“Behold, the Lamb!”
The Christian Church, wherever she finds herself and in whatever position she has in a given culture, is called to do one thing above all else: to stand with John the Baptist and to point to Jesus Christ, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). This is the beginning of the same song all the redeemed will sing gathered around the throne, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10). This song is of the same piece as the apostles in Acts, who said “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard,” namely all that Christ has done by His death and resurrection. (Acts 4:20). In the same way we are baptized to bear witness to the One with whom we have died and have been raised to life (Romans 6:2-4).
Our Lutheran Confessions, which always drive us into Scripture to keep Christ at the center, provide great resources for the Church to bear witness to Christ. That’s because we believe the Holy Spirit works through the proclamation of Christ and His work for us to give “faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel. [The Gospel] teaches us that we have a gracious God, not through our merit, but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V, Kolb/Wengert edition, p. 40). This message is not just for some, but is for ALL, because this message is the only way to come to know Christ and to have life in Christ.
Luther, in the Large Catechism, writes:
Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe in him and receive him as Lord, unless these were offered to us and bestowed on our hearts through the preaching of the Gospel by the Holy Spirit. The work is finished and completed; Christ has acquired and won the treasure for us by his sufferings, death and resurrection, etc. But if the work remained hidden so that no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain, all lost. In order that this treasure might not remained buried but put to use and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to be published and proclaimed, in which he has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply to us this treasure, this redemption (LC II.38f, Kolb/Wengert, p. 436).
This is why, whenever we say, “Thy Kingdom come,” Luther says we are actually praying,
Dear Father, we ask you first to give us your Word, so that the gospel may be properly preached throughout the world and then that it may also be received in faith and may work and dwell in us, so that your kingdom may pervade among us through the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit and the devil’s kingdom may be destroyed so that he may have no right or power over us until finally his kingdom is utterly eradicated and sin, death and hell wiped out, that we may live forever in perfect righteousness and blessedness.” (LC III.54, Kolb/Wengert, p. 447).
So also now when you pray the Lord of the Harvest to send workers into his harvest field (Matthew 9:38), know that the Lord will also send you! To testify to Him in your calling! Know that when you pray for the Word to be proclaimed, the Holy Spirit will fill also you, as the believers in the book of Acts “were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:41). That’s why our Confession says “we must always firmly and rigidly insist that, like the proclamation of repentance, so the promise of the gospel is universalis, that is, it pertains to all people. Therefore, Christ commanded preaching ‘repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations’” [Luke 24] (FC SD XI.28, Kolb/Wengert, p. 645). Far from bottling it up, Word of Christ’s work must be spoken far and wide, wherever possible.
We always come back to Christ, then, and to His saving work for us. That’s what must be taught, proclaimed, evangelized, spread, spoken wherever those baptized into His name may go. He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). By our testimony to Him, his Spirit gathers “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages…” (Revelation 7:9). “Who are these? And from where have they come?” John is later asked. “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:13-14). That’s you. That’s me. That’s all who will hear and believe.
Until that day, we keep going. We keep speaking. We keep repeating the message we have been given: “Behold, the Lamb!”
+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice-President, LCMS
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