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Walther on Care for the Dying


Through Christ death has lost its sting, but how does a Christian face that final enemy? We discuss caring for the dying, funerals, cemeteries, and burials. As we bring the series on Walther’s pastoral theology to an end, it’s fitting to end with end things.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Regular Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz
Episode: 40

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Eleventh Sunday after Trinity: 1 Corinthians 15:1-10

The epistle reading for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity begins one of the most elegant passages of Holy Scripture, because Paul demonstrates that God will certainly raise us from the dead.  Some in the congregation claimed that there was no resurrection, much like the Sadducees (Matthew 22:23; Acts 23:8) or Greeks (Acts 17:32).  Paul goes on to show that if there is no resurrection, then Christ Himself has not been raised from the dead.  If Christ has not been raised, then there is no Christian hope whatsoever.  Jesus Himself proves beyond all doubt that God will raise us up on the Last Day.

This short reading from the beginning of the chapter serves as the preface to this argument.  It is the Gospel which Paul preached to them.  Interestingly, this Gospel appears here as a thing, so to speak.  It is something preached, which means that it can be handed on.  It is something received, which means that it goes from one person to another.  It is something to stand on, which means that it exists as an external hope.  It is something which saves, and who can save themselves even in a worldly sense?  To hold on to this Gospel is to hold on to the Word.  To reject the resurrection is to eviscerate the very Gospel.  Such a denial literally destroys everything in the process.

Paul points to some of the things which he passed on to the Corinthians.  Statements like this occur in other places of Scripture, such as the response for firstfruits in Deuteronomy 26:5-11.  Likewise, telling future generations what the Lord has done in the past carries forward the hope of Israel (Deuteronomy 6:20-25; Psalm 78:4-8).  This is also why Paul emphasizes that these things happened “in accordance with the Scriptures.”  God is faithful in His promises.  As He has done in generations past, so will He do in generations to come.  Past faithfulness proves future promises.

Through Christ would have been vindicated even without appearing to anyone, He appeared to them “by many proofs” following His resurrection in order to strengthen them (Acts 1:3).  Paul does not list all of them here, and the fact that the appearance to the five hundred at once shows up nowhere else in Scripture shows that even the Gospels do not record all of them.  Paul alludes to them for the same reason that the Gospel writers only allude to a few:  they serve a rhetorical point.  Here, after appearing to so many, Jesus also appears to Paul last of all.  He is one “untimely born,” or perhaps stronger, “miscarried,” because prior to his dramatic conversion he persecuted the Church.  Instead of coming to the fullness of time, being born as the others had into the faith, Paul violently rejected Christ, only to be converted through pure grace.  It is likewise only by grace that Paul proclaimed that message, and only in grace can Paul claim to have worked harder than anyone.

Yet whether the Gospel came through those worthy to be called apostles, the ones timely born, or through those unworthy like Paul, it came by grace all the same.  The message of the Gospel does not depend on the messenger, though this does not negate the need for holiness.  Paul boasts in the grace of God, not in his sin, which he recognizes as making him a spiritual miscarriage.  Despite that, the faith remains the same.  Christ has been raised from the dead so that we too will be raised from the dead.  Christ died for our sins so that our sins would not hold us in the grave.  Grace abounds so that God is glorified in all things.

Sixth Sunday after Trinity: Romans 6:3-11

Righteousness does not come from works.  Israel according to the flesh is not therefore saved because of the flesh.  If righteousness came through works, then salvation would be our wages, something we have earned, rather than by grace.  Abraham, as Paul says earlier in Romans 4, was saved through faith.  This man who had done far more and glorious good works than we have was not saved as a result.  He too was weighed in the scales and found wanting in terms of righteousness according to works.  It was faith that made him righteous in God’s sight.

But righteousness is not a point in time.  “What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means” (Romans 6:1-2)!  Looking at righteousness in this way is to place trust in something other than God, even if it something come from God.  “Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord'” (Jeremiah 7:4).  The temple profits nothing if the Law is forgotten.  To treat righteousness in this way is to commit the same error that Paul rejects earlier in Romans.  “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical, but a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter” (Romans 2:28-29).

The same is true also for Baptism.  Baptism sets us apart to God, just as Paul says here in Romans 6.  To be baptized is to be baptized into Jesus, and to be baptized into Jesus is to die just as He has died.  Baptism unites us with Christ and therefore brings faith, life, and salvation.  But Baptism is not merely a point in time.  To look at baptism like ancient Israel looked at the temple and the land–as proofs of God’s favor regardless of their conduct–is to abuse it.  Baptism and a newness of life walk hand in hand by necessity.  A failure to produce fruit is a sign of a dead tree.

Baptism therefore unites the Christian with Christ in two related, but distinct, ways.  The first is being united with Him in His death to sin and in His life to God.  We have been put to death inwardly, being crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be brought to nothing.  As a result, we have been set free from sin.  Sin has no dominion over Jesus, and therefore sin has no dominion over the one who is in Jesus.  Therefore, we are not slaves to sin.  This is important to emphasize, because weakness is not the same as domination.  The Christian sins out of weakness:  the flesh remains and leads him to do what he does not want to do (Romans 7).  But it is not necessary that he sins.  He is, in fact, capable of resisting the impulse of sin and to avoid it.  Thus, to give into the works of the flesh, especially when one is able to resist in Christ, is to go out of your way to wallow in the mud.  You are not a slave of sin, but a slave of righteousness.  You live in God, and therefore are no longer in darkness or the power of sin.

