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First Sunday in Lent: Matthew 4:1-11

The Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness following His baptism, but not unwillingly. Nothing happens to Christ without His consent or permission (John 10:18). His temptation in the wilderness also happens because of His choice. The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him, and no one will hinder Him from carrying out His mission! One may even say that Jesus deliberately entices the Devil to a contest, because the Devil has no power apart from God’s permissive will (cf. Job 1-2).

Like the scapegoat of old (Leviticus 16:8-10), Jesus begins His work of carrying away our sins immediately following His baptism. Mark relates that He was with the wild animals, away from the domain of men and utterly alone (Mark 1:13). He abstains from all food for forty days, as Moses (Exodus 34:28) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:8) had done. Moses and Elijah could not do so apart from God, and Jesus’ own fast is a proof of His divinity. Jesus explicitly tells His disciples in John 4:34 that His food is to do His Father’s will, suggesting that He had no need to eat whatsoever. That He eats and becomes hungry is a sign of His humiliation, becoming like us, not by necessity, but by choice.

It is likely that the forty days stand for the forty years during which Israel wandered in the wilderness as a divine punishment, especially since earlier in Matthew, Jesus is explicitly said to fulfill the prophecy of Hosea 11:1. Just as Jesus is the second Adam, being everything that Adam was not, so also is Jesus the greater Israel, faithful where Israel of old was faithless.

The word temptation and its related forms is used in three different ways in Scripture. God may tempt us, as He did with Abraham (Genesis 22:1). Men may tempt God, something which is explicitly forbidden (Deuteronomy 6:16). Satan may also tempt us into sin (1 Corinthians 7:5). What is common to all of these is the idea of testing. To be tempted is not a sin. If it was, Jesus sinned in the wilderness, something which is blasphemous to say (Hebrews 4:15). This test is a kind of proving, attempting to determine the truth or the quality of something. God proves His servant Job through His trials against the accusations of Satan. Thus this temptation, like the temptation of Abraham, is not an invitation to sin. James says that God tempts no one, because the temptation in question there is an enticing to sin (James 1:12-15). Rather, God proves the character of His saints to their praise and to His glory.

Men may not tempt God or put Him to the test, because it calls into question His nature. A man would test God to see whether He is faithful or telling the truth, as the Israelites did at the first Meribah (Exodus 17:1-7). Yet God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind (Numbers 23:19). Satan also tempts man in the same way by presenting opportunities to sin, drawing into question the Word of God (as with Eve in Genesis 3) or by laying before us a trap. Satan tempts Jesus to sin, but Jesus resists him and does not give way. We are also capable, through the work of the Holy Spirit, of resisting temptation. It is only when we assent to it that sin gives birth to death, though this assent is not hard to gain.

Satan is described in three ways within this passage: the “tempter,” the “slanderer,” and the “adversary.” He is the Tempter for reasons noted above. He is the Devil, or the Slanderer, because he seeks to accuse by lies and half-truths (Zechariah 3:1-2). He is the Adversary, because he opposes God and His saints. Satan tempts Jesus out of his desire to be a murderer (John 8:44). He is a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Yet as noted above, Satan should not be understood as God’s opposite. Satan comes into the wilderness because God has permitted it, not because Satan can do so on his own (Job 1:12; Matthew 8:31-32).

The first temptation here is a test of God’s providence. Can God provide something as simple as bread for You in this wilderness, as He did for Israel with the manna? God the Father quoted Psalm 2, “This is my beloved Son,” just forty days earlier or so at Jesus’ baptism. Is that still true? Satan’s question, “If you are the Son of God,” is thus drawing into doubt that pronouncement more than anything else. Yet Jesus rebukes the devil with Scripture, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. God gave Israel manna so that they would learn to trust in Him above all things. It is not a difficult thing for God to provide, even when it seems like it is physically impossible to us. God’s providence is not limited to natural laws, but all things come from His gracious hand (1 Kings 17:14-16; Psalm 145:15-20; 1 Kings 17:4-6, etc.).

