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Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:"'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'"


Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (ESV)

The Voices of Christ

The Epiphany of our Lord

6 January 2015

The apostles had a leg up on the rest of us. They were not superior in regard to faith or salvation, but in office. They were saved by grace like the rest of us. They received in the font the life that was fed by the body and blood of Christ. They wept over the unbelief they saw among their fellows. They suffered because of the faith, and with the exception of the Apostle John, died for it. Their glory was hidden. Their triumph will only be revealed at the revelation of the Christ whom they served. They are just like us, but with one exception.


They were apostles. They were personally called by Christ to be witnesses to His life, death, and resurrection, which covered the sins of the world. Their life and ministry was a public extension of His life and ministry. The apostolic ministry was none other than the ministry of Christ Himself. Christ sent them to become His hands and mouth in the world. They were the hands that signed the holy absolution their mouths spoke. They raised the dead, healed the sick, and spoke for Christ. This is why, when the apostles spoke, they presumed obedience (Gal 5:10) and expected agreement, even if they always worked by persuasion rather than by force. Apostolic practice was the church's practice and none other (1Co 11:16). They had all the virtues of the divine grace communicated to them, not just for their own sake, but for the sake of the church to which they shared it. They well knew that the Word of God that came from their lips had its own performative power. It had its own power to persuade.


This is why the church exists today. The apostles still speak in the pages of the apostolic Scripture. A leading criterion of scriptural authority is the apostolicity of the Word. New Testament Scripture is authoritative for the church today because it is the voice of the apostles. Even the Gospels (including the red letters!) are the voice of the apostles, because their voice is the voice of Christ. Therefore, the ancient church accepted the authority of letters written by the apostles, like the letter to the Romans. The apostles and their writings are the glory of the church, reflecting the shining face of Christ. How blessed we are that we have been made part of the conversation to hear the voice of Christ. In their blessed office we have received the fullness of divine grace. Who wouldn't listen to their voice?


John Chrysostom


"Paul had something more committed to his hands than believers have. He had apostleship conferred on him, a thing full of countless blessings, and at once greater than, and comprehensive of, all the gifts. What more could we say of it, than that whatever Christ was doing when He was present, He committed into the Apostles' hands when He departed. Paul exclaims about this, speaking of it and magnifying the dignity of the Apostles' office: "We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us" (2Co 5:20), that is, in Christ's place.


"'Set apart for the gospel of God' (Rm 1:1). For as in a household, each one is set apart for different tasks; thus also in the church, there are various distributions of service. Paul seems to me to hint, that he was not appointed by chance only, but that of old and from the beginning he was ordained to this office. As Jeremiah said what God spoke about himself, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you a prophet to the nations' (Jer 1:5). Because Paul was writing to Rome, a vainglorious city, and completely full of itself, he uses every possible way of showing that his election was from God. For God Himself called him and set him apart. He does this to give the letter weight, so it would be well received."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 1


Collect for the Epiphany of Our Lord

O God, by the leading of a star You once made known to all nations Your only-begotten Son; now lead us, who know You by faith, to know in heaven the fullness of your divine goodness; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


For the labor of teaching and preaching the gospel in India in the work of Luther Academy, that the Lord of the harvest would grant fruit and keep the laborers safe


For Samuel Phelps, who is recovering in hospital, that the Lord would grant him complete healing


For families struggling with conflicted marriages, that the Lord would grant forgiveness and give earthly peace

Art: AERTSEN, Pieter  Adoration of the Magi (c. 1560)


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Memorial Lutheran Church | 5800 Westheimer Rd. | Houston | TX | 77057