The Rich Man and Lazarus

“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Luke 16:19-31

We should note first of all that Jesus’ illustration of the rich man and Lazarus may be much more than a parable, for it is told by Jesus as if it is a true and factual account. Whether an actual historical event or a parable, we can still learn much from Jesus’ telling of it.

The rich man is not identified by name; but the poor beggar’s name was Lazarus, which means “God is help.” Even though Lazarus was poor and full of sores, we know that he was a true believer in God, as his name indicates, because he was taken to heaven when he died. Even though the rich man was greatly blessed by God in material things, he did not believe or listen to the Word of God (Moses and the Prophets). This can be seen by the fact that there were no fruits of faith in his life in regard to poor Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, and by the fact that his soul went to hell when he died.

In addition to teaching that one’s soul goes either to heaven or to hell when he dies, Jesus warns against living life solely for the enjoyment of the good things of this world. One’s first concern should be to heed the Word of God and repent, turning away from sin and the selfish use of this world’s goods to faith in Christ, who died to redeem us from sin and death. As a fruit of true repentance, we will then put to death our selfish and sinful desires and use the goods of this world to help those in need. We will not close our hearts to the poor and needy but will do all we can to help them.

One more important truth should also be learned. If one does not heed the Word of God during his lifetime, there is no other hope for repentance; for the Holy Ghost works through the Law to convince us of our sin and the punishment we deserve, and through the Gospel to reveal our Savior and to assure us of eternal salvation through faith in Him. If one, during his lifetime, refuses to turn from his sins to Christ Jesus, his Savior, there will be no more opportunity for repentance. His torment in hell will be forever! But when one, by the grace of God, heeds the Word and repents, trusting in Christ for forgiveness and life, his soul, at the time of death, will be transported by angels to the bosom of Abraham.

O Jesus, who my debt didst pay and for my sin wast smitten, within the Book of Life, oh, may my name be also written! I will not doubt; I trust in Thee, from Satan Thou hast made me free and from all condemnation. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn 611, Verse 5)

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

How does one cleanse his way?

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.” Psalm 119:9-10 KJV

We see and confess our sins. God’s Word reveals to us our utter sinfulness and failings. We agree with what God says in His Word and acknowledge with Daivd: “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest” (Psalm 51:4). We confess our sins and look to God in faith, and He is merciful toward us and forgives all our sins and iniquities for the sake of Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of the world (cf. 1 John 1:7 – 2:2; Psalm 51:1ff.; Psalm 32:5).

But how do we now cleanse our way? How do we, as a fruit of our faith in God’s mercy and forgiveness toward us for Jesus’ sake, now live for our God and Savior and walk in a way which is pleasing unto Him?

While some would direct us to look inside ourselves, to our hearts and feelings, we look to God’s Word to guide and change the thinking of our hearts. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” We look to the Scriptures, for there God has revealed His good and perfect will for us. He has told us what He desires of us.

We pray to God: “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psalm 86:11); and “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way” (Psalm 119:36-37). With the psalmist we pray: “With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments” (Psalm 119:10).

As the Spirit of God regenerates us and creates in us a new heart and right spirit (Psalm 51:10), we seek Him and His ways and join in praying that God would keep us from wandering outside the path His commandments lay out for us. We pray: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).

And, of course, if we are going to walk in the way God commands, we need God’s Word in our hearts. Consider Psalm 119:11-16: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.”

We trust in Christ for pardon and life eternal. We pray that God’s Spirit would unite our hearts to fear His name. And we look to God’s Word for guidance – studying, meditating, treasuring it in our hearts – that we might walk in God’s ways and not sin against Him.

O gracious and merciful God. We have sinned. Forgive us for Jesus’ sake, and cleanse our hearts and teach us Your Word that we might walk in Your ways. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

Found in Christ and righteous through faith in Him

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” Philippians 3:8-11 KJV

There is always a temptation to depend upon ourselves and our own righteousness before God – to believe that God accepts us and will raise us up on the last day and give us eternal life with Him because of who we are and what we have done. There’s a tendency in us to boast and brag, at least a little bit, about all our work for God’s kingdom.