The second temptation here is a test of God’s faithfulness. The devil takes Jesus physically to a high point in the city and tells him to throw Himself down, for Psalm 91 says that God will bear you up and keep you from physical harm. Yet this rash action would become a temptation of God, because casting ourselves into danger in order to determine whether God will keep His Word is drawing into doubt His faithfulness. It is an act of faith to trust in God, knowing that He will deliver us, even when things seem hopeless or contrary to our expectations. It is an act of presumption to see whether God will do it in ways that fit our parameters and conditions. Thus, Jesus rebukes the devil with Deuteronomy 6:16, which is perfectly fitting, since the sin of Israel at Massah was the same as the devil’s proposal.

The last temptation here is a test of God’s sovereignty, since it is an invitation to idolatry. Now on a very high mountain, the devil presents to Jesus a vision of the world. He baldly lies and claims the authority to give and take these kingdoms as he pleases. This is God’s possession and perogative, not Satan’s (Psalm 2:8; 22:28; 47:8; 50:10). In exchange for this worldly glory, shown to be as empty as it really is in Satan’s lie, he calls on Christ to worship him as the source of that glory. However, God rules over the world, and all things are under His dominion. He alone is the proper object of worship, because He is the Creator, not a creature. He is the Lord, and glory belongs to Him alone (Isaiah 42:8).

With the words of Deuteronomy 6:13, Jesus sharply rebukes Satan for his pride. Again, these words fit perfectly, because God warned Israel in that portion of Deuteronomy 6 of the dangers of the world. When they come into their inheritance in the land and live in that which God gave them, they must not be enticed to think that such things came by their own power. God rules over all things, and He is the one who gives all things. We must not seek to worship other gods, because such gods are nothing at all and did not bring us out of slavery into the promised land. God alone is our Redeemer, our Provider, and our King.

Let us also take note of two things in this passage. First, Jesus sharply rebukes Satan and commands him to depart. Resisting temptation may indeed involve drastic measures, even to the point of abstaining from something entirely. If something I do leads me or someone else to sin, it is better to not do it at all than to dabble in it in the name of freedom (1 Corinthians 8:13). Second, Jesus rebukes the devil with the Word of God. Our strength is not in ourselves, but in God and His Word. Spending time in that Word is the surest way to resist temptation, because it is our life and our weapon against the devil (Ephesians 6:17). Jesus resists the invitation to sin, because He is sinless, but He shows us the way to resist the devil and his temptations by His example.

Hardening of the Conscience


This one’s packed, as we discuss conscience and hardness of heart. What is the human conscience? How does it work? And what does it have to do with hardening? What about Biblical examples like Pharaoh and King Saul? How does hardening of conscience work out in our day and age? We’re only just scratching the surface of some major topics this week on WFS.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Regular Guest: Rev. David Appold
Episode: 41

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Seventh Sunday after Trinity: Romans 6:19-23

In the previous pericope, Paul underscored the connection between Baptism and the new life.  Because the Christian is baptized into Christ, becoming like Him in all things, he no longer sins by necessity.  Sin no longer has dominion over the Christian, just as it has no dominion over Christ.

As Paul says in Romans 6:6-7, the Christian is no longer enslaved to sin.  Romans 6:12-18, strangely excised from the lectionary, amplifies this point.  Sin no longer reigns, but the Christian who is lax runs the risk of falling back under its dominion.  “Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness” (Romans 6:13).  Paul personifies sin here in this section of Romans, making it not a personal failing, but a vicious master.  If one does not have God for a master, then sin will be the master.

The imagery of slavery, though used “because of your natural limitations,” shows the seriousness of Paul’s exhortation.  The Christian is a slave of God.  Our modern aversion to this concept should not color Paul’s point.  If the Christian is a slave, then his obedience is not a matter of choice.  He must obey the master who owns him.  To disobey God, therefore, and to turn toward sin is to run away.  Instead of laboring in the vineyard of the Lord, the Christian who willfully sins leaves the garden in a vain search for something “better.”  Outside the vineyard is only death.

