Vol. XI — No. 30 July 26, 1970
Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
In Christ Jesus, Fellow Redeemed:
“Ye are the salt of the earth.” “Ye are the light of the world.” These words of our Savior admit of one obvious conclusion: we are not to hide our faith under a bushel nor to give the appearance through untimely silence as though we were not too sure of what we believe or as though the truth were not too important after all; rather we ought at all times freely confess and faithfully contend for the truth that has been revealed to us in sacred Scriptures.
Rich opportunities often present themselves entirely unsolicited so that every Christian may exercise this grace. Especially true is this in the present day of the so-called revival of religion and ecumenical madness. Christians. must always live in the midst of an untoward generation and are obliged to associate with people of varied religious beliefs or of no religion whatsoever. In this association the finger of mockery still points at them and the enemy knowingly declares: “You, too, are one of this Man’s disciples.” It is then that we have the glorious opportunity, not to deny the Son of Man like a Peter, but to confess Him joyfully and to defend and to defend His cause courageously.
The sad fact is, however, that sometimes we are much too lax in performing this sacred duty. Our sinful flesh would rather shy away from bearing the cross that is connected with the name of Christ. It is fearful of the enmity and scorn of men, possible loss of friendship or business or social activity and the like. Satan, too, injects secret doubts into the heart; the verbal presentation of the enemy seems to reflect a great deal of profound and logical thinking, so much so, that one can hardly conceive of one’s own simple testimony accomplishing anything, or at the most, very little. And then the confession of faith, if it is not abandoned altogether, is laid aside amid doubts, fears, or cowardice, or a combination of them all. But then things are not as they ought to be.
The delegates to this convention have heard, in the essay presented to us, of the wonderful blessings the Lord above has continued to shower upon us throughout these past ten years. For these we shall be eternally grateful. It will not be necessary for me to repeat them here. Not the least of God’s many blessings is the fact that most of us were driven deep into the Scriptures to find comfort and knowledge to support us as we made the difficult decision to separate ourselves from our former affiliations, as we determined to stand up for Jesus, to confess His name and defend His teachings. We did it then; but we must also do it now. Then we often confessed and defended with much sorrow and grief; now it is my prayer that—
We shall be able to do this more readily when we realize that our faith is glorious and well-founded.
Our text marks the end of a longer disputation between Christ and the Jews. In this discourse Christ presents a short summary of His teaching, which is that He is the promised Messiah in whom all believers of the Old Testament hoped. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.” His teaching is that He is the true Son of God. “It is my Father that honoreth me, of whom ye say that he is your God.” His teaching is that He Himself is the eternal God. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” His teaching is that He frees the world of sinners from its iniquity. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” His teaching is that He will bless forever all those who believe in Him. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.”
These very teachings of Christ are a short summary of our Christian faith. That is the faith into which we were baptized; that is the faith by which we live; and that is the faith which we should be able to confess and defend comfortably. And who wouldn’t want to? What can be more wonderful than to testify to the sinful world that God became man, that the Savior arrived in due time and performed the humanly impossible task of conquering sin and death for all men, and that eternal life is freely given to all believers! What greater joy can there be than to contend earnestly for the faith that saves!
And look how well our faith is founded! Christ testifies to the certainty and truth of His teaching by drawing attention to His perfect holiness. “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” His contemporaries and even His bitterest enemies were unable to accuse Him successfully of even one little fault, although they tried often and hard to trip Him in His words. And inasmuch as they were bound to acknowledge His perfection, so they must also admit to the truth of His doctrine. Furthermore, His teaching and His miracles resulted in fierce hatred toward Him, persecution, and finally ignominious death of the cross. And surely no one deliberately teaches a lie, so that all this might be brought upon him. Christ crowned His contention for the truth of His teaching by exhibiting to His accusers a ray of His divine majesty. When they took up stones to cast at Him, “Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them.”
