Song of the Drunkards


JESUS FACED A CONSIDERABLE AMOUNT OF OPPOSITION FOR HIS HARD WORDS AND UNFLINCHING DEVOTION TO YAHWEH. NO SURPRISE THEN IF WE FIND OUR NAME FESTOONED IN BARROOM BALLADS (CF. PS 69:12).


What does Baptism reveal?

April 18, 2021 in Baptism, Bible - OT - Exodus, Children, Church History, Covenantal Living, Depravity, Ecclesiology, Human Condition, Justification, Meditations, Parents, Sacraments, Ten Commandments

Exodus 20:4–6
4“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

This morning we have the privilege of baptizing Samuel Seitz into the faith. As I do so, it is beneficial to consider the meaning and significance of our baptisms. Christ sent His disciples into the world to disciple the nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. So what is the significance of these baptisms? Baptism says something about us and baptism says something about God.

First, baptism says something about us. Baptism declares, in no uncertain terms, that we are sinners in need of salvation by Christ. We are dirty and our filth must be washed away. And the baptism of infants announces the sober reality of original sin. On one occasion, the theologian John Gerstner was a visiting preacher and was asked to baptize one of the infants of the church. They explained to him one of their local traditions – prior to the baptism, the minister would give a white rose to the parents. Gerstner, of course, wanted to know why. They replied that the rose symbolized the innocence of the child. In his pithy way, Gerstner replied, “Then what’s the point of the water?” Baptism announces that we all, even infants who are not yet old enough to know their right hand from their left, are born in sin. By nature, we are all subject to God’s just wrath and curse. Baptism, therefore, reveals something about us – that we are sinners in need of salvation by Christ – only He can save us, not we ourselves.

Second, baptism says something about God. It announces that God has graciously provided a way of salvation, a way to be cleansed of our sin, cleansed of our corruption – both the original sin with which we are born and the personal sins that we ourselves begin to practice. God has provided a sacrifice to cover the guilt of our sin in the Person of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism reveals something about God – His forgiving grace through Jesus Christ.

And the baptism of infants declares something further about God’s grace. Infant baptism proclaims that His grace is not confined to atomistic individuals but extends itself to families, from generation to generation on those who fear Him. In baptism, God Himself speaks to our children. He promises them that He will be their God and the God of their children after them. Notice our text today:

For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

What is God like? What is His character? He is a God who shows mercy to thousands of generations of those who love Him. So Mary, the mother of our Lord, sang in her Magnificat: “For God’s mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation” (Lk 1:50). In our baptisms, God summons us to believe His Word by loving Him and keeping His commandments.

Baptism, therefore, reveals something about us – our sin; but it also reveals something about God – His abounding grace. And so reminded this morning that baptism proclaims our sinful corruption and our sinful actions and our need for the forgiving grace of God in Christ, let us confess our sin to the Lord. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Habituated to the Contempt of Death

April 12, 2021 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Church Calendar, Church History, Easter, Meditations, Quotations, Resurrection, Trials

1 Corinthians 15:51–57
51Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Last week we celebrated Easter. But lest we think we can exhaust the glory of Easter with one day of worship, the Church has historically celebrated this period of time as Eastertide – so today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Jesus’ resurrection inaugurates a season for rejoicing! Jesus has risen from the dead! And this means that for all those who believe in Him our bodies likewise will be raised.

It is this theme upon which Paul dwells in our text today. This corruptible body shall pass through the furnace of death and be raised incorruptible; this mortal body shall pass through the furnace of death and be raised immortal. And when this has happened, when at the Last Day Christ has returned in glory and raised us from the dead and transformed us into His own image – righteous, incorruptible, immortal – then shall come to pass the promise of Scripture, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

So what does this mean? It means that we can have immense hope and confidence in the face of death itself and in the face of all death’s minions – sickness, pain, torture, persecution, hardship, trial. None of these things have the last word – the last word belongs to Jesus and to life. As horrible as death is, as devastating as it is, death is a conquered foe. Jesus rose from the dead; Jesus dealt death a death blow. We now live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead; because Christ has risen, we too shall rise. As Paul declares, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is this confidence in the face of death that enables us to fulfill the twofold task that Jesus has entrusted to us as His disciples. On the one hand, Christ calls us to lead lives of godly sincerity and purity no matter what opposition we may face, no matter what others may think or say. On the other hand, while living this way, Christ does not permit us to retreat into a little hovel but calls us to engage all the nations of the earth with the message of the Gospel, to be the light of the world. He calls us to stand against the world on behalf of the world. So how can we accomplish such a task? The early church historian Eusebius writes:

[To accomplish this twofold task] the strongest conviction of a future life was necessary, that [we] might be able with fearless and unshrinking zeal to maintain the conflict with… error: a conflict the dangers of which [we] would never have been prepared to meet, except as habituated to the contempt of death.