This is especially true for the Christian who imagines that grace removes the need for obedience.  Antinomianism, seeking to magnify the free gift of God in Christ Jesus, slaps God in the face.  The antinomian says to his Father, “I go, sir,” but does not go (Matthew 21:30).  Salvation is not an absolute liberty to do whatever you please.  Salvation is a transfer of masters.

Further, each one will receive his wages, whether he is a slave of sin or a slave of God.  After all, lawlessness leads to more lawlessness, compounding upon itself, and righteousness leads to sanctification, also compounding upon itself.  If lawlessness grows, its fruit ultimately is death (Romans 6:21).  But righteousness also grows, and its fruit is life (Romans 6:22).  This is why it is so serious a matter when a Christian falls back into sin.  Sin is not messing up.  Sin leads to death, and the two ways of life and death do not have the same end.  It is not wandering on a road that more or less leads to heaven, but turning aside and walking down a road that leads anywhere but.

Paul says all of this to avoid a misunderstanding.  Being set free from the Law is not being set free from the demands of the Law, but rather its curse.  We seek after the Law, because it is holy, it is God’s will, not as a means of justifying ourselves.  God’s mercy is certainly magnified when He shows it to an undeserving people, and the Law shows our unworthiness.  Yet God is never glorified by sin.  Let us be careful lest, seeking to magnify God, we actually magnify our own sin.  God has not redeemed us to seek the way of death, but to turn from our wicked ways and live.

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.

The Discipline of the Lord (Psalm 6)

The ancient Christians classed Psalm 6 as the first of the seven penitential psalms, for good reason.  In it, the psalmist calls upon God to turn away from His burning anger and to look upon him with favor.  Whatever may be causing such distress in the psalm itself is somewhat beside the point.  Physical sickness, the attack of enemies, fear of the final judgment, fear in the midst of disaster, all of them in the end boil down to the same basic cry:  “Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger!”

Psalm 6 opens with a clear petition:  “Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger, and do not chastise me in Your wrath.  Favor me, Lord, for I am frail.  Heal me, Lord, for my bones are terrified.  And my soul is exceedingly terrified.  But you, Lord, how long?”  It is most likely that the psalmist is being assaulted by enemies, judging by the end of the psalm.  But this is a cry of a soul suffering under God’s wrath, not merely suffering at the hands of men.  It is the Lord who rebukes and chastises David.  The terror in his bones emphasizes the depth of this fear:  it is not merely a formality or psychological, but a deep and abiding fear of the wrath of God.  How long is this going to go on, Lord?  It seems like God is distant and turned away from him in anger.

Note, however, that David does not ask God to stop rebuking or chastising him.  Rather, “do not rebuke me in Your anger,” that is, in wrath visited upon sin.  The Lord rebukes His elect, but for a different reason.  “It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline” (Hebrews 12:7)?  Through such discipline, the Lord teaches.  “I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord” (Amos 4:6).  Therefore, we should not flee away from suffering as if it was repulsive and necessarily bad, and this includes the experience of God’s discipline.  A God who only gives us positive experiences, or negative ones that quickly give way to positive ones, is not the God of Scripture.  Through the experience of God’s discipline, the Lord teaches us to rely upon Him above all things.

“Return, Lord, rescue my soul.  Save me on account of your steadfast love.”  David has no recourse before the Lord except His steadfast love.  If God were to turn away from His elect, His honor and glory would perish.  But the Lord is steadfast, even in the midst of intense trial.  He turns away His face from His sons to show them that He will not forsake them.  “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.  Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

“For in death there is not remembrance of You.  In Sheol, who will praise you?”  This cannot mean that the dead are insensible or nonexistent, for the souls cried out from under the altar, just as the blood of Abel cried out from the ground (Genesis 4:10; Revelation 6:9-11).  Rather, “remembrance” may also be translated as “mention.”  Remembering the Lord is not simply recollection, but calling to mind before the whole congregation what the Lord has done.  God does not, after all, simply think about Noah when He remembered him and those with him in the ark, but sent the winds to push away the waters of the flood!  If remembrance implies action, then those who are dead are no longer able to do what only the living can do:  praise God by recounting His glorious deeds out loud.

