MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
Tuesday, December 26, 2000
KJV Romans 13:11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. 13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
This epistle teaches us about the truth of God’s Word being an armor of light, in contrast with all varieties of false doctrine, which are darkness.
As Martin Chemnitz stated in Examination of the Council of Trent, there are many kinds of traditions. Good traditions are in harmony with God’s Word. Evil traditions are against God’s Word. The historic lessons are a long-standing tradition in the Church. The benefit can be seen when we go from the Last Sunday in Trinity (The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins) to the First Sunday in Advent (“Now it is high time to awake out of sleep.”)
Many so-called scholars have devoted their lives to finding errors and contradictions in the Bible. They fail to mention that all of their material is well known and already addressed – sometimes as long as 15 centuries ago. The early church fathers were brilliant literary scholars, raised on the classics of Greek and Latin. They read the same Bible in Hebrew and Greek and listed these so-called problems. They also solved the problems. Many of the new problems are simply from translation errors, because everyone’s idiot cousin can produce a Bible and get it published today. The King James translators (who were also William Tyndale editors, using his text as their basis) were brilliant men of letters, both in English and the ancient languages. The advantage of using the best and most precise text is that these so-called problems get addressed early and can be discussed in a more coherent fashion. (Nothing is more comical than a so-called Bible which gives 10-15 readings for every verse, using all the major translations. Then the Mormons step in and say, “The Bible isn’t clear. You need us to tell you what it says.” The Church of Rome does the same thing. So do the doctrinal commissions of the LCMS, ELS, WELS, and CLC [sic]. Every Lutheran college of cardinals is an attack against the clarity of God’s Word.)
Getting back to the liberal scholars who find errors and contradictions in the Bible - where are these brilliant men and women when they see the perfect harmony between Jesus’ Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins and this epistle? Paul is addressing the same issue but in a different way, using similar language. Liars use the same words. We call them “talking points” today in the public media. One psychic network put out an ad where multiple people used the same peculiar word. The minority person would say, “My psychic counselor told me I would get a new job in another city. And I did. And she nailed the city.” The amazed narrator would say, “She nailed it?” And the woman would say again, “Yes, she nailed it.” Then in the next ad, another minority woman said the same sort of thing about traveling to another country. “And she nailed the country.” Once again, “She nailed it?” And the liturgical response, “She nailed it.”
In contrast, the Bible teaches one unified doctrine but in many different ways. Thanks to computers, we can see how many times truth and falsehood are compared to light and darkness. In the New Testament it is true of Paul’s letters and John’s works. Why not in every book? God gives us a wonderful variety and yet a unified truth at the same time. We can read the same doctrine being expressed many different ways with many kinds of examples and comparisons.
Notice that the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins emphasized preparation. Falling asleep and not being prepared for the sudden return of Christ is the main theme. Paul in this lesson also writes about sleep and the night. But the apostle Paul deals with the “works of darkness” and the “armor of light.” This is another aspect of the same doctrine.
Therefore, the believer can pick up any book of the Bible and begin reading the Gospel as it is revealed in that one particular place, knowing that every passage is part of a unified whole. Luther expressed this constantly in all his writings, and we must always view the Bible in the same way. In fact, when people discover this about the Bible, they are overwhelmed by how much they receive from studying the Bible as one unified truth.
Let’s look at passages where light and darkness are used to contrast truth and error:
KJV John 1:5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
KJV John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
KJV John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
KJV John 11:10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
KJV John 12:35 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. 36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.
KJV John 12:46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
[The risen Christ speaking to Paul] KJV Acts 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
KJV Romans 2:19 And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness,
KJV 2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
KJV 2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
KJV Ephesians 5:8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:
KJV 1 Thessalonians 5:5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.
KJV 1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. [Note how close this is to KJV James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.]
We can see from these passages that God is only light and truth, that Satan is darkness, and that there is constant warfare between light and darkness, truth and error.
In the visible church this is constantly being distorted, as if the battle is between good people and bad people. Therefore, all one needs to do is prove that someone is a bad person and anything he says is dismissed. On the other hand, if he is a “good” person, anything he says is worthwhile, no matter how horrible the doctrinal error may be. As many Lutheran pastors have said, “He isn’t a false teacher. He’s a good friend of mine.”
However, the battle is between powers, between God and Satan, light and darkness. When Luther wrote about the two kingdoms (to be precise), he wrote about the battle between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. (He used the term regiment to address the issue of the state’s relationship to the church. The state is the material regiment, created by God to protect us with the sword. The church is the spiritual regiment designed to help us through Word and Sacrament. The state cannot interfere with teaching and the church cannot be a secular, material power.)
