Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. (ESV)
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Friday after the Baptism of our Lord
16 January 2015
Martin Luther confesses that we cannot believe by our own reason or strength (SC 3.3). Whatever we have is given by God the Holy Spirit. This is the consistent testimony of the Holy Scriptures and all faithful teachers who reflect the divine truth of God's Word. Preachers ought to be comforted by the power of God's Word to do what God says in it by the power of the Holy Spirit. Their work is but to proclaim the divine Word, and God does all the rest. The preacher can leave things to God when He proclaims the divine truth about Christ and His substitution for us sinners. Their office and its authority rests not with their work or performance but with God's grace.
The Lord grants the office in which pastors work. It is the Lord's work in which they are engaged, not their own. That means that He gives the fruit. He divides out the labors; one preaching, another visiting, and still another teaching. These are His gifts. He can distribute them according to His will, to whomever and whenever it pleases Him. He brings us to the harvest that the Word's seed has sown. It is the Lord's work, not ours, to persuade those who hear His Word.
We should never become discouraged when the Word of God is rejected, because the Lord will work His way when and where it pleases Him. And that almost never pleases us. But we are not in this work of proclaiming for our own pleasure, but for His. God is more than willing to leave us looking foolish if His plans are accomplished. He will work His will when it is best for Him and our neighbor and not us. Oh, well. What do we have that we have not received? It is all His to give and distribute as He sees fit.
"Paul candidly says, 'Through whom we have received grace and apostleship' (Rm 1:5). He wishes nothing to be his own, but all his Master's. Truly, it was the Spirit who gave this. Therefore, He says, 'I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth' (Jn 16:12-13). Again, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them' (Acts 13:2). And in the Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul says, 'To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit' (1Co 12:8). The Spirit divides everything as He wills. When addressing the Milesians [Ephesians] Paul says, 'The Holy Spirit has made you overseers' (Acts 20:28). Paul calls the things of the Spirit the Son's, and the things of the Son the Spirit's.
"It was as though Paul were saying, 'It is not we that have achieved for ourselves that we should be Apostles. For it was not by having toiled much and worked that we had this honor conferred to us, but we received grace, and the successful result is a part of the heavenly gift.' So it was not the Apostles who achieved it, but the grace that paved the way before them. For it was their part to go about and preach, but persuasion was God's business, who worked faith in them. So Luke said, 'He opened [her] heart' (Acts 16:14); and again, to whom it was given to hear the word of God (Lk 11:28).
"Paul says, 'for obedience;' not for questioning and the construction of arguments, but 'for obedience.' He means, 'For we were not sent to argue, but to give those things which we had entrusted to our hands. For when the Master declares anything, those who hear should not be polite and curious handlers of what is told to them, but receivers only. The Apostles were sent, to speak what they had heard, not to add anything from their own supply, and that we should believe. What is it that we should believe? 'For the sake of his name;' not that we should be curious about the essence of His divinity, but that we should believe on the name, for the name also worked the miracles. For Peter says, 'In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!' (Acts 3:6). And this too requires faith. No one can grasp these things by mere reasoning.
John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 1
O Lord Jesus Christ, You have sent us Apostles that we might hear the Spirit-given Word from them. We thank You that You have given such great gifts to Your people on the lips of those whom You have sent. Show us that various gifts are given out abundantly by Your Spirit, but that they are all His own, not ours. Help us to hear You, Lord Jesus, when we hear the Word of the Spirit. Amen.
For Mark Harstad, who is gravely ill, that the Lord Jesus would send His holy angels to surround his bed
For Pastor Bart Day, the Executive Director of National Mission at LCMS, that the Lord Jesus would send him the spirit of wisdom and understanding
For the members of the Board of Regents of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, who will meet next week, that the Lord Jesus would grant them wisdom
For all who are traveling that they might be kept safe in their journeys and through the sojourns they would learn the life of the pilgrim church
Art: RENI, Guido Baptism of Christ (c. 1623)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015