Posts

The Psalms are the prayers of the body of Christ. While this is true of all of them, occasionally we have a clear and unambiguous testimony from the Holy Spirit. Peter and Paul both directly connect this Psalm to the passion of Christ. David’s own experience informs this psalm, to be sure, but only in a partial way, just as ours does. Yet Christ fulfills this psalm to the utmost. His own struggle with His enemies has become our own. His trust has become ours. His experience fills up and informs our own, because we are in Him.

Psalm 16 presents some difficulties, but may be divided into three sections: calling on God to deliver (verses 1-4), trust in God who provides (verses 5-8), and a blessing of God (verse 9-11). The exact issue prompting this psalm is not specified. However, since David refers to idolaters and the grave throughout the psalm, it is safe to say that he faces a peril from his enemies which threatens his life. Yet the primary focus of the psalm is not the danger, but the trust in God to deliver, so that even in the grave, God will not abandon His people.

A Miktam of David. Preserve me, God, for I take refuge in you.

You have said to the LORD, You are My Lord. My goodness is not apart from you.

The term “miktam” occurs here and in the titles of Psalms 56 through 60. Like so many of the other terms in the headings of the psalms, its exact meaning is uncertain. Some associate it with another word meaning “gold,” as in Job 28:19. If this is true, a miktam is a “golden psalm,” perhaps signifying its special importance. However, its usage also in Psalms 56-60 shows that we should be cautious of reading too much into such an interpretation. On the other hand, the Septuagint rendered miktam as “inscription,” suggesting that it is suited for use as an epigram. It is equally likely, however, that the term is either a tune name or a form of poetry.

David calls on the Lord to deliver him from trouble. While the first verse is thus straightforward, the next three are the most difficult to interpret in the psalm. The second verse begins “you have said” without specifying the subject. It seems most likely he is speaking to himself or to his soul, so that some translations insert “O my soul” to this verse. Others, following the Septuagint, modify the verb to “I have said,” which is more or less the same idea. God gives the soul, after all, and is its Lord (Ecclesiastes 12:7). All good that we have is also from God, so that apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

To the holy ones who are in the land, they are the mighty ones. All my pleasure is in them.

Translations differ, sometimes widely, on this verses. The Septuagint and the Vulgate render it something like “To the saints who are in his land, he has made wonderful all my [or his] desires in them.” Some older translations like Luther and the King James render it differently: “But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight.” Many modern translations are similar to my own. Much of the difficulty comes from an unusual word order and several ellipses.

Following the translation I have given, David associates himself with the godly, especially against the ungodly. Identifying with the body of believers is another way of associating with God. If we group ourselves with the godly, then we are by extension grouping ourselves with the Lord to whom they belong. We are, after all, the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). To leave off meeting together is to separate ourselves not only from other believers but also from God (Hebrews 10:25; 1 Corinthians 12:21).

They will multiply their pains. They have acquired another [god]. I will not pour out their libations of blood, and I will not lift up their names on my lips.

This verse can also be difficult, because the subject is not stated. However, since it seems to make little sense to interpret this in terms of the holy ones, David distances himself from the ungodly. Their way is a way of pain and sorrow, because they have sought another god. The verb translated here as “acquired” is identical to another verb meaning “to hasten” or “to run after.” However, as in Exodus 22:15, it can also refer to paying a bridal price. Idolators seek to betroth a false god to them, instead of the Lord who identifies Himself as the Husband of Israel (Hosea 2:16). “Hasten after,” however, carries the same idea, since they are pursuing another god.

Their libations or drink offerings may indeed be of blood, given the depravity of some Canaanite practices, but it is more likely that David means that their offerings are stained with sin (Isaiah 1:15). David also refuses to take up the names of their false gods on his lips. This is not literally avoiding naming them, since the prophets frequently give the names of false gods, but to avoid naming them in a way which shows them honor (Exodus 23:13; Joshua 23:7). There is, after all, no other name than Jesus by which we will be saved (Acts 4:12).

The LORD is the portion of my portion and my cup. You hold my lot.

The measuring lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Indeed, a pleasing inheritance to me.

I will bless the LORD who advises me. Also, by night my kidneys discipline me.

I have set the LORD before me continually. Because [he is] at my right hand, I will not be made to stagger.

Having called on God to deliver, the psalm now confidently turns toward the fulfillment. There is no need to fear those who trouble us, because our inheritance is with God. Like the Levites, our inheritance is God Himself (Numbers 18:20). Indeed, the Lord is called the portion of Israel as a whole, because our hope and confidence is in Him (Jeremiah 10:16; Deuteronomy 32:9). He is our cup, because He is our salvation (Psalm 116:13). He holds our lot, because He has all things in His hand.

The imagery of “measuring lines” here hearkens back to the division of the land in passages like Joshua 17:5, where it is rendered as “portion.” The word itself means a rope or a cord, as in a surveyor staking out property. It is, however, a pleasant place, because the godly one delights in what God has given to him. It is not too small, as the portion of Joseph (Joshua 17:14-17), nor displeasing like the land of Cabul (1 Kings 9:12-13). What comes from God is pleasing, because it is meant for our good (Romans 8:28).

Kidneys in the Old Testament are regarded as the innermost part of man. This is why the word is frequently translated as “heart” in English, since we use the heart to denote the same idea. Since the heart shows the truth of the soul (as Jesus says in places like Matthew 15:34), it “disciplines” in a positive sense by calling to mind the words and promises of God. It is not necessarily a negative thing to be instructed or disciplined, as we often use the word. Rather, just as God counsels us through His Word, so He also calls forth in our memory those same words for our reflection.

Therefore, my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices. Indeed, my flesh dwells in security.

Glory here is a reference to the tongue, because we glorify God through praising Him with it. David also refers to his tongue in this way in Psalm 57:8, calling on it to awaken with God’s praises. Peter also, when he quotes this psalm in his sermon at Pentecost, renders it as “tongue,” following the Septuagint (Acts 2:26). His flesh or body dwells securely, not in a carnal way, but knowing that God cares also for the body (Matthew 6:25-34).

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol. You will not give your pious one/faithful one to see the pit/corruption.

On the basis of this verse, both Peter and Paul refer to Psalm 16 in direct connection with Christ. The idea is straightforward. David expresses confidence in God, knowing that God will not abandon him even in the grave. He will not cast us off once we have passed into the pit or into corruption. Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26).

Yet, as Peter says to the Jews at Pentecost, this cannot be fully true of David. David, after all, died, and his body fell into corruption (Acts 2:29). Yet Christ Himself fully fulfills this prophecy, because though He died, His body did not see corruption (Acts 2:31). Paul makes the same point to the Jews at Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:35-37). Thus, according to the testimony of the Spirit, Psalm 16 only indirectly speaks of David, but directly of Christ Himself.

