Vol. VIII — No. 51 December 24, 1967
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
In Christ Jesus, who would have us he prepared for His second coming, Fellow Redeemed:
“Behold, thy King cometh!” That, as we emphasized last week, is the unchanging message for the Church. We noted in passing that that message also has eschatological overtones. Eschatology is that area of doctrine that treats the last things, such as the resurrection of all flesh, the judgment, heaven and hell. The chief matter is the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in glory.
After our Lord had ascended on high, two angels appeared and assured His disciples that He would one day come again—visibly, even as they had watched Him ascend. In His Olivet Discourse our Lord also spoke of His coming again at the end of time. His first coming to earth had been in humility, born of a virgin amidst such lowly surroundings. His second coming shall be “in a cloud with power and great glory.”
When shall that be? That is God’s secret! It shall be suddenly, as the lightning streaks across the sky. It shall be unexpectedly, as a thief coming in the night. The year, the exact day, the precise moment is unknown to man, but of the certainty of His coming there is and can be no doubt.
What is the admonition for children of God in view of the fact that His coming in glory is certain, but the time unknown? “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” “Be prepared” is the warning. “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man,” “Be watching” is the warning.
These are the warnings given to us in the Gospel lesson. The epistle selection portrays to us the attitude of mind and heart that should characterize disciples who are prepared and watching for their Lord’s coming. It gives us a view of what should be the inner spiritual life of each and every child of God. Let us take a closer look at what we should be like on the inside, so that we can strive to become more like that.
All of the Old Testament Scriptures that had been written over the centuries passed before the eye of Paul’s mind when he wrote these words: “For whatsoever things were written aforetimes were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” In the next verse our God is called “the God of patience and consolation.” Patience, comfort, hope—these three tell a story. Patience literally means the bearing up under a burden, whatever that burden may be. Comfort presupposes adversity of some kind, distress, mental anguish. Hope reveals that all is not realization now. There is a reaching out for better things to come.
Think of this combination, waiting with patience and comfort in hope, from the viewpoint of the Old Testament believer. What we look back upon as fulfillment—the birth of God’s Son, His public ministry, His passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit—they looked forward to in anticipation. They were waiting. Their waiting, however, was not undisturbed. While believers waited, the world grew wicked about them and made encroachments upon them. Then came the flood as just punishment. Once again believers continued to wait; once again the world grew indifferent towards the promise. Then came the judgment of Babel. Abraham was given the promise, but he was tried and tested by the barrenness of his wife and the twenty-five year delay in fulfilling the promise to give him a son. He had to bear up while waiting. He had to remain steadfast. During this long period of time God’s people also needed comfort. Later in the history of God’s people, when they as a nation grew more and more wicked, turning their backs on and their hearts away from the Lord, judgment drew closer and finally fell upon them. The Lord sent the Babylonians to carry the nation away into captivity. The godly suffered with the ungodly. They needed comfort. Even before that national tragedy occurred, the Lord raised up Isaiah to provide the needed comfort for His people. In times when God’s people are called upon to bear up under a burden or when conditions demand comfort, then especially is hope needed. The Old Testament children of God rested upon the faithfulness of their God, reaching forward in hope to the time of fulfillment when God would redeem His promises. This is what Paul had in mind when he wrote of how the Scriptures work patience and comfort in hope.
We live in the era of the fulfillment, but all has not yet been fulfilled. We also are waiting, specifically for His second coming. We also have burdens to bear. We can see moral decay all about us. Our children are exposed to evil forces. Saddest of all— we have experienced decay and corruption in the very place that we had reason to consider to be a bulwark against such forces—in the churches. One after another the old truths fall and are replaced with doubts and unbelief. Old standards of conduct are replaced with no standards at all. We are called upon to bear up under these circumstances, to remain steadfast, to hold out against the forces of evil in society and coming from the churches. In addition we may have family burdens: sickness, mental disturbances in some of the members of the family, the situation of a lost son or daughter who has turned away from the paths of righteousness and who may imagine that they can live without the bread of Life. We need comfort. We need strengthening. We need to have our sighs soothed and our tears dried. But all the time we do have hope. We dare to lift up our heads, knowing that the day of our Lord shall redress all wrongs, vindicate our doctrine and way of life. He shall come one day to take vengeance upon His and our enemies and to bring us the full realization of our salvation. Let us be waiting for that day with patience and comfort in hope.
