Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Matthew the Tax Collector

As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:9-13).

Much like the calling of the four fishermen,[1] Jesus calls Matthew. He does not, however, promise to make Matthew a “fisher of men”. This doesn’t mean Matthew is being called to a lesser Apostleship; it means that the fishing imagery, which would have been meaningful to Peter, Andrew, James, and John, doesn’t make as much sense when applied to a tax collector. Matthew, like the four fishermen, seemingly abandons his profession without any second thought or hesitation. This is not, however, the first Matthew has ever heard of Jesus. Being a follower of John the Baptist, Matthew knew, as the four fishermen did, that Jesus was the Messiah. Matthew heard John the Baptist preach that tax collectors, such as himself, should collect no more than what is appointed for,[2] and that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He, having heard the proclamation of God’s Word, contrite in front of the mirror of the Law, responded in faith when Jesus called Matthew into His direct service.

Jesus accompanies Matthew to his home. Matthew has a feast to which those other associates of his are invited, along with Jesus’ other disciples. Knowing that Jesus is the One promised to redeem Israel, it is only natural that Matthew would want to deliver that good news to those into whose midst God had placed him, by virtue of his vocation. No doubt Matthew had little difficulty filling his table with people. By this time, Jesus had done miracles, and preached and taught publicly. Jesus’ notoriety had spread. Most recently, Jesus had forgiven the sins of, and physically healed, a paralyzed man.[3] The multitudes following Jesus saw this, but so did The Jews – the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Teachers of the Law. By healing the paralytic, Jesus demonstrated to the Jews that He had the authority to forgive sins, something only God could do. But the very people who should’ve recognized the Messiah did not receive Him.[4] They were seeking to justify themselves by their keeping of the Law. The Jews, therefore, began looking for any type of scandal they could use to discredit Him in the eyes of the people. Associating with tax collectors, collaborating Jews who served the hated Roman government, certainly qualified as such a scandal.

The first part of Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees seems obvious. Of course a healthy person doesn’t need to be treated by a physician. Jesus is saying that those to whom He has come are sick, and He is the physician. This is most certainly true, and Jesus is indeed saying that those tax collectors and sinners are, well… sinners. The Jews, however, misunderstand Him; they recognize that the people with whom Jesus was eating were sinners, but they think they are excluded from that group. They think they are ok because of their righteous keeping of the Law. Jesus, however, came to heal all people of their terminal disease of sin, Jew and Gentile, Pharisee or tax collector. Jesus, who is Israel reduced down to one, creates a new, perfect Israel in Himself. He is the vine;[5] His Father, the Vinedresser, grafts wild olive shoots called Gentiles into Jesus; He takes the branches that were broken off, the unbelieving Jews, and grafts them into the vine again as well.[6] He unites us sinners to His death and resurrection, by His grace, through faith in Him. He creates that faith in men through His Word - proclaimed, or connected with the physical elements of water in baptism, or bread and wine by which He gives us His body and blood to eat and drink in the Lord’s Supper: Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?[7] But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.[8]

Jesus quotes the prophet Hosea in response to the Pharisees: O Ephraim, what shall I do to you? O Judah, what shall I do to you? For your faithfulness is like a morning cloud, and like the early dew it goes away. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of My mouth; and your judgments are like light that goes forth. For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.[9] Jesus tells the Pharisees that their faith has disappeared like the early dew. It has evaporated. They trust in their works to make them acceptable to God. He has slain them by the words from His mouth. His proclamation of the Law exposes their sin, and that of all men; it kills them, and calls them to repentance. Jesus desires them to believe, to have faith, to be healed, rather than for them to keep every minute regulation of the Law by the outward act. He wants them, and all men, to recognize their illness and come to the only Physician who can cure it. Only after faith in Jesus is kindled within the heart by the working of the Holy Spirit through the Word, will we strive to obey God’s Law out of gratitude. We sinful human beings, like the tax collectors, like the Pharisees, like all men born since the Fall, are sick with the disease of sin which leads to death. Only the Great Physician has the cure – His own body and blood, given and shed for the remission of sins.

