Thursday, June 28, 2012

Jesus Calms a Storm

Jesus Calms the Storm - Rembrant 1633
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41).

Jesus had been “teaching by the sea” all day[1]. Immediately prior to his teaching session by the sea, Jesus had argued with, and been rejected by, the Pharisees, whom he decried as the evil and adulterous generation[2]. Jesus had healed a demon-possessed man, and the common people began to wonder if Jesus might be the Messiah[3]. The Pharisees accused him of being possessed himself rather than acknowledging the messianic claims of his followers, and demanded from Jesus a sign proving that he was the Messiah. As a side note, this is ironic, as Jesus’ healing of the demon-possessed man was recognized by the common people and the Jewish religious establishment of the day as sign pointing to the Messiah (Fruchtenbaum). The rabbis of Jesus’ time taught that, when Messiah came, he would cast out mute demons from those people possessed by them.

There was one kind of demon against which [Judaism’s methodology] was powerless, and that was the kind of demon who caused the controlled person to be dumb or mute. And, because he could not speak, there was no way of establishing communication with this kind of demon; no way of finding out this demon’s name. So…it was impossible to cast out a dumb demon. The rabbis had taught, however that when the Messiah came, he would be able to cast out this type of demon. This was the second of the three messianic miracles: the casting out of a dumb or mute demon (Fruchtenbaum).
Jesus, however, told the Pharisees that there would be no further signs given to them, the evil and adulterous generation, except for the “sign of Jonah”, thereby alluding to his crucifixion, death, and resurrection.

Jesus and his disciples were in Galilee, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. They would be traveling to the region of the Gerasenes (Engelbrecht, et al., 2009). This region was part of the Decapolis[4] and was more Gentile in culture. Consequently, the Jewish people living there had probably adopted some Gentile customs in violation of the Law of Moses[5] (Mark 5:11). This is the region where Jesus will meet and exorcize “Legion” from a man and send him into a herd of pigs.

The "Jesus Boat" on display at the Yigal Allon Museum in Israel.
If they were in a typical Galilean fishing boat of the day, it would have been approximately 25½ feet long, 7½ feet wide, and just over 4 feet high. An excellent example of this type of fishing boat is on display at the Yigal Allon Museum in Israel. The “Jesus” or “Sea of Galilee” boat, as it is known, was discovered in 1986 on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee (Sea of Galilee Boat, 2012). The remains of the boat first appeared during a drought when the waters of the sea receded. The boat is made of 12 different types of wood and measures 25.5 ft. (8.2 m) long, 7.5 ft. wide, and 4.1 ft high. It would have had a crew of five (four rowers and a helmsman) and could carry about 15 additional persons (Jesus Boat Museum, 2012).

Unless a person has ever been in the position of similar life threatening danger, I don’t think they can really know just exactly what the disciples were feeling as they battled the storm. They would have been literally terrified to death. They had experienced that chilling moment when the idea of losing their lives had ceased to be an abstract idea, as it is to most people for much of the time, and become a looming possibility that had to be considered. As they struggled fruitlessly to keep their boat from sinking, it became apparent to them that something more than their efforts would be required if they were to make it through the situation. They would have to be rescued; their situation was hopeless. In exasperation they wake Jesus and ask him if he does not care about their fate. At this point they do not realize just who Jesus really was.

The disciples believed, or at least confessed, that Jesus was the Son of David, just as some of the people who saw him cast out the mute demon did. Probably, like most of the average people, though, they understood the Son of David – the Messiah – to be a political savior rather than a spiritual one. In fact, this view would not be totally eradicated from the minds of the disciples until after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Even the disciples to whom Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus talked to him about how they had hoped that the murdered Jesus might have been the one to “save Israel”, the implication being that he must not have been the one, since he was killed by the Romans at the urging of the Jews.

