Sexagesima - 60 Days before Easter
February 4, 2017
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is written in Isaiah 55:
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Thus far the text.
Let us pray: Creator Father, your Son promised the Holy Spirit who works through your word and does not return to you without giving life to the hearer, just as your rain and snow fall from the sky and do not return without giving bread to the eater. Grant us your Holy Spirit through the your word this morning and grant us life; in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Our Isaiah text for this morning is the longest and clearest chapter from the Old Testament teaching you a unique glory that you have as Christians. This unique glory is this: The Holy Spirit does the Father’s work through...Holy Scripture.
Holy Scripture is the promised tool the Holy Spirit uses to do the work of our Father.
Many professions have tools. A plumber has a pipe wrench. A doctor has a stethescope. An accountant has the books. An engineer has the calculations. A teacher has a dry erase board. A floor worker has the machine. The Holy Spirit has the Holy Scripture.
Take away your tools? You won’t work. The broken pipe won’t be removed without a wrench. The heart won’t be heard without a stethescope. The accounts won’t be balanced without the books. The project won’t work without the calculations. The teacher won’t illustrate the lesson without the dry erase board. The worker won’t produce without the machine. The Holy Spirit won’t work without Holy Scripture.
The Holy Spirit taught this to the prophet comparing it to a garden or crop land, saying, For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
The unique value of rainwater can be seen with special clarity when compared to man’s best effort to imitate God’s creation.
Many of you are gardeners or farmers. You know the difference rainwater makes upon the plants. The plants spring to life and grow. In comparison, you can water your garden with tap water and keep the plants alive, but they don’t grow very well. Your can irrigate the corn and bean fields during a drought and keep them alive, too. But they won’t grow like they do from a rain shower.
We can imitate creation. But we cannot equal the power and beauty of God’s creation to give life that thrives.
We can also imitate God’s Word with our clever teachings. But, there is no substitute for the Holy Scriptures to reign down on us the Holy Spirit for life and salvation.
The Holy Scriptures are more than inerrant. They are the power of God unto salvation. Let me say that again. The Holy Scriptures are more than inerrant. They are the power of God unto salvation.
By listening to Holy Scripture, your soul will revive.
Old Testament Israel received the promise of God’s mercy
Multitudes from outside Old Testament Israel will become believers in Christ.
You are the New Testament Gentiles who believe in Jesus because the Holy Spirit brought you the Holy Scriptures to you and they have been effective.
Not everyone agrees with this scriptural teaching.
Today’s epistle lesson admonishes us to identify these false teachers in our midst.
How is that done? In the Holy Scriptures and the Confessions, truth is emphasized by combining the positive teaching with the negative teaching. This combination will identify the false teachers.
For example, the Mormons are false teachers. They teach that they believe in the Holy Trinity. That’s great. That’s positive teaching. But, they will never say, “We renounce the teaching of three separate gods.” or to say it another way, We teach the father is one god, the son is another god, and the holy spirit is a third god - but these three person are not one God.
Two mormons missionaries visited a Christian I know. They told the Christian that the Book of Mormon in now way teaches against the Holy Scriptures. The Book of Mormon agrees with Isaiah, they said. The Book of Mormon agrees with the teaching of the Holy Trinity, they said.
Christian then quoted Deuteronomy 6:4, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one God. The Mormon missionaries became angry and left. The Holy Scripture had its effect.
The apostle Peter preached combining the positive with the negative teaching of Holy Scripture. In his sermon recorded in Acts 4:11, Peter proclaimed this: This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. (That’s the positive teaching. Jesus is the cornerstone of salvation.) But then, 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Peter not only stated the positive that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of salvation, but Peter also denied that there is salvation apart from Jesus. And the Holy Spirit, through this Word, accomplished the effect desired by our Father. Those who did not believe in Jesus alone went away with hurt feelings or tremendous anger. Those who did believe in Jesus more confidently trusted in Jesus alone for their salvation.
The rain and snow come down from heaven, just as the Word comes down to us. No one with any knowledge of plants would argue that snow and rain fall without effect. The effect is unmistakable and inevitable. The Word condemns sin and unbelief. The Word brings about contrition in the heart of the sinner. The Word showers comfort and peace upon those who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even as the Word also damns unbelief and hardens the hearts of those who persistently reject the Gospel freely offered.
So it is even within the gathering of Christians.
How can we be confident that the Holy Spirit is active among us to accomplish the effect desired by our creator Father among us? The closer Christians teach in accordance with the Holy Scripture, the greater the effect of God upon us by the Holy Spirit. Parents, do you teach your children in accordance to the positive and negative of what is written. Or do you only crush your child’s soul with the negative teaching (Honor your father and mother or you’re grounded). Or do you puff up your child’s soul with only the positive teaching (As long as you’re happy, we love you). Rather, let us conform all that we say to all that is written. Your teaching will have the effect of a gentle rain upon your children and revive them and grow them in trust toward Jesus; in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.