[1] Matthew 4:18-22
[2] Mark 2:14
[3] Matthew 9:1-8
[4] John 1:11
[5] John 15:1-8
[6] Romans 11:19-24
[7] Romans 6:3
[8] Titus 3:4-7
[9] Hosea 6:4-6

Monday, January 21, 2019

Four Fishermen Called as Disciples

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him (Matthew 4:18-22)

This verse can be deceptive. Upon first reading, it seems like Jesus just shows up among these fishermen and they just leave, without very much persuasion at all. This isn’t quite accurate. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were followers of John the Baptist. They knew that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world from John the Baptist. When Jesus comes to call these men into His service, they jump at the opportunity. They leave the vocation into which they had been called, by which they had been providing for their families and doing good works for their neighbors, to enter full-time service to the Lord.

Jesus will make these fishermen fishers of men. But why choose fishermen? These men were certainly not educated men; they were working men. Based on how they react to the things Jesus says and does later, we know that their understanding of Holy Scripture was faulty. Even the scribes, Pharisees, and teachers of the Law understood the prophecies pointed to Jesus; Herod’s religious authorities knew where to look for the birth of the Messiah. They just didn’t believe. Christ chooses these men to enter His service, not because they were rich, educated, or pious, but because He is gracious. He will make them fishers of men. They do not start out that way. The words that St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians come to mind: For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”[1]

Jesus will teach these men, along with the other Apostles, how to fish for men. It doesn’t take as much skill on the fisher’s part as we might expect. While in modern times, we think of fishing with a rod and reel, it was done with a net in ancient times. A round net, weighted on the edges, was cast from a boat into shallow water. Whatever was beneath it as it billowed toward the bottom like a parachute was caught. In order for the net to work it had to spread out properly. In order for it to spread out properly, it had to be thrown properly. Before one could be a successful fisherman, one needed to learn the proper way to cast the net. The net is the means by which fish are caught.

Jesus chooses these men to become His Apostles. They will be taught over the next three years of Jesus earthly ministry how to cast Christ’s net – to proclaim Law and Gospel. They will not be taught how to persuade fish to bite a lure at the end of a line. They are being taught to cast a net. The power of conversion is not in the fisherman, but in his net, the Word of God. There is no other power in the whole world that can bring sinners into Christ’s kingdom.[2] Our pastors cast God’s net each week when they proclaim God’s Holy Word, when they baptize, when they feed us Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. And, though we seek to avoid being caught in God’s net because of our sinfulness, He is persistent. He is patient. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.[3] All the time Christ delays His return means more time for His fishers of men to continue casting His net. Let us not despise preaching and His word, but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.

[1] 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
[2] Albrecht, G. Jerome., and Michael J. Albrecht. Matthew. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1996. P. 58
[3] 2 Peter 3:9

Thursday, January 10, 2019

John Baptizes Jesus

Baptism of Christ
It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mark 1:9-11).

John is in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance. He is Elijah, who was foretold, who would prepare the way of the Lord. The people flock to him, to hear his message, to be baptized by him, to confess their sins. The religious leaders also go out to see John. They are concerned. This man is causing a disturbance. He is upsetting the structure. They ask him to give an account. Just who are you? He confesses plainly that he is not the Christ who was to come: There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.[1] John’s entire purpose is not to gain notoriety for himself. It is not to build up his own ministry. His purpose is to point to Jesus, the fulfillment of God’s promised redemption.

As John continues preaching repentance and baptizing, Jesus comes to him. Jesus tells John that he must baptize Jesus. John is taken aback. I should be baptized by You! Jesus explains. It is to fulfill all righteousness. John relents. He doesn’t understand what Jesus is doing, but he obeys. Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus comes up out of the river, God the Spirit descends upon Him. The heavens open. John sees and hears the manifestation of the Triune God. God the Father declares His pleasure with, and approval of Jesus, God the Son.