All of church history is telling testimony in favor of the certain and unfading truth of Christ’s teaching and our faith. Think of the thousands and millions who have rallied under the cross and who look upon this same Jesus as their Rock of Ages. What great reason have we, therefore, to feel comfortable as we confess and defend our faith, for our faith is a glorious thing, well-founded and grounded in the teachings of the Son of God, our Savior!
We have further reason to feel comfortable as we contend for and confess the truth of our faith because of the fact that all attacks of the enemy against it come to naught.
The attacks of the Jews in our text consisted in shameful outbursts of scorn and slander against Christ, and to justify their outrageous conduct they were not able to bring even a shadow of proof. “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” “Say we not well…?!”—we, the majority, the elite of the nation, the intellectuals, the influential leaders? We say it; therefore, it must be right. Their attack was directed in such a way as to attempt to lead Christ to contradict Himself. “Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.” If they had only read and studied the Scriptures correctly, they would not have found a contradiction between the fact that Abraham and the prophets died on the one hand, and the promise of Christ: “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death,” on the other, for Christ was clearly speaking of eternal death. Finally, their attack consisted also in that they attempted to prove the impossibility of Christ’s statement: “Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it.” “Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” They refused to be convinced that this Jesus of Nazareth could possibly be the Messiah, who has existed from eternity. But all their attacks fall flat in the face of His claim to God head: “Before Abraham was, I am.”
Similarly, all attacks against the truth of our faith must come to naught today. And there are many, and they are various. —You Christians are certainly naive; science has long ago proved the foolishenss of your faith. —Your people continue to commit such serious sins that either your doctrine must be wrong or else you are nothing more than a bunch of hypocrites. —You have just as many trials and tribulations and disappointments in this world as we do, and your people also die. Where is this God of yours of whom you boast that He preserves you? —The Bible is full of contradictions and unclear pronouncements; who can possibly be sure of its correct interpretation? —The things you believe are utterly contrary to all human reasoning and understanding. Surely God cannot expect you to believe and rest your hope in things that one cannot understand! —These are just some of the insinuations with which the enemy rages against the Christian faith, our faith, today. But we can continue to confess and defend our faith comfortably before friend and foe alike, since we know that all attacks of the enemy against it are just as ineffective as they were against Christ, the Author of our faith, who has established His Church on the earth as an entity against which even the gates of hell shall not prevail.
We should feel comfortable when confessing and defending our faith also because we know that the simplest testimony is a victorious power.
Christ’s calm and straightforward testimony in our text bears this out. He does not make use of all manner of high-sounding, ambiguous words in order to try to convince his opponents that He possessed an enviable amount of higher education, for which he could demand respect. Rather with a great measure of humility, sincerity, and simplicity He testifies to and contends for the truth. But look at the powerful results! His somewhat learned and honorable opponents were put to silence; they raged in anger; they only knew how to slander, and when this proved ineffective for their purpose, they would resort to brute strength. “They took up stones to cast at him.” It would appear that the simple, forthright testimony of Christ pricked their consciences and pierced their souls, even though they did not repent. Thwarted in their attempt, they became violent.
Every sincere and truthful testimony still has similar power to convict and convince. Even in the mouths of sinning men, the Word of God remains alive and powerful. “For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Other passages of Scripture also support this wonderful truth. In the tenth chapter of Matthew the Lord says to those who testify to the truth: “For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” In the following chapter He says: “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” He promised the disciples whom He sent out and us: “Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.” And the Psalmist rejoices to write: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” And when the Word of God has convinced the sinner of his guilt, that same Word becomes the balm of Gilead, the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; and it rains down a shower of blessings when He sends it out among men to accomplish His gracious purpose.
In view of the result of Christ’s humble testimony, therefore, and in view of these many heartening promises of Scriptures, we should feel comfortable at all times and before everyone, high and low, in confessing and contending for our most holy faith; for even the simplest sincere testimony proves to be a victorious power. Not only is the enemy struck speechless through such steadfast confession and defence, but some will always be brought to faith or returned to the truth thereby. The time is still here when each of us needs to stand up, not only as members of the collective body of the Church of the Lutheran$1$
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.