Christ "For Us" Never Snatched from Us
Holy Cross Day
14 September 2016
School has begun in Houston. Our school always opens with chapel as we begin our trek through the Ten Commandments. Our school's study of the Small Catechism presumes that children are adept with words. Study of Scripture especially requires an expanded vocabulary and careful grammatical instruction. God has seen fit to reveal Himself to us humans using words. Remarkably, His Son is called the Word. We must know words to know the Word. Losing words means that the Word will be lost to us. This is why genuinely progressive schools are now emphasizing grammar, rhetoric, and logic in their curriculum for the youngest children. These genuinely progressive schools are called classical schools. Careful educating includes teaching a child to be able to properly understand the meaning of sometimes difficult texts, so that they can engage the arguments in the text and thoughtfully digest it. It will enable the child to get beyond the "spin" often put on texts by the world. She can ask for herself, "What does this mean?"
In our political season, spin doctors have taken a grammatical term and used it to refer to the spin being put on words; everyone is now "parsing" words. In politics the Republicans are "parsing" the Democrats' statements, and vice versa. Usually, this just means spinning the words in a negative way.
Grammatical parsing does not change the meaning of terms, but determines the grammatical relationship of terms in a text, so as to determine the proper meaning of the text. Without that ability to read carefully and parse properly students will forever remain at the mercy of the propaganda of spin doctors who will tell them what the text means. They will be unable to know what things mean without an authoritative reading from experts. May God save us from this tyranny of experts by giving us the gift of grammatical parsing. Ultimately, the Scripture is opened to us by the gift of words unveiling the Word. Luther encourages us to look at the text of Scripture for the level of precision that is actually in it. If we do that then, we will have the Word of the Gospel preserved to us.
Christ does not become a curse for Himself or on account of any sin or depravity in Himself, but solely and completely "for us" (Gal 3:13). By saying He is a curse, we are not casting aspersions on His immaculate holiness, but we are saying He was willing to risk His holiness for our sakes. Without the careful grammatical study of these simple words we will have this dramatic gospel truth taken from us by those who want to protect Jesus' immaculate holiness from any stain and thus leave to us the task of our own redemption; the bearing of the curse of our own sin. No matter what expert tries to parse Paul this way, we must never let the Christ "for us" be snatched from us.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"Paul guarded his words carefully and spoke precisely. And here again a distinction must be made; Paul's words clearly show this. For he does not say that Christ became a curse on His own account, but that He became a curse 'for us.' Thus the whole emphasis is on the phrase 'for us.' For Christ is innocent so far as His own Person is concerned; therefore He should not have been hanged from the tree. But because, according to the Law, every thief should have been hanged, therefore, according to the Law of Moses, Christ Himself should have been hanged; for He bore the person of a sinner and a thief-and not of one but of all sinners and thieves. For we are sinners and thieves, and therefore we are worthy of death and eternal damnation. But Christ took all our sins upon Himself, and for them He died on the cross. Therefore, it was appropriate for Him to become a thief and, as Isaiah says, to be 'numbered among the thieves' (Is 53:12).
"And all the prophets saw this, that Christ was to become the greatest thief, murderer, adulterer, robber, desecrator, blasphemer, etc., there has ever been anywhere in the world. He is not acting in His own Person now. Now He is not the Son of God, born of the Virgin. But He is a sinner, who has and bears the sin of Paul, the former blasphemer, persecutor, and assaulter; of Peter, who denied Christ; of David, who was an adulterer and a murderer, and who caused the Gentiles to blaspheme the name of the Lord (Rm 2:24). In short, He has and bears all the sins of all men in His body-not in the sense that He has committed them but in the sense that He took these sins, committed by us, upon His own body, in order to make satisfaction for them with His own blood. Therefore this general Law of Moses included Him, although He was innocent so far as His own Person was concerned; for it found Him among sinners and thieves. Thus a magistrate regards someone as a criminal and punishes him if he catches him among thieves, even though the man has never committed anything evil or worthy of death. Christ was not only found among sinners; but of His own free will and by the will of the Father He wanted to be an associate of sinners, having assumed the flesh and blood of those who were sinners and thieves and who were immersed in all sorts of sin. Therefore when the Law found Him among thieves, it condemned and executed Him as a thief.
"This knowledge of Christ and most delightful comfort, that Christ became a curse for us to set us free from the curse of the Law-of this [legalists] deprive us when they segregate Christ from sins and from sinners and set Him forth to us only as an example to be imitated. In this way they make Christ not only useless to us but also a judge and a tyrant who is angry because of our sins and who damns sinners. But just as Christ is wrapped up in our flesh and blood, so we must wrap Him and know Him to be wrapped up in our sins, our curse, our death, and everything evil" 

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.13
Galatians 3:1-14

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.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith." But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"- so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (ESV)
Merciful God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself.  Grant that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For all education, that children might be given the tools to cut through the spin and think for and govern themselves for benefit of church, community, and country
For David Maier, that the Lord would grant healing to him following back surgery
For Tim Scharr, that he would be strengthened in body and soul
For those troubled by addictions, that they might be served by those who care for them
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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