But why does the sinless Son of God need to be baptized with John’s baptism of repentance? Jesus knew no sin, after all. Jesus is Israel, reduced to one. On the eighth day after His birth, Jesus was circumcised according to the Law. He was brought into the covenant, as all those circumcised before him were. Now, in John’s baptism, Jesus identifies Himself with mankind. He takes responsibility for mankind’s sin. By submitting to John’s baptism, Jesus deliberately took our place as His Father had sent Him to do.[2] It was here that God the Father made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God.[3] Immediately after His baptism, Jesus will be driven into the wilderness by the Spirit. Jesus, Israel reduced to one, will be tempted by Satan. A second Exodus and wilderness wandering. Israel was hard-hearted and unfaithful. Jesus remains faithful. He will put right what Israel got wrong. He will resist the temptation of Satan. Being the sinless Savior, God in human flesh, Jesus will go to the cross. He will die as a transgressor, accursed, hung on the tree, that is the cross, the pure and spotless sacrifice for the sins of the world; He will raise to life again on the third day, the victor over sin, death, and the devil. His journey begins here with His baptism by John.

[1] Mark 1:7-8
[2] Wicke, Harold E. Mark. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004.
[3] 2 Corinthians 5:21

We are not wrong, but we should apologize...

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed (1 Peter 3:14-16).

Another new year, another new article telling the Church to abandon God’s Word. We shouldn’t be surprised. We have been told that, rather than getting better and better, things would get worse and worse for the Christian Church. I’m not sure what Mark Wingfield, author of “3 words for the church in 2019: ‘we were wrong’[1] thinks he’s doing. One suspects he is trying to sound modern and enlightened in order to entice “young” people into the Church. Perhaps he just wants to show everyone how woke he is. One thing that is certain, no matter what he seems to say to the contrary, he does not believe that the Word of God is divinely inspired, inerrant, and efficacious; the means by which God creates faith and works forgiveness of sins.

Mr. Wingfield wants the Church to “admit we were wrong” about a host of things. Some of the issues he raises, such as protecting pedophiles, measuring the success of the Church by attendance numbers, and putting our trust in politics to fix all our problems, are legitimate, though there are some straw men lurking in his arguments about these things as well. (Youmay read the entire article here, and I encourage you to do so.) But, fundamentally, Mr. Wingfield’s argument about our wrongness and alleged misuse and idolatrous worship of the Bible are flawed. I don’t know this man personally, but in his article Mr. Wingfield seems to look at Scripture as something men have created to use as a tool to subjugate minority groups. It simply is not. Christianity teaches that Scripture is God-breathed.[2] It has a divine nature as well as a human nature, just as Our Lord Jesus does, who is the Word made flesh who dwelt among us.[3] So, I think Mr. Wingfield is pointed in the wrong direction. We don’t need to say that we were wrong. We do, however, need to apologize. We need to give a defense, as Peter writes in his first letter, of our hope. That hope is, in the words of the hymn, built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

We also need to repent. We must understand that we live in a fallen creation, and that we must contend with a corrupt nature; we must understand that all of the inclinations of our heart, because of that corrupt nature, are away from God and inward toward ourselves. The inclination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. We don’t make mistakes. We sin. We transgress God’s law. We miss the mark. We don’t love God with our whole heart, nor can we of our own will.

Sometimes our sin manifests itself in some of the ways Mr. Wingfield lists. We defy the authorities over us, we hurt and kill our neighbor, we misuse the gift of sex that God has given us, we steal, we slander our neighbor, and we jealously desire the things our neighbor has to the point that we scheme to get them. In short, we do not love our neighbors as ourselves. The call to us from God through His Word is to repentance.

Mr. Wingfield, however, says we are wrong about what God says sin is. He says that we have interpreted God’s Word to say things are sinful and evil which are not; he is saying that we have, because of our worship of the Bible rather than of Jesus Himself, held on to our outdated social standards and prejudices. Society has evolved upward away from the subjugation of women, the exploitation of people of different races, and the marginalization of people of different sexual orientations and gender identifications. Mr. Wingfield’s call, in the end, is not so much a call to renounce the devil, and all his works and ways, but for us to repent from believing that Scripture is the inerrant, infallible, efficacious word of God.