While waiting, let us be—
How rare is such glorying in the churches today! Listen to Paul’s wish for the Romans: “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Where is the unity of mind and heart that expresses itself in glorying with one voice? The ecumenical movement has destroyed that with its drive for outward union despite inner contradiction. There was a time when members of a single denomination would at least know what they believed, but those days are gone too. Now confusion and contradiction reign. Each one believes what he wants to and most haven’t the slightest idea of what they believe or why. How far those who bear the name “Christian” have fallen from the Scriptural norm of glorying God with one mind and one mouth!
In our congregation we are striving to achieve this goal—that we all glorify our God with a common mind and understanding and with a united voice. How are we hoping to achieve this? The sermons are prepared to bring you the word of God, not the opinions of supposedly learned men or the private opinions of the pastor. So it is that today when I tell you that your God would have you united in understanding, accepting, believing and confessing His word, that is a message from your God—not a private opinion as to how I would like to see things run in this congregation. Our Sunday School staff meets not once quarter but weekly to arrive at an understanding of the story before the teaching begins so that the lesson for the day can be presented with one mind and one voice. The articles in the weekly bulletin are to build up an understanding of Christian doctrine. So also the instruction periods on Monday evenings. Before we accept new members, we discuss with them doctrines that we know are peculiar to our church because we know that so many others have departed from the Word of Truth. When people come to us from non-Lutheran churches we would like them to take a course of instruction so that they can know what we teach and then decide whether they want to join us in a unity of spirit and with a singleness of confession. This work of creating and sustaining unity of doctrine and practice, unity of spirit and confession is an ongoing work in our midst. We want all to grow in knowledge and understanding so that we can all glorify our God with one mind and one mouth. We are waiting for the coming of our Lord. While we wait, we gather here week after week to glorify our God. Let each one submit himself to the instruction that the Spirit of God gives in the Word so that we may glorify our God, as He wants to be glorified—in one mind and with one mouth.
Our Lord is coming; we are waiting. while waiting, we should be—
Paul was concerned that both Jew and Gentile come to faith in Jesus Christ. He referred to the Old Testament prophecies of the time when the Gentiles would sing and rejoice, praise and laud the Lord. Paul wanted all to share in Christ. These personal feelings the Spirit of God used, as He moved Paul to express himself in these words: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”
Believing brings joy. There isn’t much joy in the hearts of our modern generation. Oh yes, we have all kinds of comedians who are paid to make people laugh, but there is quite a difference between raucous laughter and the quiet joy of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. There are stubborn facts of life that cannot be removed by laughter. There is the secret gnawing of one’s conscience which tells us again and again that we have failed to live up to the divine standard set for us. There is the ruthless march of death claiming victims of all ages each day—without ever taking a holiday. There is the inevitableness of the day of judgment. Laughter doesn’t remove these things. Comedians can’t fill a heart with joy in the face of sin, the certainty of death, and the inevitableness of the day of judgment. These things just can’t be laughed off or away. But Christ makes it possible for the heart to view all these things in quiet joy. For the Child born came to save His people from their sins, and He did. For the Man who died upon the cross died that He might bring life and immortality to light, and He did. For the Son of God, who shall come again for judgment, has removed the fear of judgment for His own. That is certain. And that is why there is joy in believing—a quiet, steady sense of joy in the midst of sin, death and judgment. May your hearts be filled with this joy in believing!
Believing also brings peace. Where is there peace in this world of wars and rumors of wars? Where is there peace among men when one group seems intent upon waging war upon another group, when law enforcement officers are needed to enforce peace? There is a peace that the world knows nothing of. It is called the peace of God that passeth all understanding. It is found in Christ—nowhere else. Once again we must push aside all appearances and get to the bottom of the problem—man’s rebellion against his God. That rebellion, which can be named by the single three-letter word, SIN, destroyed peace between God and man and man and his fellow man. Marches on Washington, peace sit-ins, anti-war campaigns will not restore peace. Only God could do that. He did in sending His Son to restore peace between God and man and to make possible peace between man and man. In believing there is peace between God and man and the possibility of peace between man and his fellow man. May that peace fill our hearts, as we celebrate the Christmas festival while waiting for the return of our Lord. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.