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“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32

How can we know the truth? Of course, many choose not to know the truth. The Democrats might not want the truth revealed about emails found on a laptop. The Republicans, too, might have truths they would rather not be known at election time.

Where can we find the truth? People look for truth in many places but, as we’ve seen, especially in recent times, even sources that should be trustworthy have become dishonest and slanted, often hiding the truth.

But “Jesus said to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

What truth does Jesus reveal in His Word? To His Jewish hearers, His Word revealed their sinfulness and their guilt and condemnation under the Law. Jesus told His hearers: “Ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). He told them, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:34-36).

The truth Jesus revealed to His hearers is that it wasn’t enough to be children of Abraham and entrusted with God’s law. Their heritage did not make them true children of Abraham because they were guilty under the law of God and were servants of sin. Unless they repented of their sinful ways and looked in faith to Jesus as their Messiah and Savior, they would die in their sins and be lost forever!

Our epistle lesson today reveals the same truth. After Paul cited the Scriptures to show that “there is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Rom. 3:10-12; cf. 9-18), he writes: “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (3:19-20).

But then he speaks of another righteousness, a righteousness which avails before God, a righteousness which is imputed by God to those who place their faith in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death in their stead: “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Rom. 3:21-26).

This is the righteousness of which Martin Luther learned as he studied the Scriptures. He discovered this truth in the words of Romans 1:16-17, where St. Paul writes: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

This truth freed Luther from the condemnation of God’s law and gave him the assurance that through faith in Christ Jesus, his sins were all forgiven, that God accepted him as His own dear child and that he had a place in heaven.

This is the everlasting Gospel proclaimed by the angel in Revelation 14:6-7, where it says: “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”

The message for us is the same. It will do us no good to claim Luther as our father or to pride ourselves in our Lutheran heritage if we do not share in the faith of Luther and of the Lutheran reformers. Like the Jews who believed in Jesus, like Luther who despaired of his own righteousness before God and placed his faith in the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus (Christ’s active and passive obedience), Jesus invites us to continue in His word that we might learn the truth and that the truth might set us free.

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).

And what is that truth? What does God’s Word reveal to us as it shines its bright light upon us?

Again, I think of the words of the Apostle John in his first epistle (1 John 1:8 — 2:2): “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. … And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

What truth do we learn from the Scriptures? As we read and study God’s law, we see our utter sinfulness before God. We see our failures to measure up to God’s standards. We stand guilty and condemned before God. But we also see in the Gospel that God sent His only-begotten Son into this world a true man to fulfill the demands of God’s law for us and then to bear upon the cross the just punishment for our sins and the sins of all that we might look to Him in faith and be justified, forgiven and counted righteous and acceptable in God’s eyes. We see that through faith in Jesus we have been made “accepted in the beloved,” that “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:6,7).

And this truth sets us free from the guilt and condemnation of God’s law. It gives us the assurance that through faith in the Son, we have forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting!

As Jesus says, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Grant, O Lord Jesus, that we might continue in Your life-giving Word, learn the truth and be made free through faith in You as our God and Savior. We ask this for the sake of Your blood, shed upon the cross for our sins. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well-pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:20-21

It is God’s perfect will that children obey their parents in all things — the only exception being when obedience to parents would cause disobedience to God (cf. Acts 5:29). Obedience to parents, God says, is “well-pleasing unto the Lord.”

This, of course, is one of the Ten Commandments of the LORD God. The Bible says: “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:2-3).

Such honor and respect for parents and others in authority over us are sorely lacking in our day. Children, in both selfishness and rebelliousness, dishonor parents, teachers and authorities and refuse to obey. Such disobedience and rebelliousness, they need to understand, is not only against their earthly parents and authorities but against God Himself, who placed their parents and other authorities over them for their good.

Disrespect and disobedience toward parents is disrespect and disobedience toward the LORD God. Not honoring teachers and authorities placed over us is not honoring God who created us and placed us under authority.

While it is, sad to say, the way of the world and our own sinful nature not to honor parents and authorities, those regenerated by God’s Spirit will see and acknowledge their own sinfulness in this regard and turn to the LORD God for His mercy and forgiveness won for all by the innocent sufferings and death of God’s own obedient Son, Christ Jesus. And, as a fruit of their faith in Jesus, they will also, with the help and aid of God’s Spirit, seek to honor and obey parents and others placed in authority over them.

