A short look at the oral reading of Matthew 5:3-10.
Continuing our look at Matthew 5, consider these verses:
[Jesus said:] “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20 NAS)
The words in 5:20 (last verse above) is the one that catches me. My righteousness? I can’t even compete with the person down the street or illegal person across valley or the prisoner. My righteousness is, in fact, not very righteous. Then Jesus lifts the bar of righteousness above that of the most righteous people in Israel. But even if I could meet their standard, I will not enter the kingdom of God. Where is the hope?
Jesus raised the bar even higher than the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. In the beginning of this section, Jesus said that he came to fulfill the Law, entirely. Everything stated, no, demanded, in the Law finds its fulfillment in Jesus. He will accomplish all this.
Jesus as true man lives up to the perfect standard in the Law. Even more, as true God whatever he does is righteous. Thus, the perfection of the Law is not seen in our achievements, but rather in the person of Jesus Christ. While the Law tells us in shorthand what is the will of God, Jesus is the living reality of the perfect will of God.
If I want to meet the standard that Jesus establishes, then my own righteousness will fail. Is there any hope? Paul brings us the good news on this point. It is not our righteousness but the righteousness of Jesus, the divine swap.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NAS)
…that I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,(Philippians 3:9 NAS)
Jesus’s righteousness is ours, not by effort, not by begging, not by coercion, not by manipulation, not by impressing others. It is by the gift of God, 100% free, and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.
You heard and believed the message of truth, the Good News that he has saved you. In him you were sealed with the Holy Spirit whom he promised. This Holy Spirit is the guarantee that we will receive our inheritance. We have this guarantee until we are set free to belong to him. God receives praise and glory for this. (Ephesians 1:13-14 GW).
The demand of the Law and established in its fullness in Jesus is also met by Jesus. Then God considers (reckons to our account) Jesus’ righteousness as ours. There is no better news than this.
From the previous post, we look at who we are as the people of God. This Sunday our Gospel reading is Matthew 5:1-11, which makes this plain, who we are in Christ.
When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. (Matthew 5:1-11 NAS)
If we look at these words as demands/expectations, they seem almost impossible. Am I merciful? Am I pure in heart? No, that is beyond me. Ideal, yes, but not realistic on my own.
But what if Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of each of these descriptions? What if to know purity in heart is found in Jesus himself? That changes each of these characteristics from demands to descriptions of Jesus. Then those descriptions apply to everyone who believes in Jesus, not by performance but by faith.
Theses descriptions then fit with the poster from the previous post.
Who are we as the Body of Christ? Sometimes we let others define us, rather than Scripture. There is an individual aspect to this question, as well as a community aspect.
The most important aspect is that God is the initiator in every one of our lives: forgiving, renewing, restoring, and reconciling us to himself and to one another.
The following photo emphasizes the result of God’s initiatives. That has implications for how we respond to God’s love.
All because God does…
Last night’s question seemed simple enough, but led to a wonderful series of questions and answers (and timelines and diagrams!) The question: How much water is required for Baptism?
As often the case, there are questions behind the question. And there are unspoken presuppositions as well. We began our study by asking those other questions. In Greek, the word is baptize (βαπτιζω), which can be translated as wash, apply water, immerse. The word itself does not indicate how much water is used or how it is applied.
So now the first question is: who is doing the action in Baptism? A common presupposition is that the person is the active one in Baptism.
Let’s take a look at some Scripture passages:
Acts 2:38-39 NAS
Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
Note that the verb “be baptized” is a passive imperative, which means it is done to the person, not something the person does. Also, note what accompanies this baptizing:
In the name of Jesus Christ
For the forgiveness of sins
Receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit
This diagram lays out the issues in Acts 2:38-39:
To see who is the active one, we looked at Ephesians 2:1-10.
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, (2:1)
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), (2:4-5)
Note that Paul describes the reality: humans are spiritually dead, unable to do anything, spiritually. On the other hand, God “makes us alive.” Back to our diagram, we can determine to the direction of activity:
In other words, these are all gifts from God. When we look at 1 Peter 3:21, this understanding is confirmed. 1 Peter 3:18-21
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you — not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience — through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Peter uses the saving through water of the eight people (Flood and Ark) as a type (forerunner) for the saving through the waters of baptism which is the antitype (greater thing). So, we can add another element to the diagram: saving.
Now that we see that God gives and the person is passive, receiving only. Thus, the amount of water is really not an issue. God is bringing his gifts to his people through the means of baptism.
When we look at Matthew 28:18-20, we see that baptism is one of two means (Baptism and Word) by which disciples are made:
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of call the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The real significance of Baptism then is one of assurance and God’s continuing presence with the believer. Paul writes in Romans 6:1-4
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was braised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
Thus, in Baptism we become united with Christ, both in his death and his resurrection. As Paul points out, this has practical implications, not just for the one time event of the baptism itself, but for daily living, dying to self, and rising to life.
May we live in the reality of what Baptism is, who acts in Baptism, and the ongoing significance of Baptism in our daily lives.
With short notice a few gathered last night for our first Table Talk of the summer. Good question and discussion—one question took 1¾ hours to answer and address related topics.
Question: Why do so many Christmas celebrations include the magi in the manger scene? Is that accurate?
Let’s look at the two “birth” narratives: Matthew 1:18-27; 2:1-16 and Luke 1:39-56 and 2:1-7. Note that Matthew’s account focuses on events from the perspective of Joseph whereas Luke’s account gives the perspective of Mary.
|Text||Matthew 1:18-27; 2:1-16||Luke 1:39-56; 2:1-7|
|Ruler(s)||Herod (Jewish)||Augustus; Quirinius (Roman)|
|Location||“house” (2:11)||“inn” “manger” (2:7)|
|Those attending||Magi (wise men) (2:7-11)||Shepherds (2:8-20)|
Notice that the descriptions do not support the idea that the magi came the night of the birth of Jesus.