The word rendered as “pious” or “faithful” can certainly be rendered as “holy,” but it also emphasizes the obedience of Christ. Jesus was obedient even to death on the cross, and thus God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him far above all things (Philippians 2:8-11).

You make known to me the path of life. Fullness of joy is before your face. At your right hand is delight everlasting.

David thus closes this prophecy with joy. In God and in God alone is a joy which knows no end. Because Christ lives, we also will live with Him to glorify Him forever. Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Christ is our highest joy. Christ is our everlasting rest and delight. We have no reason to fear anything in this world, because Christ reigns triumphant at the right hand of God, exalted above all earthly things.


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

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.

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.

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.


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

Find articles and other podcast episodes on our website: wordfitlyspoken.org
Follow us on Twitter: @wordfitly
Send us a message: [email protected]
Subscribe to the podcast: RSS Feed, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcasting app.

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).

Date: April 21, 1935

I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.John 11:25

WHEN Andrew Jackson lay on his death-bed, surrounded by groups of weeping children, relatives, and Negro servants, he slowly spoke these words: “Do not weep for me. It is true, I am going to leave you. I have suffered much bodily pain, but my sufferings are as nothing compared with that which our blessed Savior endured on the accursed cross that we might all be saved by our trust in Him.” After he bade the individual members of his family farewell, having spoken to them at length concerning their souls’ salvation, he concluded, as his eyes lingered on the portrait of his departed wife: “My dear children and friends and servants, I hope and trust to meet you all in heaven, both black and white.”

At the end of his own Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan gave this testimony of glorious triumph to those who watched with him in his last vigil: “We shall meet ere long to sing the new song and remain happy forever in a world without end.”

Now, are these and other oft-repeated hopes of life after death well founded? Is this expectation of a better life after death, confidently proclaimed in the Christian’s valedictory to life, a delusion, or is it a deathless truth? What is the answer to that all-absorbing, universally repeated question which the Book of Job asks: “If a man die, shall he live again?” Is the Easter-story which millions of Americans have heard again today fact or fancy?

There are those—and their number is legion times legion—who sullenly reject every thought of immortality. A brilliant, internationally acclaimed attorney and agnostic sneers: “One might just as well discuss the question of whether a lump of coal burned in a grate is still somewhere in its present form . . . or whether a soap-bubble is still a soap-bubble after it has burst into a million fragments as to discuss the resurrection of the body.” A sophisticated editor and author boasts: “It is my hope, as it is my belief, that death is the end.” A British historian and novelist states: “I do not believe that I have any personal immortality.” Now, if such pronouncements of pessimism and denials of a hereafter are correct; if all ends when the soul departs and the body returns to the dust from which it was taken; if the grave is your goal and mine, then human existence is the most cruel of all delusions, and death proves the utter futility of everything human. Then let the carousal of sin and self-indulgence run their riot as short-lived mortals eat, drink, and in their crude way make merry while the dawn of death streaks tomorrow’s graying horizon.

Eternal thanks be to God, today, on the sacred anniversary of Christ’s triumphant resurrection; for we can reassure ourselves with unalterable conviction that the life beyond the grave is a fact, an inviolable, eternal verity,—unfathomable and mysterious, yet a real and personal truth, to which passage upon passage of divine and inspired promise offers decisive testimony. Let me show you, then, this afternoon as we linger before the open grave

THE IMPERISHABLE HOPE OF OUR RESURRECTION

as we find this pledge of eternity given to the world in the promise of Jesus: “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”

THE IMMOVABLE BASIS OF THIS HOPE

Our hope of eternity rests on an imperishable and immovable foundation. Men have tried to prove the reality of life after death through the processes of human reason. They have argued that, as the flowers blossom forth after a dormant winter, so, after the chill of death, a new and better existence will follow. They have pointed to the butterfly’s emerging from the cocoon and found in that change a symbol of the soul released from the grave to a new and higher life. They have reminded us that down through the aging centuries, since the cradle days of humanity, as early monuments of literature reveal, men have always been guided by some belief in a hereafter, and they have concluded that this universal faith of mankind cannot be wrong. They have claimed that there must be a world to come since there must be a righting of human wrongs of this life and a compensation for its sufferings.

All this, interesting as it may be to the student of human thought, is a meaningless trifle to groping souls in our muddled and misled world. When a man faces eternity, it matters little to him what the Babylonians and Assyrians taught and believed in regard to the mysteries of death. He finds little solace or lasting comfort in the changing wonders of nature, and nothing compels him to believe in a new world where the wrongs of this old existence will be righted. Left to themselves, then, men must individually face this issue of the hereafter, the most profound question of all the ages, only with wistful longings or with gnawing, desperate uncertainty. No philosophies can lead humanity out of this labyrinth of doubt, and no scientific research can give to you and me the sure solution to this problem of our own personal destiny. The false religions and their fraudulent claims of revelations, the spiritist seances and their deceptive communications with the dead can add only confusion and lead bewildered minds more deeply into the jungles of despair.

Thank God we have His own answer to earth’s great perplexity; we have the promise of Christ: “He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”; and in the imposing array of other Scriptural passages which repeat this truth in parallel terms of glorious certainty we have assurance added to assurance. Some may sneer and snarl their denials of the resurrection; but we hear Jesus say: “If any man keep My saying, he shall never see death,” and we are gripped by a calm, serene confidence. Others may doubt and live on in disconsolate uncertainty; but when we hear Jesus promise: “This is the will of Him that sent Me that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on Him may have everlasting life,” every trace of question vanishes from our hearts; for we are face to face with exultant truth, as imperishable and unchangeable as heaven itself.