Of course, the command to honor and obey parents has another side to it as well. Fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath and discouragement by being overly harsh or mistreating them. This command also applies to mothers, for they are helpmeets to their husbands.

Here, too, fathers and mothers often fail. Instead of remembering that their children are both created and redeemed by the LORD God and that He desires children to be brought to Him in baptism and raised up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4; cf. Matt. 28:19-20; Acts. 2:38-39; Luke 18:15-17), they treat their children in selfishness and anger, punishing them when they get in the way rather than when they do wrong and sin. And, all too often, parents fail to bring their children to Christ Jesus and neglect to teach them to know the LORD and His Word.

Jesus’ warning is amply clear: “Whoso shall offend [cause one to sin or fall from faith in the Lord Jesus] one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6).

Provoking children to anger and abusing or neglecting them and their needs, both temporal and spiritual, is also the way of this world and our old sinful nature. But such behavior on the part of parents, teachers and others in authority greatly displeases the LORD God, who gave His only-begotten Son to redeem not only adults but children, both young and old.

Again, parents and those in authority who have been born anew by the mighty working of God’s Spirit through the washing of water and the Word will examine themselves and their own attitudes and actions toward their children, acknowledging their sins and shortcomings and turning to their merciful heavenly Father for forgiveness and the strength to bring up their children as He would have them raised. In the shed blood of Jesus, there is forgiveness. In the working of God’s Spirit, there is help and strength to change one’s attitudes and actions.
Dear Father in heaven, mercifully forgive me for dishonoring and disobeying my parents and others in authority over me. Forgive me also for failing to love the children You have placed under my care with Your love, for failing to be patient and understanding with them, for being overly harsh with them, for failing to bring them to You and teach them Your life-giving Word, and for failing to correct them and bring them up in Your nurture and admonition. Forgive me for the sake of Jesus, Your Son, and His sufferings, death and resurrection in my stead. By Your regenerating Spirit, give me the will and strength to conform my attitude and actions to Your holy will. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Matthew 9:2 (Read v. 1-8)

In private confession and absolution, and each Sunday in corporate worship, sinners confess their sins to the Lord God and look to Christ Jesus and His cross in faith for the forgiveness of sins; and, the pastor announces unto them the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgives the sins of penitent sinners. “But who can forgive sins but God alone?” some may ask.

This is what the scribes asked within themselves when Jesus forgave the sins of a man, sick of the palsy. They thought Jesus was guilty of blasphemy because He, seeing the faith of this paralyzed man and his friends, said to the man, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”

Of course, anyone can say the words, but if they lack the authority to forgive sins, those words are but a deception, a lie, a sham. But Jesus proved His authority to forgive sins. He said, “Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.”

And, what happened? The paralyzed man “arose, and departed to his house.” Jesus’ proved His authority to forgive sins, and He proved that His words to this man were indeed true. This man’s sins were forgiven! He could depart in peace.

And what about the words of your pastor when he hears your confession and points you to Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of the world and tells you to “go in peace; your sins are forgiven you”?

He may not be able to heal the sick or raise the dead, but Jesus did and it is Jesus who commands him to preach “repentance and remission of sins” in Christ’s name (Luke 24:47). It is Jesus who commands His disciples and His pastors to forgive the sins of penitent sinners and to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent (John 20:22-23). It is Jesus who said, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18).

And notice that pastors do not forgive — or baptize, or administer the Lord’s Supper, or preach — in their own name and by their own authority. Rather, it is “in the stead and by the command” of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus healed the paralyzed man, proving His authority to forgive sins. Jesus even rose from the dead, proving the sufficiency of His sacrifice on the cross to satisfy God’s just wrath against all sins (cf. Rom. 4:23-25; 1 Cor. 15:1ff.; John 1:29). Certainly, He who paid for our sins with His blood and then rose again from the dead on the third day has the authority to forgive the sins of all who look to Him in faith.

So, when you confess your sins to God — whether in corporate worship or in private confession — and the pastor, based on your confession and your profession of faith in Christ Jesus, announces unto you the grace of God and proclaims to you that your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, you can depart in peace, in good cheer, for indeed your sins are forgiven by the Lord Jesus Himself — He has the authority to forgive sins! (Cf. Luther’s Small Catechism on Confession.)