Historically the Church has celebrated the two events separately: Luke 2 is the basis for the Dec. 25 celebration of Christmas and Matthew 2 is the basis for Jan. 6 celebration of Epiphany (“showing forth”). Jan. 6 then focused on the “nations” coming to the Savior to worship, which in Matthew’s Gospel finds its highlight in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20.
The eastern Christian churches have traditionally celebrated Christmas on Jan. 6. In either case, the separation of the two events maintained each proper focus without combining and confusing the events.
Expanding the discussion
This led to a review of how the Christian yearly liturgical calendar developed. (Here is a short article on liturgical calendars):
This chart shows the colors associated with each season of the liturgical church year.
The discussion expanded even further to include the historical development of the liturgical church year observances. The key point was that such development was not done independently of Scripture copying and translation through the centuries, nor was it isolated from mission work of the church. And the doctrinal creeds (statements of faith) developed in response to false teachings that arose throughout the centuries.
The key is that we cannot separate each of these topics and study them independently. There is considerable discussion about the relationship of these topics (see one example http://lexcredendilexorandi.wordpress.com/2009/05/22/hello-world/#comments), I am not commenting on that post, rather my point here is that we cannot separate development of worship especially liturgically, doctrinal formulations, Bible copying and translation, and mission. To separate means to not do justice any of the topics and to misunderstand what was taking place in the broad sweep of Christian history.
As we continued the discussion I observed that in our Lutheran Confessions, the repeated phrase “as the church has always taught” emphasizes that what we “believe, teach, confess” is not something new or original with Luther.
Rather, we are consistent with the Christian Church throughout the ages from the first century. Our confessions do not add to what Scripture teaches, our worship services do not add nor subtract from Scripture. No, both reflect what Scripture teaches and what and how the church worships throughout the history. And justification is central in all of this, as evidenced in the Scripture readings and sacraments (gifts from God for the forgiveness of sins).
We lost a brother in the faith Monday night when Fred Cable died at his home; but he received the crown of life. He is survived by his wife, Donna. Fred had just had knee replacement surgery on June 9, was home by Thursday and doing well. So much so that he worshiped with us on Sunday, and looked good considering the surgery.
I had the privilege of baptizing him in January 2013 (he chose Joseph as his baptismal name), then confirming Fred and Donna as well as others in March 2013.
Fred was always inquisitive, never afraid to ask questions. And I appreciated that. We will miss his smile and easy going manner. But we also rejoice with him in his victory in Jesus Christ.
Lord, look with favor upon Donna and all who mourn Fred’s death. Encourage and comfort them with the knowledge that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. He has fought the good fight, living by faith in Christ alone. Grant that we all may remain steadfast and hear the words spoken to Fred: “Well done, good and faithful servant”; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
from Bible study tonight, I stopped at our mail box, and saw this great site. Couldn’t resist taking the photo. And the evening is cool. The moon is so bright.
Had the privilege of marrying Tyler and Cyndi Friday, May 30, at the Lutheran Church of Prayer in Bakersfield. I had met with them for the previous eight months in preparation. Blessed day for them and everyone in attendance.
Acts 1:1-11 GW
1 In my first book, Theophilus, I wrote about what Jesus began to do and teach. This included everything from the beginning ˻of his life˼ 2 until the day he was taken to heaven. Before he was taken to heaven, he gave instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles, whom he had chosen.
3 After his death Jesus showed the apostles a lot of convincing evidence that he was alive. For 40 days he appeared to them and talked with them about the kingdom of God. 4 Once, while he was meeting with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for what the Father had promised. Jesus said to them, “I’ve told you what the Father promises: 5 John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 So when the apostles came together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you’re going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 Jesus told them, “You don’t need to know about times or periods that the Father has determined by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you. Then you will be my witnesses to testify about me in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he had said this, he was taken to heaven. A cloud hid him so that they could no longer see him. Acts 1:10 They were staring into the sky as he departed. Suddenly, two men in white clothes stood near them. 11 They asked, “Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking at the sky? Jesus, who was taken from you to heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.”
Ephesians 1:16-23 GW
16 I never stop thanking God for you. I always remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the glorious Father, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Christ better. 18 Then you will have deeper insight. You will know the confidence that he calls you to have and the glorious wealth that God’s people will inherit. 19 You will also know the unlimited greatness of his power as it works with might and strength for us, the believers. 20 He worked with that same power in Christ when he brought him back to life and gave him the highest position in heaven. 21 He is far above all rulers, authorities, powers, lords, and all other names that can be named, not only in this present world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put everything under the control of Christ. He has made Christ the head of everything for the good of the church. 23 The church is Christ’s body and completes him as he fills everything in every way.
Luke 24:44-53 GW
44 Then he said to them, “These are the words I spoke to you while I was still with you. I told you that everything written about me in Moses’ Teachings, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to come true.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 He said to them, “Scripture says that the Messiah would suffer and that he would come back to life on the third day. 47 Scripture also says that by the authority of Jesus people would be told to turn to God and change the way they think and act so that their sins will be forgiven. This would be told to people from all nations, beginning in the city of Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses to these things.
49 “I’m sending you what my Father promised. Wait here in the city until you receive power from heaven.” Luke 24:50 Then Jesus took them to a place near Bethany. There he raised his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken to heaven.
52 The disciples worshiped him and were overjoyed as they went back to Jerusalem. 53 They were always in the temple, where they praised God.
May God bless your observance of this festival.