The other way is being united with Him in death and in life outwardly.  Our bodies will also be put to death physically and outwardly, just as Christ was also laid into the grave.  But as the grave could not hold Him, neither will it hold those who belong to Him.  We will rise bodily on the Last Day, because we have been united with Christ through baptism.  “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on” (Revelation 14:13).

These two ways are closely related.  Holiness is not a matter of this life only.  “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19)!  Christ’s death has no meaning apart from His resurrection, for “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).  Likewise, our death and resurrection inwardly has no meaning apart from our death and resurrection outwardly.  To be like Christ means to rise with Christ, both inwardly and outwardly.  Being like Him only inwardly means that we have no hope.  Being like Him only outwardly means not being like Him at all.  But through baptism, we have been raised with Him inwardly and outwardly, never to die again.

Man in Glory


What is the hope towards which we press? How do we describe what no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mortal mind has comprehended? Listen as we finish our series on the four-fold distinction of human nature with a discussion of man in the state of glory.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Guest: Rev. David Appold
Episode: 15

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Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity: 1 Kings 17:17-24

While the promise of resurrection appears throughout the Bible, within the Old Testament there seem to be only three recorded resurrections:  the widow of Zarephath’s son (1 Kings 17:17-24), the Shunammite’s son (2 Kings 4:18-37), and the man whose body touched the bones of Elisha (2 Kings 13:21).  Old Testament resurrections are therefore confined to the prophetic ministries of Elijah and Elisha.  Given that Jesus declares that John the Baptist is the promised Elijah (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 17:11-13), His own miracles of resurrection prove His indirect claim to be Elisha, the One greater than John and having a double portion of the Spirit.  Prophecy and resurrection are closely connected.

The first of these three readings is the selection for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity.  It is the second half of the account which begins in 1 Kings 17:8 and an important part of the wider section of 1 Kings 17-18.  Elijah declares to the wicked king Ahab that there will be no rain “except by my word” (1 Kings 17:1).  Through this miraculous drought, Elijah seeks to declare to Ahab that there is not God except the God of Israel.  This is why he will confront Ahab in 1 Kings 18 in a powerful demonstration of the burning altar against the prophets of Baal.  “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God” (1 Kings 18:39)!  Only after this confrontation will the drought come to an end at the word of Elijah in 1 Kings 18:41.

During the time of the drought, the Lord provides for Elijah, first in a miraculous way with the ravens (1 Kings 17:3-6), but then in a more ordinary way with the widow.  This passage is helpful for speaking about what might be called ordinary and extraordinary Providence.  The ravens are a prime example of God’s extraordinary Providence:  He is not bound to our means of providing the things we need in this life.  He may indeed choose to have birds carry bread to His prophet.  But even if we have to bake the bread we eat, it is no less the gift of God, for all things flow from His hand.  He simply chooses, in His ordinary Providence, to use men as the means for providing the things we need.

The Lord commands Elijah to go northward along the coast of the sea to the village called Zarephath (1 Kings 17:9).  Zarephath was deep within Canaanite territory (Obadiah 20).  While it is possible that this widow could be partly an Israelite (as Hiram was the son of an intermarriage in 1 Kings 7:13-14), it is more likely she is a Canaanite, which explains the offense of Jesus’ words to the Jews in Luke 4:25-26.  Being a Canaanite, she is part of the cursed race of Ham (Genesis 9:25) whose continued existence was a mark of Israel’s unfaithfulness (Judges 1:27-36).

Yet even with the ordinary means of Providence, God provides a multiplication miracle as well with the jar of flour and the jug of oil.  Through the Word which Elijah proclaims to her, which the miracle is meant to confirm, the widow and her household, though Canaanites, believe in the Lord.  She has ceased to be a part of the condemned body of Canaan and has now by faith been connected to the body which will be delivered in the day of judgment.  How ironic that Ahab, a son of Abraham, stands under judgment while this woman, a daughter of Canaan, stands before the Lord!

But the woman’s son dies.  She believes it to be a judgment upon her sins (1 Kings 17:18).  While the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), there is every reason to believe that her son dies so that God may show His power through him.  The man born blind (John 9:1-3) and Lazarus (John 11:14-15) serve God’s purposes in their affliction.  God declared to Moses:  “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord” (Exodus 4:11)?  Even in affliction and death, the Lord brings those who belong to Him closer to Himself.

Elijah’s method is somewhat unusual, since he stretches himself over the child three times (1 Kings 17:21-22).  One should perhaps not read too much into this, since the prophets frequently do unusual things.  What is interesting, however, is that Elijah calls upon the Lord in conjunction with this act.  Elisha, on the other hand, having a double portion of the Spirit, does not speak a word at all (2 Kings 4:34-35).  Christ Himself raises with His mere command, and He vindicates His claim as the Prophet through His own resurrection.  We have, therefore, an increasing proof of the truth of the Word of God:  Elijah called upon God who answered faithfully; Elisha proves his office of prophet by raising others even merely by the touch of his bones; and Christ through His own resurrection is “vindicated by the Spirit” (1 Timothy 3:16).  We do not believe the Scriptures because of Christ’s resurrection.  The resurrection itself is proof that God’s Word cannot be broken.  As the widow herself says:  “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth” (1 Kings 17:24).