This week we will study some of the prophets of the Old Testament in vacation Bible school. What is a prophet? For many people, a prophecy means a prediction of the future, thus a prophet is one who can predict events that have yet to happen. The Old Testament prophets often spoke of the future because they lived before the birth of Christ. They proclaimed that which would happen until the coming of the Savior of the world.
Because a prophet is in fact one entrusted with the Word of God. At that time the living Word, that is, Christ, had not been revealed completely, so the prophets spoke of the future, but not only the future. Often they spoke of the injustice and sin of the people of Israel in their day and for people to remember God's mercy in the past and the judgment of God against Israel when the people dif not repent. By the Lord's command, they warned the people of Israel that unless they changed their path, God's patience would run out and He would let the enemies of Israel have the victory and the people would be enslaved again. However, the promise of the Savior always remained.
This kind of thing most people did not want to hear, so arose the other type of prophet, the false prophets. They told the people anything they wanted to hear, but their words were not the Word of God. As the true prophet Jeremiah wrote in our Old Testament lesson (Jeremiah 23:16-29): "Thus saith the LORD of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the LORD. They say still unto them that despise me, The LORD hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you."
All the first division of the Bible, the Old Testament, is the testimony of the prophets, the greatest of them was Moses, whom Almighty God gave the Law on Mount Sinai. The last of the prophets, that is, those that anticipated the first coming of Christ was John the Baptist, In the New Testament we have the testimony of John, "Behold the Lamb of God" (Jesus Christ). However, much of the New Testament is the testimony of men whom the Lord sent to proclaim the Gospel, the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ who suffered and died on the cross to pay the price for our sins.
These men were called apostles, or messengers of God. But the Lord did not send 12 men only once, but instituted the pastoral office entrusted with this commission, "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son, and Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Pastors of the church continue the apostolic work, the only difference is the original 12 apostles received their divine calling from Jesus face to face and saw with their own eyes his death and resurrection.
The pastors of the church today receive a divine call to preach the Word and administer the sacraments, but with the church acting as God's instrument. Therefore, in the Lutheran Church, no one can preach or administer the sacraments without a legitimate call. What is a legitimate call? A public process of preparation and approval by the church, lay and other pastors together. No one should preach or administer the sacraments on their own authority, but on the authority of Scripture and the church.
But still there are false prophets or teachers. The Lord says in our text for today: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Typically, the false teachers seem very friendly and nice, tell people what people want to hear. But they are dangerous men, for they deny the Word of God in their words or deeds, the Word which is the word of eternal life.
Our Lord also said: "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord , have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name cast out demons in Your name perform many miracles? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
False teachers may fool many people with false miracles. But, they are false because the rule of a true teacher is fidelity to the Word of God, not signs and visions. In fact, the Bible itself says in its pages we can find all we need to know for our salvation and there will be no more revelations until the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in His glory.
So, I encourage you each to study the Bible at home to judge the teachings of any teacher. You have the right to judge doctrine, not by private interpretation, ie, your own opinions, but in the common understanding of the church.
The Bible is the infallible rule of faith. It has all you need to know for salvation. But the false prophets always are trying to twist the words of Scripture. Therefore, it is sometimes necessary foingr the church to reaffirm the correct teach. For this reason we have the three great creeds of the church: the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed. These three are part of the Book of Concord, the confession of the Lutheran Church. This means the teachings of the Lutheran Church are equal to those of the early church. Also, the Book of Concord deals with errors that tainted the church of western Europe in the 16th century and persist even today.
We may think of it like this: the Bible is the Word of God for us and the confessions are our response to God, "Yes, Lord, I believe this."
We thank God, first to the Bible, His written Word and inspired by the Holy Spirit, and by the testimony of believers of the past that reaffirms and explains that we believe. Amen.
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