Jesus was indeed the savior of Israel, but certainly not in the way that the Jewish religious establishment, or the Disciples (at this point in their story) expected. Jesus also certainly cared for the disciples’ well-being, but he, unlike we sinful human beings, totally trusted that care into God the Father’s hands[6]. He also understood that man’s physical needs were secondary to man’s spiritual needs. That is why he can sleep on a cushion, on a boat, in the middle of a raging storm – this situation, like all others, is in the Father’s hands. In a sense, you could say that, no Jesus didn’t care that the Disciples were “perishing”, at least in the manner about which they were concerned. He didn’t have to care about that physical situation because it was already in the care of God the Father. No one in the history of human kind, however, cared more than Jesus about how the disciples were truly perishing – spiritually and for eternity. The spiritual situation of mankind is that of the disciples rowing and bailing their boat against the storm. Those efforts will prove fruitless, the proverbial boat of our soul will sink into the sea of sin and death, and our efforts to keep it from doing so are woefully insufficient. We need to be rescued from slipping into the abyss. Jesus cared so much about this that he came to earth a human being in order to atone for the disciples’ sin – and the sin of all mankind – to save them from eternal destruction. Jesus tells the disciples, in fact, that these are the things – those things which pertain to our eternal destiny – to which we should devote our time and attention[7].

Verses 38-39 illustrate for us the dual nature of Jesus. He is truly a human being as evidenced by his physical needs; he was exhausted after a long day of “teaching by the sea” and contending with the Pharisees, and he needed to sleep. He is also divine because, as the disciples point out, “…the wind and the sea obey him.” Jesus is, in addition to being a man, the King of Creation, the one through whom all things were made[8]. When he came to earth, Jesus did not cease to be God; Jesus became Immanuel, “God with us”. He emptied himself of his divine power and took on the form of a servant. He did this so that he could live the sinless life we were incapable of living, and then he paid the debt of guilt that we, mankind, owed to God because of sin[9] by dying on the cross, for, as St. Paul writes, the wages of sin is death[10]. Jesus is the Son, the God-man, second person of the Holy Trinity. Kretzmann observes:

The evangelist here pictures Jesus, the Lord of the universe, who commands the sea, and it gives Him unquestioning obedience. The man Jesus is the almighty God (Kretzmann, 1921).

If the disciples believed what Jesus was teaching about who he was, why he was on the earth, and what was really important (spiritual things rather than physical things), they wouldn’t have been afraid of the storm. They would trust in God in all situations, even the ones which potentially lead to death. Jesus knows, however that they do not yet understand the things he is teaching them properly. They will eventually, though, properly hail him as Messiah. They will also, much later, exhibit the same type of trust in God that Jesus exemplifies in the boat as he slept when they all are, with the exception of St. John, martyred for their faith.

Jesus’ miracle of calming the sea shows that Jesus possesses divine power and authority over creation. It confronts the disciples with the actual Word of God manifested in the flesh, through whom creation itself was brought into existence. Jesus is the Creator of Genesis, and the Designer who spoke to Job[11]. This miracle should also give us, who are also his disciples, comfort. We can look at Jesus the man, sleeping on a cushion in the boat amongst the raging tempest, and know that Jesus the Divine Son of God is aware, and in control of all things. Kretzmann explains:

From that little nutshell of a boat, even while He was asleep, He governed heaven and earth, land and sea. Only His divine majesty was covered by the form of a servant. And as He did then, so He does now: He uses His divine power, His omnipotence, in the interest, in the service of men, especially of His disciples, of His believers. That is the comfort of this story (Kretzmann, 1921).

Therefore, in the mist of tribulations, we know that all things work to the good of them who love Him, who are called according to his purpose[12]. We know that Jesus will calm the storm which threatens the passage of our spiritual ship, and he will pilot it safely into the peaceful rest of eternal life with him, where we will be once and for all free of the stain of sin, death, and the power of the devil.

