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MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS

A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.

6421 W. Poinsettia Drive

Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419

 

Ephesians 4:1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Hymns: 246, 369, 371, 45.

 

                              UNITY OF FAITH, ONENESS OF GOD

 

Those who look down upon the Scriptures, as if they could write better themselves, should examine two verses of the six in this lesson. In verses 5 and 6 St. Paul confesses the Three-ness of the One God with a series of ones, seven in all. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are named, although not in that order. The ones not only include the members of the Trinity and the One God, but also associate in that unity the body (the Christian Church), the hope we all have for eternal life, our unity of faith, and our common baptism.

 

The Scriptures not only reveal the unity of God, but also the Three-ness of the One God. We cannot explain it using our human reason. It is a mystery revealed by the Word of God. Man rebels against it, as he does with every aspect of God’s Word. The Socianians named in the Book of Concord were early Unitarians, denying the divinity of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The ELCA dogmatics book, by Braaten and Jenson, claims, and I paraphrase, that the Trinity is “merely the Father, the man Jesus, and the spirit of the believing community.” That statement is Unitarian and contrary to all Christian confessions.

 

St. Paul wrote this passage to emphasize a unity in the church that was based upon the unity of God. That unity can be experienced all over the world, as we do in our little congregation. The sermon is sent to Finland, Australia, Japan, Canada, and across the United States. Those people receive the sermon because of a common desire to read the Word of God. The Word called one of us to faith.

 

The Holy Spirit, through the Gospel of Christ, called us to faith by proclaiming the promises of God, the promise of forgiveness and eternal life. God is One, so there can only be one truth. This unique truth creates unity in a world torn apart by divisions: racial, gender, class, age, and economic.

 

We experience that unity when people from all walks and all classes are brought together by the Gospel. The true Christian Church is invisible, not identified by synodical or denominational signs, or by independence, but by faith in salvation through the merits of Christ alone. It is ironic that man seeks unity by merging visible organizations. Unity can only come from the truth of the Gospel.

 

One of the main sources of confusion today is derived from a lack of confidence in the unique truth of God’s Word. Truth is reduced to a patchwork of opinions, supposedly of equal value. However, once the concept of truth is reduced, one person’s peculiar version is promoted, at gunpoint if needed, and defended at all costs.

 

Confusion is closely allied with arrogance. Man creates confusion and then uses chaos to rule over other people.

 

In contrast, God’s truth is humbling. First of all, the Sword of the Spirit, sharper than any two-edged weapon, pierces into the joints and marrow, judging our thoughts and intentions. (Hebrews 4) When we repeatedly discover from the mirror of the Law that our hearts are dead toward God, that we rebel against Him in every way, that all our efforts are tainted by the Old Adam.

 

This judgment seems to harsh. We would rather do away with the Biblical doctrine of original sin. So it is not surprising that those who would diminish God would also deify man. They make man inherently good, or basically good, although Jesus said, “No one is good but God.”

 

We are all unified by original sin. No one is better than anyone else. The best we can do is pretend to be better and thank God we are not like others, like tax collectors and open sinners. In that regard we share the same judgment. God who is holy and just must punish sin. Eternal punishment is the payment for sin, even a single sin against God’s commandments.

 

We know that we rebel against the Law, even our own invented Law. We will say, “I must do this. I have to do this. I will do this by a certain time or else.” But we cannot muster enough will power to do what we claim we must do. If someone else tells us we must do it, we feel compelled not to. This is especially hard on children, who refuse to do what they have to do, on principle.

 

God’s Law produces a stronger reaction, as the Holy Spirit revealed through Paul in Romans. The Law works wrath. Sin becomes even more obvious, but the Law by itself cannot produce any remedy for sin or any strength to fight sin, even to resist temptation. The Apostle said, “The good that I would do, I do not. The evil that I would not do, that I do.” 

 

All world religions provide a solution for this: more Law. They condemn the sinner for falling short of the Law and then command the sinner to perform certain works to make up for the sins. These works salesmen will never go out of business, because there are not enough works to make up for one’s sins. Each person is like the man who sold furniture at a loss. “We make up the difference on volume.”

 

But God provided for our great failings and weaknesses at the very beginning. When Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise by their disobedience to the Word of God, our gracious heavenly Father promised them and us a Savior. The contrast could not be greater. Adam and Eve not only lost Paradise for themselves, but condemned us to live under the shadow of their sin as well. No one deserved more wrath and condemnation than they, but God promised the seed of a woman, the Messiah, who would crush the head of Satan.

 

God saved people through faith before the crucifixion and after the crucifixion. For thousands of years, the Messianic promise of Genesis 3 was enlarged and clarified. The Gospel of forgiveness was proclaimed long before people saw the baby Jesus. They heard salvation, Yeshuah, throughout the Old Testament, and Yeshuah is the Hebrew or Aramaic equivalent of the name Jesus. Many promises were foreshadowed or explained. At first people knew about the “seed of the woman,” which we can see now as foreshadowing the Virgin Birth prophesy of Isaiah 7:14 – Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son…Immanuel. The Gospels clarified that Mary was that Virgin and Jesus that son, God With Us, Immanuel.

 

As Luther wrote, it was easier for people to believe in a Messiah they had not seen. It was hardest of all for John the Baptist to point to an ordinary looking man and say, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Generations of sceptics have examined every verse of Scripture, every hare-brained theory, to reduce Jesus to being fully human, only human, even if He is better than average in their myopic eyes. We should stop and meditate upon this mystery of  God’s Word each and every day – true man and true God, the only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary.

 

The apostle rests his request to the Christian church upon their call to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

 

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

 

The doctrinal unity of the Bible calls for the humility and longsuffering of the believers. The Holy Spirit has built the Christian Church upon the rock which is Jesus, the Son of God. Our status as forgiven saints draws us together and gives us the peace that passes all human understanding.

 

The military might of Imperial Rome was not enough to squash the weak and driven Christian Church. The city of Rome is filled with ruins of that mighty empire which built thousands of miles of roads across Europe, united tribes, conquered and subdued enemies. The Colliseum, standing in ruins, was the site of the sacrifice of Christian martyrs, who provided fun for the crowds as they died. The more they died, the faster the Church grew, not through programs but through the Word.

 

The Word of God multiplied, as Luke wrote in Acts. One believer spoke to others. The converts spoke to more. Soon the Gospel was proclaimed across Europe and into India. It reached more people through persecution than through ease and comfort, when it was briefly “the Church at rest.”

 

So the Christian Church exists today only to proclaim the promises of God, the Gospel. The true church never tires of speaking about forgiveness. Our need for repentance never changes. No other knowledge compares to the knowledge of the surpassing riches of Christ Jesus, whose atoning blood washes away our sin.

 

Pride can keep us from accepting the doctrine of original sin, proof by itself of our sinful nature, when we try to deny it. Pride can also keep people from receiving the Gospel in faith. The Gospel is not for proud, arrogant, secure Law-saints. The Gospel is for humble sinners, their bones broken by the Law (Psalm 51) but rejoicing in the knowledge of God’s will. “Rock of Ages” expresses it in the simplest words, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”

 

Therefore our unity, in families, among friends, even in the congregation, comes from gathering around the treasure of the Gospel. Most treasures make people fight for the pile, to take the lion’s share. But this treasure puts people at ease, giving them comfort and balm for their wounds, forgiveness for their sins, hope for their worries, and the promise of eternal life.