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“The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son….” Matthew 22:2 (Read v.1-14)

The chief priests and Pharisees, along with many of the Jews, rejected Jesus and would not trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins and a place in God’s eternal kingdom. God’s servants, the apostles and prophets, proclaimed to them the way of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus; but they made light of God’s gracious invitation and even mistreated and killed God’s servants.

With the parable of the king who made a marriage supper for his son, Jesus illustrated to his hearers how they were rejecting God’s gracious invitation to have part in His kingdom and partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb through faith in His own dear Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Rev. 19:7ff.).

As described in Jesus’ parable, the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants were judged of God for their rejection of Christ Jesus. The city was destroyed and burned with fire, and its inhabitants were either killed or carried away captive. (This was done by the Roman armies in 70 A.D.)

The LORD God has also sent His servants out to invite others to have part in His eternal kingdom through faith in Christ. The Gospel has been preached, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles around the world; and many, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the Word, have heeded God’s gracious invitation. Through faith in Jesus Christ, they have received forgiveness of sins and will partake of the eternal joys of heaven.

They are clothed, not with their own sin-tainted righteousness, but with the perfect righteousness of Christ. It is only for the sake of Christ and His innocent sufferings and death in their stead that they are acceptable to God by faith and have a place in His kingdom (cf. Eph. 1:6ff.).

But, like the man who came without a wedding garment, there are also many who try to earn a place in God’s kingdom by their own sin-tainted works rather than simply receiving the righteousness of Christ which is ours through faith. Such, who attempt to partake of God’s eternal kingdom clothed in the spotted garment of the flesh rather than in the righteousness of Christ, will be cast out into the darkness and eternal torment of hell.

God’s gracious invitation goes out to all, but only the elect of God heed the Gospel call and trust in Christ alone for eternal salvation (cf. 2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:3ff.; Acts 13:48). It is only by the grace of God that we who trust in Christ have heeded the Gospel invitation (Eph. 2:8-9).

We also need to beware lest we take that invitation lightly or begin to depend upon our own sin-tainted righteousness rather than trusting in the perfect righteousness of Christ our Savior.

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress; midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head. Bold shall I stand in that great Day, for who aught to my charge shall lay? Fully thro’ these absolved I am from sin and fear, from guilt and shame. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #371, Verses 1-2)

[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 – when he 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” (Matthew 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. Romans 4:23-25; 1 Corinthians 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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“And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?” Deuteronomy 10:12-13

What does God require of you and me – what does He expect of us? God tells us: He requires us “to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

And note that to do this is for our own good! There is indeed blessing in obeying God’s commandments, summarized in the 10 Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai and, prior to that, written upon man’s heart.

What’s the problem? We can’t! We are, by nature since the fall of Adam and Eve, stiff-necked, stubborn and rebellious – we go our own way and do our own thing rather than respecting God, loving Him and serving Him with all our heart, soul and mind. None of us loves the LORD God with all our heart, soul and mind; nor do we love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39). Even though God has been good to us and chosen us to be His own, we don’t measure up, we come short, we sin, we are guilty before God and deserving of His wrath and punishment. Instead of being blessed by God’s law, our sin brings its curse and God’s just anger upon us (cf. Gal. 3:10).

What’s the answer? Since we’ve all come short and cannot measure up under God’s good law, the answer and solution were provided by God Himself. He sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to fulfill God’s commandments for us; and Jesus Christ went to the cross to suffer the just punishment for our sins and the sins of all as our sinless sacrifice and then rose again from the dead that we might place our faith in Him and be counted just and righteous and forgiven in God’s sight (cf. Gal. 3:13; 4:4-5; Rom. 3:19-26; 4:23-25).

This is why we read in Psalm 34:18: “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” When we acknowledge and confess our sins unto Lord and look to Jesus and His cross for pardon and forgiveness, God deals with us in His grace and mercy and forgives us all our sins for the sake of Jesus and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross (1 John 1:7 – 2:2; Psalm 32:1-6).

As believers, then, in Christ, we do, as a fruit of our faith, seek to fear and honor God by loving Him with all our heart and soul and by obeying all His commandments, but we recognize that we cannot be justified and righteous before God by our own flawed obedience. Rather, we trust in Christ’s perfect obedience and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead for our righteous standing before God because only in Christ can we sinners be pardoned, forgiven and given the eternal blessings of heaven.

O gracious and merciful God, we know that Your commandments are good and right, but we are sinners and cannot measure up. We deserve Your wrath and punishment. Graciously bring us to know and trust in Christ Jesus, your Son and our Savior, for forgiveness and preserve us in that faith unto life everlasting. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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

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“…endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3 (Read v. 1-16)

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (v. 4-6).