Works Cited

Decapolis. (2012, June 28). Retrieved June 28, 2012, from Wikipedia:

Engelbrecht, E. A., Deterding, P. E., Ehlke, R. C., Joersz, J. C., Love, M. W., Mueller, S. P., et al. (Eds.). (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible. Saint Louis, Missouri, USA: Concordia Publishing House.

Fruchtenbaum, A. (n.d.). The Three Messianic Miracles. Retrieved June 28, 2012, from Ariel Ministries:

Jesus Boat Museum. (2012, December 28). Retrieved June 27, 2012, from Sacred Destinations:

Kretzmann, P. E. (1921). Popular Commentary of the Bible (Vol. 1). St. Louis, MO, USA: Concordia Publishing House.

Sea of Galilee Boat. (2012, June 27). Retrieved June 27, 2012, from Wikipedia:

End Notes

[1] Matthew 13; Mark 4:1
[2] Matthew 12:38-42
[3] Matthew 12:22-23
[4] The Decapolis was a group of ten cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire in Judea and Syria. The ten cities were not an official league or political unit, but they were grouped together because of their language, culture, location, and political status. The Decapolis cities were centers of Greek and Roman culture in a region that was otherwise Semitic. With the exception of Damascus, the "Region of the Decapolis" was located in modern-day Jordan, one of them located west of the Jordan River in Israel. Each city had a certain degree of autonomy and self-rule (Decapolis, 2012).
[5] Leviticus 11:7-8; Mark 5:11
[6] Matthew 6:25-34
[7] Matthew 6:25-34; 13-44
[8] John 1:3
[9] Philippians 2:5-11
[10] Romans 6:23
[11] Job 38:1-11
[12] Romans 8:28

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I Believed, And So I Spoke

The Resurrection of Christ - Cranach

Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1).

You have seen Christian men and Christian churches so dispirited and discouraged that you knew at once that they could not hope for success at that rate. What a pity to work so hard for years in the kingdom of God and then to give up, just because we do not seem to be making much headway – possibly none at all. Humanly speaking, what would have become of that little band of Saxon immigrants in 1839 when their leader went wrong if Dr. C.F.W. Walther and his colleagues had given up in despair (Burgess, 1988)?

Dr. Walther, along with approximately 800 other German Lutherans left Saxony when they came to realize that they were not free to practice their Christian faith according to the Lutheran Confessions. This group of Christians found themselves increasingly at odds with the Saxon government at the time, which vigorously promoted rationalism and unionism among the Lutheran (Evangelical) and Reformed (Calvinist) churches in Saxony (Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, 2012). Unwilling to compromise the Lutheran Confessions, this group set out to the United States in 1838. One of their ships was lost at sea; after an arduous voyage, the settlers landed in New Orleans, Louisiana. They made their way up the Mississippi River and settled in Perry County, Missouri. Soon after the immigrants were settled in the new homeland, their leader, Martin Stephan, was accused of financial and sexual misconduct and was expelled from the settlement (Concordia Historical Institute). This shook the community. The people were deeply disturbed. They were unsure whether or not they were a new church after having left the governing church authorities and church hierarchy in Germany, or if they were simply a branch of the old church in Germany. Dr. Walther eventually emerged as the leader of the community, and was able to persuade the people that they were indeed a new church body, separate from the church they left behind in the Old World (Concordia Historical Institute).

This letter was written to the church at Corinth; they seem to have been a congregation with plenty of their own troubles as well. Paul visited Corinth during his second missionary journey; he later wrote a letter to them, mentioned in 1 Corinthians 5:9, which has been lost to the ages. Paul then sent them what we today call 1 Corinthians, to which some scholars believe Paul may have referred to as the “painful letter” in 2 Corinthians 2:4 (Engelbrecht, et al., 2009). 2 Corinthians was written in approximately AD 55. The purpose of the entire letter was to show the Corinthian Christians that Paul’s work among them was truly Christ’s work (Engelbrecht, et al., 2009). He writes about the very real human problems congregations, both ancient and modern, face such as divisions, false apostles/teachers, human frailty, poverty of sin, generosity, suffering, and self-examination. He wrote directly to the Corinthians; he is, by virtue of the universality of his message, speaking to all Christians of all times. Paul quotes Psalm 116:10:

I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted” (Psalm 116:10).

