Let us, therefore, bless all the faithful champions who have fought for every point of Christian doctrine, unconcerned about the favor of men and disregarding their threatenings. Their ignominy, though it often was great, has not been borne in vain. Men cursed them, but they continued bearing their testimony until death, and now they wear the crown of glory and enjoy the blissful communion of Christ and of all the angels and the elect. Their labor and their fierce battling has not been in vain; for even now…the Church is reaping what they sowed.
Let us, then, my friends, likewise hold fast the treasure of the pure doctrine. Do not consider it strange if on that account you must bear reproach the same as they did. Consider that the word of Sirach, chap. 4, 33: “Even unto death fight for justice, and God will overthrow thy enemies for thee,” will come true in our case too. Let this be your slogan: Fight unto death in behalf of the truth, and the Lord will fight for you!—
We now take up a thesis for study which tells us that, since the two doctrines of Scripture, Law and Gospel, are so different from each other, we must keep them distinct also in our preaching.
Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguishes from each other the Law and the Gospel.
This thesis divides into two parts. The first part states a requisite of an orthodox teacher, viz., that he must present all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture. This, in our day, is regarded as an unheard-of demand. Even in circles of so-called believers, people act as if they were shocked when they hear some one say: “I have found the truth; I am certain concerning every doctrine of revelation.” Such a claim is considered a piece of arrogance…
Scripture requires that we have the Word of God absolutely pure and unadulterated and that we be able to say when coming down from the pulpit: “I could take an oath upon it that I have rightly preached the Word of God. Even to an angel coming down from heaven I could say: My preaching has been correct.” That explains the paradox [sic] remark of Luther that a preacher must not pray the Lord’s Prayer when coming down from the pulpit, but that he should do so before the sermon. For an orthodox preacher need not pray after delivering his sermon: “Forgive me my trespasses,” since he can say: “I have proclaimed the pure truth.” In our day, men have become merged in skepticism to such an extent that they regard any one who sets up the aforementioned claim as a semilunatic.
The Word of God tells us in a passage where the Lord is introduced as speaking, Jer. 23, 28: He that hath My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? Saith the Lord. Our sermons, then, are to contain only wheat and no chaff.
The Apostle Paul warns the Galatians, chap. 5, 9: A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. He means to say: A single false teaching vitiates the entire doctrine.
The warning with which John concludes the last book of the Bible is sounded as far back as in the days of Moses, who says, Deut. 4, 2: Ye shall not add unto the Word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it.
It is, then, a diabolical teaching to say: “you will never achieve the ability to give a Scriptural presentation of the articles of faith.” Especially when students hear a statement like this, it is as if some hellish poison were injected into their hearts; for after that they will no longer show any zeal to get to the bottom of the truth, to have clear conceptions of the truth.
C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, pp. 29-31.
“The Power of Darkness and the Finger of God”
Let each his lesson learn with care,
And all the household well shall fare.
Toward the end of Luther’s Small Catechism is a section that doesn’t get much attention—the “Table of Duties.” It is a list of verses from Scripture that show the holy stations to which God has assigned us, and how God wants us to live in those holy stations and callings as Christians. At the end of it comes that little rhyme: Let each his lesson learn with care, and all the household well shall fare.
If you don’t care whether you do good or evil to your neighbor or whether you please God, the table of duties isn’t going to help you very much. But for Christians, who want to do good to their neighbor and want to please God, the table of duties is very helpful and necessary. It tells you what work God has assigned you to and how He wants it done.
The basic unit of human relationships is the family, the household. From the household comes the government and the church. When the household doesn’t fare well, the church and the state won’t either. And the household can’t fare well unless its members do the tasks God has assigned to each station. Even if you are a Christian and want to please God and serve your family, things won’t work well if you don’t do what you’ve been called to do.
For instance: “To Parents.” “Ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath, but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Which means that parents aren’t supposed to drive their kids to distraction with over-strictness. But they are also not supposed to fail to discipline them at all. God wants parents to bring children up in the Lord’s nurture and admonition—to teach them God’s strict law and threats of punishment, but also His gracious promise of the forgiveness of sins through His Son.
