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Galatians
3:1-9


O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain-if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith-just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"?
 
 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (ESV)
Holy Hypocrites Like Us
Thursday in Lent 3
3 March 2016
Those who despise the church often say, "I would never join the church! It is full of hypocrites." Some sharp-tongued wag once replied to this: "Oh, come and join! We could use one more." It is true that the church is full of people who believe one thing and do another. I do it every day. That is a proper definition of what a hypocrite is. I confess that I am a hypocrite. Try though I might, I never live up to the high standard that my Lord holds for His children. I never believe boldly enough His grace. I still worry about things that He promises to take care of. I never live in the full freedom of a son of God. I am a hypocrite.
 
However, the hypocrisy of the church's children does not negate the holiness of the church. The church's holiness is dependent upon Christ and the gifts that He gives the church, not upon the church members. She is not her own holiness, Christ is (1Co 1:30). The church ever and always remains the community of sinners and troubled consciences, miserable hypocrites, and the brokenhearted. But when God bestows his righteousness through his holy Word, those troubled by their sins exchange their mourning for the oil of gladness and their despair for the garments of praise (Is 61:3).
 
Therefore, the church's holiness is not a matter of sight. What about Christianity is a matter of sight? Christianity is and remains until the Last Day a matter of faith. Christ makes this little holy band of Christendom holy by the power of His forgiving Word. He calls the whole world to His Christendom, "Oh, come and join. The church could use one more sinner. And there will be rejoicing in heaven!" Luther confesses this in his explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed, "the holy Christian church; the communion of saints." We are a community of holy hypocrites.

 

Martin Luther

"I believe that there is upon earth a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ (Eph 1:22). This group is called together by the Holy Spirit in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with many different gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms (Eph 4:5-8, 11). I am also part and member of the same group, a sharer and joint owner of all the goods it possesses (Rm 8:17). I am brought to it and incorporated into it by the Holy Spirit having heard and continuing to hear God's Word (Gal 3:1-2), which is the beginning of entering it. In the past, before we had attained to this, we were all together of the devil, knowing nothing about God and about Christ (Rm 3:10-12). So, until the Last Day, the Holy Spirit abides with the holy congregation or Christendom (Jn 14:17). Through this congregation He brings us to Christ and He teaches and preaches to us the Word (Jn 14:26). By that Word He works and promotes sanctification, causing this congregation daily to grow and to become strong in the faith and its fruit, which he produces (Gal 5:16-26)."

Martin Luther, Large Catechism, 3.51-53
 
Prayer
Lord Christ, help me to believe the Church is holy because You make her so. Grant that my own weakness and unbelief would not lead me to doubt Your grace toward the Church nor the existence of a holy Christendom. Amen.
 
For all those who lament their sin, weakness, and hypocrisy, that they would be strengthened by the Word and believe faithfully that Christ's perfect righteousness is their own
 
For Wakseyoum Idossa , Bishop of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, that he and his people would faithfully confess the holiness of the church into which they have been called
 
For all those offended by the weakness of the Church, that they might walk not by sight but by faith

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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