Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared. Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good. Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! (ESV)
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All Things Are Ours
Tuesday of Epiphany 4
3 February 2015
Martin Luther says: "The more Christian a man is, the more evils, sufferings, and deaths he must endure, as we see in Christ the first-born prince himself, and in all his brethren, the saints. The power we speak of is spiritual. It rules in the middle of its enemies and is powerful in the midst of oppression. This means nothing other than that 'power is made perfect in weakness' (2Co 12:9) and that in all things I can find benefit toward salvation (Rm 8:28), so that the cross and death itself are compelled to serve me and to work together with me for my salvation" (The Freedom of a Christian). Only a towering faith always believes this. Only divinely-wrought faith can stare disaster in the face and acknowledge that it is intended for good. Only faith which is given by God the Holy Spirit sees suffering as profitable for salvation; that is with me and not against me.
But how could it be otherwise? Christ takes up His cross, and following none, leads a whole train of the faithful to take captivity captive through death. He refuses to revile when reviled, even though He knew that the insults of the maddened mob would lead to His death. He suffered without hurling insults at His persecutors. He gave Himself over to the power of evil and refused to resist when the wicked one with his works of evil came (Mt 5:39) to bind the strong man (Mt 12:29). He entrusted Himself to the just Judge, whose promises were sufficient for His Son (1Pt 2:23). God's Son walked to Golgotha upon the road of faith, no less than we do. Although He had the power of sight, He walked by faith, knowing this was the highest worship (Heb 12:1). He earned for us all the most profound spiritual blessings through His incomparable life and sacrificial death.
His life and death are ours by faith. All things are ours; this especially. The Apostle Paul is not thinking of just any life nor of just any death (1Co 3:22), but rather of Christ's substitutionary life and His substitutionary death. If His life and death are ours, what more could we need? The collect for this coming Sunday says, "O God, the strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity." Notice it says "defended against all adversity;" and that it does not say, "defended from all adversity." There will be adversity; but it will not overcome us, who have possession of all divine gifts. What poverty could we possibly fear? What could we lack? What worldly gain would add a single good to our lives? What suffering could separate us from Christ? What calamity would cause God's promises to us to fail? What future could portend disaster for us? No, the future is ours, because it is God's. All things are ours!
We are heirs of all things, but unlike the Menendez brothers, who were anxious for the death of their rich parents, we are willing to wait patiently until the Lord sees fit that we should see and experience the fullness of our inheritance from Christ. Until then we can wait quietly knowing that all things are ours. We are the children of a fabulously rich Father, brothers of the crown Prince. Of course, all things are ours. The ministers in the Father's household teach us of our exalted place in the kingdom. His government is arranged for our blessing. The ministers always serve to proclaim our illustrious rank in the household managed by them. All things are ours.
"Paul says, 'So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours,' (1Co 3:21). He points out that they should not be full of pride, not even for their spiritual things, because they have nothing from themselves. 'Since the wisdom from the world is hurtful, and the spiritual gifts were not given by you, what do you have in which to boast?' And in regard to the wisdom from the world, 'Let no one deceive himself' (1Co 3:18), because they were conceited about a thing which in truth did more harm than good. But here, in so far as the thing spoken of was really beneficial, 'Let no one boast' (1Co 3:21) And he orders his speech more gently: 'For all things are yours.'
"'For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future - all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's' (1Co 3:21-22). Because he had sharply rebuked them, he encourages them again. And as above he had said, 'We are God's fellow workers;' (1Co 3:9) and by many other expressions he soothed them. So here too he said, 'All things are yours; taking down the pride of the teachers, and signifying that so far from bestowing any favor on them, the teachers ought to be grateful to them. Since for their sake they were made such as they were, yes, and moreover had received grace. But seeing that these were also sure to be boastful, he cuts out beforehand this disease too, saying, 'As the Lord assigned to each,' (1Co 3:5) and, 'God gave the growth' (1Co 3:7) so that the one party might not be puffed up as giver of the good and that the others, on their hearing a second time, 'All things are yours,' would not be puffed up. 'For, indeed, though it was for your sakes, yet the whole was God's doing.'
"But what does Paul mean by 'or death?' He means that even though the teachers die, for your sakes they die, encountering dangers for your salvation. He again takes down the high spirit of the disciples, and raises the spirit of the teachers. In fact, he talks with the disciples as one would with children of high birth, who have tutors, but are heirs of all things. We may say also, in another sense, that both the death of Adam was for our sakes, that we might be corrected; and the death of Christ, that we might be saved."
John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 10.4
O God, the strength of all who put their trust in You, mercifully grant that by Your power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For Rita Baker, that the Lord would grant her continuing recovery and full bodily strength
For the adult instruction class of Memorial Lutheran Church as its members delve into God's law and gospel, that they would be confirmed in the holy faith
For all those undergoing cancer testing, that the Lord would guard and guide the hands of doctors and other health workers
Art: AERTSEN, Pieter Adoration of the Magi (c. 1560)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015