We are not the problem, God and His Word is the problem. And so are those people who believe what God has said. Rather than repenting of our sin and receiving forgiveness, his fix is for us to admit we were wrong about taking God’s Word seriously in it’s condemnation of sin! The second part in this bastardized confession and absolution is for us to redefine sin and reinterpret God’s Word through our current social and cultural context. What you get when you do that is a definition of sin that says anything that makes me feel bad or uncomfortable is wrong; anything that makes me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside is right.

Rather than expend a lot of unnecessary ink rebutting each mischaracterization in detail here, I thought it would be better to give a brief summary of how Scripture addresses the three points on which Mr. Wingfield and orthodox Christianity most profoundly diverge: Slavery and racism, the subjugation of women and misogyny, and the oppression of homosexuals.

Slavery and Racism

Mr. Wingfield says, “The church has been unable to confess America’s original sin – perhaps in part because it was a faith handed down without question from parents and grandparents…” One must wonder if he says this because he is taken in by black liberation theology[4], or if he is really just unfamiliar with slavery in the Bible.

The type of slavery described in the Bible is not the same type of slavery that a 21st century American social justice warrior has in mind. It wasn’t pleasant, to be sure, but it did not have the same connotations as what we think of regarding slavery today. Each slave kept his divinity as a human being, as demonstrated in the Law of Moses.[5] It was a temporary institution, unless the slave wished to remain with his master after the seven year period of servitude. Lacking social welfare safety nets in antiquity, this type of slavery was a mechanism by which the poor could pay a debt to a creditor; a slave could also buy his freedom.[6] Again, it wasn’t necessarily pleasant; neither is bankruptcy.

This was much different from the type of slavery Americans think of when that word is used today. We think of the western slave trade, which I will refer to as American slavery. Slaves were property. They were exploited indefinitely by their owners for profit. American slavery, rather than being a type of indentured servitude[7], was racist. It was based on the idea that people with dark skin were inferior to those with light skin. It was ended only because of the efforts of Christian men and women, who worked tirelessly to that end in both the British Empire and the United States. In Britain it was legislated out of existence; in America, between 650,000 and 820,000 people had to die in a civil war end it.

Nowhere in Scripture is this type of racism condoned. God makes no racial distinction. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Either we are slaves to sin, death, and the devil, or we are slaves to righteousness.[8] We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves;[9] race is not a mitigating factor, for all who have been baptized have clothed themselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.[10] Therefore, anyone who attempted, or attempts to justify racism and slavery by using Scripture is sinning by twisting it to say something it does not.

Women and Misogyny

Mr. Wingfield says that the Biblical evidence against women as co-equals is scant. He’s correct, but not in the way he means. Men and women were created by God as equals, counterparts designed by Him to compliment each other even as they serve as an illustration of the relationship that God has with His Church. He goes on to say, however, that the Church’s bias against women is strong. Scripture, however, nowhere advocates the sinful idea that women are essentially inferior to men. Scripture does give a very clear prohibition on women being pastors, i.e. publicly proclaiming the Word in the regular worship service:[11]

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church. Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant…And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.[12]

Paul gives this prohibition by the divine influence of the Holy Spirit, and for good reasons. From a cultural perspective, the women of Corinth were accustomed to female priestesses leading pagan worship. As there had been priestesses in the adulterous and idolatrous worship of the sex goddess it was quite natural for them to assume leadership roles in the Christian congregation.[13] From a theological perspective, however, the Holy Spirit leads the Apostle Paul to the creation, and the order established by God in it. In the Garden of Eden, when Eve spoke with the serpent, she took on a role for herself which God had not delegated to her. David Scaer writes:

Adam was given the command and promise and he was responsible for all “theological negotiations.” Thus the woman’s assuming the man’s role and his assenting to this incursion are part of the first sin.[14]

The problem is not that Scripture is vague regarding the status of women, or that there is some question of outdated cultural standards. That question of whether this was just a cultural taboo is easily and definitely answered for anyone willing to investigate the Greek used in the passages, and the surrounding context of the passages themselves. The problem is that we don’t like what Scripture tells us here: Men and women, while equal in terms of their humanity, serve in different roles within the Church. So, rather than repent of our sin, we attempt to cover it over with the fig leaves of social justice and liberal theology.

