Pastor Gregory L. Jackson
KJV Ephesians 5:15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.
KJV Matthew 22:1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, 2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, 3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. 4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. 5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: 6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. 7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. 8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. 9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
370 My hope is built
264 Preserve Thy Word
259 Flung to the heedless winds (Luther’s first hymn, after two Protestants were burned to death)
258 Lord of our Life
Franzman hymns: O Kingly Love, Thy Strong Word
The Wedding Feast of the Beloved Son
“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
The Parable of the Wedding Feast illustrates how Jesus used these short stories for believers. Without faith, this parable is a puzzle. Sometimes the religious opponents were furious about Jesus’ teaching, because they knew it was against them. Liberals today would call it Pharisee-bashing. After this parable in Matthew, the leaders decided to entangle Jesus with one of their questions.
In this parable the King is obviously God. The wedding feast is the Kingdom of God, salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. Being invited to the feast uses the same terminology as the calling of the disciples, the calling of everyone to faith in Christ.
When we say, “Jesus called the disciples,” the wording sounds formal and rigid, especially since The Call is a term we use for inviting a pastor come to a church. I preferred to have the term translated as “phone” to keep the terminology more colloquial. This would create a Cingular translation if applied consistently in the Gospels.
Still, the concept in our minds should be one of invitation. What is an invitation? We always look upon an invitation as an honor. When people are not invited to a great celebration, they are offended or hurt. They covet invitations to the White House, even more to a royal wedding. Many people will give luxurious gifts to royals in order to be invited to the wedding of a prince.
A state wedding is always accompanied by great celebration, special food, overall happiness. We can see from the context of this parable that refusing such an invitation would be a great insult against the King. This is exactly what happened. Worse, some people abused and killed the representatives of the King. This parallels what happened when the prophets of God invited the people of Israel to repent of their sins and believe in salvation through the promised Messiah. The self-righteous murdered those who proclaimed the righteousness of God through faith.
KJV Matthew 23:29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
Apostates always fuss about God scourging those who reject His invitation. They want God to graciously forgive them for rejecting His Word. If God had been as foolish as the apostates want Him to be, the earth would have been de-populated from the increase in evil and violence. History and modern experiments have shown how tyrannical and brutal man can be in the right circumstances. God’s wrath has prevented the growth of evil societies, although He uses them to chastise nations.
People would tremble if they knew more world history. Time after time, the greatest powers have been overthrown in a few months or even in a moment, often at the peak of their power. The biggest threat to Christian power, Bayezid (Muslim conqueror) suddenly did everything wrong and found himself in an iron cage, where he died in misery and humiliation.
The first part of the parable describes how Israel suffered God’s wrath after defying His Word. This is a warning to Christians, who can hardly miss the lesson of Old Testament history.
"It is a glory which every preacher may claim, to be able to say with full confidence of heart: 'This trust have I toward God in Christ, that what I teach and preach is truly the Word of God.' Likewise, when he performs other official duties in the Church--baptizes a child, absolves and comforts a sinner--it must be done in the same firm conviction that such is the command of Christ. He who would teach and exercise authority in the Church without this glory, 'it is profitable for him,' as Christ says, (Matthew 18:6), 'that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea.' For the devil's lies he preaches, and death is what he effects."
Sermons of Martin Luther, ed. John Nicolas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VIII, p. 227. Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 2 Corinthians 3:4-11; Matthew 18:6.
The second part of the parable concerns the Kingdom of God growing through the rejects, after the wise and mighty turned down their invitations. The new invitations went to the highways and invited people, the good and the bad. The explosive growth of the Christian Church in the Roman Empire came from preaching the Word and the scattering effect of persecution. The highways were the rapid transit systems of the world, taking people from Rome (where the Church was strong) to all parts of the Empire. The road system was built to weld the conquered countries together and facilitate commerce. The same road system helped conquer Rome with the Gospel. The Romans saw their slaves and the lowest of society (prostitutes, homosexuals, criminals) converted to the faith. They hated and feared the new religion, which reminded them so much of the troublesome Jews. They saw it as a sect of Judaism. In the same way the British Anglicans loathed the first Methodists, who were successful among the poor and outcast.
The final part of the parable tells us that the banquet hall was filled, but someone was found without a proper garment.
12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.
This seems to be a savage ending until we realize that the proper wedding garment means being clothed in the righteousness of Christ rather than in our own righteousness. There are only two possibilities. One is that we based salvation on our works or righteousness. The other is that we base our salvation on the righteousness of Christ.
I was speaking to a scientist who grew up in a conservative Lutheran congregation. He said, “I can’t believe that Einstein was not saved. He was such a remarkable man.” That is the essence of so many funerals and eulogies today. Someone was good or remarkable or kind to children and small animals. Therefore, he must be in heaven.
That is why Christ reserved such strong language for this error, which finds itself embedded in all pagan religions and encroaches on Christianity. Luther summed up the situation in one sentence: “There is no work so evil that it damns a person, and no work so good that it saves him.” That is the Law and Gospel (in reverse order) in one sentence. The message of the atoning death of Christ is that He died for all the sins of the world. That remains the objective truth of the Christian faith, even if no one believed it. However, simply stating that objective truth is not enough. Luther also stated, “We must say – He died for my sins, for me.”
People have labored about the sin against the Holy Spirit, which alone damns people. People with a basic understanding of Luther’s doctrine realize what this means – Rejecting Christ at the point of death. Someone can be the worst sinner in the world and die in faith, like the thief on the cross, and be with Christ in paradise. Another person can be a great and wise Christian church leader and die without faith, damning himself for rejecting the treasure brought to us by the Holy Spirit working in the Word.
The Word constantly conveys Christ and all His benefits to us. God’s Word is so powerful that it needs no help from man. The power of the Word comes only from its purity. When man waters down the Word of God, the Word does not lose power itself, but the message is diluted and adulterated by man-made wisdom.
People have illustrated this in the most basic way through cooperative church programs. They think it is nice to group a few denominations together for Vacation Bible School. Besides, they would rather concentrate children together to make the numbers more impressive. The result of this cooperation is that no one wants to talk about his own confession of faith, for fear of offending others. And what happens with the child with no church affiliation? In one church he might be visited. Among a group, no one feels the responsibility.
Yet this is minor compared to efforts to gather Christian theologians together, apparently to emphasize what they do not believe together. Recently I listened to Concordia Seminary St. Louis (LCMS) president Dale Meyer interview Leonard Sweet, a liberal Methodist. Meyer almost knelt at Sweet’s feet in reverence. Sweet even made a veiled obscene remark, but they proudly posted the video anyway. Sweet talked about his favorite subject, himself, without pause or shame. He is the guru of culture, which should strike fear into everyone’s heart. Sweet is lionized in WELS, the LCMS, and the ELCA. Ultimately the apostates all want to talk about how good, noble, and wise they are. They heap scorn on believers, who need to be enlightened by them.
The Christian faith always degenerates into works-righteousness. Salvation by works is essential to Roman Catholic doctrine. Their teaching of faith plus works (fides formata) is tied to Purgatory, because the works and sacrifices are never enough. When a Roman Catholic layman asked me about joining the Church of Rome, I said, “I cannot.” He asked why. I said, “If works are required, then what Christ accomplished on the cross was not enough. That is an attack against Christ, to say I must add to what He already did.” The layman said, “I never thought of that.”
Recently an atheist in my class wrote that she was comforted by Mother Theresa’s confessed lack of comfort in religion. Thus one woman’s false religion confirmed another woman’s lack of faith in any god. If Mother Theresa had known the true Gospel, she would have known that the Promises of God remain faithful, no matter how we feel. Our emotions are too fragile and volatile to base the Christian faith upon them. Instead, we rely on the objective truth of the Word.
Paul knew the Holy Spirit worked through the Word, a Biblical doctrine found throughout the Old Testament.
