Ichabod explores the Age of Apostasy, predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, with an emphasis on UOJ, Church Growth, and Emergent Church heresies. The antidote to these poisons is trusting the efficacious Word in the Means of Grace. John 16:8. Most readers are WELS, LCMS, ELS, or ELCA. This blog also covers the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the mainline denominations.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 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. Ephesians 6:10-13 KJV
The Hymn # 552 Abide with Me 2:11
The Order of Vespers p. 41
The Psalmody Psalm
The Lection John
The Sermon Hymn #645 Behold a
– Pointing to Christ
for Grace p.
The Hymn # 558 All Praise to Thee 2.9
KJV John 1:19 And this is
the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to
ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am
not the Christ. 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith,
I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. 22 Then said they unto
him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest
thou of thyself? 23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the
wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. 24
And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said
unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias,
neither that prophet? 26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but
there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after
me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 28
These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Pointing to Christ
John 1:19 And this is the
record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask
him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not
After the previous sermon about John the Baptist, someone
said that others foolishly said this – John sent disciples to Jesus because he
had lost faith while in prison. That contradicts the plain message of the
passage, Matthew 11:2ff. Jesus said John was “more than a prophet,” not the
kind of commendation given to someone who lost faith in the Savior.
The faith of John is emphasized in this Gospel lesson for
the Fourth Sunday in Advent.
It is from the Gospel of Faith.
John the Baptist had a following, so the religious leaders
came to him, asking about his intentions. The civilized world was looking for
the Savior, and the Jewish people were especially aware of the predictions
about this figure. The throne had passed from the House of David, which was a
key sign, since Herod was on the throne. The Star of Bethlehem was seen at the
time of Jesus’ birth. Anyone who could count might wonder when the adult
Messiah would appear.
John the Baptist reminded everyone of the Old Testament
prophets, because he commanded people to repent of their sins and believe in
John clearly told the religious leaders, “I am not the
Christ.” The tradition then was to anoint the head of the king with oil when he
was crowned. That is done with the king or queen of England to this day. (The
royal fish is used – whale oil. All whales stranded on the shore belong to the
crown.) The word for anointed with oil is Messiah in Hebrew, Christ in Greek.
Both are shorthand for The King Anointed with Oil. The Anointed signifies this
Anointing is now abused by the Enthusiasts as a term to
promote whatever they do. Their plays, dramas, and music are “anointed,”
meaning “anointed with the Holy Spirit.” They never tire of divorcing the Holy
Spirit from the Word. A better commendation would be “faithful to the Word.”
John’s role was not to point to himself but to point to
21 And they asked him, What
then? Art thou Elias? [Elijah] And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet?
And he answered, No. Then said they
unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What
sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the
wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
Elijah would have been a
definite choice, since Elijah was taken up into heaven. He was considered a
forerunner to the Messiah.
That prophet was another one
expected to appear just before the Messiah began his work. There are large
books about Messianic expectations of the time, many of them based upon
paradise on earth or freedom from Roman occupation. The political or military
expectations led to two revolts after the time of Christ, the Zealot revolt and
the Bar Kochba revolt, which led to Jews being banned from the remnants of
The whole area was laid
waste because of false expectations and the power of the Roman Empire. The
Roman Empire was defeated only by the Herman the German, luxury, and decadence.
Luxury and decadence were the most powerful destructive forces of all.
John identified his mission
with Isaiah 40 – the voice of one crying in the desert – Prepare the way of the
In ancient times (and even
in modern times) special efforts were made for the visitation of the monarch.
Our imperial president arrives in town and all traffic is stopped at the
airport, all streets closed that might interfere with his travel. Every
building is prepared. Windows are sealed shut along a parade route. Manhole
covers are welded shut.
An imperial train traveled
over rough roads in ancient times, so every effort was made to prepare the
route, to offer the best possible experience for someone with god-like power.
John was preparing his
community for the real Lord. It was essential to get them to begin listening to
a faithful prophet, so they would listen to the Gospel of Christ. We heard
someone like that many years ago. He was specifically in charge of cleaning
things up. He gave a sermon where he identified (not by name) major Christian
leaders who were violating the Sixth Commandment. He described a large
congregation where every staff member was committing adultery and confessed to
it. He was a religious version of the FBI.
But John did not just
preaching the Law. He pointed people to the Christ.
24 And they which were sent
were of the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest
thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? 26 John
answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you,
whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me,
whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 28 These things were done in
Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
Notice how many Christian
leaders point everyone to themselves. They say, “Look at this building I built.
Look at the acres of parking lots. Look at all the money we take in.”
What do we find in the Book
of Concord and Luther’s writing? They are not concerned with institutions and
numbers, but with the Gospel of Christ. If we summarized all the faithful books
of those Lutheran Reformation leaders in a phrase, it would be “Here is the
Christ. Here is forgiveness. Believe in Him.”
Someone wrote me that a pastor
“does not agree with you.” I said, “It only matters if he agrees with the
Scriptures and the Book of Concord.” When we start making a person or a denomination
the standard, the Word of God is forgotten. People and institutions by nature
protect themselves from imagined harm. The Word of God cannot be harmed or
damaged in any way.
“Heaven and earth will pass
away but My Word shall never pass away.”
It is true that people can
twist the Word, but they do that at their own risk. Playing with the divine
power of the Word is like the people who play with explosives, thinking they
will do some damage. They often leave very little evidence behind of their futile
efforts. One man set down a bomb in front of a house. They found his arms and
nothing else, because the trigger was too sensitive. Obama’s best friend lost his
girlfriend when she blew up an entire brownhouse while working on a bomb meant
The Word remains even if only
a few trust its message. But that message is plain and clear for all – Trust in
Jesus for righteousness, for He speaks forgiveness in our ears.
I just finished a class last
night. The members were supposed to reflect on Psalm 119. It made me sad, because
there was so much Law in all those messages, as if being Christian meant obeying,
commitment, and keeping all promises. By that I mean Christianity as obedience
I said to them, “We are all
born condemned by unbelief. The purpose of the Christian faith is to show us
how to find forgiveness for our sins. All ministry is a proclamation of the Gospel
of forgiveness, which comes to us through the Word.”
Ichabod the Glory Has Departed