As for divorce, Jesus tells us that Moses allowed divorce and regulated it because the Israelites were hard-hearted.[15] Wives were not to be simply abandoned on a whim. There were rules to be followed, and responsibilities to be taken by the husband. As for Jesus, He gives us the divine guideline that what God has joined together, let no man tear apart;[16] Jesus tells us that the only legitimate ground for divorce is adultery.[17] Inside the marriage relationship spouses are called to mutual submission and respect; husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and wives are called to respect and submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ.[18] That means that men should love their wives as they love their own selves, and should be willing to die for them, and wives should love, respect, and obey their husbands.


Certainly Mr. Wingfield is correct when he says that the issue of sexual orientation/gender identity is the most divisive of our time. We must not, however, allow him to misdirect us. The issue in question is not whether we “expel faithful followers of Christ when they reveal who God has made them to be” or not. The issue is whether or not God calls homosexuality a sin, and what is the solution He gives us for it?

We don’t need to spend a lot of time here trying to prove that the Scriptures call homosexuality a sin (they do), or if that that categorization still apples to us today (itdoes). We need to refute the notion that the Church rejects homosexuals and excludes them simply because they are homosexual[19]. This is not the case. As with any sinful human being, regardless of what their particular sin might be, there is one criterion used to decide whether or not they are excluded (read excommunicated). That criterion is faith.  Or more specifically, faith in Christ showing itself, as the person bears fruit in keeping with repentance.

But how can you tell someone to repent (turn away from) who they are? This is crueler than simply kicking them out, is it not? I happen to agree with the author that homosexual desire, and perhaps other dysphorias, have a genetic component, though I would not say that God has “made them to be” that way. We are fallen and corrupt creatures living in a fallen and corrupt creation. We should not be surprised when our defectiveness manifests itself. While I do not know what it is like to be a homosexual, I do understand what it is like to feel overwhelming desire for a behavior which is sinful. Every person deals with this struggle, though we all have different sins.

We have been taught that homosexuals are just born that way and do not choose their lifestyle. Science may have even identified the gene responsible for same sex attraction.[20] But science also tells us that alcoholism is genetic. Yet society recognizes alcoholism as unnatural and destructive. We support groups with tax dollars and tax incentives whose entire purpose is to council alcoholics not to engage in such behavior. Is this cruel and bigoted? Is it alco-phobic? Should we not, applying the same standards to this as we do to homosexuality, encourage alcoholics in their lifestyle, since it is who God made them to be? And, before arguing that alcoholism is detrimental to mental and physical health and homosexuality is not, proponents of it’s acceptance would do well to consider the scientific data to the contrary.[21]

Just because people are sinful doesn’t mean society in general, but the Church in particular, should accept and celebrate sinful behavior. That isn’t being loving or inclusive. It is to reject Christ and to embrace the world. To accept a person into your midst as the Church while embracing and celebrating their sin, whatever that sin may be, is the opposite of love, though it may make people feel good in the short term. It is to withhold the means by which God creates faith in the hearts of men, and by which they receive the forgiveness Christ won for them by His death and resurrection – the efficacious Word of God. Without hearing the Law, they will not know their sin; without hearing the Gospel, they will not know what God has done for them, forgiving their sin, cleansing them by the blood of Christ. Alternately, those who hear the proclamation of Law and Gospel and reject it are excluded from the Church, not to harm or punish them, but to show them the magnitude of their situation and, hopefully, bring them to repentance. The congregation which embraces the impenitent sinner is not the Church.

What Mr. Wingfield is really calling for is abandoning an interpretation of Scripture which takes seriously the fact that it has both a human and divine nature. He is trading that for the more intellectual human-centric higher critical approach. He is also, perhaps without realizing it (though I suspect he does realize it), calling for gospel reductionism, a Christianity that says all you need is love.

