Posts

Lent Midweek Sermon Series: 1 Peter 5

In light of coming persecution for the saints in Asia minor, as well as God’s faithfulness in all things (1 Peter 4:12-19), pastors are to watch over the flock of God.  They are to do so with pure motives rather than for personal gain; they are not to do so in a domineering way, but rather as examples.  The difficult labors of this life will not last forever; Jesus will return (1 Peter 4:4).  All—whether pastors or hearers, young or old—should treat each other with humility. 

We should also humble ourselves before God.  He gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34);  saving them, but bringing down the arrogant (Psalm 18:27; Luke 1:52; James 4:10).  Each of us should remember his place as a creature.  Each of us should, in meekness, be mindful of our sin.  None of us should regard himself more highly than he ought (Rom. 12:3)—whether before man, or before the Almighty.  Instead, we should have the same mindset as Christ, who in humility gave himself into death in our place (1 Peter 4:1; Phil. 2:5-7). Pride is a snare of the Devil (1 Tim. 3:6).

Satan prowls looking for prey therefore the Christian should be sober and watchful (Job 1:7; 2:2; Eph. 4:27).  He is a liar and murderer (John 8:44).  We should pray against temptation (Matt. 6:13; Matt. 26:41).  If we resist the Adversary, he will flee; instead we should draw near to God (James 4:7-8; 2 Tim. 2:22). 

Whatever the nature of the temptation—whether persecution for the saints in Asia Minor, or fleshly enticements for us today—no temptation, no testing, lasts forever (1 Peter 5:10; 1 Cor. 10:13).  As the Book draws to a close, we see again one of the first themes of the Epistle: “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).  These trials work for our good and God’s glory (1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 3:14-17).   

Christ is the cornerstone of the church (1 Peter 2:7).  We are a building for his habitation (1 Peter 2:4-5).  He is the Head of the body, his church (Col. 2:19; Eph. 4:15).  He alone has brought us to God (1 Peter 3:18).  All things have been subjected to him unto all eternity (1 Peter 3:22; 1 Peter 5:11).  His power sustains us to the end, so that we might with him in his glory forever (1 Peter 5:10).

Loehe on Starting in the Office

After advising the student of theology, Loehe continues by giving insight into how a pastor should begin his work in a new parish, especially young pastors going into the parish for the first time.  Join us as we delve into the next chapter of Loehe’s book and tackle issues like not attempting to do too much too quickly, the pastor’s public and social life, and the need for self-control.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Regular Guest: Rev. David Appold
Episode: 53

Join our Facebook group Word Fitly Posting to discuss this episode or any other topic.
Follow us on Twitter: @wordfitly
Send us a message: [email protected]
Subscribe to the podcast: RSS Feed, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcasting app.

Loehe on Preparation for the Holy Office

What makes a good pastor? For Wilhelm Loehe, the beginning was all. You’ll hear discussions about classical education, the focus of parish life, and the need for humility in this first episode in our series on Loehe’s “The Pastor.”

You can purchase a copy of “The Pastor” here.

You can also purchase a copy of “Seed Grains of Prayer,” another translated work of Loehe mentioned in the podcast, here.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Regular Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz
Episode: 47

Join our Facebook group Word Fitly Posting to discuss this episode or any other topic.
Follow us on Twitter: @wordfitly
Send us a message: [email protected]
Subscribe to the podcast: RSS Feed, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcasting app.

Walther on the Lord’s Supper


God’s mandate matters. What did Jesus mean His Supper to be? How should His holy words and holy things be handled by pastors? All this and much else about the Supper C.F.W. Walther discusses in his Pastoral Theology. We dig into why Lutheranism is distinctive in its use of the Lord’s Supper, why that’s a good thing, and what makes the Sacrament what it is.

Books for further reading: Pastoral Theology, and Suelflow’s biography Servant of the Word.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Regular Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz
Episode: 25

Join our Facebook group Word Fitly Posting to discuss this episode or any other topic.
Follow us on Twitter: @wordfitly
Send us a message: [email protected]
Subscribe to the podcast: RSS Feed, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcasting app.

Paul the Pastor


Was Paul serious when he said that pastors should be ‘above reproach’? What does it mean to lead God’s people, and if the church is a family, does household have a head as the family does? Listen to find out how the Christian pastor is a steward of God’s mysteries, the overseer of God’s household, and a good father to his people.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz
Episode: 13

Follow us on Twitter: @wordfitly
Send us a message: [email protected]
Subscribe to the podcast: RSS Feed, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcasting app.

The Work of an Evangelist


Is evangelism an optional activity for Christians, or is it at the heart of serving Christ? We discuss why the gospel is urgent and how to spread this life-changing message.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz
Episode: 10

Follow us on Twitter: @wordfitly
Send us a message: [email protected]
Subscribe to the podcast: RSS Feed, iTunes, or your favorite podcasting app.

The Pastor’s Work: Gerberding Continued


Continuing our discussion of Gerberding’s The Lutheran Pastor, the crew tackles a number of questions. What does a pastor do? What should he leave undone? Listen to learn about preaching, visiting, and all the other work of a man of God.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz
Episode: 9

Follow us on Twitter: @wordfitly
Send us a message: [email protected]
Subscribe to the podcast: RSS Feed, iTunes, or your favorite podcasting app.