“I am weary with my sighing.  I cause my bed to swim the whole night.  With my tears I flood my couch.  My eye has become dark with grief.  It grows old from all my attackers.”  David emphasizes the intensity of his contrition.  Not only do his tears flow without ceasing in grief over his sin, but he also “grows old” under the strain.  I think this should be understood in the same way we use expressions like “this will give me gray hairs.”  David’s contrition and the desire to see God’s face again is more than he wants to bear.  It drives him back to the Lord and causes him to call upon Him without ceasing.

But at this point, there is a remarkable shift.  Something has occurred.  “Go away from me, all you doers of wickedness, for the Lord has heard the voice of my weeping.  The Lord hears my pleading.  The Lord accepts my prayer.”  His enemies can no longer trouble him, because he knows that the Lord has heard his cries.  It may be that his weeping has turned to trust, recalling the steadfast love of the Lord.  It may also be that he has heard the voice of another, just as Hannah heard the voice of Eli, causing her to rejoice that she had been heard (1 Samuel 1:15-18).  Whether internal or external, the psalmist leaves behind his weeping and knows that the Lord remains with him, even in the midst of distress.

“Ashamed and exceedingly terrified are all my enemies.  They will turn back and be put to shame quickly.”  It is rather remarkable here that everything has turned around.  The Lord has turned from facing away from David to facing toward him.  His enemies turn away from facing him and now face away in terror.  David’s terror has passed, and his enemies are terrified before the Lord.  While the reversal did not happen in an instant or the course of a few minutes, the Lord turns everything around.  Even the last sentence shows this with wordplay that cannot be translated into English.  The words for “turn back” and “be put to shame” share the same basic letters in Hebrew, but the order flips around here.  Even the words themselves emphasize this great reversal!

Christians should therefore pray this psalm in the midst of all their troubles.  “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:31-33).  Though we suffer justly for our sin, the fire of God’s discipline purifies rather than consumes, and through it we will offer up sacrifices of prayer and praise in righteousness (Malachi 3:3).

Second Sunday of Easter: 1 John 5:4–10

The apostle John writes to at least one congregation burdened with controversy. Separatists claiming to be perfect and sinless in some fashion gave way to every kind of sin, believing it to be of no consequence.  Worse still, they could not leave well enough alone, but continually assaulted their former brothers with accusations that they alone knew the real “truth.”  Had not Jesus forgiven all sins?  Why not, then, sin all the more, because self-effort meant nothing?  Salvation comes by grace, after all, and not by works.

John, unlike these separatists, did not engage in direct polemics. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.  But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).  Thus, John writes to the beleaguered congregations, who were anxious and likely wondering whether what their former brethren said was true.  There is no reason to fear, even though the spirit of Antichrist goes out into the world in these men, because God has not left His people without reassurance.

John emphasizes that one such proof of being in the Lord and not in the world is whether a man keeps the commandments of God.  While John, in his often repetitious fashion, highlights this point throughout the letter, he states this clearly immediately prior to the reading: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3).  This is not a reversal of the Biblical order.  Good works do not produce faith, but good works are certainly the evidence of such faith, and a willful refusal to seek to keep the commandments of God is a clear sign of a lack of faith.  John even goes as far as to say that “I am writing these things to you so that you  may not sin” (1 John 2:1).  The one who is in Christ no longer “does sin,” to use a more literal translation of phrases like “make a practice of sinning.”  The Christian does not aim for fewer sins than yesterday; the Christian is called to aim for no sins whatsoever.  It is this desire for an actual sinlessness, even in the midst of sin and death, that distinguishes a Christian from the world.

