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Psalm

119:41-48

 

Let your steadfast love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word. And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules. I will keep your law continually, forever and ever, and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your precepts. I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame, for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes. (ESV)

 

Nothing to Conquer

Boniface of Mainz, Missionary to the Germans

5 June 2015

The article of justification functions to turn upside down every human expectation. Sinners are right in the sight of God. Those who die, live. Those who suffer are lifted up. Those who are persecuted are blessed. Those who are wicked are acquitted. All of this is due to God's extraordinary sacrifice of His beloved Son for the sins of the world on the cross of Calvary. All of it is given at His enormous expense to those who have no basis to expect it. The answer to the question "What must I do to be saved?" is literally, "Nothing. It is done." All this is against the human expectation that there is something, there must be something, I can do to ingratiate myself with God.

 

The whole Christian life is turned upside down by the article of justification. Our daily dying is our way of living. Our suffering becomes our joy. Our defeats become our triumphs. Our losses redound to God's glory and our benefit. The best thing to happen to us the world calls the worst thing. God's grace feels painful. Our glory is hidden under the cross of Christ. Our enemy's attacks become our blessings. Who would have known of the Apostles Peter and Paul if their enemies had not tried to arrest the progress of the gospel by arresting them?

 

In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke delighted in describing the various trials undergone by these leaders through which they became witnesses before governors and kings (Ps 119:46). The Lutheran princes and theologians were commanded to stand before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and make an account of the hope that was in them. Before him they delivered the Augsburg Confession and with intrepid hearts staked their lives upon its content. The world would look upon the threats and dangers associated with such confessions of faith and judge these events as a grave loss for those who confessed. Yet such events helped establish the public testimony to the kingdom of Christ and His gospel in the world. In their weakness the confessors of the faith in all ages have become more than conquerors.

 

These events, arranged and orchestrated by the enemies of Christ's gospel, became victories for the church and her Lord. No matter how badly the Apostles suffered at the hands of their persecutors, including their death, the message of the gospel could not be constrained or forestalled. Their triumph came through Him who loved them, not through their own efforts or works. It really is nothing to conquer.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us' (Rm 8:37). We are not only conquerors, but we are so by the very things meant as plots against us. We are not merely conquerors, but we are 'more than conquerors,' that is, we are conquerors with ease, without toil and labor. For without undergoing the real things, by only setting our mind aright, we raise our trophies against our enemies. And with good reason. For it is God that strives together with us.

 

"Do not be doubtful. For if beaten, we get the better of those who beat us. If driven out, we overcome our persecutors. If dying, we put the living to flight. For when you take the power and love of God into account, there is nothing to prevent these wondrous and mysterious things from coming to pass, and that the most advantageous victory would shine upon us. For the Apostles did not merely conquer, but in a wonderful way, and so that one might learn that those who plotted against them made war not against men, but against that invincible might of God. See the Jews then with the Apostles among them, and at quite a loss, saying, 'What shall we do with these men' (Acts 4:16)? For it is marvelous indeed, that though they had hold of them, made them subject to their courts, imprisoned them, and beat them, yet they were at a loss and in perplexity, as they were overcome by the very things  by which they expected to conquer. And neither kings nor people, nor ranks of demons, nor the devil himself, had power to get the better of them. They were all overcome at a very great disadvantage, finding that all they planned against them came to benefit the Apostles. Therefore Paul says, 'we are more than conquerors.' For this was a new rule of victory for men to prevail by their adversaries, and in no instance to be overcome, but to go forth to these struggles as if they themselves had the issue in their own hands."

 

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 15
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, You have made us more than conquerors by sending us the weakness of Your cross. Give us grace to bear it that we might always trust that Your gospel is being served in our suffering. Amen.

 

For the delegates at district conventions of the LCMS, that the Lord of the church would lead their deliberations

 

For all military personnel deployed to combat zones, that the holy angels would watch over them

 

For teachers everywhere as they conclude the school year, that they would be strengthened in their vocation as lifelong learners and find rest for body and mind in the summer break

Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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