Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany (A)
February 6, 2011
Text: Matt. 5:13-20

The question is, what are you going to do with the Word of God? What are you going to do with His Torah (Greek: νομος), His instruction, often translated as “Law” in English? The Torah includes Law, but it also includes the Gospel. It is the Hebrew name for the first five books of the Old Testament, the books of Moses. When combined with the Prophets, this means the whole Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus says to His disciples, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17; ESV). We all too often act as though Jesus has abolished the Torah, the instruction of God. Well, at least the parts we don’t like. We feel free to re-write the Torah, the Word of God, according to our own preferences and scruples. We define God’s Torah however we want, as if Jesus has given us authority to do so. For example, with the commandments in particular, this is how it works: There is a transgression of God’s holy Law that either we ourselves or someone we love has committed, and we want to excuse it. Enter the pious-sounding satanic self-deception: Jesus abolished the Law! It’s all good now! I can do whatever I want, and Jesus will forgive me… Well, actually, the word “forgive” is too negative. Better, Jesus will accept me for who I am and what I want to do. And so Christians fornicate and live together outside of marriage and see nothing wrong with it. Christians hedge around the abortion issue as if it weren’t the monstrous slaughter of the unborn, claiming that it’s just a political issue, and we shouldn’t legislate our morality. Christians excuse homosexuality, because after all, “God made them that way.” It’s the old Adam’s favorite trick, “Lord, the woman You gave me made me do it. It’s really all Your fault.” Pick your sin, make your excuse, blame God. You all do it, and I do it too. I’m predisposed toward gluttony, therefore it must be okay. As a heterosexual, I’m genetically predisposed to lusting after women, therefore clearly “God made me that way,” and He must accept me for who I am. But that’s not what Jesus says here. Our Lord did not come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. He did not abolish the commandments, either. The Gospel is not that God now winks at our iniquity. The Gospel is that Jesus has fulfilled the Law. Jesus has fulfilled the commandments in your place. And Jesus has fulfilled the whole Old Testament, the Torah and the Prophets.

The question is, what are you going to do with the Word of God? Do you deny it and change it? Or do you believe it and confess it? What is the disciple of Jesus Christ to do? Of course, by nature you deny the Torah and change it to your own liking. Because the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14). The Word of God just doesn’t make sense to you in your old sinful flesh. That is why even as a Christian it is so tempting to act as though Jesus has abolished the parts of the Torah you don’t like. That is why so many Christian churches abolish the parts of the Torah they don’t like. That is why the ELCA and many other churches ordain women into the office of the holy ministry, and now also ordain homosexuals and create liturgical rites for same-sex marriage. Because they don’t like the parts of God’s Word that condemn these practices. They’ve given in to their sinful flesh. And this is always dangerous. Because if you deny one part of God’s Word, you might as well have denied it all. If one part of God’s Word is unsure, the whole thing is unsure. If one part could be wrong, the whole thing could be wrong. Now, this is not to say that our brothers and sisters in these erring churches won’t go to heaven. But Jesus says, “whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19). This is serious business. It is no light thing to change the Word of God according to our own whims, or to make friends with the world, or to keep peace in the family or the congregation. When a Christian fails to confess the Word of God as it is written, he becomes like salt that has lost its saltiness. He is no longer good for anything. He has ceased to be what he was created in Christ Jesus to be. He becomes a walking absurdity. He is like a lamp that is lit, and then immediately hidden under a basket. What would the point of that be? By hiding the light of God’s Word, His Torah, by denying it or changing it or keeping it a secret all to yourself, you reject the purpose for which you have been created anew in Christ Jesus. Beloved in the Lord, repent.

You are created anew in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and the Word. You are strengthened in the new life by preaching and the Holy Supper. You are created anew for a purpose. It is not to walk in the old ways, in the darkness of the world. It is to confess the Word of God and walk according to His Torah, His instruction. The Gospel in our text today is that Jesus fulfilled the Torah. He did all the commandments that you don’t and can’t. He fulfilled them in your place. And He is the sacrifice of atonement for your sins. His death on the cross is the payment for your transgressions. He has paid your debt in full. You are forgiven and set free. And He is risen to give you new life now as an obedient child of God. He’s freed you, not to sin, not to believe whatever you want, not to change God’s Word, but to trust in God, believe God’s Word, live for God. And by your confession and your Christian life you are the salt of the earth. You season and preserve the world with your confession of Christ. You season and preserve the world as you speak the Word of God in the world and live according to His Torah. You shine the light of Christ into this dark world, and we know that the darkness can never overcome that light. Like Jerusalem, as the new Jerusalem, the holy Church of God, you are a city on a hill that can be seen by all. Let your light, the light of your faithful confession of Christ and His Word, the light of your Christian life, so shine before men that they see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven (v. 16).

Of course, you’re not saved by works, but by Christ. You’re not saved by works, but by grace alone, through faith alone. “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20). The scribes and Pharisees were the meticulous keepers of the Law, at least outwardly. There is no way your righteousness can be greater than theirs by works of the Law. The righteousness that is greater than all the works of the scribes and Pharisees is faith in Jesus Christ. And here is 200 proof Gospel for you to cling to for dear life, life everlasting: Jesus is your righteousness. By faith, you are united to Jesus Christ. All of His righteousness is your righteousness. In Christ, yours is the kingdom of heaven! Not only is Jesus the fulfillment of all the prophecies. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law, the Torah, for you. When Jesus is your righteousness, O sinner, you are perfectly righteous.

What are you going to do with the Word of God? Believe it! Cling to it! Confess it! Abide in it! It is sure and certain. It is inspired by God Himself, without error, absolutely trustworthy. It is recorded in the Holy Scriptures for our learning, for our life. For “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). The Word is inscripturated. But even more, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The inscripturated Word brings before us the Word that is God, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who became man, your righteousness, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Father, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. It is He who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried, for you. And He is risen, and lives, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, ruling all things by His powerful Word, leading and guiding His Church with His Torah, present bodily with His Church to forgive sins and feed you with His true body and blood. He makes you salty again. He shines His light in you and through you. He gives you His righteousness, and bids you enter the kingdom of heaven here and now at the altar, and on the day you breathe your last. We pray with the Psalmist: “I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word” (Psalm 119:15-16). In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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