Yet John also points to another comfort for these troubled Christians: faith. The one who believes in Jesus has a real victory over the world and over the desire to sin.  At this point, John seems to address other objections from the separatists, who may have argued that Jesus was not actually God (such as in 1 John 2:22 or 1 John 4:3) or that He was not actually a man (which explains his emphasis on Jesus coming “in the flesh” in 1 John 4:2). There may have been two separate groups, for that matter.  But his point is clear:  God Himself bears witness regarding His Son, and this testimony is greater than the testimony of men, orthodox or otherwise.

There is a real temptation to understand “water and blood” in 1 John 5:6 as referring to the Sacraments, but this needs to be resisted for a number of reasons. First of all, “he who came” is clearly in the past tense, referring to previous events.  Christ does indeed come, as He promised, in the Sacraments, but the wording here looks backwards.  Second, “blood” all by itself would be an odd way to refer to the Lord’s Supper, considering that even Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:26 refers to the two elements of that Sacrament separately.  Third, John’s emphasis that Christ did not come “by the water only” suggests that some had argued this way, and therefore not “by blood,” which could be a denial that He had come in the flesh.

Therefore, “water” here seems to be a reference to Christ’s own Baptism rather than Christian Baptism generally (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22).  Additionally, each of the passages cited include a clear reference to the Lord’s own testimony, quoting Psalm 2:7 regarding Jesus.  At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, therefore, the Father Himself bears testimony with the Spirit regarding Christ.  “Blood,” therefore, seems to refer to Christ’s death on the cross, when He shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins.  Taken together in this way, water and blood refer to the whole work of Christ, Immanuel in the flesh.  It was John, after all, who wrote concerning the purpose of his Gospel that “these [things] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

The Holy Spirit also bears witness to the truth, because He is the Spirit of Truth (John 15:26). As John emphasizes in his Gospel, the Holy Spirit dwells within those who are of God and bears testimony through His living voice about Jesus (John 14:17).  His testimony does not conflict with the testimony of the water and blood, because it is that very testimony that He has been sent to proclaim.  Speaking through His holy Word, the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit works faith according to His purposes and causes that faith to bear the fruit of good works. This, then, is why faith and good works ultimately go together, because both flow from God.

The Fall


Though the Lord created Adam as righteous and innocent, Adam did not remain in that state, but fell into sin. Rev. David Appold joins Rev. Grills and Rev. Heide to talk about the fallen state of man, discussing original sin, Adam as head of all mankind, how the judgment of God affects the spheres of man and woman, and the significance of returning to dust.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Guest: Rev. David Appold
Episode: 8

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Easter Sunday: 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

The Corinthians, Paul says earlier in 1 Corinthians 5, tolerated an egregious evil in their midst.  One of the men still within the congregation had “his father’s wife,” a relationship clearly forbidden in passages like Leviticus 18:8 and Deuteronomy 22:30.  Engaging in sexual activity with one’s own mother-in-law horrified the sensibilities even of the pagans around them, which is especially noteworthy considering that they condoned homosexual activity (Romans 1:26-32).  Yet the Corinthians tolerated such evil!  “And you are arrogant!  Ought you not rather to mourn?  Let him who has done this be removed from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:2).

Paul therefore rebukes the Corinthians in the Epistle lesson for Easter.  They boasted of their love in tolerating such a man in their midst, possibly imagining that they welcomed sinners as Jesus had done.  Yet the difference between the two could not be greater.  When Christ ate with sinners, they did not continue in their sin, but were called by the Holy Spirit to turn away from sin and to walk after Christ.  When the Corinthians ate with this man, he continued in his sin and was even strengthened in it, because grace and forgiveness are not the same thing as tolerance.  Tolerance of evil leads to more evil.  “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”

Paul’s exhortation to “cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump” therefore first refers to this situation.  The leaven of evil which the Corinthians tolerated in their midst must be swept out.  Yet it applies also to evil of all sorts, because just as yeast causes the whole loaf to rise, so also evil affects the whole body.  Christ Himself warned against the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, clearly connecting this imagery to false teaching which would lead away from God (Matthew 16:11-12).