KJV 1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
John Calvin doubted the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word. He thought a sermon could be given, the Lord’s Supper distributed, a baby baptized, and the Holy Spirit still be missing. No wonder that Lutherans trained at Fuller and Willow Creek have the same doubts. Calvinists were the first to declare that they needed to make the Word of God reasonable, relevant, and attractive to people. Thus Lutherans leaders of all synods follow Calvin, and Calvinism leads to Unitarianism – always.
When people claim they can enhance the Word with their efforts, they are denying the divinity of the Word. They are really saying they are more powerful that the weak and faltering Holy Spirit.
Those who want to be close to Christ know that God’s grace in Christ is always and unfailingly brought to us through the Word. That Word is often spoken, as when a mother teaches her children “Jesus loves you.” Satan rages that a weak and frail human being can be more powerful than he is because of the Word. Anyone who has tried to be faithful to the Word in the midst of opposition can attest to the demonic hatred of those who cling to error.
This parable is now being illustrated all over again. People might think this was Jesus’ prophecy against the Jewish people. They rejected the invitation and suffered ever since. But is it not even truer of the Christian nations of today? The invitation has been rejected in America and Europe in the last few decades. The servants have gone to Africa, where Christianity is thriving, and to Red China, where an underground movement is growing steadily. The African bishops (Catholic and Episcopal) are appalled at what American Christian leaders teach. America and Europe are suffering for our loss. And we are flailed by the law-mongers more each day. The more lawless we are in the Biblical sense, the more the nannies want to condemn our every move, from the light bulbs we use to the discipline of our children.
Martin Franzman wrote a hymn about this parable:
O kingly love that faithfully didst keep Thine ancient promises
Didst bid the bidden come to Thee,
The people Thou didst choose to bless,
This day we raise our song to Thee adoring Thee,
That in the days when alien sound had all but drowned
Thine ancient true and constant melody,
Thy mighty hand did make a trumpet none could silence or mistake;
Thy living breath did blow for all the world to hear,
Living and clear.
The feast is ready; come to the feast! The good and the bad.
Come and be glad! Greatest and least, come to the feast.
Franzman wrote many new Lutheran hymns, often emphasizing the efficacy of the Word. This is one quite famous and the title of a book I wrote:
"Thy Strong Word"1. Thy strong word did cleave the darkness; At thy speaking it was done.For created light we thank thee, While thine ordered seasons run.Alleluia, alleluia! Praise to thee who light dost send!Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia without end!2. Lo, on those who dwelt in darkness, Dark as night and deep as death,Broke the light of thy salvation, Breathed thine own life-giving breath.Alleluia, alleluia! Praise to thee who light dost send!Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia without end!3. Thy strong Word bespeaks us righteous, Bright with thine own holiness,Glorious now, we press toward glory, And our lives our hopes confess.Alleluia, alleluia! Praise to thee who light dost send!Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia without end!4. From the cross thy wisdom shining Breaketh forth in conqu’ring might;From the cross forever beameth All thy bright redeeming light.Alleluia, alleluia! Praise to thee who light dost send!Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia without end!5. Give us lips to sing thy glory, Tongues thy mercy to proclaim,Throats that shout the hope that fills us, Mouths to speak thy holy name.Alleluia, alleluia! Praise to thee who light dost send!Alleluia, alleluia! Alleluia without end!
Franzman’s son, Peter, was my client in St. Louis. I did not realize he was the famous hymn-writer’s son until he said his father taught at Northwestern College.
One co-worker said, “Peter is the nicest person in his field.” The Gospel bears fruit.
Quotations on the Work of the Holy Spirit
"Emphatically does Scripture state that the action of the Spirit covers the whole life from first to the last. He is the Spirit of Life for regeneration (John 3:5, 8): the Spirit of Sonship for adoption (Romans 8:15): the Spirit of holiness for sanctification (Romans 8:5): the Spirit of Glory for transfiguration (2 Corinthians 3:18); the Spirit of Promise for the resurrection (Ephesians 1:13). Only through the Holy Spirit are men drawn to the Author and Finisher of their salvation."
