2nd Sunday after Epiphany January 15, 2017

INI

The Gospel Is for All People

Psalm 78:1-7

Scripture Readings

1 Peter 4:12-19
Matthew 16:24-26

Hymns

129, 246, 408, 409

Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; That the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.

In Christ Jesus, Dear Fellow Redeemed:

The word Epiphany means to show. In the Epiphany season of the church year we celebrate the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, that is, to the non-Jews, for the Gentile Wise Men were the first people of the nations to rejoice in the coming of the Christ-Child.

God makes no distinction between Jew and Gentile in His promises of salvation. Rather, He would have the Savior revealed to the world, for: THE GOSPEL IS FOR ALL PEOPLE

I. THAT INCLUDES YOU

When your alarm clock goes off on Sunday morning, telling you to get up and get ready for church; when the pastor gives the opening prayer five minutes before the service; when the church bell rings, all of these things serve for us as a call to come and hear the Word of God. This call is similar to that of the psalmist, Give ear, O my people, to my law; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.

For the majority of us, it has been this way for as long as we could remember. But why do we bother? Why not catch up on our sleep? It seems that there are always things that need fixing at home. Or why do we take time out in the middle of the week to come to Bible Class? Why not rush out to breakfast instead of going to Bible Class on Sunday morning?

Of course you know the reason. It’s why you come to church and Bible Class. You come to church to hear God’s Word. You don’t come simply to meet with family and friends. You don’t come because the pastor is such an engaging speaker. You come to church to study the Word. For it is not the pastor’s word; it is God’s Word that is proclaimed from the lectern and pulpit, and in Bible Class.

You know the reason, for you have heard from that Word, that it is by that Word that you have been called…out of darkness into His marvelous light… (1 Peter 2:9). As it is written, From a child you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15).

This also explains why we place such importance on the hearing of God’s Word. It is by that Word that we are made wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. It is by that Word that the Light of the world, in the person of the Savior, shines through the darkness and is revealed unto us. It is by that Word that the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts to trust in Christ alone for our salvation.

It is by setting our hope in God our Savior and remembering His Word that we may be referred to as those who keep God’s commandments. Although we do sin and cannot keep God’s commandments perfectly in this world, Christ kept those commandments in our place. Through faith in Him we are, …the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). Justified before God, walking in the light of the Gospel, we then bear fruits of faith. That is, we do God-pleasing works out of love for Him who gave Himself for us and saved us from eternal punishment.

What is the only way that we will remain righteous before God? If we remain in the faith. How will we remain in the faith? We hear and study God’s Word that we might not forget the works of God, but that we would continually have our faith strengthened. Through regular contact with the Word, we are reminded that our sins are forgiven in Christ Jesus and we are righteous before God in Him. Our hope is for life eternal. By that Word that we have set our hope in God, and it is by that Word that our hope will remain in God. Therefore, we gladly hear His Word, as our Savior tells us, He who is of God hears God’s Words… (John 8:47).

But there is another reason that we will gladly hear learn God’s Word. There are many more reasons for hearing the Word of God as we have children, whether those children be our own, or those in our congregation.

As a parent grows older they begin to think of what kind of a legacy they will leave to their children. By legacy I mean the passing on of a particular way of life. From our text we see that for the believer, the LORD wants a parent’s legacy to be that of God’s Word, as we read, “[The LORD] established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children…that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.

So we see again from our text that God’s Promises of the forgiveness of sins and life eternal are for all people, and:

II. THAT INCLUDES YOUR CHILDREN

So often in our day people want to let their children make their own decisions, even in situations the child has no experience in and is not able to make an educated decision. For example, if you ask a child if they would rather go outside and play, or stay inside and do their homework, which do you think the majority of children asked would choose? Of course they’d rather go outside and play. Most children don’t realize that their schoolwork and study habits will have an effect on them later in life, either beneficially or adversely.

To the credit of our parents and Sunday School teachers, I have heard comments from parents that our children love to come to Sunday School. But I have also heard from many of our parents that before Sunday School started, those same children who love it now, did not want to come at first. Do you think that they would have changed their minds if they had stayed home and had never come in the first place? It’s unlikely.

