The Nicene and Athanasian Creeds III

The following excerpt is from the book, I Believe: A Study of the three universal or ecumenical creeds by Bjarne W. Teigen.

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The Third Article of the Nicene Creed is quite similar to the Apostles’ Creed except it adds the confession of one baptism for the remission of sins. The Early Church accepted the fact of monotheism (one God) and the revelation Christ had given before His Ascension of Baptism into the Name of the Triune God, and that yet there were not three Gods, but One God. They recognized the Father as God, the Son as God, and the Holy Spirit as God, yet there were not three Gods but only One God. This is a deep mystery beyond human comprehension. Arius believed the Holy Spirit was also a created being, an energy of some kind from God, an impersonal force.

Athanasius took the lead in arguing that the Holy Spirit is also one essence with the Father and the Son. The one Godhead exists simultaneously in there Persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Paul called the Spirit Lord (II Cor. 3:17-18; and the Spirit of Life (Rom. 8:2; II Cor. 3:6). The phrase who proceedeth from the Father and the Son is also Biblical (Jn. 15:26; I Cor. 2:12). The expression and the Son (the filoque) was confessed only in the Western Church, added in 589 at the Synod of Toledo in Spain. The Spirit proceeds from the Father (Mt. 10:20) and is sent by the Son (Jn. 20:22) and is to be worshipped and glorified together with them.

Who spake by the prophets: recalls the words of Peter in II Pet. 1:21. The Nicene Fathers confessed the doctrine of Verbal Inspiration that holy men of God wrote only that which the Holy Ghost communicated to them by inspiration. Because the Scriptures were true they could confess in the Second Article rose again according to the Scriptures. The Nicene Creed is accepted by the Christian World as a true statement of orthodox doctrine.

The Athanasian Creed: Historical Background: I doubt whether the New Testament Church has a more important document since the Apostolic Age (Luther). We don’t really know if Athanasius was the actual author of this Confession. The Western Church believed he wrote it while in exile in the West. In view of this tradition this Creed was formally accepted into the Lutheran Book of Concord in 1580. If Athanasius did not write this Creed we don’t know who did.

The first manuscript of the Athanasian Creed appeared in Latin among the sermons of Caesarius, the Bishop of Arles a city in Southern France from 502-542. There is no proof that Caesarius was the author. It was a popular Creed for instructional purposes especially after Charlemagne (724-814) decreed that all churchmen had to learn it. The clergy were required to memorize it, grasp its meaning and be able to expound upon it. The Roman Church ordered it recited on certain Sundays in the year, in particular Trinity Sunday. Let’s look at the structure of the Creed.

One of the striking differences between this Creed and the others are the damnatory clauses that explicitly draw a line between true and false doctrine. The word Faith is used in the sense of the doctrine delivered by the inspired apostolic teachers, in contrast to its usual meaning, faith in Jesus Christ (Jude 3). Negative statements such as he shall perish everlastingly is called the damnatory clauses. (Gal. 1:8-9). The Greek word for accursed or be damned is Anathema. Therefore clauses which reject false teaching are called Anathemas. Such clauses are also found in the Book of Concord.

Many theologians and laymen take exception to these clauses for fear of offending someone, but they overlook the fact that the revealed doctrine of Christ is exclusive (Acts 4:12). The Athanasian Creed deals with fundamental Christian truths, the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, and His Redeeming work. Our eternal salvation is at stake because without these truths, saving faith is impossible.

Sentences 1-6: This catholic or universal faith consists first of all in worshiping one God in Trinity and in Unity. This Creed begins by setting forth the Trinity as a unit (I Cor. 8:4) and yet describe to three, namely the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19). When we accept the Athanasian Creed we are confessing that these truths have come directly from God’s Holy Scriptures, His direct revelation, and in this God alone can man truly worship the one and only God.

One God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity with the warning not to confound the Persons nor to divide the Substance. The word Person meant that which subsists of itself and is not part or a quality of another (AC 1,4). The term essence or substance was used to signify the one undivided essence or reality common to the three Persons of the Deity. Only one such essence belongs to each person of the Godhead, wholly without division therefore each must have exactly the same glory and majesty as the other two.

