but also by the terrors of the law.

Luther, “Against the Antinomians”

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