Red-Letter Word
Monday of Pentecost 17
2 October 2017
Many Bibles are "red letter" editions. The red letters indicate which words were spoken by Christ. Red letters bug me, because they make the text harder to read, but worse than that, it is a misleading way to print Bibles. It leaves the reader with the unstated, but still strong, impression that these "red" words are superior to the others because they are Christ's. This overlooks the fact that the Son of God, Christ, is the principal author of every Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation. It ignores the specific claims of the Lord Christ to send and commission His holy apostles to teach in His name and that those who heard the apostles had heard Him (Lk 10:16). Paul's epistles are the Word of Christ. If so, every letter of the Bible ought to be printed in red.
Jesus' teaching authority did not end with His ascension but continued on the lips and pens of His properly commissioned apostles and evangelists. The book of Acts is remarkable because it begins with the claim that it is the record of what Jesus continued to do and to teach in His church (Acts 1:1-2), despite the fact that His ascension is recorded in the first of twenty-eight chapters. So how does He continue to do and to teach? He teaches and acts through Peter and Paul and the company of the apostles.
The book of Acts is also the book that has no ending. Luke's ending is only an opening to a never-ending sequel: "He (Paul) lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance" (Acts 28:30-31). The gospel mission was an ongoing mission that continues to this day through the apostolic doctrine as handed down to us through Holy Scripture. Thus, the gospel continues to give life to the church and her children. The apostolic teaching is in every way the speech of the Son of God given to us that we might norm every word that arises from the pastors and teachers of the church. Then when that word conforms to the prophetic and apostolic Scripture, then everything said is the speech of God. Every Word of God is a red-letter word.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Martin Chemnitz

"Strictly speaking, there is no difference between the doctrine of Christ and that of the apostles. For when Christ gives the apostles power to preach the gospel, He adds clearly: 'Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you' (Mt 28:19-20). 'The Holy Spirit will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you' (Jn 14:26). 'You desire proof that Christ is speaking in me' (2Co 13:3). 'So we are ambassadors for Christ, etc.' (2Co 5:20). Here, for the sake of order and analysis we understand the doctrine of Christ according to the explanation of Luke of 'all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day when he was taken up' (Acts 1:1-2). We have shown that this doctrine concerning the sayings and work of Christ, to the extent that the Holy Spirit considered it necessary and sufficient for us, is contained in the writings of the evangelists. But by the doctrine of the apostles we understand that which they delivered and spread in the whole world, among Gentiles and Jews, after the ascension of Christ.
"Concerning this doctrine we must now speak. It is an established fact that the apostles during the first few years proved and confirmed the apostolic teaching from the Scriptures of the Old Testament but that they handed it down and spread it without any writing of their own, solely by the living voice. Later, however they began to write down certain things about the doctrine. Out of what considerations, for what reasons, for what purpose and intent they did this, and what use they wanted to have made of their writings in the church, we shall inquire in the same way as we did concerning the evangelists. For this is the true, whole, and perfect doctrine of the gospel (as far as we are able to have it in this life), which Christ the Son of God first proclaimed with His own mouth and afterward demanded that it be preached by His apostles to every creature. When therefore we shall have shown also concerning the doctrine of the apostles, as we have already proved concerning the doctrine of Christ, that as much as the Holy Spirit judged necessary and sufficient for us for dogmas and morals was consigned to writing, it will be clear that the sacred Scripture is the canon, norm, rule, foundation, and pillar of our whole faith. Whatever is to be accepted under this title and name of the doctrine of Christ and the apostles must be shown and confirmed from Scripture. For in religious controversies all things must be tested and examined according to this norm in such a way that the saying of Jerome remains in force: 'Whatever does not have authority in Holy Scripture can be rejected as easily as it can be approved.'"

Martin Chemnitz, Examination of the Council of Trent
Jeremiah 36:27-32
Now after the king had burned the scroll with the words that Baruch wrote at Jeremiah's dictation, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: "Take another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, 'Thus says the LORD, You have burned this scroll, saying, "Why have you written in it that the king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cut off from it man and beast?" Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: He shall have none to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat by day and the frost by night. And I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear.'"
Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.  
Lord Christ, You gave Your Word to the apostles who penned letters to the church. Grant that the church might ever give ear to that Word so that whatever is accepted as Your doctrine might be shown and confirmed in Scripture. Amen.
For Vicar Kyle Richardson, that the Lord's hold on him would always support him
For Sebastian Graf, that the Lord Jesus would grant him strength so he could be taken home
For all those who are still working through the challenges presented by flooding in their homes, that the Lord of the church would strengthen them for the work ahead
For all Lutheran teachers, that they would be upheld in the labor of opening minds and sharing the confession of Christ
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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