We might reason that we are certainly worthy to be saved and go to heaven. We are, in many cases, Lutherans born of Lutherans, baptized as little children, educated in Sunday school and in Lutheran schools, confirmed and maybe educated in Lutheran secondary schools, colleges and seminaries. We have been faithful members of Lutheran congregations. We’ve served as officers, taught Sunday school, belonged to Lutheran organizations, given to mission organizations, etc. If anyone is righteous, surely it is us, we might think.

But the Bible tells us that our salvation is entirely of God’s grace and through faith in Christ Jesus. It is not the result of who we are and what we’ve done. We have no grounds to boast. St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8-10: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

And listen to what he writes in the opening verses of Philippians 3 (v. 2-9): “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith….”

If anyone had grounds for boasting, it was St. Paul – a faithful and zealous Jew in every respect – but he counted all his own righteousness under the law worthless – as dung to be cast out – that he might have instead the righteousness which avails before God, the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus which becomes ours through faith alone in Him (cf. Romans 3:21ff.).

And, indeed, as it says in Isaiah 64:6, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Even our best righteousness comes short and does not measure up. And so, with the apostle Paul, we count all our righteousness as dung and cast it out that we might have the righteousness of God which is by faith in Christ Jesus. We trust not in our own sin-tainted works but in the perfect righteousness of Jesus, and we draw our hope and comfort in the fact that He died and made full atonement for all our sins and rose again, having accomplished our redemption!

Notice too that the apostle, though he does not trust in his own works or righteousness, seeks to live in accord with the ultimate goal of our salvation – that we would be like Christ, conformed to His image (cf. Romans 8:29).

Paul describes this in verses 10-12: “…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”

We too trust in Christ alone for our salvation but, as those saved entirely by God’s grace in Christ Jesus, we seek to live for Christ and do those works “which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” And with Paul, we say: “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress; midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head … Jesus, be endless praise to Thee, whose boundless mercy hath for me, for me, and all Thy hands have made, an everlasting ransom paid. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, # 371, v. 1,7)

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

Are you really a disciple of Jesus?

 

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26-27 KJV

I ask you today, “Are you a disciple of Jesus?” Considering Jesus’ words in Luke 14:26-27, do you love the Lord Jesus more than your father and mother, your spouse and your children, your brothers and sisters, and even your own life? Are you willing to suffer the hatred and persecution which goes with being a true follower of Christ and His Word, and are you willing to follow Him and hold fast to all that His Word teaches even if it means suffering or death? Jesus said that if you do not put Him first and foremost, you cannot be His disciple. If you are not willing to suffer with Him and follow after Him in all that He teaches and wherever He leads, you cannot be His disciple!

Before one commits to following Jesus and being His disciple, Jesus urges him to count the cost and consider the burden. He said in Luke 14:28-33: “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”

Indeed, there are many fair-weather followers of Jesus. As long as all is well and there are no storms to endure, no difficulties to bear, no controversies to test their faithfulness, no persecutions to suffer, they are happy to follow Jesus; but let trouble come or persecution, and they are quick to turn back and forsake Christ and faithfulness to His Word. In such cases, Jesus’ words in verses 34-35 are so fitting: “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Not a single one of us would or could be a disciple of Jesus apart from His gracious working in us through His Word. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, lovers of ourselves and not lovers of God (cf. Ephesians 2:1ff.; Titus 3:3-7). As Jesus said in John, chapter six, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (v. 44); and, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (v. 63; cf. John 6:22-71).

By God’s grace alone, we were brought to see our utter sinful and lost condition and to see God’s mercy and grace offered to us in Christ Jesus — for the sake of His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for the sins of the world. It is by God’s grace alone that we were brought to trust in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

The Bible tells us: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It is by God’s grace that we were made disciples of our Lord Jesus. By the Holy Spirit’s gracious working, we continue in His Word, have learned the truth and are His disciples indeed (John 8:31-32).