Or “To children”. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor thy father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise: that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” Which means that children are supposed to honor their parents as God’s representatives, and obey them in whatever they say, trusting that God sent these parents to them to do them good.
The table of duties also tells us how we are to conduct ourselves in the state and the church. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and the praise of them that do well.”
“A bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre…holding fast the faithful Word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.”
“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”
But when these callings aren’t carried out as God ordained, the welfare of the household (or the church, or the state) suffers.
The Power of Darkness
Jesus tells us: “A kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a house against a house falls.” What applies to earthly households, earthly government, also applies to spiritual powers and authorities. The devil doesn’t fight with himself. He doesn’t allow his angels to divide their strength fighting each other. He doesn’t willingly give up the territory he controls.
What territory does the devil control?
The wealth and power and wisdom of the world.
Human souls, minds, bodies.
In Nomine Iesu
Sexagesima means “60”; we’re about 60 days from Easter. The church since ancient times has counted the days for Easter; waited eagerly for it. The readings for Sexagesima Sunday, kind of like last week’s readings, call us to prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord.
Of course it isn’t the celebration of Easter on April 20th, 2014 that is most important. It’s how—whether—we will be able to celebrate the Resurrection on the day when the trumpet sounds and we are raised. When we rise either to rejoice forever in Christ who was raised for us, or to weep and gnash our teeth for eternity and wish we had never been born.
The readings tell us what we need in order to be prepared for the resurrection. It’s one thing—not hard to remember. It’s the Word of God.
“The seed is the Word of God.” Jesus doesn’t talk about anything else. The kingdom of God is like a sower who goes out and casts seed around his field. Jesus has nothing to say about the sower and his skill at sowing. He only talks about the seed, which is the word of God. That seed doesn’t malfunction. It always grows and produces fruit. The only other thing Jesus mentions is the soil the seed falls on. The only time the seed doesn’t grow and produce fruit is when it doesn’t fall on good soil.
So there are only two questions for you and me to answer this morning. The first is, Am I hearing the Word of God? Am I receiving the seed?
The second is, What kind of hearing does God’s Word get from me? Am I like the path, or the rocky soil, or the soil with weeds, or am I good soil?
Not that those are easy questions!
But let’s begin with the first question. “Am I receiving the Word of God?” This is the question Paul was discussing with the Corinthians in the Epistle.
The church in Corinth had first received the Word of God from Paul when he came on his missionary journey through Greece. But since Paul had left the Corinthians had gotten some new teachers. Paul calls them the “super-apostles.” Many of the Corinthians had come to the conclusion that because these preachers were so much more impressive than Paul they must actually have the true word of God, or at least a more full word of God, than Paul brought them.
These preachers apparently boasted about their qualifications as preachers or apostles. They were apparently eloquent, powerful speakers. They boasted about their labor in Christ and the visions, revelations, and superior knowledge they had received from Christ.
The Corinthians thought that because these men were so impressive they could be sure that now they had the true word of God. So Paul is writing to the Corinthians saying—No, these men are not superior to me, and the message I brought to you is God’s Word.
I have the same qualifications as them. I am an Israelite, Abraham’s seed. And I am more a servant of Christ than they are. And I too have had visions from God.
But when it comes time to brag, as the super-apostles had done, Paul brags about strange things. He doesn’t brag about his visions, his knowledge, his successes in winning converts. He brags about his weaknesses, his infirmities.
I was given the 40 lashes minus one 5 times. Beaten with rods by the Romans 3 times. Stoned once.
I was caught up into heaven and saw and heard things that we are not allowed to say on earth. But that doesn’t prove I am an apostle. Instead I was given a thorn, a spike in the flesh, to buffet me (that is, beat me, hit me in the face). He calls it a “messenger” or “angel” of Satan. Does God allow his apostles to be tormented by the devil and made weak? Is that what you should expect from a real apostle or preacher?
And the Lord did not take it away because, “My grace is enough for you, because my power is made perfect in weakness.”
So Paul says, “I delight in infirmities” and in persecutions, distresses, being weak and hungry, being abused and treated scornfully, so that “the power of Christ may rest on me.”
The power of Christ, the grace of Christ. It is the Gospel. It comes to us in the Gospel. (Romans 1:16-17…I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God for salvation for all who believe.)
