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Acts 4:13-22

 

Now when [the rulers of the people] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, "What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name." So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. (ESV)

The Truth Will Stand

Monday after Pentecost 14

15 September 2014

The truth gets blamed for all manner mischief. If people could just keep their mouths shut about the truth things would be better in the world and the church. Modern politicos want to vilify truthful talk by blaming the truthful speech for all manner of wickedness, such as violence, unkindness, and even sedition! You don't have to deal with the truth if you can tar and feather it with the blame for the real or imaginary bad behavior of others. It would be like blaming a good Samaritan who takes the car keys from a raging drunk about to get behind the wheel for the rage of the drunk. All the Samaritan is doing is trying to do a kindness for the person who will possibly hurt himself and others. He is telling the truth about the drunken state of the person from whom he took the keys. Yet he is blamed for the drunk's anger.

 

Those who insist on preaching the gospel of Christ to poor sinners are often berated for preaching the truth. They are called the disturbers of Israel (1Chron 2:7) because they presume to proclaim that sinners needs saving from their sin. They are hated because they teach that Christ alone is the Savior of the world, and none other. They are despised because they decline to accept that competing truth claims are actually the truth. This is the divine truth, not heresy. It is not mere opinion, but saving truth. Yet the world reviles it and calls it the cause of the world's problems.

 

The world is offended by Christianity by taking offense at the truth. There is a great difference between giving and taking offense. Yes, we are to blame if we are the cause of offense. If I bring the gospel into disrepute by living and acting as though the gospel didn't matter, then, yes, I would be giving offense. But if I am proclaiming the truth, then if the world takes offense, that is the world's problem. Taking offense is a modern cottage industry. Almost any criticism can be mocked and avoided if the person who is being criticized can squeal: "I am offended. How dare you!" But the divine Word has a prior claim to the truth beyond our easily bruised ego. God has every right to criticize our life or faith. He can call us to reform what we are doing and what we are believing. That is what it means to be God, to have the completely independent right to be critical of the world and those who live in it. He is the truth itself and thus has the right to give us the truth. 

 

This is why the apostles refused to be silenced by the governing authorities. They didn't want to overthrow the government, but they weren't about to be silenced by the threats made by the government. Legitimate earthly government has nothing to fear from Jesus, but if the government tries to silence Christ, squelching the speech of the church, government will place itself in the morally perilous position of trying to silence the truth. For our part, we may not be silent about the truth, because the stones themselves will cry out, if we are (Lk 19:40). The truth can stand on its own, but let's stand with it.

 

Martin Luther

 

"Today we are forced to listen to the same thing to which Paul and the other apostles were forced to listen then: that from our Gospel there have arisen many troubles, sedition, war, party spirit, and endless offenses. Whatever upheaval there is today is blamed on us. But surely we do not plant heresies and godless dogmas, but we preach the Gospel about Christ; that He is our High Priest and Redeemer. In addition, if our opponents want to be truthful, they are obliged to concede this much to us, that by our doctrine we have not given any occasion for treason, upheaval, or war; but we have taught by divine commandment that government power is to be honored religiously and revered. Nor are we the originators of offense; but when wicked people are offended, this is their own fault, not ours.

 

"We have the commandment of God to teach the doctrine of the Gospel without any regard for offense. Our opponents are irritated by this doctrine because it condemns their doctrine and their idolatry. Therefore they produce offenses on their own; in the schools this is called 'taking offense,' which neither should nor can be avoided. Christ preached the Gospel without being hindered by the offense of the Jews. He said, 'Let them alone; they are blind guides' (Mt 15:14). The more the high priests forbade the apostles to teach in the name of Jesus, the more they testified that this Jesus, whom they had crucified, was Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), and that whoever called on Him would be saved (Rm 10:13); 'there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved' (Acts 4:12)." 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 4.17
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, help us to confess your name as the only saving name, even when we face opposition. Amen.

 

For Pastor Joseph Radrianasolo of Madagascar, that God the Lord would be with him in his faithful service and that he and Mamisoa would be under the care of the holy angels

 

For all those who have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that we Christians would be filled with zeal to proclaim this life-giving message

 

For the Council of Presidents of the LCMS, which will be meeting in St. Louis this week, that the Lord Jesus would keep its members safe in their travel and that the Spirit of Christ would pervade the meeting
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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