Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Especially to you confirmands, it is my desire that Wisdom may abide with you forever.
Usually in America, wisdom means following your heart. In Christianity, we know that the heart is filled with sinful foolishness, however noble and wise it may feel to us.
In Scripture, we learn true wisdom. King Solomon, son of David, wisest man in history except for Christ, wrote in Proverbs that Wisdom is more than a concept or a virtue. Wisdom is a Person.
Wisdom speaks to us and describes His existence before the world was created. Before the foundations of the world were laid, says Wisdom, I was there. Before the mountains and hills, before even the first tiny particles of dust were made, I was given birth. I was brought forth in eternity, before the Lord had done anything else, before the world began, before there was even such a thing as time. There was never a time when I did not exist, says Wisdom.
This Person called Wisdom is the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. As Saint Paul tells us, Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God, and as Saint John tells us, He was with God in the beginning.
But what does it mean that He was given birth? How was He brought forth?
In the early Church, a heretic named Arius taught that the Son of God was the first creation of God. According to Arius, the Son is the most important creature made by God, but is not equal with the Father, and is a lesser kind of god. The Son was not eternal, said Arius. Instead, there was a time when He did not exist.
Although this kind of belief is around today in other church bodies, this is contrary to Scripture and dangerous to souls.
The Athanasian Creed confesses that "what the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father is uncreated; the Son is uncreated; the Holy Spirit is uncreated. ... The Father is eternal; the Son is eternal; the Holy Spirit is eternal." There is no beginning to the Son. He is from everlasting to everlasting, without beginning or end.
Yet Scripture sometimes speaks of the Son being brought forth or given birth, as in Proverbs 8, or as Saint John said, "He was begotten of the Father." This begetting is not the same as His conception in the Virgin Mary or His birth in Bethlehem. When Proverbs speaks of giving birth to the Son, it is before the Creation of the world.
The Athanasian Creed says, "The Son is from the Father alone, not made or created but begotten." So "begotten" is not the same as made or created. But what is "begotten"? We do not really know. It was not an event in history, but something that took place in eternity, before there was time. Our human minds, bound to a world of time and history, cannot grasp eternity, nor a God who is without beginning.
Since our human wisdom and feelings fall short, the best we can say is what God has revealed for us in Scripture. There we find that the Son of God is without beginning, and that He also was brought forth from God, not as a creation, but begotten from eternity. Yet He was also conceived and born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Because this mystery is impossible to fully grasp, it is tempting to change it, as Arius did, to make it more reasonable to our human minds. It may seem unimportant to us, since no one else was around before the Creation of the world. Why should we care how the Son of God came into existence?
But such talk is the talk of our sinful human minds. All the truths of Scripture, including the doctrine of the begetting of the Son, are vitally important to us. To introduce any small error is to contaminate the entire faith, as Paul wrote, "A little leaven leavens the whole lump."
The exact origin and identity of the Son of God is vitally important because He is the Source of salvation. If Jesus is any less than fully God, then it sets the forgiveness of sins in jeopardy.
The Blood that was shed upon the Cross for you is the Blood of the Eternal One. It is the Blood of God. Likewise, He who suffered and died is no less than fully God, equal to the Father. If Jesus is a lesser God, or if He is not the only-begotten Son, then you would have to doubt whether the Cross was enough. You would have to doubt whether He was holy enough or perfect enough. But Scripture teaches that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily in Jesus Christ. His death is overwhelmingly valuable, of infinite worth.
You need never wonder whether the Cross is enough. Great as your sins may be, (and they are indeed very great) the Cross is greater. If you agonize over the guilt that your trespasses have earned, turn your face to the Lamb of God, who is God. His sacrifice far outweighs all your sins and the sins of the whole world besides.
If you look only upon your sins and contemplate how heavy they are, you will be overwhelmed by the gravity and the power of your iniquities. But if you look to the Son of God, then your sins are overwhelmed by the infinite power of His sacrifice.
The Church should insist that this pure Gospel be preached in order to remove uncertainty from the Christian soul. The pure Gospel is built upon the foundation of the only-begotten Son of God. No one ever needs to wonder whether they have done enough, or said enough, or avoided sin enough. All is paid for, all is atoned for, all is certain in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Therefore, have confidence that your religion is not based upon the ideas of a mere man. Your faith is based upon the eternal God. You do not follow the wisdom of a man, not your wisdom that you feel in your heart nor my wisdom as your pastor. Instead, you follow the Wisdom of God, which is Jesus Christ. The wisdom of man always, eventually fails. But the Wisdom of the Man who is God never fails. Mankind with his fallible, twisted wisdom can only guess or speculate or invent fables. But the Son of God knows all truth. The Son of God was there at the Creation of the world, and He was the Master Craftsman through whom all things were made.
But it is even more comforting to know that His knowledge and pre-existence and creative power are not merely facts. He knew YOU before you were born, before you were conceived, before the foundations of the world were laid. He chose you to be saved by His grace, through the sacrifice of His life. When He existed before the world, even then He planned to take your human flesh to redeem you. Although He worked with wondrous power when He created the world out of nothing, He has worked even more wondrously by recreating you by water and the Word. For as in the beginning when His Spirit hovered over the waters and His mighty Word created everything, so also He has come to you with His Spirit in the waters of Baptism, and His mighty Word has given you new life out of lifelessness. So you are the new creation.
For Christ Jesus has given you His life, but it is no ordinary life. He who is without beginning or end has put His eternal life in you. The only-begotten Son of the Father has given you new birth as sons of God, beloved and privileged as the apple of His eye.
You are no lowly creatures! You are the pinnacle of all God's creation! You are His delight and joy, His precious saints whom He is happy to call brothers and sisters.
In His Name, the One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
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