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.]

Who is the true God?

There is only one true God (Isaiah 44:6; 1 Corinthians 8:4). This God (called the LORD or JEHOVAH) is one divine Being or Essence but three distinct Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (thus the name, Triune or Three/One God), each being eternal and equal in power and majesty because each Person is the LORD God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19; 1 John 5:7; Isaiah 48:16-17; John 1:1; Colossians 2:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 4:14).

Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” Isaiah 44:6

We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.” 1 Corinthians 8:4

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD….” Deuteronomy 6:4

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost….” Matthew 28:19

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” 1 John 5:7

Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me. Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.” Isaiah 48:16-17

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

For in him [Jesus Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Colossians 2:9

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:14

If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.” 1 Peter 4:14

No one can worship or serve the Triune God except he believe that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God and the Savior of mankind from sin and its consequences (John 3:18,36; 5:23; 14:6; I John 2:23; 5:11-12). Hence, all who deny the Trinity of God (that God is three Persons) or the Unity of God (that God is one divine Being), or who do not trust in Jesus Christ, the Son, for salvation, do not worship and serve the true God.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” John 3:18

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:36

All men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” John 5:23

Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” 1 John 5:23

And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:11-12

Brief Summary – Word of God

WORD OF GOD

Each and every word, as well as the entirety and whole, of the Holy Scriptures was given by inspiration of God and is therefore the true and unerring Word of God.

For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:21

All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” 2 Timothy 3:16

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” 1 Corinthians 2:13

The scripture cannot be broken.” John 10:35

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17:17

Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.” 2 Samuel 23:1-2

The Word of God has not been lost or corrupted, but has been faithfully preserved by God down through the centuries as a witness to all the nations.

For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” Psalm 119:89

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” Isaiah 40:8

But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:25

And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35

The Word of God is still accurately recorded in the Hebrew Masoretic and Greek Majority (Received) Texts and can be read and studied in faithful Bible translations such as Luther’s German Bible, the King James Version and the New King James Version of the Bible. To be rejected are texts and translations of the Bible which are unfaithful and corrupt the Word of God.

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” Deuteronomy 4:2

The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? Saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:28

For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:18-19

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18-19.

Since all of Holy Scripture is God’s true and unerring Word, the Bible is to be the source and judge of all Christian doctrine. What is not in accord with God’s Word is not to be taught as Christian doctrine.

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20

The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:28-32

Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.” Psalm 119:128

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.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

These [the Bereans] were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11

The Bible is also its own interpreter; thus, passage interpretations which are not in agreement with other clear passages of Holy Scripture are to be rejected.

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:20-21

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20

The Bible is to be diligently studied and heard; for it reveals to mankind the only way of salvation, which is through faith in Christ Jesus, and it guides the Christian in living according to God’s Holy will.

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” John 20:31

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.” 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105

‘Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness’

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Eph. 5:11

Since God, in His grace and mercy has shined upon us with the light of the Gospel and has opened our eyes through His Word that we might see our utter sinfulness and see that, in Christ Jesus and for the sake of His holy life and innocent sufferings and death in our stead, God reaches out to us in mercy and forgiveness and offers to us a place in His everlasting kingdom through faith in His Son, should we walk in darkness and continue in the sinful ways of this world?

The Scriptures admonish us, as children of the light who have come to a knowledge of the truth, to walk in the light of God’s Word and continue trusting in our crucified and risen Savior. Rather than joining together in the unfruitful works of darkness, we are to expose and reprove them for what they are – lies of our old evil foe, the devil, and disobedience to God’s commandments.

This has application in every aspect of our lives and in our congregation and church as well. Rather than joining together in any of the ways of the world, and rather than joining together and fellowshipping with churches which espouse and hold to false doctrine and sin – anything that is not of the truth revealed in God’s unerring Word – we are admonished to expose and reprove sin and error that those who are deceived might come to see the truth and repent, trusting in Christ Jesus for mercy.

This is what God commands us to do when he says: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17-18); and, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:14-18; cf. 1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 John 9-11; Tit. 3:10-11; Isa. 8:20; Matt. 7:15-23).

We too, as believers, are to examine ourselves in the light of God’s Word, acknowledge and confess all that is of darkness and turn to the Light of the world and receive in faith forgiveness and cleansing through His blood shed upon the cross for the sins of the all (1 John 1:5 – 2:2).

Dearest Lord Jesus, we thank You for granting us Your Spirit and opening our eyes that we might see our sin and guilt before God but also see and know His mercy and forgiveness toward us for the sake of Your atoning sacrifice for us upon the cross. Amen.

Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible

Put off the old man; put on the new

“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24

Since we have been redeemed by Christ Jesus and saved entirely of God’s grace from beginning to end, how should we then live as God’s redeemed children, as members of Christ’s body, the Church?

As St. Paul wrote to the church at Rome (Romans 6:1-4): “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Cf. Luther’s explanation of Baptism, Part IV.

That is why the apostle here also directs members of Christ’s Church to put off the old Adam – our old sinful ways and way of living – and put on the new Man, who “after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Though Adam was originally created in the image of God – loving God, trusting God and seeking to honor God in all His ways – all of us were born in the image of Adam after the fall into sin and, so, are self centered and sinful. Instead of seeking to walk in God’s ways and according to His perfect will, we seek our own ways and our own will.

Since the Spirit of God has regenerated us and brought us to trust in Christ Jesus as our Savior by means of the waters of Baptism and the faithful preaching of God’s Word, we now have a new spiritual nature dwelling in us which again loves God, trusts Him and seeks His honor and glory. The apostle urges us as believers, redeemed by Christ’s shed blood, to put off the old corrupt man and put on the new man which “after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Cf. Gen. 1:26-27; Tit. 3:3-7; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10; 2 Cor. 3:18; Ps. 17:15.