The most definite sign of this age being the Great Apostasy (falling away from the Christian faith) is that people pretend these doctrinal passages do not exist. Instead, the following criteria are critical in the congregation and larger church:
1. Are people happy and content? As the Fuller teacher said, “Do this and you will have happy campers.”
2. Is the congregation growing faster than the population where it is located? If not, it is a failure. Take note, WELS/ELS/LCMS/ELCA/CLC Church Growth leaders. All the established synods are shrinking--after being Fullerized. Still, the Church Growth traitors are not “bad people” in the eyes of their synods.
3. Are all the bills paid?
4. Is there a large, paved parking lot?
5. Is the pastor popular among local business and civic leaders? Invited to say the prayer at the Kiwanis luncheon?
6. Are all my friends and relatives still going to this church?
The Holy Spirit uses two phrases that we should hold fast in our memories. The first is “cast off the works of darkness” and the second is “put on the armor of light.”
As we can see from the previous passages, “works of darkness” are primarily all doctrines in opposition to the pure Word of God. Any variation from or deviation from the Word of God is darkness, because light is not partially dark and partially light. Light is pure light and not a mixture. At first people are inclined to think the works of darkness are obvious carnal sins, the kinds they used to send the vice squad after. But now these vices are called entertainment.
It is the genius of Pietism to define the works of darkness primarily as obvious carnal sins while dismissing the importance of orthodox Christian doctrine in complete harmony with the Word of God. The Pietists don’t care if we get along with the Bible as long as we get along with all the heterodox groups.
Luther always taught, in harmony with the Bible, that the worst sins are sins against the first three commandments—the First Table—the commandments about God. (There may be a reason why they are the first of ten!) That does not demean the importance of sins against the Second Table. Still we can see why this matters so much. Sins against other people (the Second Table) are fairly obvious--even burglars hate to be burglarized. When anyone sins against the Second Table (stealing, bearing false witness), he hurts himself most of all. If he murders someone, that person still has an immortal soul. Many murderers have repented and received forgiveness by believing in the Gospel. If someone murders me, I am simply a few months closer to eternal life than otherwise in the grand scheme.
In contrast, false teachers murder souls. They will suffer most in eternal damnation. Satan’s power is no more evident that in the delusion that false doctrine is insignificant. They are also mass murderers, because their errors grow unless rooted out and repudiated. We can see evidence of that in the “conservative” Lutherans now arguing the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Bible being unclear, incomplete, and in need of a pope and cardinals to interpret it. How careless of God to speak so haltingly to us in His Word that some church politicians must clarify it for us! Once they have spoken (as in Kokomo, the LCMS Theses on Justification without Faith, the CLC [sic] on self-love), we have no more need of the Bible, because the scribblings of these party hacks trump the Bible.
Therefore, we are commanded by the Holy Spirit to cast off the works of darkness—all false doctrine. There are no excuses. With the casting off (which reminds us of clothing) we are to “put on the armor of light.”
The Word of God is not as puny and weak as most people think. It is an armor of pure light. Even unbelievers realize the power of truth. No matter how cleverly people lie, the truth comes out over time. It is even true of composers of music and artists. Many famous works are attributed to the wrong people by mistake. Over a period of time these errors are corrected.
The Word of God is more powerful than mere factual truth. The Word of God is God’s own revelation of His purpose, wrapped in human history. The issue is not so much the factual truth of God’s Word, although it is without any error or contradiction. The issue is that God’s Word is without any error about the nature of God, salvation, and our relationship to the Holy Trinity through the Word and Sacraments.
I try to remind people (and myself) that we know how powerful God’s Word is by the eruptions of Satanic anger we see whenever God’s Word is taught correctly. People storm out of rooms. They plot revenge. They scream at the top of their lungs. They engage is subtle and treacherous deceptions. They make house to house calls to spread their villainy. They are energized because Satan’s word is also efficacious.
We see this in a small way in our own lives. A writer is not bothered by someone being a great musician, artist, accountant, or lawyer. But if another writer is around, the impulse is always to say, “I’ll show him.” The same can be said for painters, chemists, and farmers. In the same way, when God’s Word goes forth, Satan says through his agents, “We will block this one…right away.”
14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
“Wearing” Christ is the same as putting on the armor of light. This also parallels the language of baptism, which is “putting on Christ.” (Galatians)
We should never forget Luther’s insight about this. Satan rages because such puny nothings are protected by Christ. The armor of light enrages the devil because he knows what he could do if he had the person all to himself. Put a mouse in a cage beyond the reach of a cat and you will see the same frantic activity. The claws reach out and grab air. The claws look fierce but accomplish nothing. The cat’s eyes widen and his ears lay back in feline rage. But the mouse is secure. The mouse is nothing but the cage is everything.