The Gospel of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our sins.
We despise the word because it appears weak and brings cross, weakness, infirmity to us.
Note the way Jesus describes the Gospel: “The seed is the Word of God.” An unimpressive delivery system.
The only question is, are we getting the Word of God? That is not proven by the greatness of the minister or the church.
That is why most of the types of soil Jesus describes do not receive the seed in a fruit-bearing, saving way. Human beings are not able to receive God’s Word apart from a miracle.
Fast bound in Satan’s chains I lay
Death brooded darkly o’er me
Sin was my torment night and day…
My own good works all came to naught, no grace or merit gaining.
Free will against God’s judgment fought…
My fears increased till sheer despair
Left only death to be my share
The pangs of hell I suffered.
Yet the Gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation to all who believe…it rests upon us even in our weakness and infirmity. Jesus says its “power is made perfect in weakness.”
But God had seen my wretched state
Before the world’s foundation,
And mindful of His mercies great
He planned for my salvation…
Though he will shed my precious blood
Me of my life bereaving,
All this I suffer for your good
Be steadfast and believing.
Life will from death the victry win
My innocence will bear your sin
And you are blessed forever.
So if you have the Word of God, then you hear it, and you go on hearing it, and you daily die to the rocks of pride and the weeds of lust…and you put on the new man. You come to Him who destroyed our old nature in His flesh and who has been raised and hide in Him.
The desire to be good soil is the Spirit’s work. The good soil are sinners who flee to Christ.
His power rests on us in our infirmity. Preachers and hearers. He bears good fruit in us who by nature can’t do anything good. It is a miracle. We die and he lives in us, but solely through the Gospel word that declares that He has already done it.
The peace of God…
For freedom Christ has made us free; therefore stand firm, and do not again submit to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.
These two theses seem to contradict each other…Both are Paul’s own statements, who says in 1 Cor. 9, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all,” and in Rom. 13, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.” Love by its very nature is ready to serve and be subject to him who is loved. So Christ, although he was Lord of all, was “born of woman, born under the law”, and therefore was at the same time a free man and a servant, “in the form of God” and “of a servant.” [Philippians 2:6-7]
Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian”
If you don’t believe in your values enough to say “no” when other people try to insist that you give them up, you will lose them. The only question should be whether your values are right.
It’s one thing to be sensitive and hospitable to Muslims who live as foreigners in your country. But when they reject the law of your country and begin to implement their god’s laws in defiance of you, to continue to show kindness is to give in to them, and to allow yourself to be enslaved by them.
The same thing is true for Christians. We should love and pray for the enemies of the church and also unbelievers, and make whatever concessions we can out of love for them. We should bear with weaker Christians in the Church out of compassion for them.
But when enemies of the church, unbelievers, or people in the church who seem to be weak say that we can’t preach or practice some part of the word of God because it is offensive and unloving, we can’t submit to them. To do that is to say that the Word of God can only speak as long as it does not violate human rules.
It’s a good thing, I think, that the Europeans wanted to welcome people from other countries and respect their traditions. But it’s not a good thing to confuse the lawful use of authority with oppression. It was a bad thing that the company sold meat labeled “Halal” even though it had traces of pork in it. But in Denmark people are not summarily beaten or executed for eating pork or for selling it or for lying about selling it.
In the Church we have a similar problem. In our society there are few things that will get people all riled up like it will rile observant Muslims if you mislead them to eat pork. But among the few things that are likely to cause that kind of upset is to be “hateful,” which has become a very broad kind of crime. It’s considered hateful, for the most part, to tell someone that they do or have done something that was not just “a bad choice” but actually evil–sin.
In the Church it is not hateful to tell someone they sinned. We are commanded to do that, but to do it in love for the other person. So if we let it stand that a person in the church is doing wrong when they rebuke another person we end up allowing it to happen that God’s Word is not allowed to be heard in the Church. At least in some areas.
So as Christians we must be ready to sacrifice our own comfort for the sake of weaker Christians, the enemies of the Church, and the world outside. We have to give up legitimate things that cause unnecessary offense, and we should spare ourselves no trouble to do so out of love.