And, as a result of God’s gracious working in us to bring us to know and trust in Christ Jesus as our Savior, He has also created in us a love for Christ which supersedes our love for spouse or children or family. He gives us the strength and willingness to suffer all rather than forsake Christ Jesus and lose the blessings of forgiveness and life which Christ won for us. He gives us a willingness to live and even sacrifice our own lives in this world for the sake of Christ and to carry on His work in this world of reaching out to lost and dying souls with His grace and mercy.

By His grace, we have been made disciples of Jesus.

O gracious and merciful Savior, grant that we truly be Your disciples — that we trust in You alone for forgiveness and life and submit to the teaching of Your Word in all things. Keep us faithful unto you that we might receive the crown of life You have won for us by Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead. Amen.

Worship Video from Sept. 4, 2016

[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

‘Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ’

“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; and in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear [to be] in me.” Philippians 1:27-30

St. Paul urges us too, in his letter to the believers at Philippi, that our conversation (how we live our lives) give honor and credibility to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not give people occasion to speak against Christ Jesus and the message of forgiveness and life through faith in His name. And so we examine ourselves: “Do our lives bring glory to the Gospel or cause people to blaspheme it?”

We are urged to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In other words, we as a congregation are called upon to remain united in this, that we hold fast to the faith of the Gospel – that we teach, proclaim, believe and cling to the truth that through faith in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross we have forgiveness for all our sins and a place in His everlasting kingdom.

When we are spoken against and persecuted, we ought not be terrified; what can man do to us when we have the Lord on our side protecting and keeping us and granting us salvation! “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (Psalm 56:11).

Our standing firm in our faith in Christ Jesus is a reminder to them of the error of their ways and the judgment of God which will come upon them, and to us of the salvation God has provided for us in His Son.

And, though we seldom think of it as such, it is a gift and privilege given us of God not only to believe the Gospel and trust in Christ as our Savior, but to suffer because of our faith and witness to Jesus. As the world hated Jesus and His Word, so it will hate us when we follow Jesus and proclaim His Word. But, in Jesus Christ and through the preaching of His Word, we have been made “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

We follow the exhortation of the apostle Paul to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:10-17): “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of [them] all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned [them]; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

Dear crucified and risen Savior, grant that our lives bring glory to You and give credibility to the message of salvation through faith in Your name. Give us courage and strength to trust in You through all that we must suffer in this life and bring us safely to Yourself in heaven. Amen.

‘Let this mind be in you….’

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8

People often seek to have things done their own way in the church. Rather than considering the wants and needs of others, it is so often “my way or the highway.” But what does God’s Word call upon us to do?

“Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others…” (v.3-4). Instead of seeking our own interests and desiring vain glory, we ought to regard the needs of others before our own.

The apostle Paul tells us to have the same mind in us which was in Christ Jesus. It would not have been robbery for Christ Jesus to have lived His life in this world in the full glory of God, for He was and is true God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Instead, He humbled Himself, taking on the form of a servant, made in the likeness of men, and He was obedient to the will of His heavenly Father even to the point of bearing the guilt of our sins and dying upon the cross as our substitute that He might make full atonement for the sins of all and redeem us to God. And it was for that reason that God raised Him up and exalted Him to His own right hand.

The apostle Paul’s desire for the church at Philippi was that the believers be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord and of one mind. That is also God’s will for us today. And the way to do this is to have the mind of Christ – humble, submissive to the will of the Father, and self-sacrificing for the good of our fellow believers.

O gracious and merciful God, grant unto us the mind of Christ – that we might be like Him in obedience to Thy Word and sacrificing self for the benefit of others. In His name we pray. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

The Invocation, Confession and Absolution

We begin our worship with the invocation. In it we call upon the LORD God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to hear our prayers and praises; and we declare that our worship is directed toward the one true God: the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

And the first thing we do in our worship of the true God, who is holy and without sin, is to confess (to say the same thing as He says in His Word, the Bible, of) our sinfulness and our unworthiness to stand in His presence. It is at St. John writes in his first epistle (1 John 1:8-9): “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Indeed, we have sinned against the LORD God in our thoughts, desires, words and deeds. We are, by nature, inclined to sin and evil and do not love the LORD God with all our heart, soul and mind; nor do we love our neighbors as He wills and commands. “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Psalm 130:3). We deserve nothing but God’s wrath and punishment on account of our sinfulness, and we have no right to come before Him in worship.