He does so to explain his motivation for proclaiming the Gospel in the midst of suffering (Engelbrecht, et al., 2009). The psalmist writes that, even though he was greatly afflicted with terrible trials, he nevertheless believed and trusted in the Lord. St. Paul also seeks to encourage the reader to remain faithful to the Lord in the midst of trials, looking forward to the Lord’s redemption. This would be significant to the Corinthians, as they were a congregation in turmoil, and Paul has been shepherding them through their tumultuous times. They are also, as Paul writes earlier in chapter four, “jars of clay,” in which God has placed his treasure[1]. Paul wants the Corinthians, though frail, afflicted, persecuted, perplexed, and struck down, to continue speaking to the Gospel to everyone. As they continue to do so, God’s saving grace would naturally extend to more people. Such is the nature of evangelism[2]. As God’s kingdom grows, thanksgiving among his subjects would grow as well, and God would be glorified all the more among mankind.

…knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence (2 Corinthians 4:14).

St. Paul gives the Corinthians the thing upon which they must always remain focused in verse 14 – the resurrection of Jesus. The “he” in that verse is clearly God the Father, as we are told elsewhere in the New Testament that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead[3]. This is not to be taken as some sort of evidence that Jesus is inferior to God the Father, or that he is not divine in his nature. Scripture also tells us that Jesus raised himself from the dead[4], and that Jesus was raised by the Spirit[5]. Jesus, Scripture teaches, has two natures – one human, and one divine. With respect to his human nature, Jesus was certainly subordinate to God the Father and, while he was on the earth, he had to rely on God the Father for everything. This is called Jesus being in the “state of humiliation” (Luther, 1991). The reason for this is not because Jesus was essentially less than divine. It is because he voluntarily emptied himself of his divine power and set it aside to take on human nature, in fulfillment of God the Father’s will[6]. When St. Paul speaks of the resurrection, he means the literal, bodily raising of Jesus, or another, from the dead. Paul uses lots of imagery in 2 Corinthians 4, but not where the resurrection is concerned. To Paul the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus is the most important aspect of the Christian faith[7].

Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

The Outer self is the physical person; the inner self is the spiritual person. The outer self experiences all of the wasting away that St. Paul describes in Chapter four because of the Fall and sin. When sin entered creation, God’s creation became totally corrupted. Sin entered God’s creation through one man, and death through sin[8]. Because the corruption of sin reaches the very nature of mankind, all people are subject to physical death. Our inner, or spiritual, self is revived by the power of God’s Holy Spirit working through his means – Word and Sacrament – as God has promised us (Luther, 1991). The Holy Spirit works a renewal of a believer’s whole life – in spirit, will, attitude, and desires[9]. This spiritual renewal manifests itself in a believer’s life as what Paul calls the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control[10].

What does St. Paul mean by the “light momentary affliction”, and how does that affliction prepare St. Paul’s readers for, “…an eternal weight of glory…”? He is writing about life. After sin entered the world and corrupted God’s creation, life got difficult. Man had to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, woman had to endure pain in childbirth, our corrupt nature turned away from God and turned in toward ourselves. We became subject to sorrow, pain, and death. Paul tells us, however that this light, momentary affliction is not all that there is. Because we have been spiritually united with Christ in his resurrection through baptism, we will also be physically resurrected to eternal life, just as he was[11]. And, just as an athlete endures the pain of training so that he may bear the weight of the sport in which he competes, so we endure the affliction of a corrupt and sinful world, in anticipation of the weight of eternal glory with Christ.