The love of God is indeed what man needs. That love comes to us in the Word made flesh, Jesus. He won salvation for mankind by dying on the cross, and conquered death by rising from the grave. He comes to create faith in us by the power of His Spirit through the means of His Word, whether preached, read, or coupled with the physical elements of water, bread and wine in the sacraments. He calls us to repent of our sins, to turn away from them. A Christianity that tries to redefine sin out of existence and make God’s Law nothing more than some outdated customs which are no longer applicable because culture has evolved isn’t honest or sincere. It isn’t woke. It isn’t being loving, or socially conscious, or even doing anyone any good. It is simply a Christianity that no longer believes in God’s Word. That Christianity does not hold God’s Word sacred, no matter how much it gives lip service to the contrary. It is no Christianity at all.

If the Church is to be “relevant in its mission and agents of God’s reconciling love,” to quote Mr. Wingfield, the solution is not to be found in preaching social justice. The solution is to preach Christ crucified and risen from the dead. It was for the forgiveness of all our sins that He died, and it was for our justification that He rose from the dead. The solution is to repent, and believe the Gospel. The problem is, preaching Christ will not make us relevant; it will make the world hate us more. To all those who find themselves in such relevant church bodies, where the heretical social gospel masquerades as the Word of God, I am so sorry.

[1] Wingfield, Mark. "3 Words for the Church in 2019: 'We Were Wrong' – Baptist News Global." Baptist News Global. January 04, 2019. Accessed January 10, 2019.
[2] 2 Timothy 3:16
[3] John 1:1-14
[4] "Black Theology." Wikipedia. September 30, 2018. Accessed January 10, 2019. Black theology seeks to liberate non-white people from multiple forms of political, social, economic, and religious subjugation and views Christian theology as a theology of liberation—"a rational study of the being of God in the world in light of the existential situation of an oppressed community, relating the forces of liberation to the essence of the Gospel, which is Jesus Christ," writes James H. Cone, one of the original advocates of the perspective. Black theology mixes Christianity with questions of civil rights, particularly raised by the Black Power movement and the Black Consciousness Movement. Further, Black theology has led the way and contributed to the discussion, and conclusion, that all theology is contextual - even what is known as systematic theology.
[5] Klotz, Joseph. "The Hodgkins Lutheran." Slavery in the Bible. March 13, 2016. Accessed January 10, 2019. This section on slavery in the Bible is condensed from an earlier article which dealt with the topic in more detail.
[6] Ibid.
[7] An indentured servant was a person who signs and is bound by indentures to work for another for a specified time especially in return for payment of travel expenses and maintenance. "Indentured Servant." Merriam-Webster. Accessed January 10, 2019.
[8] Romans 6:15-23
[9] Mark 12:30-31
[10] Galatians 3:27-28
[11] Scaer, David P. "May Women Be Ordained as Pastors?" In Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective, 227-52. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009.
[12] 1 Corinthians 14:33-38; 1 Timothy 2:12-14
[13] Scaer, David P. "May Women Be Ordained as Pastors?" In Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective, 227-52. Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Matthew 19:8
[16] Mark 10:9
[17] Matthew 19:7-9
[18] Ephesians 5:21-33
[19] Throughout the article I use the term “homosexual” to refer to everyone who identifies as some gender or sexual orientation, other than their biological sex. In popular culture today, this is most commonly referred to as LGBTQ, or more recently QUILTBAG. Since the acronym seems to constantly change, I have chosen to use the term homosexual as shorthand to standardize the language in this article; it is not intended as a sign of disrespect. I have tried, rather, to be as inoffensive as possible when speaking of people who are struggling with a particular sin, such as homosexuality. This task which becomes more precarious each day when discussing these topics, no matter what precautions one might take.
[20] Knapton, Sarah. "Being homosexual is only partly due to gay gene, research finds." 13 02 2014. The Telegraph. 12 06 2014. A study found that, while gay men shared similar genetic make-up, it only accounted for 40 per cent of the chance of a man being homosexual. But scientists say it could still be possible to develop a test to find out if a baby was more likely to be gay (Knapton).
[21] It is increasingly acknowledged inside the LGBTQ community that there are strong indications of elevated risk of suicidal behavior in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and there is an increasing problem with domestic violence as well. Additionally, homosexuals of both genders, as well as bisexual men, are at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. LGBTQ activists tend to blame these problems on the facts that they are marginalized in society and discriminated against by the mainstream.