In His immeasurable and unmerited mercy Christ has not only strengthened us with the promise of the resurrection of the body, but in addition He has blessed us with that convincing historical proof which the Christian Church commemorates on this Easter Day, when we have passed from the miserere of Good Friday to the hallelujah chorus of the resurrection. Christ not only taught the truth of a life beyond the grave, but on Easter He manifested that truth. The facts of the Easter-message are not the conjectures of men, the frail and faulty opinions of mere mortals. They are rather the eternal verities of Heaven’s own infallible truth. Question the fact if you will that there is a sun in the heavens above us which sends light upon this earth. Record your doubt, if you must, concerning the verified events of all secular history; challenge the fact that there is an American nation; deny your own existence if you will go to that extreme; but do not make the fatal mistake of putting a question-mark behind the Easter-story, of doubting the literal truth of this heart and center of the entire Scriptures. If the angel’s exultant “He is not here; He is risen” is not the divine and unimpeachable truth in every syllable of its utterance, then the Bible itself must collapse and destroy the foundation upon which all permanent joy and blessing here and hereafter must rest. For this resurrection is prophesied in the Old Testament, in its prediction that the Messiah’s body would not see corruption nor remain in the grave. It was prefigured by the experiences of Jonah. It was forecast by the Savior Himself, who told His incredulous enemies that, though they might break the temple of His body, yet He would rebuild it in three days. The Easter-victory is attested by each of the evangelists, by St. Paul and St. Peter, by the repeated appearances in which the resurrected Savior presented Himself to the eyes of His believers and at one of which He was seen by more than five hundred witnesses. In short, the bodily resurrection of Christ forms the keystone in the arch of the Christian’s hope, to which scores of New Testament passages pay their plain and inspired tribute; and by the benediction of the Spirit the blessed Easter truth is so impressed on the living consciousness of Christian hearts that all doubt vanishes as we rise with palsied Job to declare: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

With this divinely bestowed assurance, death has lost its terror for every follower of Christ, the gruesomeness of the grave and the despair of decay have weakened their paralyzing clutch. When the heavy night of bereavement encircles our homes, when the dark earth of God’s acre separates the mortal remains of loved ones from our view, let us recall the divine force that split the rock sepulcher asunder, the stone rolled from the open grave, the soldier guard prostrate by divine power, and raising our eyes to the throne of eternity, let us behold the risen, majestically ascended Christ and find in Him the promise and power of our own resurrection.

This promise, the comfort and strength of Easter, is assured by the comprehensive pledge: “He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Keep that truth locked within the innermost recesses of your hearts and never let any powers of hell or temptations of this earth weaken one word of the triumphant hope it holds forth. You who have traveled far on the pilgrimage of life and know that your sojourn on earth cannot be a matter of many more years; you who linger on sick-beds, suffering from protracted pains that have frustrated the efforts of the best physicians, take heart today as your Savior calls: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” What more powerful antidote can there be to the gnawing sorrows of your suffering than this firm-founded faith in a better life to come and the everlasting companionship with Christ that can never be severed by disease or death? You who within these last days have kept vigils at the death-beds of your loved ones and in agonized helplessness have watched the flicker of life’s flame die away, what more soothing balm can you find than this heavenly benediction from the Savior’s own lips: “I am the Resurrection and the Life”? What more penetrating light can you desire by which to interpret the bitterness and woe of an abrupt tearing away in death than the radiance of Christ’s blood-sealed promise that, when our bodies, sown in corruption, are raised in incorruption, we shall live and through all eternity behold Him face to face?

THE MAGNIFICENT GRACE OF THE EASTER HOPE

This, then, is the benediction of Easter, the gift of immortality. Mark well, this blessed bestowal is a gift; you cannot earn it, you cannot purchase it, you cannot acquire it by exchange or secure it as a compensation; but you can appropriate the Heaven-born assurance of this immortality and keep it as yours forever by faith, by the humble, penitent, trustful acceptance of the risen Redeemer as your Savior. “He that believeth in Me,” our text emphasizes, “though he were dead, yet shall he live.” On the strength of this heavenly pledge and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ I promise that those who come to the risen Lord of Life with full, unquestioning faith, as I now ask you to come—you, the world-worn, weary pilgrims on life’s discouraging highways; you, the self-engrossed, self­confident sinners upon whom swift death may descend in the next moments; you, the distressed and disillusioned searchers after happiness, who have drunk the bitter dregs of life; all who banish doubt and stifle skepticism as you kneel down before the Christ of Easter with the plea of the believing disciple, “My Lord and my God!”—all have the promise, pledged in the name of Christ Himself, of the highest blessings which our mortal lives and immortal souls may ever experience—a hallowed eternity in a new, sinless, painless, endless life. And this, so the word of our divine Savior assures us today, is the gift of His mercy bestowed freely, without effort or accomplishment, contribution or cooperation, on our part.

Men devote their lives to the accumulation of wealth; scientists spend long and laborious hours in laboratories and in fields of investigation to find a new key to greater human happiness; scholars dedicate their careers to the solution of historical problems; we work and labor and toil to the point of exhaustion for inconsequential rewards; yet here the greatest blessings of time and eternity, your place and mine in the “armies of the ransomed saints,” are offered to all the children of men by the purest, freest mercy, a mercy that only God could grant.

Because of its deathless and personal significance, Easter from the days of the earliest Church has always been a day of spiritual joy and of personal reconsecration. God grant that, as this second radio message of the Resurrection Day has been wafted out into the unnumbered highways of the air, it may have found hearts and homes in which Christ’s undying promise “I am the Resurrection and the Life” will be welcomed and its blessings translated into victorious lives, which exult: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” Amen.

Date: April 21, 1935

EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE

The angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead: and, behold, He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him; lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy and did run to bring His disciples word. – Matthew 28:5-8

IT is to commemorate the greatest morning of all history that we are met at this unusual hour. More glory­charged and exultant than the dawn of a nation’s final victory after a night of blood and battle, more penetrating and permanent in its power and blessing than any sunrise upon a new day of national promise, more sacred even than the first daybreaks of creation, is this glorious, triumphant Easter morn, this resurrection dawn, this day of gleaming conquest over death’s cold, clutching grip.

Well do we congregate at this early hour, and well do you, our friends in the far-flung reaches of this radio service, worship with us at the break of day; for Easter is a climax to all human experiences, a day of days. The highest pinnacles of human projects and achievements, when paralleled with the sacred significance of Easter, are as anthills beside Mount Everest. The most ingenious triumphs of human brain and brawn, when compared with the resurrection record, lose their importance and become as pebbles beside Gibraltar or as dewdrops in relation to unplumbed ocean depths.

For if Easter were erased from history, men would be reduced to human machines, controlled by whims of a fitful fate, destined, when run down or worn out, to be discarded on the scrap-heap of failure, the silence of the graveyard. Seal the stone before the rock-hewn grave, and you have sealed the world into unrelievable sorrow. Let Christ remain bound in His shrouds, and all history must be rewritten, with chaos substituted for progress, deceit for honesty, and the dirge of defeat for the ringing anthems of the resurrection victory. Accept Easter in the light of Scriptural truth and promise, greet the resurrected Christ with the sincerity of a faith that exclaims, “My Lord and my God!” and men are exalted as the sons of God, blessed by the merciful bounties of Heaven, and perpetually strengthened by the vision of a life in a new and better homeland beyond the grave.