We spare ourselves no trouble, but we also cannot permit the Word of God to be bound or limited, even if people accuse us of being proud, arrogant, loveless, etc. That is because it is not our Word. It is God’s. To take anything away from it is to agree that it is not God’s Word; and to allow it to be silenced at all in the Church is to allow it to be taken away from us.
Since the Word of God is the only power on earth by which God gives us salvation and protects His Church, we can’t allow it to be silenced in any part or forced to follow the rules of human propriety or “political correctness”. If we do that we trade in the righteousness of God, which God counts as ours through faith in the message of the cross, for the righteousness of the godless world, which consists in telling everybody that as long as it works for them, that’s good, no matter what they feel like doing.
- God’s Word Does Everything – Trinity 7 Sermon (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Many are offended because of these things. (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
- Two men assaulted for selling pork to kebab shops (testpost.typepad.com)
- No Infidels Allowed: Turkish Red Crescent To Make ‘Halal’ Drugs With Muslim-Only Blood (midnightwatcher.wordpress.com)
- Iraq: Muslim Ambulance Driver Refuses To Take Dead Body Of Christian Woman To Church For Funeral (midnightwatcher.wordpress.com)
- Christian Suffering Under Jihadi Extremism Muslim Persecution of Christians: April, 2013 (counterjihadreport.com)
54. Prayer before the sermon. Evangelische Lutherischer Gebets-Schatz. Concordia: St. Louis, 1881. (p. 44)
Dear God, through Your beloved Son You have said that those who hear Your Word are blessed. How much more fitting it would be for us to bless You, praise, thank and laud You unceasingly, O eternal and merciful Father, with glad hearts, that You show Yourself so friendly—indeed, so like a father—to us poor little worms, that You speak to us about the greatest and highest of subjects—eternal life. Nevertheless, You don’t stop there, enticing and wooing us to hear Your Word through Your Son. He says: “Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.” As if You couldn’t get by without our ears—we, who are dust and ashes! Many thousand times more do we need Your Word. O, how unspeakably great is Your goodness and patience! On the other hand, woe! Woe! over the ingratitude and colorblindness of those who not only don’t want to hear Your Word, but even stubbornly despise, persecute, and blaspheme it. Amen. Martin Luther (1483-1546)
- Looks like Luther got one thing right after all, I mean, besides the beer (unsettledchristianity.com)
- Can Christians Talk To Dead Loved Ones? Pray for them? (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 11:14-28
March 3, 2013
“Satan has lost everything.”
In the Name of Jesus.
God is gracious and kind even with those who are hardened against Him. He gave Pharaoh a long time to repent and sent Moses to him again and again to warn him, even though Pharaoh went back on his word and was arrogant toward the message Moses brought him from the Lord.
But when someone hardens their heart against God’s word, nothing helps them. They just become worse. The more God seeks to turn them back, the more they hate Him. And they become insane in their rage against God.
Pharaoh’s sorcerers had copied the plagues God sent on Israel, but with the plague of gnats they could no longer copy them. The power of the devil ran out, but God’s power was not even warmed up. So the sorcerers told Pharaoh: “Look, we can’t stand up against this. This is not witchcraft. This is the very finger of God.”
Yet Pharaoh, like a madman, kept fighting God when even Pharaoh’s sorcerers knew they were outmatched.
Jesus’ opponents in the Gospel are just the same. They begin to say crazy things. Jesus casts a demon out of a man. It is clearly a work of God; motivated by compassion, full of power that does not reside in human beings. But while the crowds are amazed, some in the crowds say, “He is casting out demons in the power of Beelzebub.” Beelzebub is the name the Jews used for the devil. It is a contemptuous name; it means “Lord of the flies” or “Fly-King.” The name is supposed to mean that the devil is weak compared to God, which is true; but he is still very strong compared to us.
This criticism of Jesus really makes no sense. Even in earthly households and kingdoms we can see it. Houses in which the husband and the wife are against each other instead of united don’t stand. Neither do nations last long when they are constantly fighting each other. It’s no different in the devil’s kingdom. If each demon were allowed to go around throwing out other demons, things would fall apart. Just like the US government doesn’t allow each state to set up its own president, or to opt out of amendments to the constitution that they don’t like, the devil doesn’t allow his kingdom to fight itself.