Haas, Ann P et al. “Suicide and suicide risk in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations: review and recommendations” Journal of homosexuality vol. 58,1 (2011): 10-51.
Shwayder, Maya. "A Same-Sex Domestic Violence Epidemic Is Silent." The Atlantic. November 05, 2013. Accessed January 10, 2019.
"Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2017." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. July 24, 2018. Accessed January 10, 2019.  A fact sheet summarizing the relevant data may be found here:
Hodges, Mark. "Government: STD Rates among Homosexuals 'alarming,' 'troubling'." LifeSiteNews. November 23, 2015. Accessed January 10, 2019. This article quotes the 2017 Centers for Disease Control report on sexually transmitted diseases previously cited.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Massacre of the Innocents

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more” (Matthew 2:16-18).

Herod was the kind of the Jews, but he wasn’t a real Jew. At least, that seems to be the way that his subjects looked at him. It didn’t really matter what he said or did. Herod was an Edomite, a descendant of Esau.[1] The Jews over whom Herod ruled didn’t like being under his authority any more than they liked being ruled by the Romans. Herod, despite the fact that he used the title was, not the king of Israel. He was an Edomite vassal of the gentile pagan Romans. God promised Israel that David would have a descendant on his throne forever. This Servant of the LORD would come form David’s line and He would save His people from their sins.

Herod understood that he was an illegitimate king. This knowledge is the reason he was willing to commit infanticide. He was not righteous; morally right to Herod meant whatever benefited him was good. Based on how he governed and what he did to hold his throne he could not be called just; Herod has been described by many historians as a madman and a murderer. He murdered his own family and was “prepared to commit any crime in order to gratify his unbounded ambition.”[2] Herod was the kind of guy who wouldn’t bat an eye at murdering all the male children in Bethlehem under the age of two years, if he thought it might prevent the true King of Israel from some day deposing him.[3] That’s politics in the ancient world. At least Herod had a concrete political goal in mind when he committed his atrocity. What is our moral justification for the legalized infanticide that is abortion? Indignant, elitist bloviating about over-population or a woman’s choice hardly hold up under any serious scrutiny.

But, Herod was unsuccessful. In his murderous rage he killed the children of Bethlehem, but he missed the King of Israel, Jesus, who came to save His people from their sins. Jesus was taken to Egypt by Mary and Joseph after they were warned by God in a dream. He would, after the threat was gone, return out of Egypt. Jesus’ journey out of Egypt parallels that of the nation of Israel, which was led out of their slavery in Egypt by the LORD and into the Promised Land. He would grow, and go into the desert by the Jordan to be baptized by John: Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put my Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles… I, the LORD have called you in righteousness, and will hold Your hands; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles.[4]

It isn’t simple justice which God’s Elect One, Jesus brings. He did not come simply to save the righteous and damn the wicked. He came to bring righteousness and forgiveness to the wicked. To us. He did not come to get even with the Gentiles for their sin and unbelief, but to reconcile them to God the Father, to be a light to them. Christ came to pay for the sins of all people by His death on the cross. All people includes those of Abraham’s bloodline, whether Jacob or Esau; it includes those people not physically related to Abraham at all, like the Gentiles. It includes all people who are corrupted by the sin of their earthy father Adam. God has given Jesus as a covenant to the people. We are joined to him through baptism, by faith worked in us by the Spirit. Forgiven of our sin, Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free are clothed with the righteousness of Christ in our baptism and made into one body.[5] It is this righteousness that He graciously and mercifully gives us which makes us able to welcome His justice.

[1] Perowne, Stewart Henry. "Herod." Encyclopædia Britannica. September 27, 2018. Accessed January 19, 2019.
[2] "Herod the Great." Wikipedia. January 17, 2019. Accessed January 19, 2019.
[3] France, R. T. "The Gospel of Matthew (Google EBook)." Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Dec. 2013.
[4] Isaiah 42:1, 6
[5] Galatians 3:26-29