There is only one body of Christ, one Church – the communion of saints – made up of all who trust in Christ Jesus as Savior. There is only one Savior, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all who dwells in the hearts of His children by the Spirit.

It is the Spirit of God, working mightily through the Word of God and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, who brings us to faith in Christ Jesus and keeps us in that faith. He brings us into the family of God and unites us with Christ our Savior. Thus, when we have faith in Christ Jesus and are baptized in His name, we are united to Him and are one with all other true believers in Christ (cf. Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 2:11ff.; 1 John 1:3ff.).

This oneness, this unity, is of the Spirit. We do not create the unity; the Spirit does, through the Word. Through the hearing of God’s Word, He brings us to faith in Christ Jesus and keeps us trusting in our Savior. The way, then, to keep and preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is to continue in the faith created in us by the mighty working of the Holy Spirit. If we are one with Christ Jesus and members of His body, the Church, we will also be united to all other true believers of all time.

And, such unity does not occur through church mergers and cooperative efforts; it occurs where the Spirit brings people to faith in Christ and keeps them in that faith through the Word of God and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

We endeavor to live in this Spirit-created unity by continuing in and holding fast to the pure teaching of God’s Word and partaking of the blessings offered and given to us through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We are long-suffering, enduring one another’s sins and shortcomings with all patience, forgiving our fellow believers as Christ has forgiven us (cf. Eph. 4:32).

We consider and remember that Christ is our Redeemer and that He has brought each and every one of us to faith. Therefore, we encourage each other to continue in that unity by encouraging each other to continue in the Word and hold fast to Christ Jesus, our Head.

O gracious Father, we thank You for bringing us into Your family and Church – for giving us unity with all other believers through Spirit-wrought faith in Christ Jesus. Grant that we continue in that unity in Christ and move us to dwell within it in patience and in the bond of peace with our brethren. Amen.

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

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“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19

What is Apostle Paul’s prayer for his readers in Ephesus? What is his prayer, and mine, for you – for each of us? “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

Paul prays that the Holy Spirit, working through the Word of God (Romans 10:17), would strengthen and keep us in the true faith in Christ Jesus, that we would trust in Him and His atoning sacrifice for the remission of all our sins and that He, Himself, would take up residence in our hearts and dwell in us, as He does in His members, His Church (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Paul prays that our faith would be rooted and grounded in God’s love for us sinners in Christ Jesus and that we – together with all other believers in Christ – would be able to comprehend “what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”

But do you – do we – even begin to grasp and understand the love of Christ for us? The Bible tells us of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, the only-begotten Son:

  • John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
  • 1 John 4:9-10 – “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
  • Romans 5:5-8 – “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

But do we understand and grasp this love of God for us sinners – that God, in love unmerited by us, sent His Son into the world to redeem us from our sin and the eternal death and damnation we deserve. Do we understand and grasp the fact that God, in love for us sinners, sent His Son to be the propitiation and atoning sacrifice for our sins? Do we understand that Christ Jesus gave Himself to die on the cross in our stead, for our sins, that we might not have to die and suffer the eternal punishment we justly deserve and which God’s law demands on account of our sins? That is the apostle’s prayer for us.

Do we still fear death and God’s judgment? The Bible tells us (1 John 4:16-18): “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

If we truly know God’s love for us in Christ Jesus, it will remove our fear of judgment. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:31-39. Who will condemn us on the last day? Christ will be our judge and He is the one who died for our sins and rose again and now intercedes for us before the Father (v. 34).

Can anything or anyone separate us from the love of Christ? No, no matter what happens in our lives, even if we are persecuted and suffer death, we still have God’s love in Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul writes: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Paul’s prayer for the believers at Ephesus – and mine for you – is that the Holy Spirit, working through God’s Word, enables you to know and grasp in faith the love of God for you which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (and in Him alone); that you see His great love for you in sending His only-begotten Son into this world as a true man to die for you; that you see that Christ Jesus so loved you, even when you were yet dead in your trespasses and sins, that He suffered your punishment and provided salvation for you in His cross; that God so loved you that He brought you to see your sinfulness and the punishment you justly deserve but also brought you to trust and believe in Christ Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world for your pardon and your salvation; and that, knowing God’s great love for you in Christ Jesus, you continue to trust in Him unto the end, knowing that you have forgiveness and will not be condemned in God’s judgment, and knowing that no matter what you face in this life, nothing will able to separate you from the love of God in Christ. God grant this to you for Jesus’ sake.

Dear Father in heaven, by the Holy Spirit, graciously open our hearts and minds and grant to us to know and grasp Your great love for us in Christ Jesus that we might trust in Him and Him alone for pardon, peace and life everlasting. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

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

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