What better can we do, then, as we would pay to God and to His resurrected Son, our living Savior, these daybreak tributes of our believing hearts than to turn back, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to the first Easter story and to strengthen our hearts and lives by considering

THE GLORIOUS EASTER EVANGEL

To this end let us recreate in our minds the world­moving events of the Savior’s resurrection and then apply the pointed lessons taught by the imperishable Easter exultation: “He is not here; He is risen!”

THE GLORIOUS ASSURANCE OF EASTER

Less than forty hours had elapsed between the Savior’s death on Good Friday afternoon and the first visit of the followers of the Crucified to the rock sepulcher which Joseph of Arimathea, the aristocratic benefactor, had generously provided for the repose of Jesus’ body. Hardly a day and a half had intervened, a few hours more than the Sabbath on which the customary rites for the dead were prohibited. Yet those fleeting hours were the prelude to the most startling changes of all human experience. To short­sighted, skeptical vision this change was not apparent. On that Passover eve a shriek of intense anguish, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” had reechoed over the gloom of Golgotha as the fever-racked frame of a Martyr collapsed in death. When, a few dreary moments later, the sun set upon that day of the crucifixion, three crosses planted on a bare hill were silhouetted against the grayish background of the Palestinian dusk; and the central cross seemed to symbolize the starkest tragedy, the deepest defeat. And when that sun rose again on the morning of the third day, the city of Jerusalem slept on securely; for the crucified Galilean, so their blind bigotry concluded, lay harmless in the grave. On that first morning of the new week even His disciples believed that the clutch of death and decay had once more recorded its gruesome victory.

So it was not with hope-filled hearts that the first followers of the Crucified made their painful pilgrimage to the sealed and guarded tomb in the hush of the early morning watches. They were laden with spices and ointment, for they had come to continue the burial rites that had been interrupted by the intervening Sabbath. They would still serve Christ, albeit a dead Christ.

Now, who were these early morning pilgrims, destined to be the first witnesses of the resurrection glory? Today, when murder trials are covered by an army of publicists, we might expect that the resurrection would be staged before an immense throng of curious spectators. But our ways are not God’s ways. The Easter-message was to be proclaimed, as were so many of God’s mighty dispensations, to a restricted, chosen group; it was announced to three women. Perhaps prophetic of the important role which their spiritual sisters were to assume in the growth of the Church, these women who had lingered to the last under the cross were the first at the grave and the first to hear and proclaim the resurrection message. God give us women of this devotion—mothers and wives, sisters and daughters—who can distinguish the froth of our modern follies from the nobler realities of loyal service to their Savior! God give us true and trusting women for the Church and for the nation, daughters of God with the love of Christ in their hearts and the reverence of God in their lives!

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and Salome, the mother of James and John, these three first witnesses of the resurrection, were not daughters of priestly, politically prominent, or socially important families; for this phase of the Easter-story, as incidents in the crucifixion, and indeed the entire Gospel-message were to emphasize the glorious fact that all, rich and poor, man and woman, priest and layman, could approach the holy Christ of God and receive the benediction of His mercy. And while we thank God for the assistance of men of wealth, like Joseph of Arimathea, who acknowledged the dead Savior before Pilate; for the guidance of political leaders like Nicodemus, who was not ashamed to plead for the dead Christ before the Roman governor; for the confession of prominent officials, like that of the centurion who, in the shadow of the cross, found in the Crucified the Son of the eternal God, we particularly raise our grateful hearts to Him in acknowledging the grace that made His mercy wide enough for the common folk; comprehensive enough for three socially insignificant, middle-class women of Jerusalem; condescending enough to receive the thief on the cross. Sweeping aside all the barriers which men persistently raise in the attempt to herd their fellow-men together according to standards of race or color, position or authority, wealth and influence, cultural and intellectual attainments, this universal appeal of God’s grace in the crucified, but resurrected Savior comes to all the children of men without respect of person, but with the same common promise of blessedness forever.

Yet the burial rites, so carefully planned by these devout women, were not to be performed. When the three pilgrims arrived at the grave, the Easter miracle had occurred. The earth had been shaken by vibrant tremors; the seal which Christ’s anxious enemies had carefully placed on the grave was broken; and the immense stone which had caused the women distressing concern had been rolled away from the door of the tomb. There sat an angel of the Lord, his countenance like lightning, his raiment white as the snow; a heavenly messenger, altogether so august and awe inspiring that we are told “for fear of him the keepers did shake and became as dead men.” Before the women could overcome their fright and amazement at the sight of this celestial herald, they were even more startled by his announcement, the first in all history, of the Savior’s resurrection: “Fear not ye; for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”

“He is not here; He is risen,” these words leave no room for any of the many substitute theories that would deny the resurrection of Christ or explain away the very heart of this miracle of miracles. It was no vision of hallucinated women, this triumphant rising of Christ from the bonds of the grave. It was no fraud, as the chagrined churchmen of that day insisted in their endeavor to laugh off the resurrection and spread abroad the lie that the disciples had stolen the body. It was no instance of suspended animation, apparent death, or premature burial. All these and other protesting theories are shattered by the divinely inspired record that the Christ who commended His soul into His Father’s hands as He died on Good Friday was resurrected on Easter and lives and reigns unto all eternity, lives and reigns with the power which inspires His followers to exult this morning:—

I know that my Redeemer lives.

What comfort this sweet sentence gives!

He lives, He lives, who once was dead;

He lives, my ever-living Head.

By the truth which the resurrection-message brought to those women and conveys to us today the open grave becomes the symbol of the open heaven. It proves the deity of our royal Redeemer, Jesus, the Christ. It places the seal of Heaven’s approval and acceptance upon His entire self-giving. It demonstrates His power over death and justifies His challenge: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” It offers the deep pledge of the risen Lord Himself: “Because I live, ye shall live also,” and triumphantly promises that, though this marred and imperfect body of ours must return to the dust from which it was taken, though the skeletal hand of death will reach out to snatch us away from the land of the living, though you and I are destined to corruption and decay, we know that through Christ death is but the passage from the gloom of sin to the radiance of eternity. We hear Christ’s comforting message: “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life”; and: “In My Father’s house are many mansions. . . . I go to prepare a place for you”; and at the open grave the full truth dawns upon our souls that Easter, above all question or quibble, means defeated death, resurrected life, and the glories of eternity to all who accept this imperishable hope of their risen Savior.

THE GLORIOUS RESPONSIBILITIES IMPOSED BY EASTER

Need I remind you, then, that Easter is too high and holy to pass by our hearts and lives without leaving its sacred and indelible imprint? The resurrection-message mightily affected those first witnesses; for the startling truth that the Christ for whom they would perform the burial rites had suddenly disappeared from the confines of His tomb filled them with supreme awe, and they left the sepulcher with the deepest reverence their lives had ever known.