Paul refers to Passover as a way of proving his point.  During the observance of Passover, after all, all leaven and leavened things had to be put away.  “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:15).  Eating anything leavened within the seven days meant being cut off from Israel (Exodus 12:19).  Through this symbol, the Lord taught Israel about the seriousness of sin.  It was the Lord who delivered Israel from Egypt and it was the Lord who passed them over in the judgment.  To keep physical leaven transgressed the covenant.  How much more the leaven of sin!

Passover, however, pointed forward to the greater Lamb of God.  Christ is our Passover lamb, whose blood perfectly atones for sin.  The Corinthians, being in Christ, were set apart to God and made a new, unleavened lump in Christ.  Paul therefore calls for them to put away the old leaven, “the leaven of malice and evil,” the leaven which tolerated sin in their midst.  Instead, they are called to keep the festival with the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”  Evil has no place within the body of Christ.  “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you” (Psalm 5:4).

On the celebration of Easter, as the Church remembers the resurrection of Christ the Passover Lamb, Paul’s words should resonate in our ears.  Being a Christian is not a matter of personal conviction only.  As the body of Christ, Paul calls for us to also put away the leaven of evil from our midst.  Evil is not something trifling or trivial, but should be resisted.  Yet in striving to put away the old leaven, Paul also reminds us that in doing so, “his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5).

The Fourfold State of Man


The fourfold state of man distinguishes between the four different ways men relate to God: prior to the fall in innocency, after the fall in sin, regenerated by faith, and perfected in glory. Rev. David Appold joins Rev. Grills and Rev. Heide to talk about this distinction, focusing on why it’s important to talk about anthropology, the will of man, and Adam before the fall.

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Guest: Rev. David Appold
Episode: 6

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Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity: Micah 6:6-8

“Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the indictment of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth, for the Lord has an indictment against His people, and He will contend with Israel” (Micah 6:1-2). Moses, like Micah, had also called heaven and earth as witness against Israel. Choose life, that you and your offspring may live (Deuteronomy 30:19)! But Israel has not chosen life, but rather the way of death.

The language of “indictment” is, of course, a legal term. The Lord has brought a suit against His faithless people. Assyria must come as a punishment, which Micah clarifies in the previous chapter, but now the legal reasoning of this judgment is laid bare. God brought His people out of Egypt, out of the iron furnace (Deuteronomy 4:20; 1 Kings 8:51). He sent Moses and Aaron (Psalm 106:26-36), and their sister Miriam the prophetess (Exodus 15:20). When Balak sought to curse, Balaam spoke a word of blessing contrary to his will (Numbers 22-24; Deuteronomy 23:4-5; Joshua 24:9-10; Nehemiah 13:2; 2 Peter 2:15), despite his idolatry which even later proved a snare (Numbers 31:16; Revelation 2:14). But what has Israel done in return? She has whored after idols, from the Baal of Peor in Shittim (Numbers 25) to their godless and false worship in Gilgal (Hosea 12:11).

Micah, under the weight of this great accusation, therefore asks the question of a soul realizing the depths of sin: “What must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30)? His three questions, increasing in severity, point to the fruitlessness of any manmade way. Burnt offerings, though commanded by God, will not take away sin (Hebrews 10:4). They do not save in and of themselves, in some magical fashion, but point to the blood of Christ which alone takes away sin. Even thousands upon thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of oil cannot accomplish this. Nor can sacrificing even what is most dear, a child, count for anything when it comes to righteousness before the all holy God. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul” (Matthew 16:26)?

Micah’s injunction to do “what is good,” therefore, is not a call to make amends with God through obedience. He has just expressly rejected such a conclusion with the three previous questions. Rather, he calls Israel as a defendant to do what she should already be doing. It is not a word spoken to an unbeliever, but one who knows the will of God already, though he is not following it as he ought. It is a call to return to the way things should be already, for “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).