We are called to maintain the truth of God against all opposition with fearless and unshrinking zeal. We can only accomplish this when habituated to the contempt of death. And what is it that habituates us to such contempt? Deep meditation on the resurrection of our Lord. Jesus has died and risen again “that He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb 2:14-15). Jesus has risen from the dead to free us from the fear of death. Hence, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7). So what should characterize our lives? “A fearless and unshrinking zeal” to maintain the truth of God against all opposition – whether from our own flesh or from the world or from the devil himself. Congregation of the Lord, Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed!)

So reminded this morning of the power of Christ’s resurrection but no doubt reminded also that we frequently are fearful and shrinking rather than fearless and unshrinking, let us kneel and confess our lack of faith to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.

What is the Meaning of the Resurrection?

April 4, 2021 in Authority, Bible - NT - John, Church Calendar, Creeds, Easter, Faith, Holy Spirit, Judgment, King Jesus, Meditations, Resurrection

John 20:19–23 (NKJV)
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

For nearly two millennia now our fathers and mothers have been celebrating the feast of Easter – the celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. On this day, the first day of the week, nearly two millennia ago our Lord Jesus rose bodily from the grave to conquer sin and death.

So what is the meaning of the resurrection? Is the resurrection just a nice story about the tenacity of life over death? Is it like the fairy tales of old, a tale that’s obviously not true but meant to teach us some moral lesson? Certainly not! The Scriptures declare that the resurrection is, first of all, historical. Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. It is God’s proof to the world of the reality of His existence, the certainty of coming judgment, and the promise of forgiveness for those who believe in the Risen Christ. It is then, second, theological. Because Jesus rose from the dead, He has conquered death and now reigns as the Messiah, the Ruler over all the earth. As I said in our greeting this morning, Jesus Christ is “the firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

John records the significance of Jesus’ Lordship in his Gospel. In the evening of this day, Jesus appeared to the disicples and pronounced His blessing upon them and commissioned them to be His emissaries to the world. “Peace be to you!” he said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Even as the Father sent Jesus into the world to seek and to save that which was lost, to reconcile us as human beings to Himself, so Jesus has sent the Church to proclaim His death and resurrection to all nations. He has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation. We petition the world, on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor 5:20)

To accomplish this task, our Risen Lord has poured out His Spirit upon us and given us the immense privilege of proclaiming forgiveness in His Name. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.” We have the privilege of declaring to all those who put their faith in Christ, “You are forgiven. Jesus really has conquered sin and death. He is our great High Priest who reconciles us to God.” And because the forgiveness of sins is such great good news, the elders have decided to supplement our liturgy with a congregational response to the pronouncement of pardon. Henceforth, after I declare, “Your sins are forgiven!”, you get to respond, “Alleluia! Praise the Lord!”

Alongside this joyful task, the Church has the solemn duty of warning the nations that apart from faith in Christ, there is no forgiveness or reconciliation with God. “If you retain the sins of any,” Jesus declares, “they are retained.” If human individuals and societies would prosper, then they must seek God’s blessing through Christ alone. As Jesus declared to the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jewish nation, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. All other paths end in judgment.

So listen – where have you placed your confidence for acceptance by God? Jesus is the Risen Lord, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. On the last day, we shall all rise from our graves and stand before this King as our judge and give an account of how we have served Him. If we remain in rebellion against Him, refusing to find in Him the One who reconciles us to God, then we shall be judged. So turn from your sin and turn to Christ; rely on Him and Him alone for forgiveness. Only in and through Jesus can we be reconciled to God.

Reminded that we can only be reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus, let us confess our sin and seek His forgiveness in Christ. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confession. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin. Our confession for Eastertide acknowledges the ways we have transgressed each of the Ten Commandments.