What God Said
Friday of Easter 2
27 April 2017
Over the last couple of days I have heard a number of people say, when confronted by the truth claims of the Christian religion, "But, Pastor, it's all a matter of interpretation." What they mean by this is that those truth claims are unverifiable because people have interpreted the revelation of Scripture in any number of different, even contradictory, ways. Those contradictory interpretations lead the average person to believe that religious truth cannot be verified. Therefore, our religion can certainly not be held as the truth against all comers, nor confessed to the point of death, as did the faithful (but deluded) martyrs of old. Of course, if the Scripture's teaching is "all just a matter of interpretation," then all religious teaching is a matter of personal predilection, prejudice, or opinion. Then the only fallback positions possible are that the believer becomes his own ultimate authority making up his own mind about what he desires to believe or she permits her faith to be imposed by an external human authority. No matter how little or how much anyone might believe there is no escaping the issue of authority. Either God graciously grants us the gift of the faith, or it is a matter of human imposition, whether our own or someone else's.
Why should I believe what I believe? If I believe that the Bible's teaching is "all a matter of interpretation," then what is preferable about my being my own authority? Why should I believe what springs from my own human reason? Think about how that has worked out since the time of Adam, who following Eve's authority, chose to seek his own religious truth at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gn 3:5), despite the fact that God had forbidden him to eat of that tree in express words (Gn 2:17). What trouble fell upon us through this egregious doubt of the divine Word! And now we are going to claim that we are the ones who are competent to pass judgment on the divine Word? Certainly, humans full of their own interpretations always claim to have the Spirit of God leading them, often swallowed the Spirit feathers and all. But think of the cacophony of learned ignorance that has burst forth from the perverted imagination of humanity since the fall of Adam, Spirit-led and otherwise! That self-interpretation thing didn't work out very well, did it?
Either we determine what to believe or God speaks. The Bible teaches that God speaks and we listen. Even the apostles themselves fell back upon the revelation of God in Scripture, so that despite having been eyewitnesses of the incarnation of the Word, they also verified what they taught in the written Word of God. For example, the Bereans studied the teaching of the Apostle Paul by comparing what he said against the Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 17:10-11) to see if Jesus was the Messiah who had come to save them from sin. Jesus consciously did what was promised of His ministry in the Scripture. The Gospels continuously recognize that fact (for example, Mt 1:22). Paul the apostle repeatedly used the phrase "in accordance with the Scriptures" when he reminded the Corinthians that Christ died for our sins and He was raised again (1Co 15:3-4). For Paul, Scripture was the final arbiter because it was the speaking of God. What are you going to believe, human opinion or what God said?

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"Paul again extols and exalts the testimony of Scripture and the external Word as he emphasizes and repeats the phrase 'in accordance with the Scripture' (1Co 15:3) To be sure, he does not do this without reason. He does this in the first place to resist the mad spirits who disdain Scripture and the external message and in place of this seek other secret revelation. And today every place is also teeming with such spirits, confused by the devil, who regard Scripture a dead letter and boast of nothing but the Spirit, although these people retain neither Word nor Spirit.
"But here you notice how Paul adduces Scripture as his strongest proof, for there is no other enduring way of preserving our doctrine and our faith than the physical or written Word, poured into letters and preached orally by him or others; for here we find it stated clearly: 'Scripture! Scripture!' But Scripture is not all spirit, about which they drivel, saying that the Spirit alone must do it and that Scripture is a dead letter which cannot impart life. But the fact of the matter is that, although the letter by itself does not impart life, yet it must be present, and it must be heard or received. And the Holy Spirit must work through this in the heart, and the heart must be preserved in the faith through and in the Word against the devil and every trial. Otherwise, where this is surrendered, Christ and the Spirit will soon be lost. Therefore do not boast so much of the Spirit if you do not have the revealed external Word; for this is surely not a good spirit but the vile devil from hell. The Holy Spirit, as you know, has deposited His wisdom and counsel and all mysteries into the Word and revealed these in Scripture, so that no one can excuse himself. Nor must anyone seek or search for something else or learn or acquire something better or more sublime than what Scripture teaches of Jesus Christ, God's Son, our Savior, who died and rose for us.
"In the second place, Paul does this in order to resist the temptation to take counsel with reason in this and other articles of faith, or to listen how the world with its wisdom presumes subtly to argue and to speculate about this. For if we consult these and permit them to teach us in this, faith will be crowded out, and this will be regarded as a foolish message and be made sheer mockery. That is what happened among the Corinthians, as we shall hear later.
"However, we who want to be Christians and men of faith must not look for or ask to see what human reason says here, or how this agrees with reason, but what Scripture teaches us, by which this was proclaimed in advance and is now confirmed by public testimony and experience. We let him who does not want to believe that go his way, for he will surely have or believe nothing at all of Christ or of the gospel." 

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 3
1 Corinthians

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (ESV)
Lord God, Your Word has revealed You to the world. Keep us from unbelief of Your Word, so that we do not fall back upon our own perverted human reason. Grant us the simple faith that says, "Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening," and help us to hold the field against all those who would lead us away from Your speaking; through Jesus Christ, the Word incarnate. Amen.
For Jill Stoneburner, that the Lord would be with her granting her strength and confidence in God's abundant grace
For pleasant weather, that we would thank God for the gifts he showers down upon us through the creation made by his loving hand
For the editorial and production staff of LOGIA journal, that they might be upheld in their efforts to encourage confessional Lutheranism in its pages
Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias  Resurrection (c. 1515)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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