Last week, we heard Jesus tell the story of the rich man and Lazarus. That story ended with this very important teaching: [Luke 16:31] If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. The story of the rich man and Lazarus has much to teach us, but the main teaching of that story is repeated today in the last words of the Epistle: Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. The Holy Spirit works through God's Word to establish faith and the Holy Spirit works through God's Word to strengthen faith. Apart from the Word of God, there is no promise to create or strengthen faith. That is the reason that the theme we received this year from the Lutheran Women's Missionary League or LWML fits so well on this Sunday. It reminds us that God's People rely on God's word. The theme this year is People of God ... In the Word.
This is actually a very old theme. It goes clear back to Moses and the Children of Israel. In his farewell sermon, Moses said, [Deuteronomy 6:6-9] "These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. It is fairly obvious that Moses, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wanted the people to be in the Word.
It should not surprise you that Jesus had great respect for the word. Near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, He told the story of the wise and foolish builders. [Matthew 7:24-27] 24 "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." In this parable, He compared people who are in the word to the wise man who built his house on solid rock. He compared people who ignore the Word to people who are foolish enough to build a house on a sand bar. People who are in the Word are safe and secure. People who ignore the word encounter disaster.
At another time, Jesus said, [John 8:31-32] "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Jesus would certainly agree with the theme People of God ... In the Word.
The Holy Scriptures praised the Christians in Berea for checking out Paul's words in the Scriptures. [Acts 17:10-11] The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. The Jews in Berea actually compared Paul's teachings to Holy Scripture to make sure that He was preaching the truth. The Christians of Berea were certainly the People of God … In the Word.
Psalm 119, the longest chapter of the Bible is a love poem to the Word of God. We read from it earlier, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." It would take a long time to read all the verses in the Bible that encourage us to be People of God … In the Word.
Never the less, we often struggle to be People of God … In the Word. This theme can fill us with a lot of guilt. Do we talk about God's word when we sit in our houses, and when we walk by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise? What gets more time, God's word or Face book - God's Word or the Bears or the Illini - God's Word or our favorite TV shows? Do we get an uneasy feeling when Jesus answers his critics and says, [Matthew 22:29] "You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. Do these words produce a bad feeling in the pit of the stomach? I know that I feel that no matter how much I study God's word, I will never know it as well as I should. If such is the case, how can I be one of the People of God ... In the Word?
While there are many barriers that stand between us and God's Word, the biggest barrier might be our understanding of the purpose of God's Word. Why did God the Holy Spirit inspire these words? Atheists say that the Bible is a collection of clever myths designed to oppress and manipulate people. Others say that the Bible is a rule book - a book of guidelines for living. They say it is the operating manual for God's creation. Some say that the Bible is just one book among many wise books that seek to give meaning and purpose to our lives. Which one of these is right - or are there still other ideas about the purpose of God's Word? If we don't know the purpose of God's word, how can we know its meaning? Is it any wonder that many are confused and do not know which way to turn? If we don't know what the Bible means, how can we be People of God ... In the Word?
There is a man who lived long ago who said all sorts of crazy things about Himself. One of the craziest things He said was that He would die and then rise from the dead. The only thing is; He actually did what He said He would do. Roman soldiers nailed Him to a cross and He died. On the third day, He rose from the dead. Suddenly, those things that He said were no longer crazy. This man's name is Jesus. If a man can keep His promise to rise from the dead, then we really ought to listen to what He had to say.
When Jesus talked about the purpose of God's Word, He said this, [John 5:39] You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me. Here Jesus tells us that the Bible is about Him.
Listen to another incident that happened after He rose from the dead. [Luke 24:44-47] 44 Then [Jesus] said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Again, Jesus tells us that the Bible is about Him and His work of forgiveness.
The men who were with Jesus said the same thing. When Peter told Cornelius about Jesus, He said, [Acts 10:43] "To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." Paul told Timothy, [2 Timothy 3:15] "From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
Paul does a great job of summarizing the main purpose God's Word. He said, [1 Corinthians 15:3-8] I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
Jesus Christ and His apostles all agree. Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, is the heart and center of the Bible. Jesus is the key to the true meaning of the Bible.
If we see the Bible as a book of guidelines for living, then it will crush us for none of us can live up to its guidelines. The attempt to understand the Bible as guidelines for living leads to all kinds of confusion. It produces all kinds of interpretations. The Bible becomes a very complicated book.
The Holy Spirit shows us that the Bible focuses on Jesus Christ and the salvation that He won for us. The Holy Spirit shows us that the Bible is God's love letter of salvation. When the Holy Sprit does this, the meaning of the Bible becomes clear. The complexity of the Bible drops away. It has a single, unified interpretation.
It is through this love letter of salvation that the Holy Spirit calls us and enlightens us. It is through this love letter that He sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith. It is through this love letter that He daily and richly forgives the sins of all who believe in Christ. This love letter becomes the Means of Grace by which the Holy Spirit establishes and strengthens our faith. In this way, it is the Holy Spirit who makes us People of God … In the Word.
As we gather on this day to commemorate the work of the LWML, we remember that the LWML is dedicated to sharing God's love letter of salvation with people around the world. The LWML supports the message that Jesus died to save sinners. It supports the work of pastors in far away lands as they bring Jesus Christ to the nations. It supports the work of seminaries that prepare pastors to shepherd God's people. It encourages the women of Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod congregations to study God's Word regularly so that they too are ready to confess the saving work of Jesus Christ to the people that they meet every day. The LWML works together with many other groups to share Christ with the world so that the Holy Spirit can make more People of God … In the Word. Amen
Please quote from my sermons freely. I expect people to copy my sermons or I wouldn't put them on a site like this. I only ask that you quote accurately if you attribute anything to me.
Should you decide to contact me, I would be very interested in knowing where you are. Please include the name of your city, state or province, and country when contacting me.
Send James T. Batchelor an email.