Quasimodogeniti Sunday Sermon
“The Divine Call”
April 23, 2006
When Jesus speaks peace to His
disciples He shows them the wounds He received on the cross.
He who was crucified is risen from the dead.
The man who died is the man who rose.
Jesus is Christ. Thomas
denied what he had never experienced.
He insisted on a religious experience and he was quite clear on
the specifications of that experience.
He insisted on seeing the print of the nails in Jesus’ hands.
He insisted on touching the print of the nails and putting his
hand into Jesus’ side where the spear pierced Him.
He insisted on seeing and touching and in this way experiencing
the truth of Christ’s resurrection in a convincing manner.
But faith is not based on seeing and touching. Faith doesn’t come from having religious experiences in
which God proves Himself to sinners.
Faith comes by hearing. We
are born again by means of the gospel that we hear.
God speaks. This is
how He created the world. This
is how He creates faith, replacing the stony heart with a heart of
flesh, making the unwilling willing, changing us from the cold
rationalists we are by nature into true Christians who live on every
word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
He teaches. He
preaches. And by His
speaking, teaching, and preaching He brings us peace.
He says, “Peace be with you.”
He doesn’t say, “May you have peace.”
He says, “Peace be with you.”
He is not praying. He
is not wishing. He is giving. His
words give what they say. When
Jesus says, “Peace be with you” this means that peace is with you.
Jesus said so. His words are not wishes.
His words are almighty. When
He says it, it is so. It is
so because He says it.
His words give us peace.
What peace? The
peace that He gained by His work. Whenever
we think of our Lord Jesus we should think about both His work and His
words. His work is what He
did. His words are always
joined to His work. What He
says and what He does go together in perfect harmony.
He’s not just talk. He’s
action. He says, “Peace
be with you” and then He shows them His hands and His side.
He speaks His word and points to His work.
Then, after showing them His work, He speaks to them again,
saying the same thing: “Peace be with you.”
What peace is this? Look
at His hands and His side. It
is the peace that Jesus has won by His work.
His work was dying for us. When
the nails pierced His hands and feet and He was raised up on the cross
He labored in agony. He
worked. He worked hard.
It was the hardest work anyone has ever done.
He fought against the evil that was poured out upon Him. He fought against the temptations of the devil.
He fought in holy innocence against the sin that was imputed to
Him. He worked.
He worked to satisfy the demands of justice.
He worked to fulfill all righteousness.
He labored under the burden of bearing the load of guilt of the
entire human race. This
holy work, this vicarious work, this successful work was signified by
the marks of the nails and spear. The
scars of His body bore witness to the truth of His words.
When Jesus says, “Peace be with you” He speaks the truth.
He gives you what He has to give.
He gives you what He earned by His bitter labor.
Isaiah wrote of Him:
shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied.
Where we Christians get all
mixed up inside and twist our faith into doubt is when we base our faith
on our experience. Our
faith is not based on our experience.
It is based on Christ’s experience.
Our faith doesn’t come from our words.
It comes from Christ’s words.
Our faith doesn’t result from anything we say or do or offer to
God. Our faith comes from
Jesus. He gives us what
belongs to Him. His work
earned it. His words give
it. Our faith receives it.
There are many things that we
Christians believe, but the heart of our faith is the forgiveness of
sins that Christ freely gives us. With
the forgiveness of sins comes the peace Jesus gives.
Here is how we confess the central truth of the Christian faith
in the Augsburg Confession (AC IV):
churches also teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own
strength, merits, or works but are freely justified for Christ’s sake
through faith when they believe that they are received into favor and
that their sins are forgiven on account of Christ, who by his death made
satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in
his sight (Rom. 3-4).
Jesus made full satisfaction for
our sins when He died. There
is nothing more that needs doing in order that we may be forgiven and
justified. But if we
didn’t believe this it would be for nothing because without faith we
do not have the forgiveness that God freely gives.
And so the Augsburg Confession continues (AC V):
order that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel
and administering the sacraments was instituted.
For through the Word and the sacraments, as through instruments,
the Holy Spirit is given, and the Holy Spirit produces faith, where and
when it pleases God, in those who hear the Gospel.
That is to say, it is not on account of our own merits but on
account of Christ that God justifies those who believe that they are
received into favor for Christ’s sake. Gal. 3:14, “That we might
receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
Jesus sent the original
ministers as recorded in our text as well as in Matthew 28 and Mark 16.