O gracious and merciful God, forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake and grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may believe and rejoice in the pardon and forgiveness won for us by our Lord Jesus Christ and promised and assured to us in Your absolution spoken by the pastor. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” Colossians 3:18-19

Saying that wives should submit to their own husbands is not popular in our day, but this is what God, in His Word, commands. The world (as well as a great number of churches and church bodies) does not accept what the Bible says of women’s role in the churches — not to teach or usurp authority over the man but to learn quietly and in all submission as the law says (cf. 1 Cor. 14:34-40; 1 Tim. 2:11-15). Yet, this is the role created by God for women.

It is, as the Bible says, “fit in the Lord,” to obey God’s Word in this matter. Wives are to submit unto their own husbands “as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22). And it is rebellion against the Almighty to disregard His perfect will. He does, after all, know best. His ways are always good and right.

Though the world may think differently, every true Christian humbly agrees with God’s perfect Word and says with the psalmist: “Therefore I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:128).

Even tougher, because of man’s sinful and rebellious nature, is what God commands of husbands and of men. Men are to love their wives and not to be bitter against them or treat them harshly. Men, this means putting your wife’s needs above your own. It means living your life and exercising the authority given you by God for the good of the helpmeet God has given you.

The Apostle Paul explains this in more detail in his letter to the Ephesians (5:25-27): “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

This means not only being willing to die for your wife but to live for her. It means sacrificing your own desires and ambitions for the good of your wife and the children God has given you. It means living and dying in such a way that your wife and family might be presented to the Lord Jesus holy and undefiled through faith in Jesus’ precious blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world.

Because of our fallen sinful nature, it is difficult for wives to be submissive to their husbands and to be careful not to usurp roles and authority that God has not given them. It is impossible, without the regenerating work of God’s Spirit, for men to so love their wives and families that they sacrifice themselves in living and dying for the good of their wives and children.

Rather than rebelling against God and rejecting His Word, we need humbly to agree with God and His Word that we have failed and come short. We need to acknowledge our own sinfulness before the Lord and trust in Him to forgive and cleanse us for the sake of Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross in our stead. Jesus, God’s Son and our Savior, has paid in full the punishment for the sins of all the world; His resurrection is proof. For His sake, God is merciful to you and to me and forgives our sins and gives us life eternal in fellowship with Him when we look to Jesus and His cross in faith.

Dearest Jesus, I have sinned and come short of living in accord with Your perfect design in creation. Forgive me for the sake of Your shed blood and give me the will and the strength to conform my life to Your perfect will. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5

When tempted in the wilderness and urged to worship Satan rather than the true God, Jesus, making reference to Deuteronomy 6:13, said: “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matt. 4:10).

But who is the LORD God whom we are to worship and serve? Who is each of us to love with all his heart, soul and might? Who are we to trust for our eternal salvation?

In Deuteronomy 6:4, God reveals the fact that the LORD God (Jehovah Elohim) is one Jehovah. But the very name of God, Jehovah (singular) and Elohim (plural) indicates that God is one God and yet more than one Person. Consider the plurality of persons and the oneness of God revealed in passages like Genesis 1:2; 1:26-27; 3:22-24; Psalm 2; Numbers 6:22-27; Isaiah 48:16-17.

And, in Matthew 28:19, Jesus commands baptism in the name of the true God with the words: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost….” We, therefore, learn that the three persons of the Godhead are the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Consider other passages speaking of the Trinity, such as 1 John 5:7; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Isaiah 48:16-17.

Therefore, we believe and teach that the true God, who has revealed Himself to us in the Bible is one God and three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There are not three Gods but one God, and yet each Person is fully God and equal in divine attributes, such as being eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing.

The Father begets the Son from all eternity, the Son is begotten of the Father from all eternity, and the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son from all eternity (cf. Psalm 2:7; John 1:18; 3:16; 14:15-26; John 16:7-16).

To worship and serve the true God, we must worship and serve the Triune (three/one) God who is one God and yet three Persons. Those who deny the Son, do not know or worship the Father (cf. John 14:6-7; 1 John 2:23; 2 John 9), and apart from the Spirit, we cannot know or trust in the Father or the Son (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3).

Jesus said, in John 5:23: “All men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.”

We worship the one true God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — through faith in Jesus Christ, who is God the Son and true man, who went to the cross to redeem us.

We thank Thee, O gracious Holy Spirit, for revealing to us the Father and the Son and making known to us the salvation provided for us through the atoning sacrifice of God the Son for the sins of all people. Keep us in the one true faith that we might worship and glorify You, with the Father and the Son, ever one God for all eternity. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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