Raising Objections or Raising the Dead
St. Philip and St. James, Apostles
1 May 2017
There are no new ideas. Those troubled by the resurrection of the flesh, which the church confesses in the Creed, have always crabbed that many Christians' remains have become "dust in the wind." They doubt then that such scattered flesh could be reunited with the soul and become again intact persons, body and soul. Even Christians will use such reasons to argue for the intentional cremation of the sanctified bodies of the faithful. Unfortunately, this is just to confuse what God is able to do with what we ought to do. Could God bring the dust of the body of Adam our forefather from the four corners of the earth so that he is second-born among the dead? Surely. Does God's ability to do this give us permission to mutilate the remains of our faithful dead in ovens, turning those whom God can turn to dust into ashes? God's sovereign power over life and death hardly gives us permission to do as we please with the dead. Occasionally it does happen that Christians' bodies are burned up as they were in the desecratingly efficient ovens of the Nazis. That is hardly a recommendation for us to start the practice ourselves.
Yet, even if Christian flesh is desecrated this way, what keeps God from bringing life out of death and raising the person, body and soul, to eternal life? Nothing. So, we Christians have no doubt that the cremated are still objects of God's power to save. Can God not do what He promised in His Word? Of course He can. No matter what the objections to the bodily resurrection might be, nor when they might have been raised, God still promises to raise all the dead and give life with Him to those who have remained faithful to His Word and gospel. Our modern scoffers are no more clever than those at Luther's time. No surprise there! Their master has a limited arsenal. We should not be cowed by the scoffing of these factious spirits. They raise objections. God raises the dead. That's a significant difference.
This is why we Christians must remain in the Word of God and adhere to it with Spirit-given conviction. For here is the truth to be believed at all costs. This is the divine speech to sinners to give them all that is spoken by God. When we are not in the Word, then there is every chance that even the limited arsenal of our enemy will overcome us. He is much more powerful than we are, but he flees the speaking of God. That is the same speech that will open our graves on the Day of Judgment and will call us from the four corners of the earth to stand before the throne of our Lord Christ among the sheep to whom He will say, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Mt 25:34). This is the moment at which all the carping and caviling of God's enemies will look as foolish as they now sound before God's Word. Until that day of vindication all we can do is to take God at His Word.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Luther
"Look solely to Scripture. For if you fail to cling to this, both the factious spirits and your reason will soon mislead you. I myself am also a doctor and have read Scripture, and yet I experience this daily. If I am not properly clad in my armor, such thoughts come to me, and I stand in danger of losing Christ and the Gospel. If I am to stand my ground, I must constantly adhere to Scripture. How, then, will a person fare who is without Scripture and proceeds equipped with nothing but reason? For what might I believe regarding this article, which teaches that another life follows the present one, if I were to listen to reason when it comes gushing along with its notions and says: 'What becomes of him whom the ravens devour or of him who remains in the water and is eaten by the fish and is completely consumed? Where do the people remain who are burned to ashes, who crumble into dust, who are scattered over the whole earth and vanish? Yes, what becomes of every person who is buried in the ground and is consumed by worms?' I may entertain similar thoughts with regard to all the other articles of faith if I follow my reason, also those which seem very insignificant. I might, for instance, ask concerning the Virgin Mary how it was possible for her to become pregnant without a man, etc. But this is the rule: These articles of faith which we preach are not based on human reason and understanding, but on Scripture; it follows that they must not be sought anywhere but in Scripture or explained otherwise than with Scripture.
"That is one way in which Paul refutes the factious spirits, saying that they advance their own ideas without Scripture and that they can submit nothing to support these. The other point is that none of them is able to present witnesses to attest their story, men who might prove it with their own experience. And he also describes such persons nicely in Colossians 2, where he says that they 'insist on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking their stand on visions, puffed up without reason by their sensuous minds' (Col 2:18). It is as though he were to say: 'It is surely the manner of all factions to present things which none of them has seen or experienced, so that they lack the testimony of experience as they lack the testimony of Scripture and the Word.' But 'we speak,' says Christ (Jn 3:11), 'of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen.' And in 1Jn 1:1-3 we read: 'That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life ... that we proclaim to you.' 'And thus we, too,' says Paul, 'proclaim to you in this article that which I and all the apostles, in conjunction with five hundred brethren, have seen and in which we all concur unanimously.'" 

Martin Luther, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15, 3-7
1 Corinthians

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (ESV)
O Lord, we have not deserved Your Word to us. Forgive us our doubt and shameful unbelief. We beg You, do not stop speaking to Your children; but ever give us Your comfort through speaking life into our dead ears that we might confidently look forward to the repose of death and the life of the world to come; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For JoAnn Zieroth, who has been diagnosed with lymphoma, that she would be strengthened in body and soul
For all who are being persecuted for the sake of the Word of God, that they might confess Christ's truth alone
For all who have become enslaved to drugs, that the Lord would lead them out of this slavery through the intervention of those who love them
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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