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Entrusted with the mysteries of God

1 Corinthians 4:1-6

Pastor David Ernst

Third Sunday of Advent
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

Play MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Dec 12, 2010 

Today's text speaks of the mysteries of God. What are the mysteries of God. Every Sunday we conclude the Divine Service with this prayer: "Eternal God, Heavenly Father, we give you thanks because you have nourished us with the spiritual sustenance of the most precious Body and Blood of your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ; and because You have assured us, in these holy mysteries, that we are living members of the Body of your Son, and heirs of Your eternal kingdom."

Where are the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ to be found? In the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, of course. In, with and under the bread and wine, we receive the true Body and the true Blood of Christ.

What else? What other mysteries of God are there like the Lord's Supper? Holy baptism, to be sure. Because of baptism we have the promise of eternal life, so we are heirs of Godīs king and members of the church, the communion of saints, which is the Body of Christ with Him as its head.

The Holy Spirit is active in both sacraments, baptism and the Lord's Supper, when the sacraments are administered with the Word of God and according to Christ's command. Also, the Spirit is active in the preaching of the Word of Gd. When the Holy Scriptures are preached, the preacher speaks with the voice and authority of God, especially in the absolution of sins.

These are the mysteries of God, because the work of the Holy Spirit in these things surpasses our understanding.

However, when St. Paul speaks of the adminstrators of the mysteries of God, of whom is he speaking?

In one sense, the mysteries of God are a treasure that belongs to the entire church. The church, the Body of Christ, has the authority to condemn sin, through the preaching of the Law, and to pardon the repentant sinner, through the absolution and the administration of the sacraments. This is the office of the keys. In the Book of Concordia, the Smalcald Articles, third part, article VII, we read:

"The keys are an office and power conferred to the church by Christ to loose and bind sins."

Also, the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (67-69) says, "For wherever the church exists, there exists also the right to administer the Gospel...This right is a gift given exclusively to the church, and no human authority can take it away from the church..."

St. Peter spoke of this authority of the church when he said (1 Peter 2:9), "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

However, in the context of today's text, St. Paul is defending his authority as an apostle. The word, "apostle," means "one who is sent", specifically those called by God to publicly preach the Word and administer the sacraments. Paul begins this first letter to the Corinthians with these words, "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God."

Because some people said, "Paul is the best preacher of the Gosple, so baptisms done by Paul are more valid than those done by others." But others said, "No, Apollos is the best preacher, so his baptisms are more valid." Others said the same of St. Peter, who also worked in Corinth.

There are two points here. Certainly the work of a pastor (that is, to preach, teach and administer the sacraments) is not for everyone who would like the job. Our Lord Himself instituted the pastoral office when He said in Matthew 28:19-20: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to keep all things that I have commanded you." Christ was talking to 11 chosen disciples, that He Himself had trained for three years before giving them the Great Commission.

The original apostle received their calls and their preparation directly from our Lord, but the apostolic work continues with pastors ordained by the church, that is, the Body of Christ. That is why the Book of Concordia also says, "...it is necessary for the church to retain the right to call, choose and ordain ministers...wherever there is the true church, there exists also by necessity the right to choose and ordain ministers."

Ministers, that is, pastors, have the right to preach the Word and administer the sacraments in the name of the church. And more, in the name of God. That is why the pastor says, "as a called and ordained servant of the church, I announce in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, the full forgivness of all your sins." The call to be a pastor comes from God with the church as His instrument.

It is not a position for everyone. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:28-29, "And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?" This answer is no, there is a diversity of gifts, but all receive the same Spirit.

The pastoral office is a blessing from God to protect His people from false prophets. The Bible speaks of false prophets as "wolves in sheep's clothing", who use the name of Christ to deceive even the faithful. St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:1-6, "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil."

In today's epistle, Paul simply says, "It is required of administrators (of the divine mysteries) that they be found faithful." Found faithful to what? The Holy Scriptures.

This is the other point. A pastor does not have any authority in his own person, he is a servant of the church, yet primarily is bound by the written Word, our rule of faith. The authority of the church also is bound by the authority of the Scriptures, in which the will of God and the person of Jesus Christ are revealed. The pastor may not preach his own opinions or ideas, only the Law and the Gospel according the prophets and apostles.

Since the authority of the pastor stem from God's holy Word, to that extent his personality and character do not matter. The baptisms performed by Paul were not more valid than those performed by Peter and Apollos, because all baptisms carry the same promise of God.

So why then, am I standing in front of you as pastor? Because of your call and that of God. Seven years ago, Luz Maria and I started Bible studies among you, and in time some of you asked us, "Why can't we be baptized and confirmed as members of the church?"

With the help of other pastors and congregations, some of you were baptized and confirmed. And when two or three are gathered in the name of Christ, there is a local church. God's flock here needed a pastor, so I completed the studies, was ordained and now here I am. I have sworn to serve Christ and His church, and one day must give account to God of my service.

That is why St. Paul writes, "It is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me."

One day I will stand in front of Christ on His throne and He will ask me, "What have you preached in my Holy name?" God willing, I will reply, "Only Your holy Word for the salvation of souls." Amen.

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