Sentences 7-14 the Creed analyzes the attributes of the Godhead and finds each to be uncreated, infinite, eternal and omnipotent yet we are warned against concluding that there are three infinites, eternals, etc.

Sentences 15-20 warns against tritheism (that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate distinct Gods). Each of the Three Persons is God and Lord because each one of them is the one Godhead and yet there are not three Gods or Three Lords. Scripture ascribes the entire Godhead not only to the Father but also to the Son (Col. 2:9) and to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:4). They differ only in the relation they bear to one another.

Sentences 21-23 spell out this relationship. In eternity the Son is begotten as a distinct person from the Father (Ps 2:7) and the Holy proceeds from the Father and the Son but He remains in the Father and the Son and they remain in the Spirit’s essence. The Spirit is both of the Father (Mt. 10:20) and of the Son (Gal. 4:6).

Sentences 24-28 make the point that none of the Three is greater or lesser than another, but all Three are co-equal and co-eternal. Orthodoxy worships the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity and we cannot go any further than this because the Triune God has not revealed any more to us.

Sentences 29-37 assert that in the Incarnation Christ is at once fully God and fully Man. He had a twofold generation before time from the Father and in time from the Virgin Mary. Jesus revealed that He existed before He was born of the Virgin Mary (Jn. 8:58; 17:5). He took on human nature from the Virgin Mary in the fullness of time (Jn. 1:14; Rom. 9:5; I Tim. 3:16) becoming a complete man with body and soul with no division in His being.

Sentences 38-43 briefly explains what this Divine Human Christ has done, still does, and will do for our salvation. Here is it quite similar to the Second Article of the other two Ecumenical Creeds. Sentence 44 brings us back to the beginning on the absolute necessity of keeping this Faith pure or eternal perdition will follow.

The Son of God assumed human nature so that men might not be destroyed by death and to restore us to fellowship with God. The human nature alone would not have been an adequate ransom for sin. Only the Son of God suffering and dying in His own flesh could be the propitiation for the sins of the world. It is a work of divine power that the Son gathers His eternal Church from the human race, converts, justifies, sanctifies, saves, governs, and preserves it and bestows the Holy Ghost upon it, raises all men from the dead and leads the elect into eternal life (Chemnitz: The Two Natures in Christ).

 Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; As it was in the Beginning, is now, and ever shall be; World without end. Amen.

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The Creeds: A study of the Apostles’ & Nicene Creeds II

The following excerpt is from the book, I Believe: A Study of the three universal or ecumenical creeds by Bjarne W. Teigen.

The Creeds

A study of the Apostles’ & Nicene Creeds II

The Third Article: I believe in the Holy Ghost completes the confession of the Trinitarian Baptismal Formula commanded by Christ (Mt. 28:19). The Holy Spirit is put on the same level with the Father and the Son but the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son. God is not split into three parts, each person being one third of the Godhead, each person is the fullness of the Godhead. We are baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and these three are equal in authority, dignity, and essence.

The Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints: From here on the Apostle’s Creed confesses the activity of the Holy Spirit. He creates the church, the believers who are brought to faith through the Spirit’s working through the Gospel and the Sacraments. Scripture ascribes to the Holy Spirit the entire work of conversion (ICor. 6:11; I Cor.12:3;Titus 3:5) The Holy Spirit creates faith through the Word and Sacraments (Rom. 1:16; 10:17;Eph. 2:20; I Thess. 1:5; 2:13).

Lutherans use the form I believe in the Holy Christian Church since it has been customary since the 15th century to translate Catholic with Christian (Catholic = general or universal). The phrase communion of saints emphasizes that the church of Christ is a gathering of those who have been justified by faith and are therefore blameless before God (II Cor. 1:1). But this phrase was not always in the Creed but was a later addition from Greek or Eastern sources and originally meant participation in the holy things.