But, as the Scriptures teach in Psalm 130:4: “There is forgiveness with Thee, that thou mayest be feared.” Jesus Christ, God’s own dear Son, came into this world a true man, fulfilled all the righteous commands of God for us, and then, as a lamb without blemish and spot, was offered up upon the cross for our sins, and the sins of all mankind, to make atonement, to satisfy the just wrath of God against our sins. “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).

We begin our worship with an appeal to the LORD God for our greatest need: forgiveness for all our sins and acceptance as God’s own dear children. And when we confess our sins, the pastor proclaims to us Christ’s atoning sacrifice for the sins of all and God’s mercy in Christ Jesus that we might through faith take hold of God’s pardon and forgiveness in Christ Jesus and rejoice in the certainty that we are accepted of the Father and have everlasting life through faith in Jesus’ name.

Then, as God’s forgiven children through faith in Christ Jesus, we come before the LORD God to hear His Word and to offer up to Him our worship and praise.

In a Strait Betwixt Two

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” Philippians 1:21-24

As Christians, we are in a strait betwixt two and, if the choice were ours, it would be hard to choose. On the one hand, we long to leave this life and be with Christ Jesus, our Savior, where there will be no more sin, sorrow or death (cf. Rom. 7:18ff.; 8:22ff.; Phil. 3:20-21; Rev. 7:9ff.). On the other, there is work to be done in this world that others might hear God’s Word and come to know Christ and that believers might be preserved in the true faith in Christ Jesus as our Savior (cf. Luke 24:46-48; Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).

The apostle Paul was in that same strait. He was in prison because He preached Christ crucified as the only hope for sinful mankind, and he faced the very real possibility of being put to death for His faith and testimony concerning Jesus being God the Son and the promised Messiah and Savior of lost sinners. If he were to live on in this world, it would be Christ living in Him and through Him and calling upon all to repent of their sinful ways and look to Jesus and His cross for eternal salvation. If He were to die for His faith, it would be for Christ’s glory and the apostle would be taken from this sinful world to be with Christ Jesus forever.

The apostle had a desire to depart and be with His God and Savior because that would be far better. But, he also knew the churches in Philippi (cf. Acts 16) and other places needed the strengthening and encouraging he could offer and give by his letters and by visiting and teaching them God’s Word. Therefore, Paul was confident he would be delivered from death and be able to visit the churches again and encourage believers in their faith with more teaching from the Word.

Why do we, as Christians, live on in this world? It’s not so we can enjoy this world or relax in retirement. Knowing our own sinfulness and having seen through the Word a glimpse of what Christ has in store for those who trust in Him, we desire to depart this life and to be with Jesus where we will no longer be sinners and no longer suffer the evils of this world. We know it is far better to be with Christ. But we also know that God leaves us in this world a little longer for one purpose – to live is Christ – that we might bear witness of the truths of God’s Word and point people to Christ Jesus, whether that be our children, grandchildren or others around us (cf. 2 Peter 3:9; Psalm 71:14-18).

O dearest Jesus, we long to be with You forever. Help us to live for You in this world – to bear witness to You and the salvation You won for all by Your death upon the cross – until that day You call us home to You in heaven. Amen.

Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible

Put on the Whole Armor of God

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13 (Read 10-20)

Though we so often don’t even realize it, there is a battle raging around us and within us for our very souls.

As the apostle says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

The devil and his evil cohorts seek to take us from Christ’s kingdom and rob us of the blessings Christ won for us upon the cross by attacking our faith and our life. He seeks to deceive us and lead us away from the true doctrine set forth in the Holy Scriptures, and he seeks to allure us back into the entanglements of sin so that we we do not trust in Christ and despair of His mercy and forgiveness (cf. 1 Peter 5:8-9; Psalm 2; Genesis 3:1).

