The Glory Has Departed

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Third Sunday in Advent, 2015.
1 Corinthians 4:1-5. Stewards of the Mysteries of God

The Third Sunday in Advent, 2015

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

First Anniversary - Corey and Abby Fagan - December 18th.

Mid-Week Advent Service - 7 PM Central Standard Time.

The Hymn #8                          Father Who the Light            
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #76                        A Great and Mighty Wonder               

Faithful Stewards

The Hymn # 77:1-8  - Gerhardt              All My Heart               
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 77:9-15 - Gerhardt                 All My Heart               

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

KJV Matthew 11:2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. 7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

Third Sunday In Advent
Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst suffer Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to become man, and to come into the world, that He might destroy the works of the devil, deliver us poor offenders from sin and death, and give us everlasting life: We beseech Thee so to rule and govern our hearts by Thy Holy Spirit, that we may seek no other refuge than His word, and thus avoid all offense to which, by nature, we are inclined, in order that we may always be found among the faithful followers of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, and by faith in Him obtain eternal salvation, through the same, Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Faithful Stewards of the Mysteries of God

KJV 1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 

St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians to settle problems and define his work. They were polarized among various human leaders and factions. Luther expressed this beautifully in his sermon:

1. This epistle selection illustrates the Gospel lesson for the first Sunday in Advent, wherein we learned the disciples did not themselves ride on the colt, but led it to Christ and set him thereon. That is what the apostle does here. The Corinthians had come to divisions among themselves and to boasting of certain apostles as their leaders. With one party it was Peter, with another Paul, and with yet another Apollos. Each one exalted the apostle by whom he was baptized or was taught, or the one he regarded most eminent. Now comes Paul and interposes, permitting no one to boast of any apostle, and teaching them to laud Christ alone. He tells them it matters not by whom they were baptized and taught, but it is of the utmost importance that they all hold to Christ together and own allegiance to him alone. Paul beautifully teaches how the apostles are to be regarded. The whole passage is a fierce thrust at Popery and the clerical government, as we shall see. “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”

Reckoned, Counted, Measured
The first verb is the one for counting one righteous - used in Romans 4 - Abraham was counted righteous because of his faith in God. That should be a major emphasis in today's culture of counting, statistics. Everything we do is counted and measured. I have blog statistics measured. I have hours worked measured. Every day and every retail store has its figures measured, counted, and considered. So Paul said - this is how each one of you should measure me - as a minister of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God

Minister of Christ
So the first definition is "ministers of Christ," which really means - servants of Christ. That means the apostle is not a minister of the congregation, belonging to them, or a minister to any human. Nor is he important by himself. His only duty is to be a servant of Christ. One can easily see how that is distorted today. Minister is defined as a servant to the synod, which is bad enough by itself, very Romish, or the one in charge of the congregation. Many pastors imagine they are dictators and can violate whatever Commandment they wish. They often do that as a servant of their denomination.

Man's imagination is unlimited it seems, although people settle for the usual heresies over time, thinking each one is new and different. Christ can only have One Word, One Gospel, so departures from that truth is always an error - not just a perspective or opinion - and bound to lead to other departures. We have a clearly defined message from God's Word - that is our ruling norm.

We can see clear variations because of man's imagination. The moderns apostates attacked John's Gospel as being written centuries later and not faithful to the truth. In fact, John's Gospel is hated for emphasizing faith in Jesus, for teaching His miracles, and for preserving the major sermons of Jesus not found in the other three Gospels. The Fourth Gospel shows its own value, simply by reading it and seeing how it supplements the other three so miraculously. Historical facts are good in showing this to be a valid conclusion, because John's language is most like the Aramaic of the time (thinking in Hebrew, one might say) and the geographical and other notes are so precise. 

Obviously, setting aside the Fourth Gospel is the same as eliminating the Holy Spirit's witness to the truth. Ministers and laity must read the whole Gospel and know it as integrated with the first three. Otherwise, the fanatics pick up phrases and teach what they want as servants of their synods or servants of their own egos.

Steward of the Mysteries of God
Steward is the term used for the manager of an estate.  Jesus' unrighteous steward parable illustrates how we should be as clever as that steward. That could be defined today as the clever minister, who realizes that by being faithful to the Word, he will accomplish God's will, which is no different from His Word. The outcome is blessed, especially when accompanied by the cross, because God is doing His work, not ours, through His Word.