The Evangelist’s Slumber

Our Lord at times desired to have time apart from the demands of His ministry. He was often entirely alone, retiring to mountains where He could not easily be found. Sometimes His attempt at seclusion was frustrated through the demands of others for His presence and attention. Sometimes He called his disciples to come with Him into seclusion.

This is all tremendously needful, refreshing, and helpful. Who does not desire some time apart? Who of us can say that at every waking moment he is entirely ready and willing to carry out the ministry of the gospel? No honest man could answer “Yes.”

But there is a danger in the desire for rest. Rest is not only the resort of the hard-working. Rest is also the refuge of the lazy man who is unprepared for life’s demands. Rest throughout the week, not only on the Sabbath, is what a man does with himself when he is not carrying out his God-given tasks.

How much have we been resting from spreading the gospel? How much preparation time, reflection time, and downtime do we need until we are ready to spread the kingdom of God the Lord? How many books and conferences and modules and workshops on evangelism does one man need? How many years will pass in which we seek conversions only from other forms of Christianity rather than the ever-increasing number of people in our country who have never known Christ in the least? Godly rest and relaxation and meditation and prayer are one thing. Ungodly sluggishness and laziness and most of all apathy are another altogether.

How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
When will you rise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep—
So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.
(Prov. 6:9-11)

We are most apt to rest prematurely when the work is hard. Calling up a friend and sharing ecclesiastical gossip is easily accomplished. Firing off a profound theological put-down on social media is easily accomplished. Assembling one’s theological books for an Instagram gem is easily accomplished. We are more apt to put off things like calling on a parishioner who has some beef with us or to do the hard work of engaging and evangelizing a completely new person because those things require hard, uphill, back-breaking, and at times spirit-breaking work.

But the Lord has said, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We do not say these things only to condemn. We say this, as our Lord said what He did to his lazy, restful followers in Gethsemane: Would you not watch with Me? If our lazy, apathetic flesh could not remain awake for the betrayal of God’s Son, how likely is it to remain watchful for the hard but much smaller tasks of the ministry, including doing the work of an evangelist?

Honesty about our apathy is honesty about ourselves, about what we are most prone to love (our flesh) and most prone to neglect (our hardest tasks). Honesty about our apathy is like every confession the gate to a new path. We see head-on how ugly and untimely and niggardly our apathy about the gospel and the spread of the gospel is. We see how captivating and world-changing and bounteous is our Lord’s compassion for sinners. Knowing our hearts and knowing His mighty love and purposes, we set our hands to the hard tasks, the things we’d rather stay in bed than get up for, the things that call sinners out of their slumber into the wakefulness of the dawning light of Christ:

Awake, you who sleep,

Arise from the dead,

And Christ will give you light. (Eph. 5:14)

The Work of an Evangelist: What are We Planting?

Of the bookshelves in my study, one entire shelf bears titles like “Planting Missional Churches” and “Church Planting for the 21st Century.” These books come from a wide variety of Christian confessions. “Church planting” has become a term as ecumenical as “stewardship” or “pastoral care.” Each of the books on that shelf means by “church planting” the establishment of a new Christian congregation where there was none before. No doubt, those books may recommend that the church planter should be bivocational or that he should seek out hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding before he begins. One book may insist that public worship services begin almost immediately; another may contradict that advice flatly and require that at least 200 people be on hand for the first public service. Yet each of those books presumes in common with all the others that there is such a thing as a “church planter” who establishes new churches, an activity obviously biblical called “church planting.”

It is surprising, to say the least, to read the Bible and not to find the phrase “church planting” in it. Is this like how the phrases “Holy Trinity” or “communication of attributes” also don’t appear in the Scriptures? Not really. “Trinity” unites the biblical data on the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in a single word expressing the essential divine reality for which we have no other single word. “Communication of attributes” expresses elegantly the relationship between the human and divine natures of the God-man for which we can cite all manner of passages. New congregations are established in Scripture. There is no question that Christian assemblies for worship and common life in Christ sprang up in Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, and so many other locations named in the New Testament. But does the Bible speak of “planting” churches?

It does not. It speaks rather about “planting” in a variety of other ways. Jesus speaks of the Pharisees in their obstinate opposition to him as “every plant that my Father in heaven has not planted” (Mt. 15:13) and the sowing of the wheat as “plants that came up” (Mt. 13:26) alongside the Enemy’s sowing of weeds. Here the action is God’s, and the means identified in Mt. 13 is the “word of the kingdom” (Mt. 13:18). In the parable of the tenants (Mt. 21, Mk. 12, Lk. 13) the master of the vineyard plants a vineyard that belongs to Him alone. Paul, the great missionary of the post-Pentecost church, says three times in 1 Cor. 3 that he has planted (3:6, 7, 8), as he has spoken of feeding the Corinthians with milk (3:2) and of himself and Apollos as “servants through whom you believed” (3:5). The object of that planting and Apollos’ watering and God’s gift of growth is explicitly the Corinthian people themselves, “You are God’s field, God’s building” (3:12). Paul’s aim has not been to establish an institution but to call men to faith by preaching Christ crucified.