It has reference to the means of grace the Gospel, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper by which the church is created. Through these means along with Absolution the child of God is constantly offered and assured of the forgiveness of sins. With this divine assurance the Christian boldly declares I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. The Scriptures in both OT and NT clearly teach the resurrection of the body (Job. 19:26; Dan. 12:2; Jn. 5:28; 11:23; I Cor. 15:12; I Thes 4:16), that the soul will be united with the same body that perished at death but at that time it will be an immortal and incorruptible body. This new body will be eternal, like the body Christ had when He rose from the dead.

Amen! The Holy Christian Church ends its confession with the word Amen or it is reliable or true. A Christian’s faith is built upon the promise of the God of truth (Is. 65:16), upon the Lord Christ who calls Himself the Amen (Rev. 3:14), and in whom all the promises of God are yea and Amen (II Cor. 1:20).

The Nicene Creed: The Historical Background: After Pentecost opposition to Christianity came from both Romans and Jews in the form of persecution but also to Christian doctrine as a revelation of truth from God. The first great controversy concerned the central doctrine of the Godhead, the Trinity and the relation of Jesus, the Word, to the Godhead. The OT emphasized the unity oneness of God (monotheism) over against the polytheism of the pagan religions. The NT teaches the same (Mk. 12:29 & 32) but it also teaches the Trinity of God; three distinct persons in the undivided essence of God (Mt. 28:19).

As the church added more and more Gentile converts pagan philosophies of various sorts came to influence the thinking of some Christians, especially some of the intellectual leaders. The main problem was maintaining monotheism yet recognizing three persons. How does one assert that the Son is other than the Father and yet confess the Son is one substance with the Father?

This controversy developed chiefly in the Easter church where a brilliant theologian at Alexandria, Egypt Arius (250-336) began to publish his conclusions which disagreed with the Scriptures. When he used the term God he meant only God the Father. The Son or the Word as Scripture calls Him in the first chapter of John must therefore be a created being. Christ was perfect and not to be compared to the rest of creation, but He was still a creature who had a beginning. He had a beginning and though He was created before the world yet there was a time when He was not. The Son was God’s Word and Wisdom He is not that Word and Wisdom that belongs to God’s essence. The net result was to reduce the Son to a sort of half God. Arius was excommunicated but the virus had spread and was about to cause a great schism within the Eastern Church.

The Council of Nicea (325 AD): Constantine the Great (274-337), became emperor of Rome in 324 and hoped that he would receive help from the Christian Church in unifying his empire. When he realized how divided the church was on this issue he called a church council to resolve the issue. Constantine was a not a Christian (though baptized on his death bed) he was a friend of Christians. The Council met in May and June 325 in Nicea, a city not far from Constantinople where Constantine had a palace. 220 Bishops were present at the council whose purpose was to formulate beyond misunderstanding what the Scriptures taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

The great question was: Is the Son Very God of Very God? Is He truly completely divine or was He, as the Arians had asserted, a subordinate being, in a sense divine, but not with the divinity of God the Father? The Arian Theologians were brilliant but the orthodox party had its heroes too. Bishop Alexander came to the Council of Nicea with a young priest who served as his secretary named Athanasius (296-373). The young priest was a small man, his opponents called him a dwarf, but as a theologian he was a giant. The Council of Nicea was Athanasius against the world.

Throughout his life he remained immovable in the convictions he had gained from Scripture. At least 20 years of his life had been spent in five different exiles because of his opposition to the Arian party which had achieved considerable political power for several years after Nicea. He would not give up God’s truth and was a champion of Orthodoxy. Today his name stands for those who resist not only society and popular interest but are ready to withstand the leaders of the external church when they give up the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

Arius tried to twist certain Scriptural terms and read his notions into them so the Council inserted certain clauses from which the Arian party could not escape. Constantine suggested the Greek word: Homooousion translated of one or the same substance with. Besides Arius, five persons refused to sign the statement and the Emperor banished them. Another division occurred later and in 381 another Ecumenical Council was held at Constantinople where the Nicene Creed was reaffirmed in a new expanded form, which is the form used in our churches today. The Council of Chalcedon (451) officially endorsed this expanded form of the Creed.