Since the battle is spiritual, against powerful fallen angels rather than against human flesh and blood, our weapons and defenses need to be spiritual and powerful enough to withstand the constant assaults of our old evil foe (cf. Rev. 12:7ff.). Flesh and blood, human strength and will and earthly weapons are insufficient in this battle. Left to ourselves, we would be overrun and fall.

That is why the Scriptures admonish us: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Only with these weapons of the Lord can we stand against the wiles of the devil. The Lord Himself preserves us!

O Lord, grant that we put on the armor of God, girded with the truth, wearing the breastplate of righteousness, having our feet shod with the Gospel of peace, bearing the shield of faith, wearing the helmet of salvation, wielding the sword of the Spirit and praying in the Spirit always. Amen.

Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible

God’s command to husbands and wives

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord … Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it….” Ephesians 5:22,25  Read Ephesians 5:22-33

Why would a Christian pastor preach on a text which tells wives to submit to their husbands in this day when the world around us – at least in the West – views men and women as equals and condemns any view which says a women should be submissive? My answer is quite simple: Because God, the Creator of man and woman, says so in His Word, the Bible; and I am called to preach His Word!

God, who knows far better than we His design for creation and what is good and right, says (in Eph. 5:22-24): “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

This, of course, means what it says: wives are called upon by God, their Maker and Redeemer, to be submissive to their husbands – as the church submits to Christ – in every thing! It means wives sin when they are not submissive, in the same way that “churches” sin when they do not submit to Christ and His Word – and there are a lot of “churches” in that category today.

Why? We can look at God’s order of creation in Genesis 2 where the woman was made as a “help meet” for the man, and we see from God’s Word following the fall into sin in Gen. 3:16: “thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” We can look at God’s Word regarding women’s role in the church in 1 Tim. 2:11ff. and 1 Cor. 14:34ff., where God gives the why: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression”; and, “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.” Cf. 1 Cor. 11:3ff.

Does this mean women are inferior to men? Is Jesus inferior to the Father? Read 1 Cor. 11:3 and 1 Cor. 15:28. Jesus, God the Son, submits to the will of the Father. He is not inferior but He submits.

And husbands, you are to love your wives as Christ loved the Church and give Himself for her. The Bible says in Eph. 5:25-31: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.”

Men, this means that we are guilty of sin when we don’t love our wives with that same selfless love that Christ Jesus had for the Church when He gave Himself for us that He might wash away our sins in Baptism and make us holy and righteous before God through faith in His name. This doesn’t just mean being willing to die for our brides, but giving up ourselves and our own selfish goals and ambitions in this life for the present and eternal good of our brides! After all, when we were joined to our wives in marriage, we became one flesh and one body.

Men, we have a great responsibility toward God our Creator to use the authority He has given us for the good of our wives and families. For, as the Scriptures say, our wives are “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7; Read v.1-7). Wives are commanded to submit to us, their husbands; and we are commanded to love them and use our authority for their good and their blessing.

And the apostle Paul also tells us a mystery: He is speaking of Christ and the church. Since Christ gave Himself for us – living for us and dying on the cross in our stead – we are called upon as His Church to submit to Him in all things. And we know that His will and His Word is for our good, and we submit to His holy Word in all that it says, as His bride!

Christ died for our sins and rose again that through Baptism we might be joined to Him as His holy bride, with all our sins and uncleanness washed away. As believers, we need to leave our earthly ties and be joined to Christ, submitting to His perfect will, revealed to us in His Word, for He leads us to life everlasting as His eternal bride!

Dearest Lord Jesus, we thank You for so loving us that You died for our sins and rose again that we might be washed and cleansed in the waters of Baptism and made Your holy bride. Grant that we submit to Your will and that wives submit to their husbands and that husbands truly love their wives. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible.]