Would to God that there were more of this reverence in our modem contemplation of Easter! Too often we have made it a devitalized, innocuous day for children with rabbits and chicks and gamboling lambs. Tradesmen rub gleeful hands as they review the seasonal increase in the sales of millinery and other apparel. Poetic souls rhapsodize on vernal beauties. While there is room for all this in the proper spirit and proportion, yet when Easter is interpreted solely in terms material or reduced to a nature festival, it becomes a paganized holiday. Give us—and this is the appeal of the Church—a reverent Easter!

The early visitors at the empty tomb also found a new happiness. St. Matthew records that they were animated with “great joy.” The unexpected restoration of their Savior and the fulfilment of His promises banished their somber sorrows, and their hearts leaped in exultation. Today, in this decade of disillusion, we frantically grope for the joy of life; but with much sadness and sorrow on every hand, with cherished hopes crushed and high ambitions thwarted, grimly skeptical men and women are facing the question-mark of the future, almost ready to resign themselves to the pessimism of defeat. If only they would not blind themselves to the joy-filled blessings with which Easter can endow their souls and lives! For here, at the unsealed sepulcher, is the end of humanity’s search for abiding happiness. Here is the joy of forgiven sin, the gladness that comes through the strengthening companionship of a living Savior and His purifying Spirit. Here is the answer to every unsympathetic turn of life, the solution to our most grievous problems—the simple, but profound faith which teaches us that through Christ’s resurrection there is, in the next world, a compensation for earthly sorrows and that “the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Here, finally, is the joy that triumphs over the blight and paralysis of death, that soothes our torn hearts when we stand beside the earthly remains of a loved one, with the conviction that those who die in the Lord will live forever in the blessed reunion of eternity.

Because of all this, Easter was the most joyous festival that the early Church knew; and as we remind ourselves that the gift of this resurrection joy is the free gift of Heaven’s grace,—no payment of our virtues, no reward of our good deeds, no honor for our accomplishments,—simply the undeserved and unmerited mercies of the resurrected Lord,—may the dawn of this Easter bring the daybreak of salvation into all the hearts toward which the Spirit now speeds these words!

For those of us who know and with all our hearts believe and trust the Easter joy our text brings a sacred privilege and obligation. These daybreak witnesses were not to conceal this epochal announcement of the resurrection. Emphatically the angel tells them: “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead; and, behold, He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him.” And hardly had this missionary command been issued, when we read: “They departed quickly from the sepulcher . . . and did run to bring His disciples word.”

The call of this disturbed hour is the appeal for twentieth-century disciples, young and old, who with the haste that this high message requires will bring to others the truth and joy of the Easter-message. How unhappy, by contrast with the eagerness of the three women, is the lethargy and indifference of Christians who perhaps in an entire lifetime have never told perishing souls that the Christ who died for their salvation rose again for their victory! If only this Easter would awaken within hitherto apathetic hearts the desire to speak the resurrection-message into the very souls of some of our country’s misguided millions! If only by the indwelling of the Spirit this Easter would stimulate that heroic type of Christianity which cannot refrain from speaking of Christ, from pleading with men to repent and through Christ to return to their heavenly Father! If only this Easter would mark the turning-point, after these years of restricted activities in the Church’s forward march, for the extension of the kingdom of Christ here on earth!

It will take courage to tell men of their Savior, and there will be rebuffs and disappointments; but just as these women hurrying away from the empty grave on that first missionary journey met Christ on the way, so you who today pledge yourselves to become witnesses unto Him will meet Christ on the paths of your duty. He will come to you, and you will feel His presence in the realism of this Easter faith. He will direct you. He will strengthen you. He will be with you alway, even unto your end on this earth, the finale of life, which, because of the Easter glory, is but the prelude to an exalted eternity.

All this is pledged to you by this promise of the risen Christ: “Where I am, there shall also My servant be.” God grant that you may receive this blessing with believing hearts, translate it into a sanctified life, and preserve it unto the victorious eternity of Christ’s ransomed saints! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: April 5, 1931

Because I live, ye shall live also.John 14:19

IN the labyrinth of life, amid the many and devious paths that lead and mislead, there is a way, at the cross-road of every human crisis, that guides us to heaven’s happiness. In the perplexities of doubt and distrust by which self-seeking men would overthrow the verities of life there is a truth that serenely overtowers all the blind and sordid gropings of sin-bound minds. Above the darkness and decay of death, clutching as it does all that is human with its cold and blighting grasp, there is a life that lives beyond the grave, that lives and loves when the measured tread of marching death is heard no more.

That way, that truth, that life, is given to us in our risen Christ and in the faith which is ours, ours always, but ours especially on this blessed Easter Day, when we find in Him a Savior who not only lived a life of love, who not only died that death of immeasurable terror, but who, thank God, burst His rock grave asunder, rose invincibly from the dead, and today, on the anniversary of His glorious resurrection, gives us this pledge of Easter triumph, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”

CHRIST’S EASTER TRIUMPH: “I LIVE.”

Yes, Christ lives. Let men repeat the falsehood, now almost two thousand years old, that the body of Jesus was stolen from the grave; let them try to laugh away His bursting forth from the tomb and propose a long and conflicting list of fantastic and impossible theories which speak of suspended animation and other absurdities of unbelief; let them suggest that the people who went out to weep at the grave mistook another empty tomb for the rock-hewn sepulcher of Joseph or that, as a German blasphemer maintains, “the passion of a hallucinated woman gives to the world a resurrected God”; let them declare with much detail that due to the cool air of the tomb our Lord regained consciousness and left the grave; let Spiritists insist that the spirit of the Lord Jesus separated itself from His body at death and on that very day, not on the third day, this spirit appeared to the disciples; let unbelief blandly and openly deny the fact of the resurrection and assert with the finality that only Biblical critics can employ, “An empty grave was never seen by any disciple of Jesus”;—tonight I remind you, as we stand before the sepulcher of the Arimathean aristocrat and find its seal broken and the great stone of overconfident unbelief rolled away, that the fact of Christ’s resurrection, the very keystone in the arch of our Christian faith, is one of the most definite, most repeated assurances of divine revelation. Five hundred witnesses testifying on one day; St. Thomas kneeling before the resurrected Lord, beholding the wounds of the nail-marks and His pierced side; nine distinct personal appearances—all this emphasizes that ours is not the credulity of fanaticism, but that it is the happy conviction based on the best human testimony and corroborated by the highest of all evidence. Indeed, there is no fact of God’s merciful dealing with mankind that is more frequently and forcefully attested than that truth to which all Christendom subscribes when it confesses, “The third day He rose again from the dead.” If the Easter-story is not actual history, there is no history.

