Tag Archives: paul

We are all runaways from God Philemon

[for the audio of this sermon click on the icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have wanted to run away from God said … AMEN!

People have, incorrectly, used the Bible to justify slavery especially in the United States. Paul is not justifying or condemning slavery, simply as a fact that Onesimus is, a slave. There were serious conditions under the Roman Empire dealing with slaves. There were only two classes in the Roman Empire, remember this is the secular, the worldly, the pagan empire that kept slaves, and treat them harshly. The Romans kept tight control of the slaves, there were a lot of slaves in Rome one estimate up to 350,000 slaves in Rome of a total population of 900,000. There were slave revolts in Rome. The slave population was able-bodied enough that if it organized effectively would have overwhelmed the free Romans. The army wasn’t allowed in Rome, you might know the phrase “crossing the Rubicon”. In 49 BC Julius Caesar violated Roman law by bringing his legion into Rome, when he crossed the Rubicon he intended to overthrow the government of Rome, the Roman Senate and establish himself as ruler, eventually emperor of Rome. The Roman army was kept out of Rome in order to prevent future coups. But this left the free Roman population vulnerable to slave rebellion and treated slaves harshly for the slightest infractions. Remember the movie Spartacus crosses of the crucified stretched for miles on the road into Rome. This was not an unusual sight. Onesimus stole money from his master and ran away from home in Colosse to Rome and either to Paul, or to look for him. The point is that regardless of what Paul thought about slavery he knew Onesimus was in grave danger. There were “slave-catchers”, what we would think as bounty hunters. If they caught Onesimus it would not go well. They would probably have returned him to Philemon for a bounty, but they would have probably would have worked him over and Philemon might have decided it wasn’t worth it for him and left the slave-catchers to decide what to do with Onesimus which probably wouldn’t have been nice. How Paul felt about slavery didn’t really enter into the equation. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon more to protect Onesimus and go by the numbers and also be faithful to a Christian brother. Philemon was probably rather wealthy, could have been bishop of Colosse at the time, probably held church in his house. Matthew Henry writes: “The apostles had under Christ great power in the church over the ordinary ministers, as well as the members of it…; they might require of them what was fit, and were …to be obeyed, which Philemon should consider. This was a matter within … the apostle’s power to require,,,,” Paul was certainly recognized as an apostle of Christ, apostle meaning “sent one, one who is sent to represent another”. In Paul’s interactions at Antioch and the Jerusalem council no one in the church disputed that Paul was one sent by Christ. Who did Paul meet on the Damascus road? Paul claims he was taken to the third level of heaven and by his acts and knowledge proved it. Paul was in a Roman prison, he had nothing, some Christians in Rome might have provided for him in prison, but how reliable was probably in question. With Onesimus, Paul had someone who would be there to care for his needs. So Paul could have put it to Philemon saying “the guy who was useless to you, is very useful to me, I will pay his debt, then send him to me.  Paul could do that and would have been within his rights to do that. He certainly had extreme need, and it would not have been a hardship for Philemon.

As Christians we can get an attitude, make up our mind; I’m entitled to whatever I want, I should be able to take because I’m under grace and everyone, from the minister through the church should hand over or perform the way I want them to. If we have sixty people is it realistic to think all sixty should get their way? That is why we have doctrine. Dr Luther along with some of the greatest minds from the sixteenth century to the present wrote doctrine to unite us as Lutherans and make it clear what we genuinely believed as a church. We have Christians who feel their ideas and visions of what the church should be are right and the church should accept that and move along. We have no right to make demands of the church and vice versa. If you are not sufficiently moved by the Holy Spirit to serve, to give, to understand, to accept, be unified, you certainly don’t have to. However, if, as Philemon seems to have realized with Paul and Onesimus, regardless of his opinion, or his rights, there was a greater need. I think that the Holy Spirit’s finger prints are all over this pericope. It’s about 2100 kilometers from Colosse where Onesimus started out, to travel to Rome, about 1300 miles. Even in today’s world, most of us don’t just wander somewhere, 1300 miles at a whim. The Holy Spirit had to be guiding this entire scenario, assuring Onesimus got where he was going, that he found Paul, that Paul accepted him, Paul appealed to Philemon as he and Onesimus are brothers in Christ, that letter would get to Philemon and would survive to today. We have to put our individual preferences and priorities beneath the best interests of another brother or sister and to the church as a whole. Paul sums up: “ESV Philemon 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother- especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” Philemon should see Onesimus as more than property, he should see him as a brother in Jesus. That is where we need to be in relationship with each other and in Jesus. We’re not just members of a group that loosely talks about things in the Bible. That through sacrifice, through grace, through our works, and because ultimately we all benefit from the same gifts of grace in Christ and justified by our faith in Him, that we are bound together for the best interests of Christ, of His Church and those of us who are in the Body of Christ. That we are beloved brothers and sisters in Jesus. That our priority is always building our relationship with Jesus’ church and His people and how that church brings Christ into the world. That we remember who we are in the world, that we are Christ’s and His agenda. Jesus says in our Gospel reading that it is our love for Him that takes precedence over everything, our parents, siblings, children, even ourselves. If we don’t take our cross, the things God has given us to deal with in life. Then we are not His, we cannot be disciples of Jesus. Many claim there is a middle choice, we can kind of make it up on our own and chose our own way. I’ve never had anyone explain to me what that way is. I know, if it’s not in Christ, it is sad, it is deadly, a grim if not painful eternity. There is only one way, one hope and one baptism that gives us new life in Christ. That baptism gives us the hope of the true life in the eternal resurrection of Christ which only happens in our forgiveness by our completely just and holy God who forgives all our sins in that sacrifice of Christ. It is how we are led in the Holy Spirit, true life in the life of the Church, His true Body and Blood that saves us. All can only be efficacious if it is truly in Christ and His Church.

Tradition says Philemon sent Onesimus back to Paul. Philemon might have been a bishop at the time of this letter, Onesimus becames a bishop. Ignatius writes the slave Onesimus became the Bishop of Ephesus succeeding another of Paul’s beloved sons, Timothy. “Later, as Saint Jerome and other Fathers testify, he became an ardent preacher of the Gospel and a bishop… He was cruelly tortured in Rome, for eighteen days, by a governor of that city, infuriated by his preaching on the merit of celibacy. His legs and thighs were broken with bludgeons, and he was then stoned to death. His martyrdom occurred under Domitian in the year 95.”[1] I believe one of the reasons they were elevated to these positions was they both submitted to the authority of their minister, Paul the Apostle, the sent one who based on their obedience in Christ and the furtherance of the church, recommended both of them for further leadership that the need of their faithful service to the church through this event with Paul moved them to be leaders in Christ’s church by the Holy Spirit. All of this we read 2,000 years later, because three men stepped up to serve each other and the church and to put their own agenda aside.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom  Christ is risen! He has risen indeed Hallelujah

[1] https://sanctoral.com/en/saints/saint_onesimus.html

Rebuke, Exhort! Don’t minimize and “tolerate”

St Paul wrote the largest amount of the content of the New Testament. Certainly the Gospels are specifically about the life and teachings of Jesus. But on the road to Damascus Jesus personally knocked Paul off his donkey and made Paul focus on who Jesus is and what being a Christian is all about. From there the Holy Spirit took Paul in hand and led Paul to be one of the greatest missionaries of Christianity and one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Christian teacher. Many people like to minimize doctrine, but without Paul’s writings on doctrine we would have very little understanding of our Christian faith, a lot of what we accept as normal Christian practice, we would have to guess about, without Paul.

Paul founded a number of churches during his mission trips and he spent a lot of time and ink teaching people the important aspects of being a Christian. His “epistles”, letters, were written to people in Corinth, Thessalonica, Rome, Ephesus, Galatia, Philippi, Colassae, and undoubtedly other groups in the Roman Empire. These were to address issues the churches were dealing with, or to pass on to them important aspects of being a Christian. In addition to Paul’s epistles to the churches, he also mentored, at least two pastors, Timothy and Titus. His letters to them were how to be pastors and how to lead congregations in the difficult times that these churches, all Christians, were going through at the time of Paul’s letters. Much of what Paul writes about is directly applicable to the Christian church and Christian pastors today.

Paul was not a shrinking violet, he had to contend with an immense amount of adversity during his ministry which culminated in being beheaded. As I said, Paul was probably the greatest missionary and pastor in Christian history. But if you really read Paul’s writings most Christians today, would be taken aback by Paul’s straightforward, even abrupt pastoral style. He wasn’t playing around, things had to be done in the church and in confronting a pagan and hostile society. Again so much of what Paul had to deal with we see today. While I’m not telling people to go out and be contentious, look for fights, or not try to be winsome and inviting, I am saying that there will be many times where you have to be straightforward in proclaiming the Gospel and not worry about who will be “offended”, or upset. As Christians and certainly not pastors we are not here to patronize people, or play to the crowd. As a pastor I took vows, to my death, promising to proclaim the Gospel. Many will be offended as Jesus tells us in KJV Matthew 24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” The adolescent whining you will often hear while proclaiming the Gospel is just a convenient way for people to not deal with the truth. They will be held accountable for their silly little posturing, but we can’t let them intimidate us into shutting up about Jesus and that’s what they’re shooting for.

Believe me if they had interacted with Paul, they would think that someone like me is a little candy cane. Paul wanted to make it clear to churches, like Corinth and Thessalonica, that the Gospel is not about kid gloves. It’s about people’s eternal life, that is the ultimate issue, even if people don’t recognize it. It’s not up to us to candy-coat it or treat it like entertainment. It’s up to us to proclaim it with great knowledge, great compassion, integrity and urgency. Treat the Gospel in a way that is with utter respect as to its importance, not the way most people treat it which is a secondary issue and why worry about it, God will work everything out. I get that attitude all the time and it is just not true.


Paul writes to Timothy, one of his disciples who he is mentoring as a pastor. Timothy is in Ephesus, he is a young preacher and it would seem that he was contending with a lot of different people who were teaching false doctrine. Paul tells Timothy: “ESV 2 Timothy 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

Paul is telling Timothy you know what is important, you know what you need to do, don’t stop doing it just because there are some people who are opposing you and trying to shut you up. We see that in too many young pastors today, “I don’t want anyone to get mad, I don’t want to offend anyone”. I look at it in terms of; “am I worried about upsetting this guy here, or God”? If it’s a choice, I’m sure not going to upset God. Paul makes it clear that it’s about what is in Scripture.

To underline that he goes on to write in the strongest terms: “ESV 2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Paul is serious and he’s telling Timothy; by all that we hold as holy, you need to go out and teach that. Don’t pull punches, don’t tell people what they want to hear. That’s not your call, your call is to tell people what God has given us in Scripture. Anything else would be to “suit their own passions”, which isn’t God’s intention, is it? Reprove, Rebuke, Exhort. These are not make nice words. Paul’s words are telling Timothy to make sure people understand these words are serious. Don’t let people get away with it if they’re trying to sell nonsense. We see that today with so many false teachers, it’s no less today than it was 2,000 years ago. Today when you’re faithful to Paul’s teaching you’re going to catch all kinds of flak as to how mean, judgmental, unloving, whatever phobic and whatever other adolescent prattle you hear from people who don’t want to hear God’s word and want to wallow in their nasty little sin. But they still expect God to come through for them and save them, do things their way. Bizarre, but people today truly expect everything their way and that includes God. After all, to quote the prattle from false teachers, God just wants us to be happy! Huh!? God wants us to become mature Christian disciples. That’s much more than “happy”.

Titus was probably an older man, another of Paul’s disciples and he was the pastor of the church on the island of Crete. Ever hear the expression “Cretans”? Not a flattering expression. Titus apparently had to deal with some pretty crude actors.

Paul gave Titus the same direction. Don’t be bashful, preach the truth of the Gospel: “ESV Titus 2:15 Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.” The last part “Let no one disregard you.” Don’t be brushed off or ignored, don’t let people patronize you, and wow you see a lot of that in the world today dealing with Christians. No! This is the truth, you may not like it but don’t be cavalier about it either, this is serious, treat it as such.

Paul goes on to write: “ESV Titus 2:1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” Yes doctrine does matter, don’t play around or minimize it, preach it. “7 Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,” Have Christian integrity, stick to what you know is the truth, be faithful and strong. But do it with dignity too. Don’t look silly and get all emotional and flakey. Assert the truth and move on. People too often don’t treat Christians seriously, make them take you seriously know what you’re talking about. Now more than ever we need to take those words seriously and stop putting on shows of “tolerance” or accommodation. “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) There is no other truth! You may disagree with me, but you have to take Jesus’ words seriously.

As Christians we get a lot of just straight out stupid messages from the world. Too often we make the mistake of trying to dignify them, of being too gracious. Paul, Timothy, Titus and us, we don’t have that luxury. We need to be serious strong disciples and evangelists and witness in a way that we will be taken seriously. It’s not always going to result in conversion, but, Paul told both his disciples, don’t be bashful, rebuke wrongful teaching. Don’t get defensive about someone telling you you’re being judgmental. Say what you want and try to use weenie words to avoid the truth, I’m telling you the truth, and it is judgmental. If you disregard the truth of Jesus Christ : “ESV John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” I’m telling you the truth, if you chose to ignore it or minimize it you’ve “judged”, “condemned” yourself, not me.

Offending non-Christians? Be more concerned with offending genuine Christians Answers in Genesis

Christians Should Never Offend Anyone

Clearing Up Misconceptions

by Jeremy Ham on January 25, 2011

Do Christians need to avoid offending anyone? What does Paul mean when he says to “give no offense in anything”? Jeremy Ham, AiG–U.S., explains.

Clearing Up Misconceptions

Over time, many beliefs with little to no Biblical basis have crept into common Christian thinking. This web series aims to correct some of the most commonly held misconceptions about the Bible.

In this current world, offending someone seems rather easy. We probably have all offended or hurt someone’s feelings, whether it was intentional or not. Is the belief that Christians should never offend anyone a biblical guideline? This supposed guideline could be a result of ideas like the following:

  • We need to avoid offending our weaker brother.
  • We should not offend non-Christians because we might lose the opportunity to witness.
  • Paul stated that we should never offend anyone: “We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed” (2 Corinthians 6:3).

After close examination, we will not only find the guideline of never offending anyone to be unbiblical, but we will also find the supposed biblical ideas used to support it are unbiblical. Taking Scripture out of context to support an idea can be very easy to do, and so we must carefully examine all ideas with Scripture.

If we are defending and living the truth of God’s Word, is it possible to always avoid offending a weaker brother or a non-Christian, and should that be our focus? This article explains why never offending anyone is not a biblical guideline.

What Does It Mean to Offend Someone?

Before discussing the belief that we should never offend anyone, we need to define what we mean by “offend.” If we offend someone, we did something that causes a person to get vexed. While true, this definition is vague and does not give any principles on how to avoid offending someone. The best way to understand the definition of this word is to look at some examples.

One common example from Scripture of an offense is the eating of food that had been sacrificed to idols. Paul wrote the following:

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak. (1 Corinthians 8:6–9)

We can apply the basic principle from this passage to words we say. Some Christians believe certain words should never be said while others believe they can say them. For example, what would happen if I was with a person who believed we should never say “cabbagehead,” and I used it (in an edifying manner, of course)? I would have defiled that person’s conscience. In other words, I would have offended that person by being a stumbling block. Based on Scripture, we need to be wary of becoming a stumbling block to others (see also Luke 17:1–4). However, some go an extra step and say we should never offend our weaker brother, but Scripture does not command this.

Another way to offend is by getting non-Christians angry not only at us but also at Christianity. For example, imagine driving and unintentionally cutting a non-Christian off in traffic. The person cut off would probably get angry. Furthermore, if the car had a Christian bumper sticker, the person might also get mad at Christianity. As Christians, we need to strive to have the utmost integrity in all areas, including driving (Titus 2:7).

In both cases, the offense was not deliberate, but unfortunately, someone was still offended. Some people use these or similar examples to support the idea that we should be careful to never offend anyone. While we should keep these biblical examples in mind to avoid offending people, God’s Word does not state that we should never offend.

What About 2 Corinthians 6:3?

Some have pointed to 2 Corinthians 6:3 to justify the belief that we should never offend anyone. Paul wrote, “We give no offense in anything, that our ministry may not be blamed.” In other words, Paul said he would not offend anybody in anything, right?

Well, the word translated “offense” is προσκοπήν (proskopen), and it refers to an obstacle, difficulty, or stumbling block (the same word is used in 1 Corinthians 10:32). In fact, the NIV translates the verse this way: “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited” (2 Corinthians 6:3, (NIV)). This is perfectly consistent with Paul’s earlier statement to the Corinthians, which warned about becoming a stumbling block to others (1 Corinthians 8:9).

Are There Instances Where Offending Someone Is Okay?

When we read Scripture about not being a stumbling block to your weaker brother or about having the utmost integrity, we must be careful not to extrapolate unscriptural ideas. A closer look at Scripture reveals that if we follow and proclaim the truth of Scripture, we will inevitably offend people!


In Galatians 5:11, Paul stated that he was being persecuted for not preaching circumcision. Instead of preaching circumcision, he was preaching the Cross, which was an offense to those who still held to the law of circumcision. The Greek word translated “offense” in this verse is σκάνδαλον(skandalon), a noun referring to that which causes offense and arouses opposition.Sadly, even today some people hold to laws rather than the saving knowledge of the Cross. In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples. To accomplish that goal, we need to spread the word about Jesus, and we will inevitably run into people that are offended by this message (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23).

When Jesus spoke with the Pharisees, He was more concerned with the truth than their feelings. Jesus spoke the truth, which often aggravated the Pharisees because it conflicted with their beliefs. At one point, the disciples even came to Jesus and told Him the Pharisees were offended by what He had been saying (Matthew 15:12). Jesus answered that the Pharisees’ failure to see the truth right in front of them would be their downfall. Jesus continued to spread the truth, even when it offended people.

Places like the Creation Museum tend to offend atheists, but does that mean we are doing something unloving toward them? Psalm 14:5 gives insight into the hearts of atheists by stating that “they are in great fear, for God is with the generation of the righteous.” Why would they be afraid if they believe there is no God? In reality, they do not want to acknowledge God and be accountable to Him for all their deeds. The Creation Museum displays the truth of the Creator and Redeemer, but atheists want nothing to do with God. For the Creation Museum not to offend atheists, it would need to be based on man’s word rather than God’s Word. Obviously, this would require us to compromise our Christian beliefs.

A friend of mine told me that he was offended and his feelings deeply hurt when his doctor gently told him that he had leukemia. Was it unloving of the doctor to announce this offensive news? Not at all! This was the most loving thing the oncologist could have done for my friend so that he would not only recognize what was wrong with him but he could also seek a cure. If the doctor remained silent because he was afraid of offending him, then my friend would have died. In the same way, we must never remain silent for fear of offending the unbeliever when we have an opportunity to share the only truth that can save them from an eternity apart from God.

In all of these instances, the truth is what offended people. Paul taught in Ephesians 6:14 that a Christian’s foundation is the truth of God. Therefore, Christians will offend certain people if they are living by God’s truth.


As Christians, we need to have the utmost integrity in all areas and be careful not to be a stumbling block to a fellow Christian. We should make every effort to live at peace with others (Romans 12:18). This does not mean, however, we will never offend a fellow Christian if, for example, a rebuke is needed. Even though we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), we might still offend. We must live by the truth of God’s Word, and those people who are living contrary to the truth are often offended. Non-Christians may be offended as well. After all, the message of the gospel declares that they are sinners who need to repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ. In a sense, we need to offend unbelievers in order to witness to them!

Although we cannot keep people from getting offended, we should make sure that it is the truth that offends rather than our attitude, actions, or approach. We must follow biblical principles in all areas. At times, offending is wrong, and at other times, it is necessary. As we spread the truth of God’s Word, we should do so in love, humility, and boldness, making sure we are living by the truth.

Thoughts on Predestination from the Church Fathers to Martin Luther May 14, 2010

When I started this study on predestination, I assumed that this was simply to discuss that God must foresee the destiny of each person. Through this study though various writers have pointed to the need for God’s foreknowledge in all things. Certainly if God knows the destiny of Jim Driskell this has to include His foreknowledge of the entire environment, the history and the future in order to fit my life into my environment. In his commentary on Romans, Leon Morris explains the process that Paul describes in his letter, that it is indeed not just knowing who is saved but it is a process: “Those he predestined God also called (again the call is an effectual call, for it is preceded by predestination). Those he called God also justified … This is an important concept for Paul and receives special emphasis in this epistle. It leads on to glorification, for those whom God justified he also glorified. The aorist tense here is unexpected… it is more likely that it is used of set purpose to bring out the truth that our glorification is certain. So certain is it that it can be spoken of as already accomplished.”[1] So certainly Paul clearly intended for us to understand that the predestination he was talking about was not something that was just being worked out, it was, but the end had already been determined. The focus of much of the discussion on predestination is on Romans 8:28 – 9:24, specifically 8: 29 – 8:30.

Needless to say to take on such a study is staggering in its immensity and yet what is known with certainty is miniscule, what we know is rather speculative except for a few Bible passages that refer to God’s foreknowledge but not necessarily what that entails. That being the case we should work under the assumption that God knows everything. Of course this raises questions as to how man’s “free will” plays out in this. If I have free will can I act in a way that undermines God’s foreknowledge, or His plan as it were? If this means that God foreknew what I would do then does that preclude free will? Could there a middle ground? In situations like Judas does God predestine some things, maybe just the “important” things and then lets us kind of live our otherwise ordinary lives out according to our personal preferences and prejudices, does God really map out everything or just the “big” events that require divine intervention. Of course that then raises the question as to what is “important” and what is otherwise ordinary, something that really doesn’t require God’s attention?

The Book of Concord, which writing was led by Dr. Martin Luther, gives us a good explanation as to why we should examine the question of predestination, but Dr Luther writes, a great deal, in other places that while we discuss the question, we don’t become consumed by it, or try to presume to know God’s intentions and think that we can somehow understand what God’s intent really is. Clearly the Bible writes about it and we are aware of it, but it is through our faith in God that He is going to act according to His great holiness, grace, compassion and knowledge. We should trust in that and to quote Dr. Luther: “God doesn’t want you to know the future. So stick with your calling, remain within the limits of God’s Word, and use whatever resources and wisdom God has given you. For instance, I can’t foresee what my preaching will produce – who will be converted and who won’t. What if I were to say, ‘Those who are meant to be converted will be converted even without my efforts, and what’s the use of trying to convert those who aren’t meant to be saved?’ Saying that would be foolish and irreverent. Who are we to ask such questions? Take care of your responsibilities and leave the outcome to God.”

The writers of the Book of Concord wanted to clarify why it was necessary to discuss this issue: “Therefore, in order by God’s grace to prevent, as far as we can, disunity and schism in this article among our posterity, we have determined to set forth our explanation of this article in this document so that all men may know what we teach, believe, and confess in this article. 2 If the teaching of this article is set forth out of the divine Word and according to the example it provides, it neither can nor should be considered useless and unnecessary, still less offensive and detrimental, because the Holy Scriptures mention this article not only once, and as it were in passing, but discuss and present it in detail in many places. 3 In the same way, one must not by-pass or reject a teaching of the divine Word because some people misuse and misunderstand it; on the contrary, precisely in order to avert such misuse and misunderstanding, we must set forth the correct meaning on the basis of Scripture.”[2]

Fr William Most did a survey of the Church Fathers regarding predestination and he concludes that they all agree to some extent that merit figures in some way to God’s determination as to who will be saved. He starts by giving his understanding of how the Thomists, that is those who adhere to the school of Thomas Aquinas see predestination:

““The older Thomists, in general, explain it thus:

  1. In the order of intention: God first decides on the end, i.e., eternal glory for the predestined man. Then He decrees the merits needed for this end. Finally He decrees the graces needed for those merits.
  2. In the order of execution: God, in eternity, decrees the execution in time of the decrees He has already made/ First He decrees the graces needed for merits, then He decrees the merits, finally He decrees glory for the predestined man. For a reprobate however, he first decrees only sufficient graces (or, at least He does not decree efficacious graces t such an extent that the man would be saved), then He decrees the absence of merit after sufficient graces. Because it is metaphysically inconceivable for a man to perform a good work with such graces, sins infallibly follow, or rather, God moves the man to these. (Cf. 132.5) Because of the sins, He decrees eternal punishment.”[3]


The following is Fr Most’s summation of the Fathers’ view of predestination:

St Justin Martyr: “But I have already shown that it is not by the fault of God that those angels and men do become wicked who are foreseen as going to be unjust, but [rather that] by his own fault each one is such as he will appear [then].”[4]

St Irenaeus: “If therefore even now God since He foreknows all things, has handed over to their infidelity as many as He know will not believe, and has turned His face away from such ones, leaving them in the darkness which they chose for themselves: How is it strange if then He handed over to their own infidelity Pharaoh, who never would believe, and those who were with him?”

Fr Most’s comments on St Irenaeus’ view indicates that it is not a consideration of merit that God predestines some men, but because they chose sin: “…St Irenaus does not say that they lack the faith because God deserted them, but rather, that God handed them over to infidelity because they chose darkness for themselves… It is clear also that St Irenaeus by no means says that men can merit predestination. He does not, actually, speak at all about the positive side, but only about reprobation.”[5]

This seems to refute Fr Most’s argument. We are all condemned as a result of original sin, “”None is righteous, no, not one;” (Romans 3:10) So if we come into the world under sin and continue in our sin and God has foreseen that “He knows will not believe…” then they are left in their sin and surely God has determined that they will be left in their sin. There is no assertion that they can “earn” their salvation, it must be assumed that Irenaeus acknowledged this and therefore did not make a case that they could “earn” their salvation.

Clement of Alexandria: ‘For the coming of the Saviour did not make [men] foolish and hard of heart and faithless, but prudent, amenable to persuasion, and faithful. But they who were unwilling to obey, departing from the voluntary adherence of those who obeyed, were show to be imprudent and unfaithful and foolish. ‘But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.’ Should we not, then consider as negative (as is better) the statement ‘God has not made foolish the wisdom of the world’ (1 Cor 1:20)  …lest the cause of their hardheartedness seem to have come to them from God ‘who made foolish the wisdom [of the world]’? For altogether, since they were wise, they were more at fault in not believing the preaching. For the preference and choice of the truth is voluntary. But also the statement: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise’ (1 Cor 1:19) means that He sent forth light, in contrast to the despised and condemned barbarian philosophy; just as also a lamp that is shone on by the sun is said to have perished, since it does not exert equal power [in comparison to the light of the sun]. Although, then, all men are called, those who willed to obey are named ‘called’. For there is no unrighteousness with God. So those out of each people who believed are the ‘chosen people’. And n the Acts of the Apostles you would find ‘So those who received His word were baptized’ but those who were unwilling to obey, obviously separated themselves. To them the prophecy says: ‘And if you wish and hear me, you will eat the good things of the land, showing that it lies in us to accept and to turn aside.’”[6] It again seems to me that the person Fr Most is quoting agrees that men can resist God, that God has left them in their sin and no doubt foresaw that they would. There is no indication that Clement claims, in any way, that man can somehow earn their salvation and that God foresaw that they would earn their salvation and thereby predestine them to salvation on that basis.

Fr Most states that ”…But he is anxious to show that the reason why some rejected the faith and others did not is found in men, not in God: ‘For there is no unrighteousness with God.’ And he finds the explanation implicitly contained in a line of the Acts of the Apostles: ‘So those who received His word were baptized.’ From this he concludes: ‘those who were unwilling to obey, obviously separated themselves.’ For : ‘It lies in us to accept and to turn aside.’[7] This last quote is from Isaiah 1:19. I do not understand how either Clement or Fr Most can understand this quote to mean that we can chose or refuse salvation. The context of the passage seems obvious to me, it seems to be a left hand/ right hand kingdom argument more then a way to merit salvation. That is if you obey then that can lead to a better life where you are. If you continue to sin, as Israel did, then they will not only not eat the good things of the land, they will not be on the land anymore. This certainly doesn’t apply to whether they will be saved or not.

The next discussion is based on St Gregory of Nazianzus comments on Matthew 19:12. “…When you hear ‘to whom it has been given,’ add: It is given to those who are called, and to those who are so disposed. For when you hear those words: ‘There is question not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God showing mercy,’ I judge you should think the same thing. For since there are some who to such an extent are proud of their good deeds that they attribute all to themselves and noting to the one who made them and made them wise and led them to good, this text [of St Paul] teaches them that even to will good needs help from God. Or rather, that the very choosing of the things that should be chosen is something divine, and a gift from God’s love of man. For it is necessary that salvation depends both on us and on God. Hence he [St Paul] says: ‘There is question not of him who wills,’ that is, not only of him who wills, ‘nor of him who runs’ only, ‘but’ also ‘of God showing mercy.’ So, since even the act of will is from God, he properly attributed all to God.’ And after a bit St Gregory continues, explaining the words of Christ to the mother of the sons of Zebedee, from Mt 20:23: ‘You will drink my cup, but to sit at my righthand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’ He comments: ‘Does then our mind that guides [count for] nothing? … Does fasting [count for] nothing? … Shall none of these profit a man anything but [instead] by a sort of capricious choice, is Jeremia sanctified, while others are rejected from the very womb? … There too, to the words ‘for whom it has been prepared’ add this: who are worthy, and who have not only received from the Father that they may be such, but also have give [it] to themselves.’”[8]

As far as his last questions goes I would take them as rhetorical and suggest that while the answer may be no, what is the reason we may do good works or fast? I would submit that it is because the Holy Spirit is working through us. If the Holy Spirit is working through us it would stand to reason that we are part of the Body of Christ. If we are part of the Body of Christ it is because we have been predestined to salvation. Furthermore why would someone use Matthew 20:23 to say that we are saved by our works? Clearly Jesus indicates that the choice is the Father’s, if James’ and John’s works don’t get them on the left and the right, I’m pretty sure that mine won’t get me there either.

St Gregory of Nyssa: “’The Father raises the dead and gives them life, and the Son give life to whom he will.’ We do not conclude from this that some are cast out from the lifegiving will; but since we have heard and we believe that all things of the Father belong to the Son, we obviously also see the will of the Father, as one of all these, in the Son. If then the Father’s will [attitude]is in the Son, and that Father, as the Apostle says, ‘will all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ it is plain that He who has everything that is the Father’s, and has the whole Father in Him along with the other good things of the Father, has fully also the salvific will…For not because of the Lord’s will are some saved but others are lost: for then the cause of their ruin would come from that will. But by the choice of those who receive the word, it happens that some are saved or lost.”[9]

There is no one questioning that the Father’s will is in the Son, but it should not be an issue at this point as to whether it is the Father’s will for a person to be condemned. It is not, God wills that all be saved, “And we should not regard this call of God which takes place through the preaching of the Word as a deception, but should know certainly that God reveals his will in this way, and that in those whom he thus calls he will be efficaciously active through the Word so that they may be illuminated, converted, and saved. For the Word through which we are called is a ministry of the Spirit — “which gives the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:8) and a “power of God” to save (Rom. 1:16). And because the Holy Spirit wills to be efficacious through the Word, to strengthen us, and to give us power and ability, it is God’s will that we should accept the Word, believe and obey it. 30 The elect are therefore described as follows: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life” (John 10:27, 28), and they who are decreed “according to God’s purpose” to “the inheritance” hear the Gospel, believe on Christ, pray and give thanks, are sanctified in love, have hope, patience, and comfort in afflictions (Eph. 1:11, 13; Rom. 8:25).”[10] It is man’s evil that condemns him from the beginning. He can resist God’s will to save Him, but He can’t do anything to otherwise earn his salvation. God is not willing them to evil, He is just not choosing them for salvation.

It seems to me that Jerome was never a favorite of Luther and I can certainly see why from this quote: “If … the patience of God hardened Pharao, and for a long time put off the punishment of Israel, so that He more justly condemned those whom He had endured so long a time, God’s patience and infinite clemency is not to be blamed, but the hardness of those who abused the goodness of God to their own destruction. Moreover, the heat of the sun is one and according to the kind of thing that lies beneath it, it liquefies some, hardens others, loosens some, constricts others. For wax is melted, but mud is hardened: and yet, the nature of the heat [that each receives] is the same. So it is with the goodness and clemency of God: it hardens the vessels of wrath, that are fit for destruction; but it does not save the vessels of mercy in a blind way, and without a true judgment, but in accordance with preceding causes; for some did not accept the Son of God; but others of their own accord willed to receive Him.”[11] The Bible plainly states that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but it was a heart that was already evil, who rejected Yahweh in favor of the “gods” of Egypt. Pharaoh’s heart was made of stone and got a bit harder. So what makes him different that his heart is of stone (or mud as it were) and those who are saved are made of wax. God can melt or harden stone, but the heart is stone either way, that is evil, it is God’s prerogative to predestine “and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:30) For the rest they were sunk in their evil, God did inflict it on them.

It appears that there is no hard and fast basis in the Fathers for a concept of predestination in any respect. But it would appear that they would not disagree with Augustine and his concept, despite what a typical Roman Catholic perspective would be, that being predestination based on some kind of merit, that all except for Jerome would agree that it is solely God’s decision. That they evil man does is clearly his own, if God hardens his heart, it is not to say that his heart wasn’t already hard enough for condemnation and if God lifts another man up for salvation, that is certainly his prerogative.

Although the Roman Catholic church drifted from the Augustinian view of predestination, toward a view that as we’ve seen is an attempt to try to rationalize the need for works, it is clear that Augustine was the demarcation between the tenuous concepts of the Fathers and the much more defined concepts of the medieval age. Albeit Roman Catholic dogma took it and twisted it to a works belief, that is represented by the bias shown to “Thomist’s” explanation of predestination by Fr Most.

Augustine took predestination and took the small foundation given to him by the Fathers and built a fortress on the foundation. In addition Augustine realized that predestination required more from God for man then just an assurance that he was saved. Certainly God can save whomever He wants, but Augustine felt that in order for man to demonstrate that God was guiding His chosen to salvation, God equipped man with perseverance and faith. Augustine describes at length God’s gifts of perseverance and faith to those whom He predestined. “Augustine’s intention in writing these works was to establish in the preaching of predestination an impenetrable bulwark for the defense of God’s grace against the teaching on meritorious deeds proposed by Pelagius’s followers (persev. 21.54). Predestination was understood, broadly speaking, as the preparation of grace by God, while grace itself was defined as a gift.”[12]

A lot of the argument, as we have seen, has been that either God foreknew what someone would do and elected that person based on his deed or decision. Fitgerald points out: “Predestination was not based upon God’s foreknowledge of human deeds, but was to be situated in God’s eternal decree and was therefore unfailing. This also meant that human beings had no right to claim God’s grace. Predestination, moreover, was for some and not all. The grace of perseverance in faith was no longer set aside for all the baptized, but only for those faithful people chosen by God from the massa damnata (or the massa perditionis or massa peccati), God’s electi.”[13]

Free choice is one of the basic arguments of the concept of predestination. In this letter of Bishop Evodious to Abbot Valentine: “…Adam, had the full reality of free choice, but he made bad use of the divine gift. Now man has free choice, but an injured choice … For from the moment free choice was damaged, it is for us sufficient only for perdition,…”[14] As Luther will point out, man really has no free choice, he is either called to the Kingdom by Christ or if man resists he is condemned to stay and die in the world, unsaved. Adam had the clear choice between keeping what he had, salvation in the Garden, or choosing to defy God and as a result was sent into the world. There is no salvation in the world, it is up to Jesus to predestine whom He will, therefore the choice was taken out of man’s hands.

Saint Fulgentius of Ruspe was bishop of the city of Ruspe, North Africa in the 5th and 6th century. He was from a wealthy family and probably received an excellent education. He stood up against the Arians in Ruspe and was exiled for a short period of time. He was called back to Ruspe to lead the people there back to the orthodox Catholic faith.[15]

Fulgentius was strongly in agreement with Augustine, but he seems to extend               Augustine’s position by saying that the will is prepared from the beginning of time in the individual to be worthy and therefore predestined to salvation. Much of his position on predestination is a strong echo of the Augustinian position, in that nothing we do justifies being predestined to salvation, that in fact we are predestined before we are ever born: “Let us enquire whether God must be believed to have predestined the works of the wicked for which he condemns them just as he is said to have predestined what he crowns in the saints? When we enquire about the cause of the condemnation of the wicked and of the glorification of the saints, we do not deny that the former are predestined to punishment or the latter to glory. But whether, just as the good works for which the just will be glorified are believed to be divinely predestined, must the evil works for which the unjust will be punished forever, be believed to be divinely predestined? For it is said in the book of psalms: ‘The unjust will be punished and the seed of the impious will perish, but the salvation of the just is from the Lord.’ Concerning both, our Savior also says, ‘And those will go off to eternal punishment but the righteous to eternal life.”

“In both, therefore, i.e., in the just and the unjust, I think that there are three things which must be considered: the beginning, the will; the unfolding, the work; the end, reward or punishment. That we may attribute to the just and good; we know that those things in which we find neither goodness nor justice are unworthy of God. And having considered the quality of works, we believe those things which are found to be worthy of and befitting the divine mercy or justice are predestined by God, ‘the gracious, merciful and righteous Lord.”

“And first we confess that the beginning of the whole of a good will is predestined and given by that eternal Trinity which is the one, sole, and true God. With a free justification, he has given this prepared to humankind, that which he had prepared to be given in eternal predestination. I shave shown this preparation of the will above, by the testimony of Holy Scripture, where it is said: ‘The will is prepared by the Lord.’”

“Therefore, the will is prepared by him who mercifully accomplishes in us both the willing and the completion. For the Apostle says, ‘For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.’ God, speaking through the prophet, confirms that it is he who empowers the faithful to do what they do, according to that oracle which has been cited by us above, where he says, ‘[I will] make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.’ [Ex 36:27] But what is ‘I will make you follow …’ except; all the good you will do is my doing. So he does that we may do. With him at work in us, every good thing we do comes about. Concerning this it is said in Hebrews: ‘[May he] furnish you with all that is good … May he carry out in you what is pleasing to him.’” [Heb 13:21]

“…We are in no way permitted, indeed, in a salutary way, we are forbidden, as much in our faith as in our works, to claim anything for ourselves as if it were our own. For the vessel of election says, ‘What do you possess that you have not received? But if you have received it, why are you boasting as if you did not receive it?’ [1 Cor 4:7] And in the holy Gospel, the word of the Lord’s precursor is ‘No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven.’ James the Apostle testifies, ‘All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…’” [Jas 1:17][16] Clearly Fulgentius was an advocate of predestination and understood it to be a work solely of God and that man contributed nothing toward his predestination.

Gregory of Rimini (1300 – 1358) Was an adherent of Augustine, but seems to take the predestination discussion to the concept of “double predestination”, that is that God elects people to both salvation and damnation as an act of deliberate will. It could be argued that Augustine also condoned the idea of double predestination at some point in his writings. In The Predestination of the Saints he writes: “What the chosen have obtained, therefore, they have obtained gratuitously. The did not already have something of their own which they might first give to him order that they might be repaid. He saved them in return for nothing. But the rest who were, as the apostle did not fail to mention there, received this blindness as a repayment…Unsearchable then are both the mercy by which he gratuitously sets some free and the judgment by which he justly judges others.”[17] Later, however Augustine seems to acknowledge that this is a gift to some. All men are condemned, so if God decides to chose some, it is not that He has decided others are elected to condemnation, He is simply leaving them in the state they were in, choosing to make a gift to some others: “…this gift is given to some and not given to others. But why it is not given t all ought not to disturb a believer who believes that because of the one all have entered into condemnation, which is undoubtedly most just, and that there would be no just grounds for blaming God, even if no one were set free from it.”[18]

Gregory would be in agreement that God predestines us to both “glory and reprobation”: “In the first place God’s will becomes the sole agent whether in election to final glory or in condemnation to final reprobation. In the second place, His decision is free and unconditional, motivated by nothing but His willing. It is form obedience to these assumptions that his extremeism springs: for he [Gregory] refuses to go beyond the almost literal interpretation of God as the cause of both glory and reprobation (the so-called double predestination) with the result that, whereas his contemporaries and forerunners sought to mitigate the latter in attributing some part at least of the sinner’s penalty to his own sins, Gregory in effect denies him any such role. No less than he is who is saved, the man I reprobation owes his disability entirely to God. Consequently, as we shall see, Gregory’s outlook is distinguished not so much in the effects of predestination as in its cause, for it is with God that its most striking features lie.”

“Gregory, in accordance with common usage, defines predestination as election to eternal life and reprobation as the refusal of eternal life. They are eternally willed by God, and, as St Paul has said, it rests with God’s mercy whether a man is saved or not. Predestination is therefore God’s preparation and justification of the saved for eternal life while reprobation has no such end.”[19] He goes on to qualify this further by saying: “…on the other, it helped to point to reprobation as in some way having its case in the deficiency of those damned, as opposed to being directly willed by God.”[20] It is not clear if there is an “indirect” connection, other then sin on the part of the reprobate. So Gregory seems to be trying to remove blame from God, but somehow still trying to accommodate God’s foresight of all men, those saved and those condemned.

Thomas Bradwareine brings the debate up to the fourteenth century and also the British. He was a chancellor of Oxford as well as a professor of divinity and for a short period Archbishop of Canterbury.[21] “Bradwardine’s contribution to this process was no less far reaching. By removing faith from reason’s sphere, he was making it independent of everything but authority and dogma. Faith was the sole motive force once reason was withdrawn; belief had no use for reason’s aid or the knowledge which was from practical experience, for it proceeded independently upon an entirely different plane.” “Bradwardine having established that merit de congruo cannot be separated from merit de condigno, hasleft himself the comparatively straightforward task of showing that this cannot come from man. By rejecting the distinction between de congruo and de condign, he is able to confront its supporters as complete Pelagians: either they withdraw and accept that merit must come from grace and so have a supernatural value, or they expose themselves to denying merit as a supernatural quality and thus set up men’s natural powers on an equal footing with God’s… merit de congou as potential merit, does not really exist, merit de condigno, as a supernatural virtue, comes from God alone.”

“Bradwardine’s position, in fact, amounts to a complete rejection of merit as a human achievement. There can be no good act by a man which is not incited and aided by God’s grace.” [22]

The bookends of the predestination issue were Augustine of Hippo and Martin Luther. It seems in some ways as those who lived in the years between these two men were trying to rehash what had already been decided or were trying to somehow make man more complicit in their destiny. Generally that man would somehow merit his final disposition, either through his sin leading to condemnation or his works leading to his glorification. Quick referral to Augustine shows that he felt the issue settled: “But this whole argument by which we are maintaining that the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord is truly grace, that is, that it is not given in accord with our merits, is stated with the greatest clarity by the testimonies of the words of God.”[23]

It was Augustine who also went a few steps further to link predestination to a process. First that the saint would have to persevere: “But in the eyes of human beings it seems that all who are seen to be good believers ought to have received perseverance up to the end. God, however, has judged that it is better that some who will not persevere be mingled with the certain number of his saints in order that those people for whom it is not useful to be assured of their salvation amid the temptation of this life cannot be assured of their salvation.”[24] Faith obviously plays a part in our salvation, therefore faith had to be either a product of man’s will or a gift of God. Clearly the process had to include this being a work or God: “…both the beginning of faith and perseverance n it up to the end are gifts of God…But if each of them is a gift of God and if God foreknew that he would give these gifts of his – and who would deny this? – predestination must be preached in order that the genuine grace of God, that is, grace which is not given according to our merits, can be defended by an insurmountable bulwark.”[25] Thus all the gifts of God are accounted for in order for someone to be predestined; faith, perseverance and grace all result in the predestination of one to salvation.

In the interim between the men who had denied human merit and purely the will of God, the church had decided that it was indeed human merit that earned salvation for man. Martin Luther burst on the scene and went back millennium and rediscovered Augustine’s writings on predestination and Luther reestablished this teaching in the Reformation. While the Roman Catholic church had been empowering itself and seeming to reduce God in the equation, Luther asserts: ”He would be a ludicrous Deity – idol, rather – if His foreknowledge of the future were unreliable and could be falsified by events; for even the Gentiles ascribed to their gods ‘fate inevitable’! He would be equally ludicrous if He could not and did not do all things, or if anything were done without Him. But if the foreknowledge and omnipotence of God are conceded, it naturally follows by irrefutable logic that we were not made by ourselves, nor live by ourselves, nor do anything by ourselves, but by His omnipotence. Seeing that he foreknew that we should be what we are, and now makes us such, and moves and governs us as such, how, pray, can it be pretended that it is open to us to become something other than that which He foreknew and is now bringing about?”[26]

Clearly Dr Luther was not inclined to accept that man could do anything to effect God’s judgment: “Suppose we imagine that God ought to be a God who regards merit in those that are to be damned. Must we not equally maintain and allow that He should also regard merit in those that are to be save? If we want to follow Reason, it is as unjust to reward the undeserving as to punish the undeserving. So let us conclude that God ought to justify on the grounds of merit preceding; or else we shall be declaring Him to be unjust. One who delights in evil and wicked men, and who invites and crowns their impiety with rewards! But then woe to us poor wretches with such a God! But who shall be saved?”[27]

Clearly God does not save us by our merits. In the mystery of His plan He decided at the beginning of time who would be saved, that the rest of humanity already being in a state of depravity would be condemned. But God in His infinite wisdom chose to save some, when He could have let all die in their sins. So Luther teaches that we should we should proceed in faith: “Yes, it’s true that what is predestined will happen. However, we aren’t commanded to know what is predestined. In fact, we are forbidden to know it. We test God when we delve into unknowable matters. God has given Scripture to us so that we can know what we should and shouldn’t do. He expects us to act on this knowledge. What we cannot know, we should leave to God. We should stick to our responsibilities, vocation, and position in life. God and God alone knows what is predestined.”[28] God has given us the marks of the church, we have been baptized in His name. We then have His promises to rely on and it would not accomplish anything for us to become engrossed as to whether we are saved or not: “This doctrine must be preached and expounded to Christendom in general, but it must also be impressed so that each individual Christian can practice and apply it in his own particular trials. When the devil hits the heart with his darts (Eph. 6:16), labeled eternal predestination or God’s wrath and judgment, then I must be steeled against these with the Word of Christ and say: “Away with you, you vile spirit of lies! Go devour your own stench, and do not distract me with such thoughts! For I have learned from Christ and from God Himself that if I want to know how God is disposed toward me and what His plans are for me, I must listen to none other than my Lord’s voice. There I see and hear nothing else than His gift of Baptism, His Sacrament; there I see that He absolves me from sin and acquits me. There is no threat at all that He wants to hurl me into hell. He does not want to drown me in Baptism; He wants to wash, cleanse, and quicken me.” [29]

There can be no doubt that God is in complete control. That it is His will that determines what will transpire in history, the present and the future. Would an omniscient God simply disregard His people? He has given us His promises that He is with us always. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8: 29-30 ESV) To those He has predestined to salvation He has given them what they need; faith, perseverance and grace. Need we look farther? We should live the life that He has granted us, secure in the blessing of our salvation, praise and glorify the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Give thanks to the Son who died in order that His Father would chose us for salvation.


Fulgentius of Ruspe The Fathers of the Church Fulgentius Selected Works translated by Robert Eno (Washington, Catholic University of America Press) 1997

Luther, M. 1999, c1961. Vol. 24: Luther’s works, vol. 24 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works. Concordia Publishing House: Saint Louis

Luther, Martin The Bondage of the Will Translated by J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston (Grand Rapids, Fleming H. Revell) 2006

Tappert, T. G. 2000, c1959. The book of concord : The confessions of the evangelical Lutheran church. Fortress Press: Philadelphia

Teske, Roland Translator The Works of Saint Augustine volume IV (New York, New City Press) 1999

Fitzgerald, Allan Augustine Through the Ages (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Co) 1999

Galvin, James E. Martin Luther Through Faith Alone (Saint Louis, Concordia Publishing House) 1999

Leff, Gordon Bradwardine and the Pelagians (Cambridge, Cambridge at the University Press) 1957

Leff, Gordon Gregory of Rimini (Manchester, Manchester University Press) 1961

Morris, Leon The Pillar New Testament Commentary The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Co) 1988

Most, Fr William G  Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God (Front Royal, Va, Christendom Press) 1997

[1] Morris, Leon The Pillar New Testament Commentary The Epistle to the Romans pp 333-334

[2] [2]Tappert, T. G. 2000, c1959. The book of concord : The confessions of the evangelical Lutheran church. Fortress Press: Philadelphia

[3] Most, Fr William G  Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God p 250

[4] Ibid p 259

[5] Ibid p 261

[6] Ibid pp 261-262

[7] Ibid p 263

[8] Ibid pp 265-266

[9] Ibid pp 267-268

[10] Tappert, T. G. 2000, c1959. The book of concord : The confessions of the evangelical Lutheran church. Fortress Press: Philadelphia

[11] Most, Fr William G  Grace, Predestination and the Salvific Will of God pp 274-275

[12] Fitzergeral, Allan Augustine Through the Ages p 678

[13] Ibid p 678

[14] Teske, Roland translator The Works of Saint Augustine volume IV  p 42

[15] Background information from Wikipedia

[16] Fulgentius of Ruspe The Fathers of the Church Fulgentius Selected Works translated by Robert Eno pp 205-208

[17] Teske, Roland translator “The Predestionation of the Saints” The Works of Saint Augustine volume IV  p 158

[18] Ibid p 163

[19] Leff, Gordon Gregory of Rimini pp 196-197

[20] Ibid p 199

[21] Background information from Wikipedia

[22] Leff, Gordon Bradwardine and the Pelagians p 263

[23] Teske, Roland translator “The Predestionation of the Saints” The Works of Saint Augustine volume IV  p 168

[24] Ibid p 201

[25] Ibid p 228

[26] Luther, Martin The Bondage of the Will pp 216-217

[27] Ibid pp 233-234

[28] Galvin, James E. Martin Luther Through Faith Alone

[29]Luther, M. 1999, c1961. Vol. 24: Luther’s works, vol. 24 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 14-16 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works. Concordia Publishing House: Saint Louis

El velo se levanta de Jesús First St Johns 15 de febrero 2015

Hacemos nuestro comienzo en el Nombre de Dios el Padre y en el nombre de Dios el Hijo y en el nombre de Dios el Espíritu Santo y todos los que se les ha permitido una visión de Jesús como Dios como hijos suyos en el bautismo dijo … AMEN

Feliz día tras día ST de San Valentín! “Una hagiografía común describe San Valentín, ya que el ex obispo de Terni, Narnia y Amelia, una ciudad de la Umbría, en Italia central. Mientras que bajo arresto domiciliario de la jueza Asterio, y discutir su fe con él, Valentino (la versión latina de su nombre) estaba discutiendo la validez de Jesús. El juez puso Valentín a la prueba y le trajo hija ciega adoptado del juez. Si Valentino logró restaurar la vista de la niña, Asterio haría cualquier cosa, preguntó. Valentino puso las manos sobre los ojos y la visión del niño fue restaurada. El juez obedeció y, como resultado, liberó a todos los presos cristianos bajo su autoridad. El juez, su familia y su cuarenta y cuatro hogares miembro fueron bautizados. [20] Valentín fue más tarde arrestaron de nuevo para continuar con el proselitismo y fue enviado al prefecto de Roma, al emperador Claudio Gótico (Claudio II) a sí mismo. Claudio condenó Valentín a la muerte, al mando de que Valentino renunciar ni a su fe o que sería golpeado con palos, y decapitado. Valentino se negó. [21] Otra narración dice que fue detenido y encarcelado tras ser capturado casarse con parejas cristianas y de otra manera ayudar a los cristianos que se encontraban en el momento de ser perseguido por Claudio en Roma. Ayudar a los cristianos en este momento era considerado un crimen. Fue golpeado con palos y piedras; cuando esto falló matarlo, fue decapitado fuera de la Puerta Flaminia. [23] Los arqueólogos desenterraron una catacumba romana y una antigua iglesia dedicada a San Valentín. En 496 dC el Papa Gelasio marcó 14 de febrero como una celebración en honor de su martirio “.

San Valentín también parece ser otro de esos festivales que el mundo ha cooptado y francamente corruptos. Sí, hay un elemento de amor romántico, de Eros, en la historia de San Valentín, es mucho más sobre el amor ágape, lo que Valentine hizo con el fin de dar testimonio de Cristo. No hay duda en mi mente que Valentine sería avergonzado indescriptible para nosotros y para él mismo que se asocia con una fiesta que el mundo realmente ha corrompido.

De mucha más importancia, mucho más, al igual que más de infinitamente más importante, nos recuerda la Transfiguración de Jesús hoy. Festivales de diferentes santos son una gran cosa, especialmente cuando es alguien que como San Nicolás, San Valentín, Patrick que son fácilmente reconocidos por el mundo secular, y no hacemos hincapié en la importancia de estos santos, no para las vacaciones, pero a causa de cómo vivieron y murieron por Jesús. Pero también recordamos, que en Jesús todos somos santos, Nicholas, Patricio, San Valentín, grandes hombres, y se les debe recordar como ejemplos de una vida fiel y tal vez deberíamos ser más pro-activo sobre la observación de sus fiestas y festivales. Buscamos a los hombres por su ejemplo, oramos por la fuerza de Dios para emular sus vidas, pero nosotros también somos santos y todos somos sacerdotes y todo lo que se espera que entre en la presencia del Padre sobre la base de nuestra salvación en Jesús .

Jesús mismo ha mostrado durante la encarnación como un hombre, la Biblia dice que un hombre de aspecto más bien mediocre, no pensaría mucho sobre él en absoluto si usted caminó por él en la calle. Aquellos discípulos privilegiados y, por extensión, ahora, nosotros, la oportunidad de ver a Jesús como realmente es. Él es Dios, Él está apareciendo a sus discípulos, en, sin duda, una forma mucho más moderada. No podíamos soportar su esplendor como el Hijo de Dios, pero en la Transfiguración no hay duda de que Él está muy por encima de todo lo que somos y el Padre llega y confirma, este es mi Hijo! El velo se ha levantado. Hay un par de veces en la Biblia donde personas se han quedado con el fin de que se ha nubló encima, si no obstruido por completo. Moisés estuvo en la presencia real de Dios y tuvo que usar un velo entre la gente, ya que no fueron capaces de soportar incluso una especie de vista reflejada de Shekinah gloria de Dios. María Magdalena tenía un velo sobre sus ojos en la tumba. Los dos discípulos no vieron a Jesús en el camino a Emaús.

Dr. David Lewis observa: “Pablo discute la causa de la incredulidad con la imagen de” el velo Ciertamente sabemos aquellos que simplemente no va a ver a Jesús como Señor “, una imagen donde la fe se asemeja a ver y por lo que la incredulidad es la ceguera.”. No tengo ninguna duda, el Espíritu Santo ha presentado a Jesús, ha tratado de mover algunas personas y ellos no sólo se movieron, les gusta la ceguera.

Sin duda me resuenan con lo que el Dr. Lewis dice en términos de ministerio y el ministerio de hoy de Pablo. Ministerio cristiano, la proclamación del señorío de Jesús no es para la reducción de las violetas y la iglesia ha sido culpable de que por décadas y se está convirtiendo incluso menos de un testigo en la actualidad. Estamos más preocupados por otros infractores, mientras que para citar a Billy Graham, estamos ofendiendo a Dios.

Dr. Lewis señala: “Debido a esto [la incapacidad de ver bajo el velo] Pablo insiste en la importancia de llevar a cabo su ministerio con apertura / audacia. Lo que se proclamó abiertamente es que Jesús es el Señor. “¿Por qué le proclaman? “La esperanza [griega Elpida] en la gloria perdurable / restante … el nuevo pacto … Esta esperanza motiva Paul comportarse con audacia / francamente / abiertamente (marresia) en su ministerio …” A medida que deberíamos hacer.

Jesús ha ahora inequívocamente revelado a sí mismo en esa montaña y el Padre ha confirmado quién es Jesús: “Este es mi Hijo amado.” Nosotros somos hijos de Dios, somos nacidos de nuevo en el bautismo, somos de Él y somos fortalecidos a través de Su Palabra en la predicación y en la Escritura y somos salvos por el Cuerpo y la sangre de Jesús. Somos salvos por medio de su sacrificio, el pago de su vida perfecta como compensación, el pago justo por nuestros pecados. Esta es nuestra esperanza, esta es la única esperanza de la humanidad, el Señor Jesús! Y es por eso que debemos proclamar con valentía la esperanza y la promesa de Él, como lo hizo Pablo. Jerónimo escribe: “Ellos [Moisés, Elías, los discípulos, nos], también, de hecho, son queridos por Mí, sino que Él es mi amado; escucharlo, por lo tanto. Proclaman y le enseñan, sino que, lo oyen; Él es el Señor y el Maestro, que son compañeros de viaje en la servidumbre. Moisés y Elías hablan de Cristo; que son sus compañeros de servicio; Él es el Señor; escucharlo. No hacer el mismo honor a consiervos como para el Señor y Maestro. Escuchar sólo el Hijo de Dios “.

Para esta semana pasar algún tiempo en oración pidiendo orientación para ayudar a levantar el velo de las personas que conoces. ¿Cómo puede funcionar el Espíritu Santo a través de ti? ¿Quién quiere Él que usted ayude a levantar el velo de sus ojos para ver la única esperanza y promesa en el mundo? Jesucristo, el Hijo de Dios y nuestro Salvador. El Espíritu Santo ha levantado el velo de la que hemos sido bautizados y nacer de nuevo en Jesús.

La paz de Dios que sobrepasa todo entendimiento, guardará vuestros corazones y vuestros pensamientos en Cristo Jesús. Shalom y Amin.

The Veil is lifted from Jesus First St Johns February 15, 2015

We Make Our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have been allowed a glimpse of Jesus as God as His children in baptism said … AMEN

Happy day after ST Valentine’s day! “A common hagiography describes Saint Valentine, as the former Bishop of TerniNarnia and Amelia, a town of Umbria, in central Italy. While under house arrest of Judge Asterius, and discussing his faith with him, Valentinus (the Latin version of his name) was discussing the validity of Jesus. The judge put Valentinus to the test and brought to him the judge’s adopted blind daughter. If Valentinus succeeded in restoring the girl’s sight, Asterius would do anything he asked. Valentinus laid his hands on her eyes and the child’s vision was restored. The judge obeyed and as a result, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family and his forty-four member household were baptized.[20] Valentinus was later arrested again for continuing to proselytize and was sent to the prefect of Rome, to the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II) himself. Claudius condemned Valentinus to death, commanding that Valentinus either renounce his faith or he would be beaten with clubs, and beheaded. Valentinus refused.[21] Another narrative says he was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. He was beaten with clubs and stones; when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. [23] Archaeologists unearthed a Roman catacomb and an ancient church dedicated to Saint Valentine. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius marked February 14th as a celebration in honor of his martyrdom.”[1]

Valentines also seems to be another of those festivals that the world has co-opted and frankly corrupted. Yes, there is an element of romantic love, of Eros, in the Valentine story, it is much more about the agape love, what Valentine did in order to witness to Christ. There is little doubt in my mind that Valentine would be embarrassed beyond description for us and for himself to be associated with a Feast that the world has really corrupted.

   Of much more importance, much more, like more than infinitely more important, we remember the Transfiguration of Jesus today. Festivals of different saints are a great thing, especially when it’s one who like St Nicholas, Valentine, Patrick who are readily recognized by the secular world, and we don’t emphasize enough the importance of these saints, not for holidays, but because of how they lived and died for Jesus. But we also remember, that in Jesus we are all saints, Nicholas, Patrick, Valentine, great men, and they should be remember as examples of faithful living and maybe we should be more pro-active about observing their feasts and festivals. We look to those men for their example, we pray for God’s strength to emulate their lives, but we too are saints and we all are priests and we are all expected to come into the presence of the Father on the basis of our salvation in Jesus.

Jesus has shown Himself during the incarnation as a man, the Bible says a rather unremarkable looking man, you wouldn’t think much about Him at all if you walked by Him on the street. Those privileged disciples and by extension, now, us, get to see Jesus as He truly is. He is God, He is appearing to His disciples, in, no doubt, a much more muted form. We could not endure His splendor as God the Son, but in the Transfiguration there is no doubt that He is far above anything we are and the Father comes along and confirms, this is My Son! The veil has been lifted. There are a few times in the Bible where people have been left with a view that’s been hazed over, if not outright obstructed. Moses was in the actual presence of God and had to wear a veil among the people because they weren’t able to bear even a sort of reflected view of God’s Shekinah glory. Mary Magdalene had a veil over her eyes at the tomb. The two disciples didn’t see Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

Dr David Lewis observes: “Paul discusses the cause of unbelief with the image of “the veil” an image where faith is likened to seeing and so unbelief is blindness.” We certainly know those who just will not see Jesus as Lord. I have no doubt, the Holy Spirit has presented Jesus, has tried to move some people and they will just not be budged, they like the blindness.

I certainly resonate with what Dr Lewis says in terms of Paul’s ministry and ministry today. Christian ministry, proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus is not for shrinking violets and the church has been guilty of that for decades and is becoming even less of a witness today. We are more concerned about offending others, while to quote Billy Graham, we’re offending God.

Dr Lewis notes: “Because of this [inability to see under the veil] Paul stresses the importance of conducting his ministry with openness/boldness. What is openly proclaimed is that Jesus is Lord.” Why proclaim Him? “The hope [Greek elpida] in the enduring/remaining glory…the new covenant … This hope motivates Paul to behave boldly/frankly/openly (marresia) in his ministry …”[2] As we should do.

Jesus has now unambiguously revealed Himself on that mountain and the Father has confirmed who Jesus is: “This is my beloved Son.” We are God’s children, we are born again in baptism, we are His and we are strengthened through His Word in preaching and in Scripture and we are saved through the Body and Blood of Jesus. We are saved through His sacrifice, the payment of His perfect life as compensation, the just payment for our sins. This is our hope, this is the only hope of mankind, the Lord Jesus! And that is why we must boldly proclaim the hope and promise of Him, as Paul did. Jerome writes: “They [Moses, Elijah, the disciples, us], too, indeed are dear to Me, but He is My beloved; hear Him, therefore. They proclaim and teach Him, but you, hear Him; He is the Lord and Master, they are companions in servitude. Moses and Elias speak of Christ; they are your fellow servants; He is the Lord; hear Him. Do not render the same honor to fellow servants as to the Lord and Master. Hear only the Son of God.”

For this week spend some time in prayer asking for guidance to help you lift the veil from those you know. How can the Holy Spirit work through you? Who does He want you to help to lift the veil from their eyes to see the only hope and promise in the world? Jesus Christ, God the Son and our Savior. The Holy Spirit has lifted the veil from we who are baptized and born again in Jesus.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

[1] http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=159

[2] Dr David Lewis  “Concordia Journal/Winter 2015) pp 60-61

Running the race in faith in God’s standards, not ours. First St Johns Lutheran Church, York, Pa. February 8, 2015

[The picture is of Pheidippides accouncing the victory of the Greek forces over the Persians to the Athenians Luc-Olivier Merson, 1869 ]

(For a audio version of this sermon, click on the above link or copy and paste it into your browser)

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who run the race of faith in Christ said …   AMEN!

I have done a marathon, I have done a century. A marathon is a 26.1 mile race, I did it in Falmouth, Ma. A century is a bike ride/race of 100 miles, I did that at the seminary. I’ve done 56 triathlons. Paul could have been talking about running a Marathon. The Battle of Marathon occurred in 490 BC and the Greeks may have included the marathon as a competition in their Olympics which would have made the marathon known to the entire Roman world, Israel and Paul included.

Paul is telling us that we have to do life, like these physical tests, with endurance. The problem is we have pasted over these with our own expectations. As Lutherans, too often, we think we don’t have to do anything. We’re saved by grace, we don’t have to do that. But let’s say you should do that. I still think you have to because I honestly believe God still pushes us to stretch in life. We are saved by grace, but that does not mean that we get to sit and just vegetate, especially when it comes to our relationship with Jesus. He gave His best, why on earth should we think that we don’t have to give our best.

Another issue that always seems to be, at least to me, an excuse with Lutherans and too many other people. “If we can’t run the race, if we can’t ride the bike, if we can’t entertain, or maintain or serve or witness … well then we just shouldn’t do it.” Heck, if that’s the issue what am I doing here? I’m sure not, no Billy Graham, or Dale Meyer, or Matt Harrison, or Jon Diefenthaler. If I’m really not that great as a pastor, as a preacher, the one charged with worship, what am I really doing here?

What I am doing, what you are doing is being led by what God wants us to do in our lives. No where in the Bible does it say, “well you have to do everything and anything with excellence, otherwise, just don’t bother doing it!” It doesn’t say that anywhere, no one demands it or expects it. None of us is perfect, none of us is going to do anything perfectly. We should strive to do our best, to serve as perfectly as possible, but it’s not going to happen all the time, we’re just not going to make it. Sometimes it does look perfect and that’s a great thing, and we should salute excellence, but we should never expect perfection, from ourselves or anyone else.

Recently, studies have shown that perfectionism is really just a form of procrastination. We seem to have always celebrated the “perfectionist”. This is the person who, “well I just won’t put this out into the world until it’s absolutely perfect”. We all think how marvelous that is, this kind of integrity. I’m certainly not saying be sloppy, but I’m also not saying that you use every little thing for an excuse to avoid doing the things that you need to do.

We are called to be disciples. That is a race, that is an endurance effort that makes the Hawaii Ironman look like a walk in the park. Are we called to be excellent disciples? No. Does it mean that we can throw God any old little effort that we want to whenever we want to? No! He doesn’t do that to use. God gives us His best everyday. He’s given us His best in Jesus. God’s not sitting up there grading us, not even on the curve, “well poor Jim, I know about him, I’ll cut him some slack”. It’s not about how great or how bad. It is about do we serve Father, Son, Holy Spirit, brothers and sisters in Jesus and the world to the best of our ability? Not in a one shot, here it is take it or leave it. We serve in the sense of the long-haul, making constant effort. We are always looking for the opportunities, always looking for where God leads us. We do it with the understanding that, Yes, we grow through this process. We also serve others through this process. Service isn’t often a one-shot deal, it’s a matter of endurance. Of continuous service.

