Posts tagged the Word

“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

Why Does the Church Remain?

Simply put, because Jesus lives, because Jesus gives His Spirit in His Word.

We are more than half way through the season of Pentecost, the “time of the Church” in the Christian year.  The Gospels this year are all from Matthew:  the confession of Peter; the cost of discipleship; the need to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us; the last will be first and the first last; the parable of the vineyard, and so forth.  Sunday after Sunday the Word of God brings Christ to us, Christ and all He does for us.

For the Lord Jesus Christ, in His Word, is the source of the Church’s life – nothing more, nothing less.

Yet there are times when the Holy Christian Church looks neither holy, nor Christian, nor even like a church.  We’ve all experienced this disappointment when people have failed us, or when we have failed others in the church.

What then?

Even as the Church proclaims repentance, the Church herself is ever called to repentance.  Even as the Church seeks to tell the story of Christ, she is called to hear again the voice of her Master, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden,” Jesus says, “and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28).

The Church’s holiness comes from the fact that Christ is holy and daily washes His Church in the water of baptism, daily forgiving and restoring her to Himself.  The Church is Christian because Christ puts His name on her, and then calls her to follow Him.  She is Church because He has called her His own.

Christ gives His Spirit in His Word daily to call the Church, and the world through the Church, to repentance and faith.  This is why the Church remains, and ever shall remain.

Much to the surprise of those in every age who thought the Church would succumb to the prevailing “wisdom” of the day, the Church lives and thrives because Jesus lives to keep His promise, in response to Peter’s confession: “On this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

Our task, then, our calling is to point people to this life that is really Life, to the living Lord Jesus.  He walks among His churches, the Book of Revelation says, assuring us, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17-18).

This Sunday, when you go to church, take a new look at what is going on.  Look past anything that annoys you about your pastor or the people and hear the Word of God afresh as it is: the Word of Jesus directly to you.  Remember that Jesus gives His Body and Blood for you.  Remember that He put His name on you in your Baptism.  He is alive to give you life.  Go then with His Life into your daily life.  Go and bring to others this life that is the only real Life.

The Church remains because Jesus lives and, in Him, so do you!

+Herbert C. Mueller
LCMS First Vice-President

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