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John 3:16-21

 

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God." (ESV)

Man Overboard!

Tuesday of Pentecost 21

4 November 2014

In the film "Titanic," the character played by Leonard DiCaprio, Jack Dawson, moves toward the bow of the doomed ship as it plunges into the icy North Atlantic, finally standing on the stern railing as she goes under. Dawson dies just as surely as the captain, who stayed on duty in the wheel house even though he knew the ship was a luxurious steel coffin. It didn't matter if people jumped off the ship or where they plummeted into the numbing waters of the Atlantic, they were dead. So it is for those who dive off the ship of grace onto which they were baptized, by returning to the deadly waters of the law. They all die whether they jump from the starboard or port, stern or bow.

 

Whether people choose to obey some apparently easier law, like don't cut your hair, or women should always wear skirts, or something a little tougher like always helping your neighbor (yeah, right!), it is all equally deadly. Whether it is human tradition or God's holy law, your choice to immerse yourself in implacable waters will not turn out well. You will drown. Whether you jump off the boat clinging to human tradition or jump off clinging to the Ten Commandments, they will surely drag you to the bottom.

 

Men who served on the supply convoys plying the waters of the North Atlantic during the Second World War were warned that if they went overboard, there was no going back to find them. They would be dead in the chilling waters long before the ship could be turned around. So the distinction was quite clear. On the boat you stay alive. Off the boat you die. This is the way with the gospel. There are no law planks on the gospel ship. They are not a mélange. Law and gospel do not have any common elements. You have law or gospel, not both/and. I heartily object to the term law/gospel preaching as though law and gospel is a continuum. It can be no such thing. There is only law and gospel preaching. If you have the law as the source of your righteousness, you are in the water floundering to death. If you have the gospel as your righteousness, you repose in the berth of the church captained by Christ, the Savior. When people seek churches where the law is the cause of salvation, we should cry, "Man overboard!" For they are in peril of drowning.

 

Martin Luther

 

"'You have fallen away from grace' (Gal 5:4), that is: 'You are no longer in the kingdom of grace.' For just as someone on a ship is drowned regardless of the part of the ship from which he falls into the sea, so someone who falls away from grace cannot help perishing. To desire to be justified by the law is to make a shipwreck; it is to be hurled into the most certain danger of eternal death. What can be more insane and impious than to want to lose the grace and favor of God and to retain the law of Moses, as if it was most necessary for you to accumulate for yourself wrath and every other evil? Now if those who seek to be justified by the moral law fall from grace, where, I ask, will those fall who, in their self-righteousness, seek to be justified on the basis of their traditions and vows? To the deepest hell!

 

No, they are carried up to heaven; or so they themselves taught: 'Whoever have lived in accordance with the rule of Francis, etc., the peace and mercy of God is upon them. Whoever have observed chastity, obedience, etc., will have eternal life.' You must put these insane and impious trifles behind you and pay attention to what Paul teaches here and to what Christ says (Jn 3:36): 'Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him' (Jn 3:36); and again: "Whoever does not believe is condemned already' (Jn 3:18). 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 5.4
 
Prayer

Dear heavenly Father, keep us from seeking to thrash around in the killing waters of the law. Send Your Spirit to us that we might ever repose upon the ship of Your grace and favor. Continue to send to us the messengers of Your grace, that through Your Word we can live in Your Son and escape judgment. Amen.

 

For Mary Lewis, that the Lord would strengthen her in the grace of Christ

 

For the Board of Regents of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, as they meet today on the seminary campus, that the proper instruction in the divine Word would be supported for the blessing of the church

 

For the national election in the United States, that citizens would exercise their franchise in a wise way
Art: Crucifixes  Uppsala Cathedral (medieval)

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