Athanasius saw that the Arian view destroyed the certainty of our salvation. If the Word is a mutable creature as the Arians insisted, then He could not reveal the Father to us and He could not be our Redeemer. Only if he Mediator was Himself divine could He reconcile us to the Father.

The Doctrinal Content of the Nicene Creed: The First Article: The Doctrine of the Trinity focuses attention on Christ the Savior who became incarnate for man’s salvation but it includes more. To know and worship God as Triune is to acknowledge Him as a God of grace, who through His Spirit seeks and converts sinners for Christ’s sake. The First Article is similar to the Apostle’s Creed. By using the expression I believe in one God it emphasized that there is only one God and that God is the God of Scripture. All other Gods are idols.

The Second Article: And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father. The Nicene Creed is more doctrinal than the Apostle’s Creed since it was designed to stop Arianism within the church. Here Jesus is called Very God of Very God This phase asserts that Jesus Christ is truly and completely divine. The Son is truly God in whatever sense the Father is true God. He is not a subordinate being, divine but not of the same divinity as God the Father. The Creed testifies to the pre-existence of the Son of God. He existed before time, before the foundation of the world, from eternity. (Col 1:17; Jn. 17:5; Jn. 8:42; Jn. 1:1, 2).

The clause being of one substance with the Father Homoousion is the most famous in the Creed. The Nicene Creed clearly confesses that the Son shared the divine essence to the full; whatever belonged to the Godhead belonged to the Son. He is both God and Lord in the absolute sense without any limitations. The orthodox party was a little uncomfortable with the word at first because it was new and they were afraid it might obliterate the distinction between the Father and the Son.

By whom all things were made Scripture clearly teaches that the Son existed prior to all things and the Creation itself is ascribed to Him (Jn. 1:3; Heb. 1:2; Col. 1:16; Eph. 3:9). If all things were created by Him then He cannot be a created being. All persons in the Trinity are active in creating and preserving the world of creation (Rom. 11:36).

Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate He suffered and was buried. The Creed also testifies to the saving work of Christ and His complete humanity (Apolinarius: When the Son of God became man He did not have a human soul and personality rather the eternal Word was substituted for a normal personality in Christ).

For us men and for our salvation confesses the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the Son of God, to reconcile sinful man to God. Our High Priest who is both God and man had to give a ransom that was sufficient and acceptable to God. The ransom could not be paid with silver and gold (I Pet. 1:18). Nor could the blood of bulls and goats suffice (Heb. 10:4). Only God could reconcile the world unto Himself (II Cor.5:19). Christ fulfilled the Law in our stead (Gal. 4:4-5) and bare our sins in His own body on the tree (I Pet. 2:24).

The exaltation of Christ is confessed in much the same way as the Apostles’ Creed. Whose Kingdom shall have no end. It is the Christian’s comfort that His Savior has established for him a Kingdom of grace which shall never end and in which He will reign throughout all eternity. Amen.

 

 

 

 

The Creeds: A Study of the Apostle’s Creed I

The following excerpt is from the book, I Believe: A Study of the three universal or ecumenical creeds by Bjarne W. Teigen.

The Creeds

A Study of the Apostle’s Creed I

What is a Creed? II Cor 4:13: I believed and therefore have I spoken. The word Creed comes from the Latin Credo or I believe. Originally the Latin word carried the connotation I have confidence in; I rely upon. In this way the word corresponds to the word faith or trust (Pistis) which takes us to the very heart of the Gospel (Rom. 3:28). There is a clear connection between saving faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the confession of our faith (Rom. 10:9-10). The word confession is homologia (to say the same thing; (I Jn. 1:9; 4:15). The confession of faith was not only a personal declaration of the individual Christian but also the standard or norm for the true faith used to combat false doctrine. (An early creed: I Cor. 15:3-7).