The critics of Jesus are saying things that are obviously false. But that’s how it is when someone hardens their hearts against Jesus. They say and do things that obviously make no sense or contradict Scripture, and no human persuasion will change their minds. When we harden our hearts against Christ’s Word, the danger is that the time will come when the Holy Spirit no longer pleads with us but lets us have our way.
This is the way it is in the world with Christ’s word, even now. It is blamed for divisions, for problems, for lovelessness. It is called the devil’s word. Why? Because Satan rages at the Word. And so do those who are in his kingdom.
Why are Satan and his followers so threatened by Christ’s Word? Because it attacks the lies of the devil. And those who have put their trust in lies have their false gods attacked by Christ’s word.
Jesus explains it: if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God is upon you. That is a threat to Satan.
Words don’t look like much to us. We’re impressed by power, etc. The devil’s kingdom is one of appearances.
Why is Jesus such a threat to his opponents, and above all to the demons? All He does is preach and teach. All He has is words, and some signs that do not advance a political regime, but simply heal, exorcise, etc.
Jesus’ words are a big threat because His Word is the finger of God.
His Word is spirit and life.
His Word goes into nothingness and creates.
It enters the darkness and brings light, banishing the darkness.
Jesus’ word binds up the tyrant, the devil, who keeps us in spiritual bondage.
It enters Satan’s domain that he has usurped and dethrones him. The devil who brings disorder, chaos, who smears what is true with the filth of lies is dethroned by Christ’s Word—because it is the truth.
It isn’t lies and mirages. It sets things in order and brings life.
This is the shorter version, something like what I actually preached. It was about 25 minutes. I’m going to post the first draft because even I can’t believe how long it was.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 8:4-15
February 3, 2013
“The seed bears fruit according to its kind”
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our kids get their DNA from their mom and dad, so they are different from their parents. But not that different. Look at pictures of your great-grandparents and great-great grandparents and see. Seeds produce fruit according to their kinds. A pine cone never grows into a lemon tree. And human beings conceived in the womb always grow up to be the kind of seed they are—Adam and Eve seed. What we are when we’re full grown is the same as what we were at conception; fallen man. A creature that once had the glorious image of God but exchanged it for shame and a curse, for death and God’s anger.
The world we live in is full of quiet witnesses to the wisdom, power, and goodness of God. He is able to concentrate abundant life into the tiniest of containers, as He does with seeds. And He does it all the time. But the world doesn’t tell us that God who is able to make life will restore life to humankind. It tells us that each new human seed that grows up in the world dies just like the one before it. How could it be different? An unclean seed can only produce seeds like itself. The first man’s nature was hostile to God when he took the fruit God commanded must not be eaten. That was the only kind of life Adam could pass on—life that begins in rebellion against God and ends in death.
The Bible tells how as soon as the first man and woman confessed their sin, God promised that the seed of a woman would come and destroy the one who holds the power of death—the liar, the ancient serpent. God would plant His Son into the midst of the human race, and He would bring forth offspring in His image—seed not hostile to God, but well-pleasing, sharing His life.
Jesus is that seed. He is true man and true God. He is a new man, not corrupt from birth like Adam and his seed. He is innocent and not under judgment.
He comes to bring forth other sons of God. And to do this, He sows the seed of His Word. Jesus sows His life giving, fruitful seed among us—the Word of His death and resurrection. The seed produces fruit according to its kind. Just as a tree brings forth other trees like itself through its seed, Jesus brings forth other sons of God like Himself through the seed of His Word.
- How the seed works
If you lived two thousand years ago and wanted to grow wheat, you had to sow. This was not a scientific process. You just threw handfuls of seed around your field as you walked through it. Then some would land in the dirt and start growing.
Jesus’ Word works the same way. The Word is the Word of Christ—it is the Word that tells about Jesus. More than that, Jesus Himself is in the Word, like the future plant is “in” the seed.
Where Jesus’ word is received in faith, the seed of Christ’s Word is growing. Wherever it is growing, Christ’s kingdom is present. The person who believes in Jesus is a son of God in the image of Jesus, a co-worker and co-ruler with Jesus.
- Fruit—Christ does His work in us
Usually when a sower goes out to sow seeds in a field, he doesn’t want these plants to just produce a stalk and leaves. He wants fruit—tomatoes, or cucumbers, or corn, or grain.
Jesus is the same when He scatters His seed. He’s not satisfied just to have the Word fall on your ears, or even to have it take root in your heart and begin to grow. He wants it to come to maturity, to completion. He wants it to bear fruit.
i. Fruits of the Spirit
The seed of His Word begins to grow when it is heard and believed. “You are justified by Christ alone,” the Gospel says, and immediately in the one who hears and believes new life begins. It is the new life that is in the seed—the new creature that you are in Christ instead of the old creature born from Adam’s seed.
A seed that has germinated starts living and growing immediately. But you don’t see it. It takes several days before the little green shoot pushes through the dirt. And it takes a long time for that little shoot to grow to the point where you can be reasonably sure it’s going to survive. Even after that, a lot of things can happen that might keep it from successfully bringing forth fruit.
That’s the way it is with the life of Christ in us. When faith begins, immediately His life starts to grow in us. Virtue, knowledge of God, self-control, joy, peace, patience, steadfastness, godliness, kindness, gentleness, goodness, love—they begin to grow the way a seed grows into roots and a stem—all aiming toward the mature plant that bears fruit.
- ii. Co-rulers and co-workers with Jesus
The seed of the Word reaches maturity when we are completely new and nothing remains of the nature of Adam. We are our new selves in Christ. We have died and risen again. In the meantime we grow. We grow in Christ. But that means our old nature dies. “Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day,” St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians (4:16).
That dying of the old and rising of the new is a process. But Christians don’t live hoping that the process will continue to its completion; we live by faith in Jesus. In His death and resurrection we are already complete. We don’t simply live hoping that we will one day become fully grown sons of God. We are already “Sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all of [us] who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” [Galatians 3]. We already call God “Father” as though we were already completely renewed in Christ.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come,” St. Paul tells us [2 Corinthians 5:17]. We are justified. Our sins are not counted to us. They were accounted to Jesus on the
cross. Now His righteousness is counted to us. So we pray to the Father as sons together with Jesus.
“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ…” [Romans 8:16-17]. We are co-heirs with Christ and also co-rulers and co-workers with Him. He does His work in us and through us.
- iii. Whatever you ask in my name…
“If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.” Jesus says this to His disciples in John 15 [:7-8].
We bear much fruit when, as children of God, we pray with the access Jesus have given to the Father. Those prayers that come from faith in Christ’s Word receive whatever they request from the Father. Because we know the Father and are His children, He hears us. Because the Holy Spirit teaches us through the Word of Christ, we not only are changed into the image of Christ, but we learn to pray according to God’s will. We learn what God has promised and what He has commanded, and we pray for the things He has promised.
In this way we bear “much fruit.” We don’t merely do human work. We are working together with Christ. He works in us to pray for what He sees is needed by the Church, the world, and our neighbors. The faith in Jesus that starts to grow when the seed of His Word in our hearts makes us participants in Jesus’ work as priest and king. The fruit that comes from this prayer is fruit that endures to eternal life, because it is the fruit of Jesus Himself coming forth in us.
- Failed sowing
Yet according to Jesus, in 3 out of 4 types of hearers, His Word does not result in fruit. Why is that? It’s not because there was something wrong with the seed. The seed of the Gospel says “Your sins are forgiven through Jesus’ blood.” It is not an uncertain word. It is a word of salvation. In every case where the seed of the Gospel does not result in a person coming to maturity in Christ and reaching eternal life, it is because the hearer does not allow it to do its work.
The Gospel is not received. Or it is received, but only as long as things feel good and look good. Or it is received by faith but is stunted and choked by all the other concerns of this world.
It’s not that Jesus doesn’t earnestly desire the full salvation of everyone who hears the Word. He sows it everywhere; He lets the good news of the forgiveness of sins fall on hard hearts that don’t listen, and on those who are unwilling to keep His word unless everything is nice, and on those who refuse to trust His Word alone, but divide their loyalty between Jesus and the wisdom of this world.