MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
KJV Hebrews 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
Mediator of the New Testament
I am so pleased to have received the new Gerhard volume on Baptism and Holy Communion. Johann Gerhard (not to be confused with the hymn writer Paul Gerhardt) was a brilliant and prolific Lutheran theologian. The extent of his work is difficult to imagine. He wrote 10,000 letters, published enormous volumes of Lutheran orthodoxy, and served the church in various capacities. Most of all, he was a Biblical theologian. This newly published work deals with every concern or question someone might have about Baptism and Communion. The original date was 1610, only 30 years after the Formula of Concord.
When we encounter a truly great theologian and Biblical teacher, we find that he sees the entire Bible as a testimony of one unified truth. Luther and Gerhard are quite similar in this regard. Gerhard is easy to follow and constantly relies on the Scriptures to show the foundation for this thoughts.
This passage from Hebrews reminds us of how God prepared His people for the atoning sacrifice of His Son for centuries before Jesus died on the cross for our sins. In the Temple, the priest entered the holy of holies and performed a blood sacrifice for the sins of the people.
All the descriptions of blood sacrifices in the Old Testament prepared believers to understand the blood of Jesus poured out for the sins of the world.
KJV Exodus 30:10 And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the LORD.
KJV 2 Chronicles 29:23 And they brought forth the he goats for the sin offering before the king and the congregation; and they laid their hands upon them: 24 And the priests killed them, and they made reconciliation with their blood upon the altar, to make an atonement for all Israel: for the king commanded that the burnt offering and the sin offering should be made for all Israel.
But we can also observe how God’s own example is far beyond what humans would imagine. In this case, when the Bible teaches about the atoning sacrifice, Christ is both the victim and the high priest who offers the sacrifice. Similarly, we believe in Jesus as the Good Shepherd, but He is both the Shepherd and the sacrificial lamb. I was trying to get this across in a confirmation class many years ago, and one student said about the Exodus, after many questions, “Everything points to Jesus.” He was responding to the fact that the blood of the lamb on the doorposts, the spotless lamb at the Passover, the water springing from the rock, the manna from heaven, and many other aspects of the Exodus prefigured the ministry of Jesus.
We can know everything about the Old Testament and not see this. On the road to Emmaus, the two disciples knew the Scriptures, but Jesus opened their eyes about the meaning of the Word.
KJV Luke 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. 29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.
Someone can read all day about Old Testament blood sacrifice and not realize that all of the details point toward one moment in time when the Incarnate Word would be the blood sacrifice.
It has been an constant theme of the church, begun in the earliest times, and repeated by the orthodox Lutherans, that the blood and water which flowed from the wound of Jesus represented the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
"Whoever is baptized in Christ is baptized through His suffering and blood or, to state it more clearly, through Baptism he is bathed in the blood of Christ and is cleansed from sins. For this reason St. Paul calls Baptism a "washing of regeneration" (Titus 3:5); and according to what Christians say and picture, the Sacraments flow from the wounds of Christ. And what they say and picture is right." [Plass footnote: "Thus Jerome (d. 420) sees the Sacrament symbolized by the blood and water that flowed from the side of the dead Christ (John 19:34). Similarly St. Augustine (d. 430). In Luther's days pictures and woodcuts presented the same view. See W 30, II, 527, note; SL 13a, 491f.]
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, I, p. 46. to Duke George, 1533. John 19:34; Titus 3:5.
Gerhard too refers to baptism as being washed in the blood of Christ.
"Even though the water which is used for holy Baptism continues to retain its natural essence and natural attributes after Baptism, it is nevertheless not just lowly [plain] water, but it is formulated in God's Word and combined with God's Word. Thus it is a powerful means through which the Holy Trinity works powerfully; the Father takes on the one who is baptized as His dear child; the Son washes him of his sins with His blood; the Holy Spirit regenerates and renews him for everlasting life."
Johann Gerhard, A Comprehensive Explanation of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper, 1610, ed. D. Berger, J. Heiser, Malone, Texas: Repristination Press, 2000, p. 56.
We cannot understand God’s forgiveness through our human reason alone. Only the Holy Spirit can show us the love, mercy, and grace of the Holy Trinity in forgiving our sins and declaration to us in so many ways that we can always return to the cross for forgiveness. Human forgiveness is limited and tends to run quite low. The farther our society goes away from the Word, the less evidence we see for forgiveness and patience. Because we resist the truth of the Scriptures, God teaches us the same lesson repeatedly and then helps us with the sacrament of Holy Communion.
The Scriptures teach the forgiveness of sin and that is foremost in every Gospel promise. It is a sign of the age of the Great Apostasy (falling away from the faith) that Christian leaders talk about blessings from God but not forgiveness of sin, because sin is negative and implies that people are sinners. That makes it so much easier to see that the greatest sin of the Bible is unbelief in the Word. When someone makes a conscious effort to talk about the Bible and about Jesus while ignoring the forgiveness of sin, he is promoting and teaching unbelief.
I was thinking about this problem yesterday while I was pulling weeds, mostly London rocket and mallow, although plump examples of goat’s head have appeared as well. Pulling weeds will always conjure up in my mind the expulsion of Adam and Even from the Garden.
KJV Genesis 3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
When I encounter weeds too tough to pull out by hand, I think, “Oh Adam, Adam. Look at what you did.” The nature of original sin is such that all our actions and thoughts are tainted by and changed by the corruption of sin. That much must be believed before we can appreciate and be thankful for forgiveness through Christ. We have a constant need for forgiveness of our sin, because we cannot perfect ourselves and escape this nature.
The Israelites believed in their sin enough to have blood sacrifices for centuries. In fact, I understand that the tradition is still taught in the hope that the Temple will be built again. God has said to us in many different passages, in many different ways, but especially in Hebrews: Jesus is the high priest Who has offered up Himself as the blood sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world.
KJV Leviticus 4:26 And he shall burn all his fat upon the altar, as the fat of the sacrifice of peace offerings: and the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him.
KJV Romans 5:11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
The KJV uses atonement in this passage as a synonym for reconciliation. Holy Communion offers us the visible form of this Gospel promise:
"Accordingly, we say that by virtue of the institution, the holy Supper was established by Christ and was used by the believers chiefly to this end: that the promise of the gracious forgiveness of sins should be sealed and our faith should thus be strengthened. Then, too, we are incorporated in Christ and are thus sustained to eternal life; in addition, subsequently, other end results and benefits of the holy Supper come to pass. Yet, both of the fruits indicated above always remain the foremost."
Johann Gerhard, A Comprehensive Explanation of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper, 1610, ed. D. Berger, J. Heiser, Malone, Texas: Repristination Press, 2000, p. 369.