Nothing New
Monday of Pentecost 8
11 July 2016
There is nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1:9). The enemies of Christ and His church seem to trot out all the same criticisms of the Christian religion generation after generation. Augustine pointed out that most of these objections arise from ignorance. They succeed with the ignorant in two different ways. First, they succeed with those who do not know enough about the Christian religion to properly evaluate the critical claims of the enemies of the church. Second, they succeed because of the ignorance of the church's history rampant among Christians today. Both of these kinds of ignorance hurt people in the church, leaders and laity alike. They are dying because of it (Hos 4:6).
 
The first lack of knowledge arises from a lackadaisical attitude about catechesis. I remember meeting a man who joined the Lutheran Church after a short interview with the pastor over his kitchen table at the end of which the pastor declared, "You were a Catholic? Well, we all believe the same things." In that one statement he declared that the Lutheran Church has no right to exist over against the Church of Rome. For if we really do just believe "the same things" we are merely schismatics and need to be reconciled with Rome. You can't have it both ways.
 
This lackadaisical attitude to catechesis arises from our being uncomfortable with the exclusive claims of the Christian religion, especially its truth claims centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We are far too willing to retreat into mealy-mouthed acceptance of our culture's most fondly-held religious platitudes.
 
The god of this present age is "choice." Nothing must be permitted to impinge on the validity of "choice;" even when choice leads to choosing against God and against the truth. For Christians the choice is clear and absolute; there are two possible gods, both began with the letter "C." One is choice. The other is Christ. The clear distinction between what is God's and what is mine must continue to be made in the instruction of the faithful, so that they can confess Christ rather than conform to choice. Contradictory positions must not be reconciled with politically correct appeals to "my choice." No, we don't all believe the same thing. The lordship of Christ Himself is at stake here. In our ignorance we are threatened by the loss of Christ Himself. In fact, we are on the verge of having choice eradicate the church, as Americans see their first amendment rights eroded by leftists in the government, courts, and bureaucracy.
 
Not only do we not know the basic substance of our faith well enough to defend the church against egregious attacks, we are dismally unaware of how the church has, generation after generation, defended its most holy faith against those same attacks that we now find so daunting. We stand gape-mouthed when someone points out, for example, that Jesus says that "the Spirit had not yet been given" (Jn 7:39), and that yet the Spirit of God was the inspiration of the prophets long before the ministry of Jesus. Is this not a contradiction? How can the Holy Spirit be both sent and not sent? Simple. He is given by God in different ways and in different measures at different times for different purposes. Augustine speaks of this basic critical question about which people are still troubled today. Answered 1600 years ago!
Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"The Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son, since these three are one. And to be the gift of God in respect to the Holy Spirit, means to proceed from the Father; so to be sent, is to be known to proceed from the Father. Neither can we say that the Holy Spirit does not also proceed from the Son, for the same Spirit is not without reason said to be the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son. For I do not see what else He intended to signify, when He breathed on the face of the disciples, and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit' (Jn 20:22). For that bodily breathing, proceeding from the body with the feeling of bodily touching, was not the substance of the Holy Spirit, but a declaration by a fitting sign, that the Holy Spirit proceeds not only from the Father, but also from the Son. For the greatest madman would not say, that it was one Spirit which He gave when He breathed on them, and another which He sent after His ascension (Acts 2:1-4). For the Spirit of God is one, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, the Holy Spirit, who works all in all (1Co 12:6).
 
"That then which the Lord says,,'Whom I will send unto you from the Father' (Jn 15:26), shows the Spirit to be both of the Father and of the Son; because, also, when He had said, 'Whom the Father will send,' He added also, 'in my name' (Jn 14:26). Yet He did not say, Whom the Father will send from me, as He said, 'Whom I will send to you from the Father,' showing that the Father is the beginning (principium) of the whole divinity, or if it is better so expressed, deity.
 
"He, therefore, who proceeds from the Father and from the Son, is referred back to Him from whom the Son was born (natus). And that which the evangelist says, 'For as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified' (Jn 7:39); how is this to be understood, unless because the special giving or sending of the Holy Spirit after the glorification of Christ was to be such as it had never been before? For He was not previously none at all, but He had not been such as this. For if the Holy Spirit was not given before, with what were the prophets who spoke filled? Whereas the Scripture plainly says, and shows in many places, that they spoke by the Holy Spirit. Whereas, also, it is said of John the Baptist, 'And he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.' And his father Zacharias is found to have been filled with the Holy Spirit, so as to say such things of him. And Mary, too, was filled with the Holy Spirit, so as to foretell such things of the Lord, whom she was bearing in her womb (Lk 1:15, 47-49).  And Simeon and Anna were filled with the Holy Spirit, so as to acknowledge the greatness of the little child Christ (Lk 2:25-38).
 
"How, then, was 'the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified,' unless because that giving, or granting, or mission of the Holy Spirit was to have a certain special character of its own in its very advent, such as never was before? For we read nowhere that men spoke in tongues which they did not know, through the Holy Spirit coming upon them; as happened then, when it was needful that His coming should be made plain by visible signs, in order to show that the whole world, and all nations constituted with different tongues, should believe in Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1ff.) to fulfill that which is sung in the Psalm, 'There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard; their sound is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world' (Ps 19:3-4)."

Augustine, On the Trinity , 4.20
Isaiah 50:5-10

The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord GOD helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. (ESV)
Prayer
Lord Christ, You have sent teachers to Your church in every generation who, endowed with Your Spirit proceeding from the Father and Yourself, to defend the faith which you have once and for all delivered to the saints. Grant us in our day to listen to the church's long litany of truth that we too might confess it faithfully against all false teaching. Amen.
 
For the family of Reuben Braun, whom the Lord Jesus has transferred to His kingdom, where He dwells with the saints in light

For Martha Fredenburg, that the Lord Jesus would grant her healing after surgery to repair a broken foot

For the delegates to the 66th regular convention of the LCMS, that they might confess Christ in all they say and do
 
For all those who are recovering from heart problems, that God the Lord would continue to grant them strength and healing
 
For the clergy of the LCMS, that they would not become weary in the task of defending the holy faith of the church, but defend it as a sacred trust from a gracious God
Art: Durer, Albrecht   The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
©  Scott Murray 2016