He sent them to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments
so that, through these means of grace, the Holy Spirit they received
would be given to others. The
Holy Spirit brings us to faith. This
is why we need pastors who will faithfully preach the gospel and
administer the sacraments of Christ.
We need faith. God needs to send men who will preach the same gospel and
administer the same sacraments entrusted to the apostles.
God sends pastors today, even as He has sent pastors ever since
Jesus sent the first pastors. God sends them. They
don’t send themselves. God
sends them through the call of the church, but it is God sending them. Here is what we confess about the divine call of pastors in
the Augsburg Confession (AC XIV):
Our churches teach that nobody should preach publicly in the church or administer the sacraments unless he is regularly called.
The church doesn’t hire
preachers. God sends them. Jesus
said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Now was Jesus speaking merely to those men present with Him
in the room? No, Jesus was
speaking to all future pastors in His church.
He sends them. The
apostles were sent directly by Jesus, but the apostolic ministry
continues until the end of time. Pastors
since the time of the apostles have been sent by Christ through the call
of the church. For example, the pastors in Ephesus were not put into office
directly by Jesus, but rather through the call of the church.
Yet to these men St. Paul says in Acts 20:28, “Therefore take
heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has
made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased
with His own blood.” It
was the Holy Spirit who made the pastors overseers of the congregations
they served. And so it is
Jesus breathed on His disciples
and said to them, “Receive the Holy Ghost.
Whosever sins you forgive, they are forgiven.
Whosever sins you retain, they are retained.”
Jesus speaks through His preachers.
When we hear them speak we hear Jesus speak. When they preach God’s law, God Himself is judging us and
showing us our sins. The
man whose voice you hear is a sinner like you, but the law he preaches
has divine authority. No
mere man judges your heart and exposes your conscience to the sin in
your life. God does.
God speaks through His ministers.
Similarly, when the minister sent by Christ tells you that for
Christ’s sake your sins are forgiven it is as if Jesus Christ Himself
were saying this to you because Jesus Christ Himself is saying this to
you. He is doing so through
the mouth of His minister.
We receive Christ’s ministers
because Christ sends them. Jesus
says to His ministers, as recorded in St. Luke 10:16, “He who hears
you hears me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me
rejects Him who sent Me.” Jesus
does not send men to preach false doctrine.
Ministers who preach false doctrine are to be marked and avoided.
There is no divine call to preach or teach anything but the truth
of the Holy Scriptures. But
ministers who are regularly called and who preach the pure gospel
faithfully and administer the sacraments of Christ according to
Christ’s institution are indeed sent by Christ.
They may not be hired and fired at will.
To fire a faithful minister of the word and sacraments is to
expel Jesus from His own church. As
Jesus said, “He who rejects you rejects Me.”
We defend the divine call of our
pastors, not to honor them but to honor Christ who sent them.
We do so to protect ourselves from hirelings who will preach
whatever our itching ears want to hear.
The doctrine of the divine call for ministers of word and
sacrament is not for the benefit of the ministers.
It is for the benefit of those they serve.
You cannot trust a pastor who can be hired and fired at will.
When Jesus sends men to preach He puts them under orders.
They are accountable to Him first of all.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Let a man so consider us as ministers
of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:1)
What is the goal of this
ministry of Christ? What
does God want it to accomplish? Exactly
what Jesus said when He first instituted it: “Peace be with you.”
He wants us to receive His peace.
The sin that keeps us from God must be exposed by God’s law. This is why Christ’s ministers must preach the law.
It is not to make us better. It
is to show us our sins. Those
who cling to their sins, refusing to repent of them, must be told by
Christ’s ministers that those sins are retained by God.
When they are led to acknowledge their sins and repent, the
minister of Christ must tell them that for Christ’s sake their sins
are forgiven. This is the
source of peace. If God has
forgiven you He isn’t angry with you, so why should you be angry with
Him? His gospel not only
gives you the forgiveness of your sins – by the authority of Christ
Himself – it also brings to you God’s peace.
You see and hear only a man who is no different than you.
You don’t see Jesus. But
you hear Him. And you
receive the same peace the first disciples received.
You are filled with the same Spirit.
You too can forgive your neighbor who sins against you. We can give only what we have.
We confess our sins to God.
We receive His forgiveness.
It is given to us in words spoken by men He sends.
We take these words to heart.
We give what we have received.
This is the life of the Christian.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus