Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In our gospel and our Old Testament reading (Jeremiah 23: 16-29), we find warnings against false prophets. There are many voices in this world. They claim that "I am of Christ"; "I have the key to understanding the Bible"; "I have the key to success in your life"; "I have knowledge of the future." There are also many churches. Here is one type of church, there is another type of church. How can we discern who has the truth?
We believe that our church has the truth. But what is our rule? It is not a special revelation, nor a key to hidden knowledge. Our rule is what the banner on the wall says: Sola Escritura. Here is the testimony of the prophets and apostles written in a book. What is the advantage of the written Word? It never changes. In this book are not my ideas or opinions, but the doctrine of men guided by the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures were written by different men in different parts of the world, but with the same message.
In these same Scriptures, the Lord rejects the false prophets in this way: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you: they make you vain; they speak vision of their heart, not of the mouth of Jehovah. ” What is the Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord? It is Christ. Christ is the message; All the Scriptures point to Christ.
Jesus Christ preached the good news of a Savior who had come into the world. He is this same Savior. We believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There is no other name given to men for salvation. We must know Jesus to be saved. But how do we know Jesus? Now he doesn't walk among us in a visible form. We can know Jesus in the preaching of the written Word and in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Our Lutheran confessions say that the true church is where we find the preaching of the Word in its purity and the sacraments administered according to the commandment and promises of the Lord. In our Lutheran churches, then, we have measures to ensure the preaching of the pure Word and the administration of the sacraments in the right way. If you have any doubts or questions, you can check what the Bible says. We do not preach more or less what the Scriptures say. They are our only infallible source of doctrine.
There is only one Bible, so why are there different churches? The devil always has his agents in this world. "Beware of false prophets, who come to you clothed as sheep, but inside they are ravening wolves."
And the devil wants to trick us to divert from the right path to perdition. But, thank God, many people have in their mind that Jesus is the Savior who died on the cross for us and the devil cannot attack this belief directly. But, if he can sow confusion about what the Scriptures say in their entirety. In the garden the devil sowed doubts in Eve's mind about the Word of God. He said, "It it true that God has told you: Do not eat of every tree in the garden?" In her doubt, Eve overstated what God had said: “We should not eat, nor touch the fruit of the tree of life”. Because she was not firmly in the Word, Eve fell into sin.
Today, the devil tricks some people into believing less than the Bible says. Example, the Bible says that "This is my body, this is my blood", but these words do not conform to human reason. How can the body and blood of Christ be on this altar, when Christ went up to the right of God Almighty Father? ” So, the bread must symbolize the body and the wine must symbolize the blood. But, the Scriptures do not speak of symbols of the body and blood.
Some people believe in more than the Bible teaches. The Scriptures do not have answers to all questions, they only have what we need to know for salvation. The Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore, we invite everyone to test our preaching according to the Bible.
How do we deal with those who have different beliefs? There are those who have no bad motive, but in their ignorance they have accepted false doctrines. We must deal with them with respect and love, to guide them to the truth. But, when we find wolves dressed as sheep, we must declare God's judgment against those who take His name and His Word in vain.
"By their fruits you will know them. Are grapes picked from the thorns, or figs from the briers? Thus every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit." Bad fruits are primarily false doctrines. We have the promise of eternal life only by the grace of God, apart from our works. Therefore, he who says you need to do something to gain eternal life or the favor of God is a false prophet. Also someone who says the Law of God does not apply today, so we are not sinners.
False prophets can talk about Christ, they can quote the Scriptures, but they will teach something against the Bible. The bad fruits are also when someone speaks of the holiness of God, but lives an ungodly life.
When we continue to study and listen to the Scriptures, and receive the sacrament regularly, the Holy Spirit will guide us in the truth and help us in true faith to eternal life. In this, we have the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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