Unless you see to the spiritual education of your children, chances are that they are not going to learn about Jesus. Who’s going to tell them if you don’t? Who’s going to see that they get to church and Sunday School unless you do?

Consider where you would be spiritually had someone not shared the Gospel with you. You are a believer because your father or mother shared the Gospel with you. Whether or not your biological parents shared the Gospel with you or not, you are a believer because someone shared the Gospel with you. Paul speaks this way to the Corinthians when he writes, “…though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel (1 Corinthians 4:14). And again, in his second epistle, I speak as to my children… (2 Corinthians 6:13, KJV). The Apostle John also addresses his readers as such, when he writes, My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin (1 John 2:1).

Again, consider where you would be if someone had not shared the Gospel with you. What if your parents had not told you that you were going to go to Sunday School or Catechism? What if a pastor had not taken time to instruct you in the Word, both publicly and privately? It’s likely you would still be in the dark with the rest of the unbelieving world, ignorant of Christ your Savior, and doomed to eternal death in hell.

It is this thought that prompted the Spirit inspired words recorded in Romans 10:15, …`Whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.’ How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

If this was the case for you, isn’t it the same for your children? Do we want our children to go to hell or to heaven? Children need the forgiveness of sins just as adults do, for, contrary to what many among the Reformed teach, children are accountable before God for their sins, for the LORD God says, The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21).

And, again, contrary to the teaching of the Reformed, children, including infants, can believe in Christ, as Jesus says, Suffer the little children the to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:14). In Paul’s words to Timothy, the inspired writer says, From a child [lit., ‘from an infant’] you have known the Holy Scriptures… (2 Timothy 3:15). And as the Apostle Peter told the crowd on Pentecost, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…for the promise is to you and to your children… (Acts 2:38f). Christ was born and died and rose again to save children too.

The LORD desires the salvation of children as surely as He desires the salvation of adults as we read in our text, I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children… The LORD God commanded the people of Israel to tell their children about Him. And so He also commands us to do the same, as we find throughout Holy Scripture.

Children are surely to be included in the Great Commission, where Christ says, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations… (Matthew 28:19). And again in Mark 16:15, Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.

More specifically, it is written, …fathers, do not provoke you children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

But we needn’t put the entire burden on the parents. The congregation is to be concerned about the spiritual upbringing of her children as well, as Paul tells the Colossian Christians, Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord (Colossians 3:16). And again, we recall that when Christ said, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, He was addressing, not specifically the parents, but His disciples.

It is God’s will that you as parents and we as a congregation teach God’s Word to your children. Parents, teach them at home and bring them to church. Church members, support Christian education in your our congregation! Support Sunday School and confirmation. If possible, continue working toward a Christian Day School, that they may learn at the feet of the Lord, not at the feet of the world. Set a good example for them and come to church and Bible Class, for regular attendance will be easier if it becomes a habit.

Teach your children what is right and wrong; teach them that the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and that He still provides His blessings to them; teach them to sing the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. Above all, tell them about Jesus. Tell them of the wonderful things God has done to save them from sin and punishment. Tell them that Jesus was born and died for them. Tell them that Christ rose from the dead, and that they will too. Tell them that they, and all believers, will live forever in heaven. These are the wonderful works that the LORD has done for them and for all people.

After they have left your care, or the care of the congregation, they may turn aside to the ways of the world, but that will not be your fault. Right now we are to do everything possible, while they are children, to see that they are brought up in the Word to know their Savior. Let us trust the Word of the LORD, Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

In fact, our text tells us, that by bringing up your children in the Word of the LORD, you will be ensuring that their children, and the children of future generations will know the LORD. Teach them so That the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.

That is a legacy worth passing on, for it is an eternal legacy. By hearing and learning God’s Word, you not only ensure your own salvation, but knowing that Word, you will be able to teach it to your children. By that Word, not only will their salvation be ensured, but they will be able to pass it on to their children, and so on, that generations to come shall sing praises to God their Savior here in time, and hereafter in eternity. Amen.

—Pastor Joel S. Fleischer


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