Arthur H. Drevlow, "God the Holy Spirit Acts to Build the Church," God The Holy Spirit Acts, ed., Eugene P. Kaulfield, Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1972, p. 15. John 3: 5,8; Romans 8:5; Romans 8:15; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 1:13
"Now, Paul's thought here is that nothing should be taught and practiced in the Church but what is unquestionably God's Word. It will not do to introduce or perform anything whatever upon the strength of man's judgment. Man's achievements, man's reasoning and power, are of no avail save in so far as they come from God."
Sermons of Martin Luther, ed. John Nicolas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VIII, p. 229 Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 2 Corinthians 3:4-11;
"Note further, that it is his ministry to which Paul ascribes the preparation of their heart thereon and the inscription which constitutes them 'living epistles of Christ.' He contrasts this ministry with the blind fancies of those fanatics who seek to receive, and dream of having, the Holy Spirit without the oral word; who, perchance, creep into a corner and grasp the Spirit through dreams, directing the people away from the preached Word and visible ministry. But Paul says that the Spirit, through his preaching, has wrought in the hearts of his Corinthians, to the end that Christ lives and is mighty in them."
Sermons of Martin Luther, ed. John Nicolas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VIII, p. p. 226. Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 2 Corinthians 3:4-11; Deuteronomy 6:6-9, 11, 18
"The Spirit is the ink or the inscription, yes, even the writer himself; but the pencil or pen and the hand of the writer is the ministry of Paul. This figure of a written epistle is, however, in accord with Scripture usage. Moses commands (Deuteronomy 6:6-9, 11, 18) that the Israelites write the Ten Commandments in all places where they walked or stood--upon the posts of their houses, and upon their gates, and ever have them before their eyes and in their hearts."
Sermons of Martin Luther, ed. John Nicolas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VIII, p. 225. Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 2 Corinthians 3:4-11; Deuteronomy 6:6-9, 11, 18
"This epistle sounds altogether strange and wonderful to individuals unaccustomed to Scripture language, particularly to that of Paul. To the inexperienced ear and heart it is not intelligible."
Sermons of Martin Luther, ed. John Nicolas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VIII, p. 223. Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 2 Corinthians 3:4-11
"It is a glory which every preacher may claim, to be able to say with full confidence of heart: 'This trust have I toward God in Christ, that what I teach and preach is truly the Word of God.' Likewise, when he performs other officials duties in the Church--baptizes a child, absolves and comforts a sinner--it must be done in the same firm conviction that such is the command of Christ. He who would teach and exercise authority in the Church without this glory, 'it is profitable for him,' as Christ says, (Matthew 18:6), 'that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea.' For the devil's lies he preaches, and death is what he effects."
Sermons of Martin Luther, ed. John Nicolas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, VIII, p. 227. Twelfth Sunday after Trinity 2 Corinthians 3:4-11; Matthew 18:6
"The Law of God, which is also contained in Scripture, must be excluded from the concept 'means of grace,' because the Law does not assure those who have transgressed it—and all men have transgressed it—of the remission of their sins, or God's grace, but on the contrary proclaims God's wrath and condemnation. For this reason the Law is expressly called...'the ministry of condemnation,' whereas the Gospel is...'the ministry of righteousness' (2 Corinthians 3:9)."
Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, 3 vols., trans., Walter W. F. Albrecht, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1953, III, p. 105. 2 Corinthians 3:9.
"And this call of God, which is made through the preaching of the Word, we should not regard as jugglery, but know that thereby God reveals His will, that in those whom He thus calls He will work through the Word, that they may be enlightened, converted, and saved. For the Word, whereby we are called, is a ministration of the Spirit, that gives the Spirit, or whereby the Spirit is given, 2 Corinthians 3:8, and a power of God unto salvation, Romans 1:16. And since the Holy Ghost wishes to be efficacious through the Word, and to strengthen and give power and ability, it is God's will that we should receive the Word, believe and obey it."
Formula of Concord, SD XI. #29. Election. Concordia Triglotta, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1073. Tappert, p. 621. Heiser, p. 289. 2 Corinthians 3:8; Romans 1:16.