In the ancient church another word was used for a creed or statement of faith, the word Symbol. The Greek word meant to put together and then to compare things to see similarity or dissimilarity. So Symbol both in Latin and Greek came to mean a confession or creed that identified one’s belief. By the third century the word Symbol came to refer to the Baptismal questions and answers based on the Trinitarian formula commanded by our Savior (Mt. 28:18-20). Later Symbol became another name for the Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds which are fixed formulas summarizing the essential articles of the Christian faith that identified the Christian as orthodox over heretical.

The NT gives many admonitions that Christians should believe, teach, and confess all things that Christ has commanded (Mt. 28:19-20; Jn. 8:31-32; I Cor. 1:10) and to avoid those who believe and teach what is contrary to Apostolic doctrine (Mt. 7:15; Rom. 16:17; II Jn. 9-10). The early church took these admonitions seriously and did not practice church fellowship with those who denied apostolic doctrine. One did not worship and participate in the Lord’s Supper without being examined as to what his beliefs were to see if they were in harmony with Scripture. Also, the Early Church held that the terms of the Creeds conveyed exactly the meaning of Scripture which they believed had absolute authority as a source of doctrine. The three creeds are a great heritage from the Early Church for they testify to the great truths of Scripture.

 

  1. The Apostle’s Creed: Historical Background: The Apostle’s Creed was the first of the so-called Ecumenical (universal) Creeds. For nearly 2000 years these Ecumenical Creeds have been the standard of confession by Bible believing Christians. In 1580 the Lutheran Church, to show that it was not a new sect and its continuity with the Ancient Church, incorporated the three Creeds into its Confessions. Even though we call this the Apostle’s Creed there is no evidence that it comes directly from the Apostles. This was a popular myth for many years. But the Apostle’s Creed reproduces authentically the Apostolic Doctrine drawn from the Scriptures.

 

The Bible contains many somewhat formalized statements of faith which serve as short confessions of doctrine. I Cor 8:6; 12:13; Phil. 2:5-11; I Tim. 2:4-6, I Tim. 3:16. Before someone was baptized the early church gave them instruction in the doctrines of Christ then they were asked the questions on faith. The early baptismal rituals were not unlike our present ones where the questions are answered by the Apostle’s Creed. The Creed is not a dry lifeless piece of prose but a confession of revelatory truths with great doctrinal significance.

III. The Doctrinal Content of the Apostle’s Creed: The first Article begins: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth. These words take us back to Genesis 1:1: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Though the Apostle’s Creed does not contain the words One God as do the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds it nevertheless implies its belief that there is but one God who is revealed in the Trinity (Mt. 28:19). There is only One God as opposed to the many gods of the pagans. Father and Almighty are two separate modifiers of God (Gal. 1:3; Phil 2:11; I Thess. 1:1; I Pet 1:2).

God is the Father in relation to the Son, who is begotten of the Father. He is the Father of goodness Out of His pure fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part (Small Catechism).  The Early Church also emphasized the word Almighty in the sense of the Greek word pantokrator meaning all ruling or all sovereign. The modern understanding God’s ability to do all things.

The Second Article: I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord. Here we see the deity of Jesus clearly asserted and His office as the anointed Mediator sent by in the word Christ. The uniqueness of Jesus as Son of God is brought out with the word only. He is God’s Son in a sense entirely different from which we can be sons of God by adoption (Jn. 1:14; 1:18; 3:16;I Jn. 4:9). Jesus Christ alone is one with the Father and in His knowledge of the Father.

He was conceived by the Holy Ghost born of the Virgin Mary (Lu. 1:31; 35). Jesus Christ is the pre-existent Son of God who now becomes incarnate (taking on human form and nature), without a human father but born of a virgin mother. (Is. 7:14; Mt.1:23). This fact so clearly revealed in Scripture is a mystery to the human mind and rejected by modern thought. The doctrine of the Trinity and the Second Person of the Trinity becoming man go hand in hand (See Augsburg Confession I and III).

Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried (I Tim. 6:13). In these words the Creed places the redeeming work of Christ into the center of world history. Pontius Pilate was the Roman Governor of Judea (26-36 Ad) when Jesus was crucified. Christianity is rooted in history. Paul identifies the crucifixion as a significant aspect of Christ’s Passion (I Cor. 2:2; Gal. 3:1)  as does Peter (Acts 2:23; 4:10).

He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Here the Creed confesses the State of Exaltation of our Savior which began with His return to life. Before He gives proof to men that He is alive again He descended into hell (I Pet.3:18-20; Col. 2:15), the prison in which were the spirits of those who during their lifetime were disobedient to the Word of God, as was the case in the days of Noah. Christ appeared before them as victor over death and Satan and as Lord over death and life. This is denied by many today who no longer believe there is a hell for condemned souls.

Just as the Scriptures make the resurrection of Christ from the dead the central content of the Gospel (I Cor. 15; Rom. 1:4; 4:25), so the Christian Church on the first day of the week (Sunday) confesses with the mouth what it believes in the heart. The third day He rose again from the dead. After Christ had shown Himself to the disciples for forty days He was taken up into the heavens (Acts 1:9) to sit at the Right Hand of the Father to intercede for us (Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1;Eph. 1:20). Sitting at the Right Hand of the Father signifies Christ’s assumption of the full glory and dominion of His deity in contrast to His time on earth (humiliation) when the Savior refrained from making full use of His power as God.

From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead: As the result of our Savior’s glorious victory, His final, visible return is confessed in the Second Article (II Pet. 3:2-4). The angel gave the disciples this same assurance at the ascension (Acts 1:11) and the Apostle’s Creed simply repeats as its faith that this Jesus was ordained to the be the judge of the quick and the dead (Acts 10:42; II Tim. 4:2; I Pet. 4:5).

It is my prayer that as we confess the Creeds in the Divine Service and Vespers we would understand what we are confessing and have a new appreciation of the truth it conveys. Next Week: Third Article.

 

 

Jackson Right to Life: Meditation: October 23rd 2012

Jackson Right to Life: Meditation: October 23rd 2012

For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet (I Cor. 15:25). Many Christians in our day have a radically individualistic faith that avoids political involvement focusing exclusively on personal piety; on making the individual soul better. Piety is godliness of character, zeal to grow in grace and wisdom, and bearing the fruit of the Spirit which is all good and necessary. Our first obligation is to pursue personal holiness but we must not stop there. We must also work to see our children grow in grace, praying that the church would continue to be salt and light in the world, and then work to see all human institutions brought under the Lordship of Christ and His Word. These are all bound together, for as I get better by God’s grace, the family, the church, and the nation will get better.

I’ve heard well meaning Christians say that we should not seek to make abortion illegal because it’s a heart matter, we only need to win souls for Christ and the abortion issue will take care of itself. You could argue the same about murder after all, murder is illegal and people still do it, so why should we work so hard to prosecute murderers? Isn’t soul winning much more important? These Christians fail to realize that God has established the state as His instrument of justice in the world and given it the sword to punish evil doers (Romans 13:1-4). This means that God calls the state to protect the unborn just as it protects all citizens from murderers or other criminals. Therefore it is impiety for the church to abandon the unborn for to do so is to abandon our calling in the world.

Others argue that the church’s sole function is the ministry of Word and Sacrament, after all, they say, the Bible does not directly speak to political issues, so the Church should not speak out concerning homosexual behavior or in defense of the unborn, for culture is culture, a human reality, whereas the church deals with spiritual reality. The Gospel subdues the hearts of men by God’s grace and affirms the Lordship of Christ over every human institution, vocation, and endeavor. The Sacraments enlist and feed the Lord’s army and Christ has called the church to extend His reign in the world by teaching and baptizing the nations and then teaching the world all He has taught us. (Matthew 28:19-20). The church must seek to bring souls to faith in Christ and seek justice for the unborn. We are called to personal holiness (Hebrews 12:14) and also to war. Our weapons in this battle are spiritual, the armor of the Gospel and the sword of the Spirit which have the power to defeat the devil’s kingdom. (Ephesians 6:10-18). May God give us His grace and strength for this battle; Amen.