Paul continues with his comparison of temporal and eternal things in verse 18. “The things that are seen” is the physical world; “the things that are unseen” is the spiritual world. The physical world is in a state of decay; the spiritual world is eternal. Paul is not a Christian Scientist; he is not saying that that humanity and the universe are spiritual rather than material (Christian Science, 2012). He does not deny that the physical world is real, as the Gnostics of his day did, and claim that it is evil, and only a projection, or shadow, of the true spiritual reality. The physical world is merely in a state of “passing away”. Even if St. Paul believed that the physical world was not real, and only the spiritual world was reality, he was reminded of the truth constantly. He could not simply project, or believe his way out of beatings, stoning, imprisonment, and ultimately, death.

For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 4:18 – 5:1).

Paul moves from talking about the general physical world to our individual physical bodies. Our corrupted physical body will eventually be destroyed by death. Paul refers to it as a tent, which is a temporary structure. When this happens, though, we know that, through faith in Christ, we have a building from God – a permanent structure – which will last forever. This building from God is the resurrected body promised to us by Christ, redeemed for eternity, restored and transformed by God himself (Engelbrecht, et al., 2009).

This is what we, as Christians, must focus on when times become tough for us. We may not be facing the same sort of obstacles that St. Paul and the Corinthian church faced in their everyday lives, such as violence and persecution. We do, however, face life as believing Christians in an increasingly secular world that is more hostile to the message of Christ crucified and risen every day. We may not be dealing with the trials of establishing and holding together a religious colony in a new country, trying to overcome all the obstacles that go along with such an undertaking. We are, however, a church made up of human beings, complete with sinful human natures; our human failings prove this to us, and those around us, daily. St. Paul instructs Christians to look beyond the momentary affliction to the eternal glory of salvation in Jesus (Engelbrecht, et al., 2009). We must fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. And, because we believe, we must also speak. We must speak to those around us who do not know the good news of what Jesus accomplished on the cross at Calvary. The goal of St. Paul’s ministry among the Corinthians was to reach more people with the Gospel. Our goal is the same. Our human failings, our afflictions, all those things that Satan uses to trouble and harass us, become temporary nuisances that will surely give way to the glory of life eternal with our Savior (Engelbrecht, et al., 2009).

Works Cited

Burgess, D. F. (1988). Encyclopedia of Sermon Illustrations. St. Louis, MO, USA: Concordia Publishing House.

Christian Science. (2012, June 12). Retrieved June 12, 2012, from Wikipedia:

Concordia Historical Institute. (n.d.). Concordia Historical Institute. Retrieved June 12, 2012, from C. F. W. Walther:

Engelbrecht, E. A., Deterding, P. E., Ehlke, R. C., Joersz, J. C., Love, M. W., Mueller, S. P., et al. (Eds.). (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible. Saint Louis, Missouri, USA: Concordia Publishing House.

Luther, M. (1991). Kleine Katechismus, English. (C. P. House, Trans.) Saint Louis, Missouri, USA: Concordia Publishing House.

Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. (2012, June 12). Retrieved June 12, 2012, from Wikipedia:

End Notes

[1] 2 Corinthians 4:7
[2] Isaiah 55:11
[3] Romans 10:9
[4] John 2:19-21; 10:17-18
[5] Romans 8:11
[6] Philippians 2:5-11
[7] See 1 Corinthians 15. The resurrection of Christ is the subject for the entire 15th chapter of this book. St. Paul writes, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in you sins…If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied,” (1 Cor. 15:14, 17, 19).
[8] Romans 5:12-21
[9] Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 5:17
[10] Galatians 5:22-23
[11] Romans 6:3-4

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Citizens of Heaven

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (Philippians 3: 20-21).

What does it mean to be a citizen? This topic has been in the news and part of the American political debate for many years now. The question itself, however, is not a new one. Societies throughout history have struggled with defining what citizenship means, what rights and privileges are associated with it, to whom it is conferred, and how.

Citizenship in ancient Rome was a privileged political and legal status afforded to free-born individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance (Roman Citizenship, 2012). A male Roman citizen enjoyed a wide range of privileges and protections defined in detail by the Roman state. A citizen could, only under certain exceptional and extreme circumstances, be deprived of his citizenship.

Slaves, in contrast to citizens, were considered property and had only very limited rights. During the Roman Republic, a master could dispose of his slaves as he did any other property, and while excessive cruelty toward slaves was considered a sign of bad character, killing one's own slave was not a crime (Roman Citizenship, 2012). Most slaves were subjected to lives of extreme hardship. The life of a slave working in the fields, or as laborers in mines, could be brutish and short. A significant number of slaves, however, were highly skilled, and educated; these slaves were often treated as part of the extended family. These educated slaves were often given a degree of independence to work for themselves and could keep some of their own earnings, sometimes accumulating enough to buy their freedom. Until they did so, however, they were not Roman citizens, and enjoyed none of the rights of a citizen.

Some slaves were freed by their masters for services rendered, like indentured servants, or through a provision in their master’s will when he died. Once free, former slaves faced few barriers, beyond normal social snobbery, to participating in Roman society. The principle that a person could become a citizen by law rather than birth was important in Rome’s development as a society. These Freedmen, slaves who had gained their freedom, were granted a limited form of Roman citizenship (Roman Citizenship, 2012). Freedmen could later attain full Roman citizenship; their former status as a slave was not taken into account.

Roman citizenship was coveted by those barbarians living outside the empire, as well as those provincials who lived in territory controlled by Rome. Citizens had commercial (trade) rights, and were subject to the protections of the Roman legal system (Bible History Online). Roman citizenship was seen by these groups as the key to prosperity in a difficult world. In the most generic sense, Roman officials could legally punish noncitizens without proper legal proceedings as Roman law did not apply to noncitizens (Engelbrecht, et al., 2009). But, besides making one safe from the death penalty, a Roman citizen enjoyed, among other things, the right to vote, the right to make contracts, and the right to contract a legal marriage (Jahnige, 2002).

The Apostle Paul himself was a Roman citizen, as we read in the book of Acts. In one instance, after preaching to the crowd after his arrest at the temple, St. Paul is subdued by his Roman guards and stretched out in preparation to be “interrogated” by flogging[1]. As the soldiers are preparing to whip St. Paul he says to the centurion, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” The centurion, knowing full well that it was not lawful to do such a thing under Roman law, becomes frightened:

So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune was also afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him (Acts 22:27-29).

Citizenship was a powerful and precious thing for a person in First Century Rome to have. In some cases citizenship could mean the difference between freedom or slavery, life or death, as it did for St. Paul in this instance.

On at least two occasions, which are recorded in Scripture, St. Paul invokes his Roman citizenship. St. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians however, emphasizes that our citizenship, as Christians, is in heaven. We are aliens in this world[2]. Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, has made us into a new creation – something completely different than we were before[3]. Although we live in this world and are fully involved in it, we are not “of” it. In his prayer before he is arrested and lead away to face death for our transgression, Jesus says this about his disciples:

“…but I [Jesus] say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world” (John 17: 14-15).

The disciples, and all believers, are not “of” the world. Since we are a new creation we do not think according to the pattern of this world. This world is hostile to God.

For although they [mankind] knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles (Romans 1: 21-23).

Believers, however, have been born of the Spirit, and are now children of God. Our citizenship, like St. Paul’s Roman citizenship, came with a price, and it, to, rescues those who hold it from death. Our citizenship in heaven was purchased for us, not with gold or silver as Roman citizenship would have been purchased by a Roman slave, but with the holy, precious blood of Jesus, and with his innocent suffering and death (Luther, 1991).

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1: 12-13).

Because Jesus came to earth, took on human nature, kept the law perfectly and died on the cross as a substitute for us, we can have the gift of eternal life and a restored relationship with Him. This gift is ours by faith in Jesus Christ, as St. Luke writes, “…believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

Multiple citizenship, sometimes referred to as “dual citizenship”, is when a person is regarded as a citizen under the laws of more than one country. This situation can exist because different countries have different citizenship laws. People generally refer to someone in this situation as a person who “holds” dual citizenship, but this can be misleading. Technically each nation of which the person is a citizen is making a claim that this person is its own citizen. For example, a person may have American citizenship and German citizenship. Each country sees the person as their own citizen fully, without any regard to that person’s status in any other country. There are some countries, however, that forbid holding multiple citizenships (Dual Citizenship). When you become a citizen of Country B, your citizenship in Country A is dissolved.

God’s country is like this. We are either citizens of heaven, or citizens of this world, and God is not willing to share us with the world[4]. It is through Baptism that the Holy Spirit works faith and creates in us new spiritual life with the power to overcome sin. This is the naturalization process by which we become citizens of heaven. When this happens, our citizenship in this world is dissolved and we are made citizens of heaven with Christ. The world is no longer our home, though we must live in it for a time. We must also stop living according to the customs of our “old” country, and begin acting like citizens of our new, heavenly country[5].

Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying (Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3: 5-8).

We are no longer, as believers in Christ, under the dominion of evil, though sin surely affects us constantly. It is easy to lose sight of this comforting truth and become bogged down with the cares and trials of our life in this world. However, no matter what our circumstance, we are under the benevolent rule of God’s Son.

For he [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1: 13-14).

Travelers to a foreign country, when they need assistance, information, or are in danger, can seek out their own country’s embassy. Popular culture claims these embassies to be sovereign soil of the country they represent. While this isn’t true, an embassy can be looked at as part of the home country abroad. Even though a traveler may be on the other side of the world, their country’s embassy is a place where their interests, as well as the interests of their home country, are represented in a foreign land. Christians are aliens here on earth.  Our citizenship is in heaven, and we look forward to the day when Jesus will return visibly to judge the world and we will be with him forever.

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. As so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words (1 Thessalonians 4: 16-18).

Until that day comes, however, we can take comfort in the fact that we can visit the embassy of our home country – the church. While we are here in our earthly exile, we can still be connected with our spiritual home country. By gathering together with our fellow Christians, we can offer each other strength and encouragement in our exile. By participating in the liturgy, the roots of which can be traced back to the early church, we leave behind our secular worldly culture, and participate for a brief time in the “heavenly culture” of worship. And, when we hear the Word preached and receive the Sacraments, we participate in the body of Christ, and we are nourished by him who is our head.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray the petition “Thy Kingdom come.” In this petition, Jesus teaches us to pray for His Holy Spirit so that we believe his Word and lead godly lives in this world – and for the hastened coming of his kingdom of glory (Luther, 1991). By the power of God’s Holy Spirit, we say with St. John, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” In the mean time, we must remember to act like the citizens of heaven that we are.

Works Cited

Bible History Online. (n.d.). Retrieved June 7, 2012, from Roman Citizenship:

Dual Citizenship. (n.d.). Retrieved June 7, 2012, from

Engelbrecht, E. A., Deterding, P. E., Ehlke, R. C., Joersz, J. C., Love, M. W., Mueller, S. P., et al. (Eds.). (2009). The Lutheran Study Bible. Saint Louis, Missouri, USA: Concordia Publishing House.

Jahnige, J. (2002, May). Roman Law And Government: Roman Citizenship. Retrieved June 7, 2012, from Kentucky Educational Television Distance Learning (Latin I):

Luther, M. (1991). Kleine Katechismus, English. (C. P. House, Trans.) Saint Louis, Missouri, USA: Concordia Publishing House.

Roman Citizenship. (2012, June 6). Retrieved June 7, 2012, from Wikipedia:

End Notes

[1] Acts 22

[2] Hebrews 13:14

[3] 2 Corinthians 5:17

[4] Romans 12:2, Galatians 5:16-25

[5] Ephesians 4:17-24