The apostle then lists specific sins to put off and commands God-pleasing behavior to put on as believers in Christ. Cf. Eph. 4-5.

Grant that we would repent of our sinful ways and look to You, O Lord, for mercy and forgiveness and for the strength to put off our old ways and put on the new man You have created within us. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

Are You Too Busy for that One Thing Needful?

“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 (Read v. 38-42)

How easy it is to become so busy in our service to the Lord Jesus that we neglect that one thing needful: To sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His Word! It even happens to ministers. They become so busy getting everything ready for church services and Bible studies that they neglect to read and meditate in the Scriptures for their own benefit.

It happened to Martha. When Jesus came, she was busy preparing and serving Jesus and His disciples. Now, that’s not a bad thing to do; but she was so busy she neglected to take time for what was most important and even voiced her concerns that Mary, who was sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing His Word, did not get up and help her.

Each one of us can benefit from considering Jesus’ answer: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

What is keeping you so busy that you do not have time to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His Word? What is keeping you from spending time each day reading and meditating upon the Holy Scriptures? Is it work or school? Is it relaxation and recreation? Is it television? Is it church work?

Remember: While all these things may be good and important, there is one thing that is truly needful for all of us, and that is to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His Word. Why? His Word teaches us of God and His ways. It teaches us how God would have us live as His children. But, most importantly, Jesus’ Word assures us of His love and mercy and forgiveness. It tells us that He died for all our sins and rose again that we might have forgiveness and life through faith in His name!

O Jesus, forgive me for being so busy in my service for You that I neglect to take time to sit at Your feet and hear all You have to say to me in Your life-giving Word. Grant that I not neglect this one thing so needful for my soul. Amen.

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

Preserving Our Unity in Christ

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

Wherever the Word of God is preached in its truth and purity and the Sacraments are rightly administered the devil is hard at work to destroy the unity created by the Holy Spirit and to break apart what is bound together in peace. This is why the apostle Paul, after explaining to the believers at Ephesus how God graciously granted them salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3ff.; 2:1ff.), urged and beseeched them to walk worthy of their calling and membership in Christ’s holy Church.

By God’s grace and mercy alone, we have been called out of this world and gathered into Christ’s Church (ekklesia) – the congregation of saints, or those counted holy and righteous through faith in Christ Jesus. God graciously chose us to be His own before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5). He sent His own dear Son to make atonement for the sins of all (Eph. 1:6-7). He called us to faith in Christ Jesus through the preaching of the Gospel (Eph. 1:13-14; 2:4ff.) and made us His own dear children through the waters of Baptism (cf. Gal. 3:26ff.; Eph. 5:25-27). We are now in fellowship with God the Father through faith in the Son (cf. 1 John 1:3ff.). God has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins…” (Col. 1:13-14).

We are one with all other true believers in Christ. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6).

Even though we have different gifts and abilities, we are part of one Church, made up of all true believers in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, we are to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” And how do we maintain the unity given us in the body of Christ by the gracious operation of God’s Spirit? How do we keep from loosing the bond of peace we have in Christ? We seek to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith [we] are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” (Cf. 1 Cor. 13:4ff.; Col. 3:12ff.) We hold fast to Christ and His teaching and grow up into Him (cf. Eph. 4:8ff.).

The devil would have us find fault with each other, to be proud and to insist on having things our way in the Church. Christ would have us be humble, to suffer long the shortcomings of our fellow believers, to forbear (to hold back and refrain from speaking harsh words or taking retaliatory actions against) one another, in Christian love. Instead of picking each other apart and dividing what God has joined together, God’s Word calls upon us to: “Confess [our] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that [we] may be healed” (James 5:16); and to “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). And God’s Word calls upon us to grow up in Christ, not to be swayed by every wind of doctrine and to build each other up in the truth (Eph. 4:14-16).

Satan seeks to divide us with false teaching and pride. Jesus unites us with truth and humility.

We thank You for Your grace and mercy toward us in Christ Jesus, O God, for calling us out of this world and bringing us into the kingdom of Your beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of all our sins. Grant that we would hold fast to Christ, our Head, and preserve the unity and bond of peace You have given us in our Savior. In His name we pray. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

Are you part of the mystery of the Gospel?

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” Ephesians 3:8-12

Do you know the greatest mystery in the world? It was a mystery not even revealed to the angels of God in heaven until it unfolded in time and was, by the church, made known to the heavenly beings. And did you know that we – you and I – are a part of this mystery promised of old but made known in Christ Jesus?

What is this mystery? It is spoken of and revealed in the Bible. It is the plan of God to save both Jew and Gentile through faith in the crucified and risen Messiah Jesus, God the Son and true man, born of the virgin Mary, who suffered and died for the sins of the world under Pontius Pilate and then rose again.

Yes, it was promised; but who understood that the promise of the Seed of the woman, Abraham’s Seed, the Son of David, the Child and suffering Servant spoken of by Isaiah would all be fulfilled when God sent forth His own Son into the world, “made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5)? And who knew that Messiah Jesus, through whom God made the worlds, would take upon Himself the punishment for the sins of the world and rise again?

And who knew that God would save both Jew and Gentile through faith in His Son (Ephesians 2:11ff.)? And yet He did. Through the preaching of the Gospel, He even brought you and me to see and know Jesus as our Savior and to trust in Him for forgiveness and life eternal in God’s everlasting kingdom.

The apostle Paul was privileged to preach this mystery and you and I are privileged to be a part of it and to share it with others. Through faith in Christ Jesus, who atoned for the sins of the world, you and I are forgiven and have a place in God’s eternal kingdom. What a blessing!

We thank You, O Lord, for making known unto us the mystery of Your will in Christ Jesus, our Savior, and bringing us to trust in Him alone for forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

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