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The mysteries of God

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Pastor David Ernst

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

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Sun, Dec 13, 2015 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today I would like to deal with the epistle, 1 Corinthians 4.1-5, especially the first verse:

"So you have men as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God."

The Greek word translated as "servants" is ὑπηρέτας (hypēretas). In its original sense it meant a slave in a galley devoted to rowing in ranks with others to propel the boat. A guy walked between the rows with a whip to motivate the slaves. Some time later, the meaning of ὑπηρέτας was amplified to refer to a servant sent by his master to execute an order. The servant did not have his own authority, only the authority of the word of his master. How ironic that the word ὑπηρέτας only occurs two other times in the New Testament, in John 7.32 and Juan 18.3 to refer to the officers sent to arrest Jesus.

The Apostle Paul speaks of the public ministry of the church, preaching the Word of God and administering the sacraments. First of his apostolate and by extension, of all pastors of the church. Jesus gave the 12 apostles by his own mouth the authority to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and to make disciples. Also, the apostles were responsible for training others to continue this work. After His ascension, Christ gave his church the office of the keys, that is, the authority to call men to preach the Word and administer the sacraments.

"Now it is required of stewards that one be found faithful." The gifts of the Word and the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion are the treasures of the church, the family treasures. As the family treasures are not for anyone to handle, only trustworthy people can touch them. In this case, neophytes, those immature in the faith, cannot preach without understanding and commitment, only men called by God and qualified by the church. Not by their own holiness or authority, but by the authority of Christ and the church. As with the galley slaves, they have their task to do not by their own will but by the will of their master.

The task of a pastor, a minister of the church is to teach, prepare and exanube those who want to receive baptism and Holy Communion. The sacraments are the mysteries of God.

What is baptism? Water bound to the Word of God by the Lord's command. To receive the seal of God on the forehead and become a member of God's family. We receive the gift of faith by the Holy Spirit in baptism.

The model of our baptism is the baptism of Jesus Christ. Before Jesus began his public ministry came John the Baptist, who is spoken of in the other readings for today (Isaiah 40.1-8, Matthew 11.2-10) to call people to repentance before the coming of the Messiah with a symbolic washing. However, Jesus came to John to be baptized. John said, "I am not worthy to baptize you, you should baptize me." Never mind, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John and what happened? A voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son," and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove. The Father was present in the voice from heaven, the Spirit in the form of a dove, and the Son in the person of Jesus Christ. It is the same with the baptism of each of us. We baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, because the three persons of the Holy Trinity are always present in baptism.

Romans 6.4 says: "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death; so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Christ was baptized to die in our place and to rise on the third day. When we are baptized into Christ's baptism, we receive this promise to be resurrected at the last day for eternal life. So new life begins at baptism. Furthermore, salvation is not for one person alone, in baptism we become members of the family of God, which is the church.

We also have the gift of the Lord's Supper, in which we receive the body and blood of Christ in, with and under the bread and wine. In this world we are still sinners and fall into sin. But, we can repent and come together in the church to receive absolution and the blood and body of Christ for the strengthening of faith. However, with this sacrament, there is a caveat. Baptism is for everyone to receive the gift of faith, but for the Lord's Supper, one must acknowledge and repent of one's sins and, in addition, must discern the blood and body of Christ in the sacrament.

All receive the blood and body of Christ in the sacrament, but those who receive the sacrament in a manner unworthy for condemnation, not for the blessing. Therefore, the recipients must be trained to understand, to repent and believe. Therefore, we study in catechism class the 10 Commandments, the Apostles' Creed and the Our Father.

As a servant called and ordained by Christ and His church, it is my duty and privilege to examine the candidates for the sacraments and assure the church that they are ready. Today our sister Maria Gabriela Rosales Garrido will receive baptism, and, God willing, after more study will be confirmed to receive the Lord's Supper. Today Elias Isaac Montoya and Yaneth Torres will receive their first communion. It is my pleasure as servant of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God to announce this.

The theme for the third Sunday of Advent is "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! So, rejoice for the gifts of God and these candidates for baptism and the Lord's Supper.

We receive baptism once because Christ died once for all on the cross. The Lord's command is to receive absolution and Holy Communion frequently for remaining in the faith. Therefore, confirmation is a commitment to attend Sunday services frequently.

The preaching of the Word is to proclaim the gospel to everyone. It's like a radio or TV broadcast, so it is valid to preach on the radio or TV. But to receive the gifts of the sacraments, we meet with others in the church, because the sacraments are a more intimate communication with God. In baptism, God calls us by name and in the Lord's Supper we receive the body and blood of Christ with other believers, because the church is the body of Christ.

The peace that passes all understanding be with each of you. Amen.

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