First Sunday in Lent
Invocabit Sermon Notes
February 18, 2018
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is written in 2 Corinthians chapter 6: 1Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. Thus far the text.
Let us pray: Gracious Father, You instruct Your people to pray that we not be led into temptation. Grant us Your Holy Spirit so that we may love Your Word and remain in it; in the name of Jesus. Amen.
The Apostle Paul argued against his opponents, who were quite similar to Luther’s opponents of the day. The titles are different but the motivations are the same.
Lutherans commonly use “Pietist” as an insulting word today, but they fail to grasp how deep the spirit of Pietism is.
The foundational error of Pietism is to make sound doctrine secondary, in fact to make sound doctrine a barrier to cooperation and love. It is easy to express their interest in a way that sounds appealing.
For instance, Pietists would say, “Cooperation among men is more important than pure doctrine from God.” Deeds are better than Creeds. They talk about “Christian-bashing” and “the error of becoming tangled in petty doctrinal wars.”
Two toxic errors makes Pietists especially dangerous:
One is their setting aside of the Means of Grace. They do not emphasize the Word of God. They also do not emphasize Holy Baptism or Holy Communion.
The other error of Pietists is their example of doctrinal purity meaning nothing. Anything goes because the experience and the love matter most of all. Because the True Church of Pietism does not like sound doctrine, they take great pride in running down those who favor the Confessions, those who do not admire their great works of love.
Luther is the best litmus test for Pietism, not the words used. The Pietists like Calvinism too. But Calvinism is doctrine, it teaches against the Means of Grace. Not teaching the Means of Grace is by definition an anti-Biblical and anti-Lutheran act.
Therefore, Pietists rage against Luther, just as the false teachers raged against Paul.
But look at Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 6 –
7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; 9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
BY THE WORD OF TRUTH –
We value the Word of God because it conveys Christ and His forgiveness to us. What is more important than justification by faith? The Promises of God energize our faith. En-ergy means to work, and the efficacy of God’s Word is taught throughout the Scripture. In the New Testament, efficacy is almost letter for letter the word “energy.”
Faith is not something that already exists, except in the generic sense. We are born with faith in our parents, especially our mothers, but not with faith in God. The Word of God creates faith in the Gospel where there was nothing before.
Many different terms show that the Gospel promises are living seed that germinate at once. We are grafted onto Christ.
The Word of Truth brings the righteousness of Christ to us. The Holy Spirit works only through the Word, so nothing else can do that, no matter what some people claim.
BY THE POWER OF GOD
The power of God is identified with the Holy Spirit, since this is how God works through the Word. The Third Person of the Trinity is named after the wind (ruach, pneuma) in Hebrew and Greek, because Jesus taught, He works in the same way. The wind has enormous power, but no one can see it. We experience the effect of the wind, even though no one sees it coming.
BY THE ARMOUR OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ON THE RIGHT HAND AND ON THE LEFT,
Justification by faith is armor against the attacks of Satan. Luther has several wonderful stories about that, doubtless because he suffered from many emotional onslaughts or spiritual attacks (Anfechtungen, as he called them).
One is about a bishop who stayed at a haunted house, filled with ghosts, realizing that Satan was using people’s fears to keep them away. Faith in the Gospel makes those fears go away. The Greeks were so aware of this effect, which can cause mass hysteria, that they had a god for it – Pan. And Pan was good for causing “pan-ic.” Many military battles are lost from panic, not from actual superiority.
The other story concerns a statue who gave predictions and worked by the deceiving power of Satan. A bishop by staying at the inn made it go away in anger. The innkeeper was angry, followed the bishop, and rebuked him for ruining his business. The bishop wrote a letter: “To Satan. I give you permission to possess the statue again and predict the future.” The letter was placed at the foot of the idol, and predictions started anew. The innkeeper thought about the irony of writing a letter to a statue and began to believe in the Gospel. He eventually became a bishop himself.
Thus fear influences panic, while faith subdues fear and places trust in the power and mercy of God. Only the Word can do this.
Pietists make idols out of men, but sound doctrine points people to the Gospel promises.