We have the resurrection of Christ predicted in the Old Testament, clearly foretold by the prophet of old in the Sixteenth Psalm, where Christ declares that He, God’s Holy One, shall not be left in death and shall not see corruption. Or there is the triumphant cry of victory by which palsied Job breaks through the hidden future, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Verbally inspired by God, these and other prophecies are so powerful and compelling that even if the later records disappeared or were destroyed, we should have the assurance that our Savior, having been “cut off from the land of the living,” would nevertheless “lengthen His days,” to use the words with which Isaiah anticipated His resurrection.

We have the promise of Christ Himself, who, long before He went the way of the cross, challenged His opponents and declared that, though they might destroy the temple of His body, yet He would raise it up again in three days; who, when the curious and incredulous came to Him and asked for a sign, told them that in truth they already had a sign, His resurrection, as prefigured by the three days and three nights which Jonah experienced within the great fish; who, in dozens of passages of comforting warmth and majestic divinity, speaks of His deathless existence in the same unqualified, positive promise and prediction that we find in our text, “I live.”

We have in addition the testimony of the holy gospels, which present the resurrection as an accomplished fact, not once, but four times in independent accounts from men some of whom were eye-witnesses of many of the events recorded. These four inspired writers with their harmonious testimony, but with details that appealed especially to their different personalities, have transmitted a record that is so convincing, merely from the human point of view, that even unbelievers have paid tribute to the historical nature of the resurrection narratives.

We have finally the overwhelming evidence presented by other New Testament writers, who mention the Easter truth in almost one hundred passages as a cardinal point of their teaching and consciously center their promises about this historical occurrence. St. Paul says with definite finality, “Now is Christ risen from the dead.” St. Peter declares, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”

Now, this truth of the bodily resurrection of Christ, so mightily demonstrated in the Scriptures, is not merely the victory of Christ and the corresponding defeat of His enemies; it is rather the necessary and blessed climax of His entire redemptive work, the seal of divine approval upon His limitless self-giving, the benediction of God upon the sacrifice on Calvary. Without Easter we should respect and honor the memory of Jesus, but only as of one who died the victim of cruel circumstances, a martyr to a futile cause. He would be a dead hero, but not a living Savior. That is what the Apostle Paul tells us when he says, “If Christ be not risen, . . . ye are yet in your sins.” But praise be to God, our faith is not misplaced. Christ’s resurrection, cementing all His gracious promises, rises up as a majestic monument to impress upon the consciousness of all men that the cross is not the end; that, as Christ suffered for all, as He died for all, so He also had to rise again for all “according to the Scripture,” to complete the divine plan of salvation, by which grace and forgiveness, full and complete, eternal and everlasting, all-sufficient and all-embracing, are offered, without condition or requirement, without money or without price, without good works or even good intentions, without distinction of rank and position, color and race, learning and culture, offered to all the myriads of men embraced in the completed records of the history of all lands and all ages.

Yes, He lives, because without Him everything good and pure and noble would die. Did you ever pause to consider what the world would be without Easter? Probably many of you to whom today has been just another Sunday and who see in Easter the annual fashion parade, the occasion for the yearly visit to overcrowded churches, or the celebration of the return of spring with all its vitalizing powers, will be ready to say that the world would be just about the same without Easter as it is with Easter, which came this morning and which in a few hours will be lost in the past of all history.

But I am here this evening to tell you that without Easter commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ the best that we have in this world would be lost and the happiness and peace of mind that millions now enjoy would be impossible. About fifteen years ago a young Oxford graduate wrote a fanciful story telling of the finding of an ancient inscription which asserted that the resurrection of our Lord was a monstrous myth. When the news of that archeological discovery was spread about, the world became a madhouse. The restrictions of morality were thrown overboard; happy communal life was destroyed; murder, crime, and violence in all their terrible forms reigned; and to all appearances the breakdown of human society was at hand. But at that critical moment it was found that the inscription was not genuine, and the world, strengthened by the assurance that Christ still lives, returned to its Easter faith and happiness. Now, this is mere romance; and while we do not prove the Easter records by the testimony of secular history, yet the regenerative power of the Easter-message and the picture of a world caught in chaos without the resurrected Christ is simply an application of what St. Paul says when he declares, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain,” and “we are of all men most miserable.”

The apostle is not playing with superlatives when he thus describes the abysmal misery of a creed that can only sob at the tomb of a dead Christ. Without a resurrected Redeemer we are destitute of Heaven’s antidote to that chilling and blighting paralysis that steals slowly and silently, but always relentlessly and inevitably, into the hearts of earth-born mortals—the fear of death. And is there a greater misery than to stand hopeless and helpless before this grinning enemy of mankind, who calls a sudden halt to human ambitions and spells an end in sorrow and distress? It has been said with much force of fact that people today often think very little of the hereafter because they are so engrossed with the hard-fisted and material concerns of the present. Yet there are times in every normal life when the hunger of the soul cries out in a cringing plea for a life that does not end with death. To live, to conquer death and death’s corruption, to be immortal and survive the horrors of the grave, that is the sum and substance of man’s strongest longing; but it is a goal which men alone have never reached. The deceptions of modem Spiritism with its fraudulent seances and spirit manifestations are vicious and destructive failures; the test-tubes and crucibles of research are useless; the philosophies and human deductions are strangely helpless. Men have argued that because down through the corridor of time humanity has been guided by an “instinct of immortality,” life after death must be a reality. They have pointed to the butterfly emerging from a decaying chrysalis; they have taken the scarab into their pyramids as a symbol of the life to come; they have been perpetual witnesses of the annual revivification of nature when the world reawakens from chilling winter to throbbing spring; and in all this they have found an analogy to human resurrection. They have insisted that life must live on after the grave; for without a future existence life would betray a criminal deficiency in justice. Truth is so repeatedly damned to the scaffold and flaunting error so secure in its rampage of ruin that there must be a compensation for outraged right and a retribution for triumphant wrong. But when life fades fast and earthly props give way, the cumulative evidence for all such argumentation fails to carry conviction. Only the Easter light can solve the mysterious turns of time. If in our own lives there is to be a triumphant note of confidence and indomitable hope; if the gruesomeness of the grave and decay are to lose their paralyzing clutch, we, too, must learn to estimate the folly of seeking the living among the dead.

OUR TRIUMPH: WE SHALL LIVE ALSO!