What’s the difference? This is the difference between thinking of our evangelistic task as people-centered or institution-centered. The Bible speaks about gathering people, cultivating people, God’s field as people, God’s building as people, the temple of God composed of people. Paul plants not a church but the “word of the kingdom.” The sower in Mt. 13 plants not a well-funded institution but the same word that the man sows with good seed later in the same chapter. The focus is constantly on the spread of the word and the cultivation of the Lord’s vineyard, the Lord’s field, the Lord’s building which are the believers who receive that word and bear abundant fruit. Our task is not planting organizations. The organizations with their budgets and boards will arise to manage what has been given, as you can see the church’s forms of life develop in the Acts of the Apostles. Our task is rather planting the word of the kingdom in the field of this world so that the wheat, the good seed, the abundant fruit of the Lord may grow and flourish in His vineyard.

Eighth Sunday after Trinity: Jeremiah 23:16-29

Jeremiah is never one to mince words.  He speaks against the kings of Judah and announces that their house will be broken.  Even if Jehoiakim were “the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off” (Jeremiah 22:24).  Jeremiah 23 also begins with a diatribe against the shepherds.  While it is certainly possible that he speaks against the priests and religious authorities (cf. Ezekiel 34, for example), the shepherds are set in contrast to “the prophets” in Jeremiah 23:9.  These shepherds are therefore likely another reference to the kings of Judah.  The promise of the righteous Branch, that is, Christ, in Jeremiah 23:5-8 strengthens this, because the Branch “shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 23:5), not exactly priestly functions.

However, the prophets are no less failing in the exercise of their office.  Jeremiah says that “In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray” (Jeremiah 23:13).  A prophet of a false religion is an “unsavory” thing, sometimes translated simply as “wrong” (Job 1:22; 24:12).  The word itself seems to mean “lacking salt, being tasteless,” since a related form is used in Job 6:6 and Lamentations 2:14 (“deceptive” in the ESV).  Therefore false prophets are bland and tasteless, unpalatable, but by no means guiltless or harmless.  “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13).

But the prophets in Judah are doing something far worse.  “But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah” (Jeremiah 23:14).  Their deeds are “horrible” (also in Jeremiah 5:30), and this word shares the same root with a word translated “vile” in Jeremiah 29:17.  If the deeds of the prophets of false gods are unpalatable and bland, the deeds of the prophets of Jerusalem are vile and rotten, completely inedible.  “And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating” (Luke 12:47-48).  Better is the day of judgment for the prophet of a false god than for the one who claims to serve the living God!

Therefore, the Lord speaks against these false prophets in the reading for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity.  Such prophets do not speak the Word of the Lord, but the vain fancies of their own minds.  Coupled with their godless life is calling good evil and evil good.  “They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you’” (Jeremiah 23:17).  False teaching shows itself primarily in going against what God has said, declaring that God is not angry with this or that sin or that something is in fact not a sin.  That God does not punish sexual sins, especially homosexuality, adultery, and divorce, seems to be the favorite in these days.  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).  “Therefore 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, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).  Hard words?  Of course.  But the consequences are too great to not speak them in their full hardness:  “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).  False prophets are no joke.

These false teachers also have an urgency about them, because they know that their time is short.  “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied” (Jeremiah 23:21).  They have a desire to be heard for their own sake, as if the Church needed them.  God’s Church will be somehow sorely lacking if their “unique perspective” or “deep insights” forged in the depths of sin cannot be heard.  “These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 12-13).  Let me be clear.  God needs no one to carry out His work on earth.  When our appointed time is over, the Church will go on, because she belongs to God.  The ministry is not a right and no one is entitled to it.  “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:1-2).

The Lord emphasizes that He will bring justice upon the prophets because of their sins.  But He also includes a strong commission for those who are indeed faithful.  “Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:28).  As Paul says, the Day of Judgment will reveal what sort of work each one builds upon the foundation of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).  Straw is useful only for being trodden underfoot or thrown into the fire, but the wheat will be gathered into the barns (Matthew 3:12).  “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1).  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).  Pastors would do well to heed the many warnings of Scripture about their great and awesome task, but they should also remember that Christ is with them and that the Holy Spirit uses them as the instruments of the living Word.  It is not their word, but His.

Finally, the Lord says:  “Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29).  A magnificent word, deserving of being impressed upon the memory!  God’s Word is living and active, sharper than a two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12).  It is the imperishable seed (1 Peter 1:23) able to make wise for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15)!  God’s Word is not merely words, but the living voice of the Holy Spirit, poured out at Pentecost (Acts 2:4) and through the mouths of the prophets (2 Peter 1:21).  It will never return void (Isaiah 55:10-11).  It is not a plaything for us to mishandle, but the chart and compass leading toward the Lord.  May we receive it eagerly (Acts 17:11)!