The issue is not how weak we are but how powerful Christ is. He defeated Satan while letting Satan appear to win, when He was crucified. The atoning death of Christ stands in the center of history. All those who believed in Him as the prophesied Messiah were justified by faith, forgiven of their sins, and given eternal life. All those who followed Him faithfully and believed in Him during His earthly ministry also received the same blessings. In the same way we now believe in His atoning death and receive His promise of forgiveness and eternal life.
Because we are weak, we have many sins. We give into temptation many times over. We let emotions control our brain instead of letting our intelligence govern our emotions. We fall into periods of doubt about the wisdom and goodness of God. The knowledge of our sin is painful, so many escape the pain through unbelief. If there is no Law, there is no sin or guilt, they imagine.
Nevertheless, as weak as we are, Christ is powerful in giving us forgiveness. In that Gospel of forgiveness is our strength against the wiles of Satan. I used to play hide and seek with blond twins, who were toddlers. When they thought I might touch them, they stood behind their father with one hand on his leg. Then they smiled. I could chase them down and grab them, but I couldn’t get past their father, who was a giant. They did not feel secure in themselves. They felt secure in the protection of their father.
In this way we wear Christ, putting on the armor of light, casting off the works of darkness, the crafts and assaults of Satan.
The night is far spent, and the day is at hand. "By the word 'night' we are to understand all doctrines apart from the Gospel. For there is no other saving doctrine; all else is night and darkness."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 15f. First Sunday in Advent, Romans 13:11-14.
"For the Holy Spirit aids us, fortifying our hope and enabling us not to fear nor to flee from the disasters of the world; but to stand firm even unto death, and to overcome all evil; so that evil must flee from us and cease its attacks. Remember, it is hope in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in human weakness, that must do all this through the medium of the Gospel."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 63. First Sunday in Advent, Romans 13:11-14.
"Hence, you see, the ecclesiastical traditions that flatly forbid the eating of meat are contrary to the Gospel."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 27. First Sunday in Advent, Romans 13:11-14.
"It is our duty to allow the body all necessary food, whether wine, meat, eggs or anything else; whether the time be Friday, Sunday, in Lent or after the feast of Easter; regardless of all orders, traditions and vows, and of the Pope. No prohibition contrary to God's command can avail, though made by the angels even."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 26. First Sunday in Advent, Romans 13:11-14.
"The other class is represented by the blind saints who imagine the kingdom of God and his righteousness are dependent upon the particular meat and drink, clothing and couch, of their own choice...Upon this subject Paul says (1 Corinthians 8:8): 'Food will not commend us to God; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse; nor, if we eat, are we the better.'"
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 25f. First Sunday in Advent, Romans 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 8:8.
"We are to place our whole confidence in God, and in Him alone, being very careful not to devote any portion of it to the mother of God or any saint and so set up an idol in our hearts." Sermons of
Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p.54. First Sunday in Advent, Romans 13:11-14.
"Using a convenient term, he calls Christ a 'minister,' as he calls all preachers and apostles ministers. 'What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed.'" 1 Corinthians 3:5.
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 57. First Sunday in Advent, Romans 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 3:5.
"Paul in Romans 12:7-8 devotes the office of the ministry to two things, doctrine and exhortation. The doctrinal part consists in preaching truths not generally known; in instructing and enlightening the people. Exhortation is inciting and urging to duties already well understood. Necessarily both obligations claim the attention of the minister, and hence Paul takes up both."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 9. First Sunday in Advent, Romans 13:11-14; Romans 12:7-8.
"But, being deceived by the devil, we forsake the light of day and seek to find truth among philosophers and heathen totally ignorant of such matters. In permitting ourselves to be blinded by human doctrines, we return to the night. Whatsoever is not the Gospel day surely cannot be light. Otherwise Paul, and in fact all Scripture, would not urge that day upon us and pronounce everything else night."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 17. First Sunday in Advent, Romans 13:11-14.
"Other books may have power to slay us, indeed, but no book except the holy Scriptures has power to comfort us. No other bears the title here given by Paul--book of comfort--one that can support the soul in all tribulations, helping it not to despair but to maintain hope. For thereby the soul apprehends God's Word and, learning His gracious will, cleaves to it, continuing steadfast in life and death."
Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholaus Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VI, p. 43. First Sunday in Advent, Romans 13:11-14.