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Acts 8:26-39

 

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and join this chariot." So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: "Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth." And the eunuch said to Philip, "About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?" Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?"  And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

(ESV)

In Word and Deed

Wednesday in Pentecost 10 

5 August 2015

Some years ago, while I was attending a finance committee meeting of my congregation, the chairman recounted the fact that the congregation's offerings were running above the budget for the year. He looked at me and said, "Whatever you are doing, pastor, please keep it up." Immediately, I said, "Please don't credit me for this. I am not doing anything." One of the older gentlemen immediately turned to me and said with a smile on his face, "You are a wise man, pastor. You don't take credit now, so you won't be blamed later on when we have a deficit." But it isn't the work of the preacher to make the congregation grow or bring in more offerings; this is the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, who sends the Spirit. He gives the fruit to the labor. The church and its growth is His business.

 

Yet, there is a kind of ambivalence about this. Luther could say that God reformed Germany while he and Philip Melanchthon drank beer and bowled in the back yard. However, this is not all Luther and Melanchthon did. They wrote, published books, lectured, traveled, advised, and Luther preached, catechized, and visited. "Doing nothing" is not one of the options on this list of activities. Although Luther was so busy and active, he never had a single doubt who was doing the work in the church and to whom all glory had to be attributed. Non nobis, Domine! He was doing nothing and doing everything. The office of the ministry demands an active life, because the message has to be proclaimed. The Lord commands that we go and preach. The message does not proclaim itself, yet it remains God's message on the lips of the preacher. It does what God sends it to do. About this Luther said, "We should be seen fighting. God should be seen winning."

 

How easily we fall off the horse on either side of this dilemma. We can fail by attributing our success to our own pious efforts and glorious good works, or we can excuse our lack of zeal in word and deed by referring to God's ability to get things done without us. There is a time bowl and drink beer and there is a time to be zealous in word and deed.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"'In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience- by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God- so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ' (Rm 15:17-19). Paul means, 'None can say that my words are a mere boast. For the signs of this priestly ministry of mine, and the proofs of the office too, are many. Not the long robe and the bells as of ancient times, nor the miter and the turban (Ex 28:4), but signs and wonders, far more awesome than these.

 

"Nor can it be said that I have been entrusted with the office, but yet have not carried it out. Or rather, it is not I that have done anything, but Christ. Therefore also it is in Him that I boast, not about common things, but about spiritual things. This is the meaning of, 'my work for God' (Rm 15:17).  I have accomplished the purpose for which I was sent. My words are not just a boast, as the miracles and obedience of the Gentiles show.' 'For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience- by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God' (Rm 15:18-19).  

 

"See how decisively Paul tries to show that the whole is God's doing, and nothing of his own. 'For whether I speak anything, or do anything, or work miracles, He does all of them, the Holy Spirit all.' This he says also to show the dignity of the Holy Spirit. See how these things are more wondrous and more awesome than those of old; the sacrifice, the offering, and the symbols. For when he says, 'by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders' he means the doctrine, the teaching relating to the kingdom, the demonstration of actions and conversation, the dead that were raised, the devils that were cast out, the blind that were healed, the lame that leaped, and the other marvelous acts, all of which the Holy Spirit worked among us. Then the proof of these things (since all this is yet only an assertion) is the great number of the disciples.

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 29
 
Prayer
O Holy Spirit, strengthen and keep our pastors in the Word of truth and life, and support them in every time of trouble and distress. Make their labors fruitful and, when the day of labor is ended, grant them to come with rejoicing before Your presence to receive with all the saints their portion in eternal salvation. Amen.

 

For District President Tim Scharr, who is convalescing from a foot wound, that the Lord Jesus would give him a full recovery

 

For the family of Carol Coolidge, whom our Lord has called to Himself, that they would mourn with hope in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come

 

For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that the Lord would continue to grant him health and strength for the labor of proclaiming Christ and for his service to his family
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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