For, because Christ lives, the promise continues, “ye shall live also.” Because Easter is the seal of God upon the redemptive work of His beloved Son, the shedding of His blood for the removal of our sins; because Christ was victorious over death, the wages of sin, therefore we who believe in Him have the divine assurance that we are not to be thrown upon the scrap-heap of eternal discard after a few years of untimely decay, but that our bodies, the marvelous living temples designed and created by the divine and loving Father, though they may now be marred and desecrated and weakened by sin and devastating disease and though they decay in death and see corruption in the grave, are to be resurrected and to be renewed and restored in the luster of wondrous beauty, spiritualized and divinely fitted for the glorified eternities in the heavenly mansions.

So when clods of earth separate the form and features of loved ones from our view, remember that the night of darkness will vanish when we hear the call of consolation, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” With firm Easter faith we confidently anticipate the wondrous happiness of that reunion before Heaven’s throne where severed friendships are reknit and partings are no more. For we have this glorious promise, “If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” Therefore, when disappointments and anxieties and sorrows of various kinds and degrees all but overwhelm us, we can raise our gaze from earth to heaven and declare with the Easter conviction that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” We can lift our tear-dimmed eyes to that glorified picture of immortality envisioned by the seer of Patmos, “God Himself shall be with them and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”

So, finally, when the grim specter of death approaches, as the last grains of sand trickle through the hour-glass of our life, in the courage of the hosts of saints and martyrs, we are blessed with the unwavering confidence that our Savior will sanctify our last hour with the fulfilment of His promise, “Because I live, ye shall live also,” and enable us to be translated from believing to seeing, chanting the Christian’s Easter hymn of triumph, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? . . . Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: February 5, 1931?

If a man die, shall he live again?Job 14:14

“If a man die, shall he live again?” This immortal query of Job, which has agitated the human heart from the very cradle days of the race, is the question that down through the ages has filled men with paralyzing fear and kept blind humanity groping on the edge of doubt and dismay. It is the question that has been asked repeatedly by you who have stood alone and sorrow-stricken before the tomb as you have bid a tearful farewell to the lifeless remains of one near and dear to you. It is the question that has perplexed every normal and intelligent person; for, unless a man is afflicted with spiritual stupidity or cursed with incurable indifference, his reflections, with ever­recurring insistency, will lead him into that labyrinth of anxiety and wonder which comes with every serious thought of death.

Of all the fears with which human existence is cursed—the fear of poverty, of starvation, of disease, of insanity—none is so withering as that abject terror which makes men cringe before the thought of the inevitable end. It poisons human happiness and intrudes itself as a spectral phantom into moments of peace and quiet. In spite of the garlands of human eloquence that we may strew on the grave of a departed beloved one, when we see the light of the soul quenched and behold the lifeless form that is cold to the pleading of our affection, unmoved by our hot tears, the age-old question raised by Job demands an answer, “If a man die, shall he live again?”

HUMANITY GROPES BLINDLY, DESPERATELY, HOPELESSLY, BEFORE THE GRAVE.

Job’s question expresses, first of all, the uncertainty of all human attempts to answer this question; for the best that men can offer falls woefully short of giving a positive and definite solution to this mystery. Modern science, in spite of its remarkable progress in recent decades, is incapable of offering any helpful information. In the words of a Princeton investigator, “Science is able to say just one definite thing. . . . When a man dies, the soul is not there. It cannot tell whether the soul has perished or whether it has gone elsewhere.” It is true, of course,—and this needs to be reemphasized in this skeptical, unbelieving, anti­religious age,—that most scientific men believe in the immortality of the soul. Thomas Edison, for example, had observed that the sequoia trees of California have lived for four thousand years (or more than 3,900 years longer than the ordinary span of life), and he says that, if the life of the sequoia thus extends through century after century, the immortality of the soul need not startle or surprise us. And he concluded, “Today the preponderance of probability very greatly favors belief in the immortality of the intelligence, or soul, of man.” But, after all, the best that scientific research can offer is merely a strong probability; and all the scientific attempts to prove life after death, all the intricate machines and devices that have been constructed for this purpose, fail to carry any definite and assuring conviction.

Now, if the best human endeavors fall so hopelessly short of the mark, it need hardly be stated that the popular, but fraudulent efforts of modern Spiritists are thoroughly deceptive and ruinous. It has been the boast of Spiritists down through the centuries that they have penetrated deep into the mystery of the next life and that it is incontrovertibly true that they have enjoyed communications from the other side of the grave. But the dead never return. There has never been a bona-fide example of such messages from departed spirits. All that Spiritism has done with its fraud and its failures has been to increase doubt and unbelief, to stir up strife, and to promote soul­destroying superstition. God alone knows how many followers of this fraud have been sent to hell on the suicide road. Spiritism stands convicted on its own pernicious record. And it is one of the unexplainable mysteries of our day that rational and intelligent people, who should know of the exposures of the unscrupulous fraud behind these Spiritist seances, can support this destructive superstition to such an extent that there are, upon reliable estimate, no less than 100,000 mediums and clairvoyants and other members of this unsavory guild in our own so-called Christian nation. My appeal tonight, especially to you fathers and mothers who have the sacred responsibility of watching over the welfare of your homes, is to throw out all the magazines and printed matter that cater to this destructive delusion, as harmless and innocent as they may seem at first glance; to oppose all visits to fortune-tellers and Spiritist seances, even though these visits be regarded only as amusing pranks; and to join with other right-minded citizens in driving out of your communities these people of whom the Scriptures say, “All that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord.”

It follows similarly that the weird revelations of which we read and hear so much in our day of religious mystics can offer nothing better. The number of those who claim to have enjoyed special illumination and to have unsealed the secrets of the hereafter is truly legion. But St. Paul says, “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” And those who rise up with their special and anti-Scriptural revelations are merely offering the play of childish and irresponsible fancy, or they are malicious charlatans, who trifle with sacred emotions and trade on religious credulity and ignorance. Yet in the perversity of human nature there has never been a cult too impossible to enlist the support of a large number of deluded followers. Up in Canada a fanatic who called himself the Czar of Heaven claimed that he had visited God three times and in heaven had received definite instruction to wear a crown of oranges. The police reaction to this citrous mythology resulted in his arrest as a disturber of the peace; and if similarly drastic procedures were followed in the case of other cult originators who claim to have revealed the secrets of the next world, perhaps substituting psychopathic investigations for the police cells, there would be much less misfortune here and much less disappointment hereafter.