For example, I was quoting Luther and - even Walther - to a Missouri Synod congregation years ago. One person stood up shouting in anger at me. I said, "The Law bears no fruit." That is true in Luther, in Walther quoting Luther, and in the Bible. The Law condemns and shows us our true selves. It serves as a way to keep society relatively calm and orderly. But the Law itself bears no fruit - only the Gospel does. Others were riled up too. I was startled, but that was no reason to placate them.

Mysteries of God
The mysteries of God are those articles of faith revealed by the Holy Spirit in the Word and not by human reason or logic. These are some mysteries of God, which we believe because the Word teaches them:
  1. Creation of the universe by the Word in six 24-hour days.
  2. The Holy Trinity, the Unity of the Three Persons, the Threeness of the One God.
  3. The Virgin Birth.
  4. The Incarnation.
  5. The miracles of Christ.
  6. The Sacraments.
  7. The Real Presence in Holy Communion.
  8. Eternal life.
  9. The atoning death of Christ.
  10. The resurrection, ascension, and future return of Christ.
Steward is defined by its use in the New Testament - as a manager. The faithful estate manage does not own anything but only executes the will of the owner honestly and diligently.

A steward of the mysteries of God is obligated to teach the revealed articles of faith as God's Word teaches them. He must know as much as he can, trust in the Word, and pursue all avenues for additional understanding. Besides that, he must guard against errors that erase the mysteries, which are always under attack, one way or another. 

Modernists reveal their agenda by promoting bad, error-filled translations. Not only that, they mock and excommunicate those who prefer the faithful translations. I was aware of "being justified by faith of Christ" in Romans, KJV.

Romans 3:21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
I soon realized that translations almost universally avoid "faith of Christ" and make it "faith in Christ." Is that important? One UOJ mocked me for emphasizing what the original text says. The changes are subtle, but they add up.

Once ministers/stewards were active in guarding the Word. When that stops, errors add up and distort the one, true message of the Word.

13. The same is the meaning of the phrase “stewards of the mysteries of God.” The word “steward” here signifies one who has charge of his lord’s domestics; one whose office is the same as that of stewards in monasteries at the present day, or provosts in nunneries, or governors, managers and overseers of the sort. For “oekonomus” is Greek and signifies in English a steward, or one capable of providing for a house and ruling the domestics.

Christ in Matthew 24:45 calls such a one simply a servant: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath set over his household, to give them their food in due season?” Such a servant was Eliezer, the steward of Abram’s house. Genesis 15.

14. Now, God’s household is the Christian Church ourselves. It includes pastors and bishops, overseers and stewards, whose office is to have charge of the household, to provide nourishment for it and to direct its members, but in a spiritual sense. Paul puts a distinction between the stewards of God and temporal stewards. The latter provide material nourishment, and exercise control of the physical person; but the former provide spiritual food and exercise control over souls. Paul calls the spiritual food “mysteries.” The practice of providing it has so long been discontinued we do not now know what a steward is nor what is meant by “mysteries.” Church officials imagine that when they baptize, celebrate mass and administer other sacraments, they exercise the mysteries, and that now there is no proper mystery but the mass. At the same time they know not the meaning of the term in this connection.

Notice that today's churches often adopt a business model and only measure things the way a retail store would. And the denominational officials are just as bad, even though they are driving their own denominations into the ground. The same statistics are not used by the officials for themselves.

2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

This verse is crucial, because Paul does not allow for excuses - he is a good guy, he is my friend, we were classmates, he is the son of important people. Nevertheless, the other measurements are used all the time. If someone wants to read the history of decline in various denominations, note how well known officials of the past have sons who are complete apostates and yet rule because of their father's reputation. One good example divided a denomination. Ludwig Fuerbringer was the nephew of CFW Walther, a pastor who devoted himself to studying the Bible in Hebrew and Greek, and to reading Luther all the time. He became a professor and president of the St. Louis Concordia Seminary.

Ludwig's son Fibby was the president of the same seminary who hired all the liberal professors and backed them up. When Rehwinkel taught the Flood and other ancient truths, Rehwinkel was shipped all over the world to keep him from influencing students. Rehwinkel asked his own faculty members why they did not speak out against the changes. They said nothing in response.