 

Right to Life: Meditation: September 25, 2012

Jackson Right to Life: Meditation: Sept. 25th 2012

 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Many people do not realize that in the early days of our nation civil law was written according to God’s law. This is why there were laws in every state against abortion, sodomy, witchcraft, adultery, fornication, gambling, prostitution, and pornography because these were things forbidden by the Word of God. Michigan is one of the last states in the nation to still have a law against adultery on its books, a felony offense, punishable by life in prison. In other words, what was according to God’s Law was legal but if it was forbidden in God’s Word, it was illegal. This attitude of our forefathers toward God’s Law as it relates to civil law reflects a nation that honored God and His Word.

But during the past few decades our government has been gradually making sin legal. Crimes that were punishable by prison are now celebrated as signs of enlightenment, freedom, and progress. This causes confusion in the minds of many people. I’ve heard people say: Abortion must be OK after all, it’s legal isn’t it? In the minds of our people civil law is still connected to morality. What is legal must be right. When the courts said it was legal to kill the unborn they were establishing a new secular, godless, humanistic morality, which is really the doctrines of the devil.

Every law in our nation is theological at its core, the product of someone’s religious presuppositions. But whose presuppositions are we going to use to determine our nation’s direction and laws? Will American law be informed by the Law of God or the law of man, by divine revelation or sinful human reason, by the Christian faith or by secular humanism? Sadly, even many churches are going along with the new secular morality under the paradigm of love, tolerance, and compassion. These churches are strengthening the enemies of God and destroying the true Christian faith in people’s hearts.

The early church faced this struggle with the Sanhedrin and later Caesar. When the religious and political authorities of that day told them they must disobey God’s Law they refused. They were under a higher Law. Jesus Christ the Savior of the world was Lord of everyone, even Caesar. When man’s law came into conflict with God’s Law, those early Christians chose to obey God rather than men. Christ has given His church divine authority to preach His Word, to baptize the nations, to pray in submission to His Word. We must be people of the Word, people of courage, and people of prayer who oppose tyranny with all of our heart, mind, and strength. Amen.

Right to Life: Meditation: August 28th 2012

Jackson Right to Life: Meditation: August 28th 2012

A man once wrote: For every thousand men hacking at the leaves of evil one is striking at the root. The root of sin is the heart of man. Jesus said: For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man (Mt. 15:19-20). When God saves the sinner He deals with his heart, forgiving his sins, granting him the new birth of holy baptism and joining him to Christ.

In our struggle against the evil of abortion we must never forget the Gospel. Only the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God can transform the heart. We realize that Jackson Right to Life is not a church and does not pretend to be, we are individual Christians from various churches called to confess the truth of God’s Word to a sinful and adulterous generation. But we must not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God. If we fail to confess the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word we will be just another group of well meaning people hacking at the leaves of evil but not striking at the root.

For example, we often speak of abortion in light of the 5th commandment: Thou shalt not kill, yet how often do we avoid mentioning the 6th commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery, the commandment that forbids sexual relations outside of marriage. Fornication is one of the main causes of abortions. When people ignore God’s Law and engage in fornication they destroy their own lives morally and spiritually which often leads to taking the life of an unborn infant. But we don’t want to be perceived as morally judgmental, or intolerant, or preachy so we say nothing.

Every one of us needs to hear the Law of God. It gives us the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20b), and leads us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). The Law prepares the sinner to hear the Gospel and is the most loving message we can give them. We are fighting a spiritual battle but if we fight this war without the Word of God and prayer we are fighting the devil unarmed. Now is the time for true courage! The secret to courage is the knowledge that God is with us through His Spirit and Word and that the battle has already been won 2000 years ago on the cross. Therefore may the Lord grant fresh courage in the days ahead and give us opportunity to confess the Lord Jesus Christ before others; Amen.

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