But with scientific research and mediumistic humbug unable to solve this perplexity, modern, materialistic unbelief tries to answer this question with a stolid resignation to crushing annihilation. Those who deny the existence of a living God tell us that death ends all, that, when a man dies, the only thing that is left is the disintegration and decay of his lifeless remains. So we read of brazen scoffers who request that their ashes be scattered to the four winds or who have carved into their tombs ones the statement that their graves are sealed forever, as though defying God to resurrect their body. Yet with all this there is the torment of an uncertain doubt, which has turned cool and collected scoffers and infidels on their death-bed into hysterical madmen. No! the annihilation theory, the belief that death ends all, is in many ways the most piteous of all human attempts to solve the mystery of death; for it tries to stifle a voice that cannot be stifled, to silence a conscience that cannot be silenced in its insistence upon a retribution and reckoning beyond life’s end. And thus, with all this delusion and uncertainty, with scientific research hopelessly baffled, the great mystery of life after death is answered by the masses with a hopeless question-mark or with a fatalistic indifference, which leads them to eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow they may sleep the mysterious sleep called death. Their answer to Job’s age­old question is a cold, blighting “We do not know.”

FAITH HAS THE PROMISE OF A VICTORIOUS RESURRECTION.

But Job addresses this question to God, the one Source of truth and light from which positive certainty and heavenly comfort can come. And we who likewise crave to know what lies beyond the grave turn to the same Source that today can solve every perplexing problem of every human heart—God’s revelation in our Bible. Here, first of all, we learn to know the cause of death. Man was not created for destruction and decay. As he proceeded from the creative master-hand of God, the climax of His divine workmanship, there was no seed of death and corruption in his body. Pause for a moment to reflect upon the radiant glory and happiness of that existence—no pain or sorrow, no sickness or grief, no death and destruction, and for that reason none of the heartrending sobs, none of that desolate anguish that lies hidden in the strange word death. But that Paradise was shattered by sin and by the wilful uprising of man against God. By sin came death; and from that time on man that is born of woman pays for sin with death; for “the wages of sin is death.” Now, if Paradise Lost is to become Paradise Regained; if death, the punishment of sin, is to be removed, then sin and its tragic consequences must be eliminated. And where—oh, searching question of the ages!—is this sin-removing, death­destroying power?

Where else, I ask you, as we see the Cross of Christ towering over the wrecks of time, everlastingly triumphant as all human efforts to counteract sin fall in hopeless confusion, where else is there assurance for the forgiveness of your sins than in the holy, precious blood of Jesus Christ, that cleanseth us, every one of us, from all our sins, as black and damnable and brutal as they may be? So, wondrous truth of truths, with Christ, the Lamb of God, taking away our sins, bearing in His own holy body the iniquity of every one of us, we look beyond the hostile circles of blighted, unbelieving minds, our faith overleaps human doubt and distrust, and from the sacred lips of Him who never uttered one unfulfilled hope or promise we hear this heaven-hallowed pledge, “If any man keep My saying, he shall never see death.” Note the sweeping inclusiveness, the pure grace, the blessed promise of this golden truth. “If any man” (and let me stress as forcefully as I can the wonderful fact that this embraces every one within the range of this invitation tonight, including you who enjoy the admiration and respect of your community, and you who are receiving this message behind prison bars or in the corrective institutions of our country; you who live on in serene and unruffled self-satisfaction, and you who write me that you are troubled with dark and deep sins), “if any man,” Jesus assures us, “keep My saying,”—and that means accepts and believes and follows the divine instructions and the comforting promises of His Savior; if any man humbly and contritely comes to that loving, merciful, forgiving, uplifting, restoring, renewing Christ,—he has this sacred, infallible promise, “He shall never see death.”

But I hear voices raised in protest, asking: “How can Christ promise men that they shall never see death when every one dies?” It is true, man completes the span of his temporal existence and dies; but if he has Christ, he does not see everlasting death. It is like emerging from the dark and gloomy catacombs into the radiant splendor of a new day; his temporal death is not a sad ending, but a joy-filled beginning. To him who keeps the saying of Christ death is but a door to a more abundant and more glorious life; death is but the key which unlocks the perfect fulness of heavenly bliss. The Scriptures well represent this sublime transformation with the picture of a seed sown into the ground, which decays, but later blossoms forth in strength and power. So the body that is consigned to the grave succumbs to the ravages of decay and decomposition, but it bursts forth on that glorious day of the resurrection of all flesh in the glory and beauty of a resurrected body with new power, with new beauty, and joy everlasting.

Again I hear other voices that ask in anxious doubt, “Can Jesus keep His promise?” Let me answer this question by asking other questions: Who was it that stopped that sorrowful procession of mourners outside a city gate in far-off Galilee to restore a dead son to his bereaved and widowed mother? Who was it that called into the grave at Bethany to summon the lifeless corpse of His friend back to a revitalized existence? Who was it that bent His divine form over a Judean maiden slumbering in death to restore her to life with His divine “Maiden, arise”? But above all, who was it that by His own divine and victorious resurrection from the dead, bursting forth from His rock­sealed grave, appeared to hundreds of witnesses during the forty days of His resurrected life on earth? Who is this wonder figure of history before whom the terror of death vanished as a cloud,—who, I ask, if not the very Incarnation of God, the everlasting Son of the Father?

Remember, that gift of endless, deathless immortality is the sacred promise that comes to us again and again in God’s errorless Word; for if there is one truth of strength and belief that stands out with particular emphasis on the pages of the New Testament, it is this holy pledge of Jesus, that there is no death for those who believe in Him. Listen tonight as He tells you, “I am the Resurrection and the Life”; as He assures you, “Because I live, ye shall live also;” as He promises you, “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life”; as He comforts you, “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” Review the dozens of repeated promises of a life that lives beyond the grave, of the hope that rises triumphant over the dust of death, and you will know why the saints of God of all lands and ages have been able to meet grim-visaged Death with the calm and quiet assurance of a ransomed soul. You will be able to understand why the simplest Christian, trusting in these sayings of his Lord, can view the hereafter with a ring of indomitable triumph, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? . . . Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”—while the best that infidels and skeptics like Ingersoll can do is to stand over a form prostrated in death and to mumble the hopeless, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

But the soul that has been ransomed through Christ is not lost. Mark well, this sacred promise is sealed to you with a double affirmation, “verily, verily.” You may doubt and wonder when men pledge themselves in promises or relieve themselves of predictions; you are entitled to place a mental question-mark after the best theories that men may advance to explain life after death; but here, with the repeated assurance of Jesus, is a verity truer than earth’s truest truth; a pledge of heaven’s highest hope, which answers the searching inquiry of your heart by pointing you to the glorious resurrection. There you shall see your Savior face to face, in that indescribably happy reunion with those of your dear ones who have gone before you in faith and who together with you shall see “what eye hath not seen” and hear “what ear hath not heard,”—there in that resurrection unto glory. Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.