I looked at Methodism and read a similar story, the son mocking the Virgin Birth of Christ.

The old General Synod, pre-LCA, pre-ULCA, had a reverse apostasy story, which also happens. The confessional son (Beale M. Schmucker) of S. S. Schmucker was alienated from his unionistic father.

One can be alienated for being faithful - and that is good - time will tell. Or one can be alienated by departing from the truth. S. S. Schmucker denied the Real Presence to help facilitate union with the Reformed. If the Real Presence does not matter, denying it is no problem. But it does matter, and those weak on the Real Presence are soon weak about the Two Natures of Christ, then about the Trinity itself.

3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.

Here is a statement of ultimate trust in the Word. Paul is obliged to be a faithful manager of the mysteries of God, so he cannot be judged as a success or failure by others or even by himself. So much for the self-esteem movement. He can only be judged by God; he cannot justify himself.

Paul says relative to the matter, speaking on how men should behave themselves in the house of God: “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; he who was manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, received up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16. This is spoken of Christ, who was manifest in the flesh. He dwelt among men who had flesh and blood like himself, yet he was still a mystery. That he was Christ, the Son of God, the life, the way, the truth and all good, was hidden.

19. Yet he was “justified in the Spirit;” that is, through the Spirit’s influence believers received, acknowledged and retained him as all we have mentioned. “To justify” means simply to pronounce just, or at least to admit as just; as we have in Luke 7:29: “All the people when they heard, and the publicans, justified God.” Again, in Psalm 51:4: “That thou mayest be justified when thou speakest.” This is equivalent to saying:

The believer in Christ justifies him, and acknowledges the truth that Christ alone is our life and righteousness and wisdom, and that we are sinners, condemned and perishing. For such Christ is, and such is his claim. He who acknowledges this his claim justifies him in the Spirit; but he who does not justify him relies upon his own works; he does not see himself condemned but contends against and condemns Christ. [This justification of Christ is effected by no one unless he possesses the Holy Spirit, whose work alone it is. Flesh and blood cannot do it, even if it be publicly presented to our eyes and preached into our ears.]

5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

In all of Creation, only man can reflect upon his own life and work. That is a blessing and a curse. If animals did that, they would say, "Why should I work my entire life so these humans can have wheat, or apples, or milk? I want to kick up my hooves and live it up."

The blessing is that we can reflect upon our lives in Christ and see how He gives us purpose and energy to serve Him. Many may feel outwardly unsuccessful, because the world frowns at them. They have relatively little money. They may live in a rented house, which others mock. They may be tent-makers, which sounds good in talking about Paul, who was one, but not when ministers brag about salaries and housing allowances. Not preaching must be a good job, because it means it means less work, more help, and an enormous increase in salary and benefits - all hidden from the people who give the money.

As Luther said, this lesson is a contrast between man's view and God's view of the ministry. Man's view is perpetually messed up, since emotions and the opinions of others distort what is so clearly said here. That is why Paul addresses the erroneous view. Luther saw an actual Reformation, but he saw it slipping away. Many terrible retreats from the truth have taken place among Lutherans alone, since then, but we still have Luther's sermons gladly read all over the Net, even if only by relatively few. I see no success with justification by faith, except a few more people see the problem and address it openly - but -
  • No Lutheran professor - anywhere - will teach justification by faith and refute errors.
  • No synod official among the established groups will.
  • Very few pastors will. Almost no Lutheran pastor will stand up for a fellow pastor kicked out for teaching justification by faith.
  • One very small group (ELDONA) teaches justification by faith, while the established "conservative" apostates and ELCA are pledged to justification without faith.
We cannot judge this or become discouraged at the lack of progress. The Word is efficacious in converting and in sustaining faith. The Word is also efficacious in condemning unbelief, in hardening and blinding those who willfully reject what they believed (if only for a short time).

Those who grew up on the Gausewitz simple, easy, plain catechism knew and believed justification by faith. They belonged to the LCMS, WELS, ELS, and micro-mini groups. But that has been swept away. God has warned His people many times. The Pastoral Epistles, Romans 1, and 2 Thessalonians 2 are being fulfilled before our eyes.