I have no doubt in my mind that Paul was probably one crispy-critter by the time he got to Rome. Think of all that he had done, all that he endured, all that he sought to maintain and build. It’s staggering! I doubt that in what was maybe a ten-year period, no other person in Christian history did as much to spread Christianity as Paul. We have to remember that he really had no basis. Sure he had the local synagogues, but often they became as hostile as the pagan world, if not more so. So there’s a great excuse right there; “sorry, we can’t have worship because we can’t use the synagogue on Sunday, they kicked us out”. You know as well as I do that would be a ready made excuse for many people today. Paul could say I don’t have the right clothes, I can’t preach like this! No, he did what he could do with what he had. He could have said; “well, we just haven’t worked out the proper teaching, the proper doctrine here, so as soon as I get all that down perfectly I will get back to you.” Heck if I did that I’d never preach, I sincerely hope you don’t think that I am the fount of all Christian knowledge. But did that keep Paul from preaching and teaching? Would that keep me from preaching and teaching?

I’m not saying don’t prepare to the best of your ability. But I think one thing that military training, even athletics has taught me. At some point there is going to be a case, a mission. Probably the biggest case I had, a really bad situation that was my Damascus Road experience. Someone asked the boat coxswain afterwards and he replied, “I’ve never done that before, I was scared to death, I can’t believe I got through that”. He was as prepared as he could be for that storm, he  showed up and people needed help and he got to where people needed him. He didn’t wait until he was perfect, he didn’t have that luxury. He had trained to the best of his ability and likewise the rest of us in the crew, and when the call came we responded to the best of our ability. Despite very difficult circumstances, we got the best possible outcome and all of us that were involved in that case, got an education that we could never have paid for, never arranged, have never gotten under any circumstances other then we were there, we were called, we went out and put on our best effort and, the outcome was as good as it could have been expected.

As I said, yes I ran a marathon, yes I have done a century, yes I have done 53 triathlons. Having said that, I wouldn’t be too impressed if I were you. I did the marathon in 4 hours and 57 minutes. Most people finish under 4 hours and the winning times are almost under three hours. I finished the century in about 8 hours. I did finish before two other people, but otherwise the rest of my group had finished anywhere between 3 and 4 hours earlier than me. So does that mean I should just hang my head in shame, “oh how embarrassing, I’d never tell anyone that I did a marathon or century”… uhmmm no! I can tell anyone that I have finished either one, it’s called bragging rights. I did it and I’m entitled to put a little plate on my Road ID to say I did it. I may not camp on the fact that I took almost 2 to 4 hours longer than most, but I can say that I did it.

Yes I might be able to brag, a little, about what I’ve done and I have no doubt that everyone of you out there has done something that the average mortal never really does and you are entitled to bragging rights. Go ahead, yea Christian humility and we should be humble, but hey, in these cases be a little obnoxious. But when it comes to running and ultimately finishing the Christian race, we do that with humility. Why? Did we really run it in our strength? No! I have no doubt in my mind that my thirty years as a Christian and where the Holy Spirit has put me, that it was entirely through the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit, not mine. How can I take credit for something that someone does through me? But does that make me any less saved? No! I am perfectly saved and if I faithfully follow that leading and do the things that I’m lead to do, in the time I’m lead to do them, then I am a faithful servant. I have been put into plenty of situations by the Holy Spirit, where I knew that a lot more preparation would have been good. I assure you and anyone at Concordia Seminary would agree, that new pastors have a lot to work out when they get to a parish. Frankly some more than others. But is that a valid excuse to avoid what you’re supposed to do and not run the race? No! Sometimes the trial is the teaching moment, the growth moment. That the Father knows that you will only grow through doing versus sitting around talking about it or reading about it. We should continually strive to be the best possible disciples we can be, our Savior is the best and most perfect and He gave us all that we have or ever will need. But we should be ready to run that race at any moment. Not when we decide that we are ready, but when the Holy Spirit hits that alarm and tells us we need to jump up and run out that door. Sometimes we may never even know to what we are running, but we run anyway instead of waiting until we’re perfect because the Father has given us the faith to trust in Him, not in our abilities.

I didn’t run/ride the races perfectly, but I did do them. We aren’t called to run/ride/fight the faith perfectly, we are called to serve the Lord in obedience. God says I am more interested in your obedience then your sacrifice. When we faithfully obey, even we don’t do it the best we can, we are doing God’s will and will be rewarded on that basis. Not on the basis of what we think is acceptable, what is up to our standards, but what we did when we responded to God’s call in faith.

May God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit bless and preserve you to all eternity. Shalom and Amin.

In the Fullness of Time Galatians 4: 4-7 First St Johns December 28, 2014

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the perfect timing of God said … AMEN

Under the heading: “There is no such thing as “coincidences” where God is concerned, for that matter anything, since God is concerned with everything about our lives, we read Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Galatian’s four short verses are loaded with teaching. Paul’s quote in Galatians 4 is particularly interesting: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son … to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons … you are no longer a slave, but a son,…”(Gal 4: 4-7)

The part that of find of interest right here is “…the fullness of time…” Some think that had something to do with Mary coming to term in her pregnancy, or something that was dictated by Joseph and Mary’s situation. But most see Paul’s short expression as an appreciation and understanding of how God does things in His time and dictates the course of events and history according to His will. The Father didn’t turn to the Son one day and for just any old reason say, “yeah, think it’s about time we do the incarnation thing.” This had been the plan since the beginning, He chooses to reveal that plan to us, first, in Genesis 3:15, at the very beginning and then just before He throws the switch to make it happen, the Father reaffirms His plan, in an even plainer way in Isaiah 9:6. The Genesis passage, the proto-Evangelium, where God promises Satan that there would be a Savior, that the Messiah, anointed One of God, would come into the world to crush Satan’s head. God the Son would crush Satan’s head and by doing so, would save us from the curse of Hell. That sounds harsh, necessary, but in your face. However the Father’s promise to Isaiah is the one that is His majestic promise that He made when Judah is about to be crushed by Assyria and to disappear as a nation, most of her people killed or enslaved. Certainly a great crisis where Yahweh promises them; “A Child is born, A Son is given, Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The Israelites knew that they were about to take a harsh and long-lasting beating and they needed this promise. Isaiah could have said the same thing Paul writes: “But when the fullness of time had come…”, because Israel had pushed too far for Yahweh and He was now about to let His people know what happens when they ignore Him and get too caught up in their own plans and expectations. The fullness of time had come and Israel, at least for a few generations, would cease to exist.

Paul on the other hand tells us that the “…fullness of time…” had just occurred for the Father to fulfill His promises to Adam and Eve, and to the people of Israel by Isaiah and it happened at this intersection of time. Although Paul didn’t know it, although Jesus prophesied it, this was the perfect time for God. While they were strolling away from the temple and the disciples were admiring the view of the buildings of the temple, Jesus took them to task and said “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Don’t become to fascinated by the things man, in this case King Herod, build, because there is going to be another turning point in Israel’s history and this temple that you find so fascinating will be completely destroyed in just a few years. In about 40 years Israel, as you know it now, will cease to exist along with the temple. The Judaism of Israel would no longer be focused on the temple and would be scattered again. A new world would begin and the Christians in Israel would be forced to leave and take Christianity into the world.

This time, that Jesus had been born into, was the perfect time for Him to come into the world and conduct His incarnational ministry. It was a time of peace in Israel, Jesus did not have to contend with wars or any kind of famine or drought. He could get everyone’s full attention on His ministry and drive it deep into their awareness so that they could readily understand their new relationship with the Father. They had time to absorb the Gospel and begin to live it before they had to go into the world to spread the Gospel. They had to unlearn the legalism of Judaism and the debauchery of paganism and to come to understand that they were saved solely and completely by grace. They couldn’t earn their way to Christ in this world or to eternity, they could only be brought to salvation in Him and through His actions, what Jesus does to save us.

The conditions were exactly right for the disciples to absorb Jesus’ teaching and take those teachings into the world. Not only was there peace, the conditions surrounding them enabled them to bring Jesus to the world. As Lee Strobel points out: “The time period when Jesus lived was ideally suited for the spread of Christianity. The vast reach of the Roman Empire primed the known world for the gospel. Roman roads allowed relative ease of travel and greatly increased the area to which the gospel spread. Roman authority also helped protect travelers from robbers and attackers. Throughout the Roman Empire, Greek was the common language, and allowed communication of the gospel between groups who lived hundreds or thousands of miles from each other.”1

The Pax Romana, that is the peace of Rome, which united the entire world, enabled Jesus’ disciples to teach and preach without the distraction of wars or other disruptions to those they preached to. Jesus’ disciples could travel and teach without being abused because the Roman Empire tolerated many belief systems. Any earlier or later, and the disciples would be persecuted before Christianity could take root. At this time Christians could worship and evangelize unmolested. God created the conditions through man, mostly the Romans, so that He could send His Son into the world to preach God’s Word and Will and so that His church would grow. The church of Jesus Christ might otherwise have been steamrolled or isolated to small parts of the world. Jesus’ appearance met other promises of prophecy. Strobel writes: “God fulfilled his prophesied time frame. Daniel predicted that the Anointed One would come and would be ‘cut off’ (killed) before the destruction of Jerusalem and the second temple (Daniel 9: 24-26).”

From Paul’s writing we can see the sovereignty of God, that is God controls and is Lord of all that He has created. He planned and controlled human history so that at just the perfect time in that history His Son would appear and become the focus of the entire world. The world had never been brought together as it had under the Roman Empire and in a couple of hundred years it would be shattered and different peoples would be separated from each other, unable even to communicate. God controls the events of the world, which He does, although He permits man, because of His sin, to spread war and sickness and famine throughout the world. Then clearly God controls those who He has chosen to be Lord of their lives. For myself there is no doubt that God chose the perfect time for me to know Jesus as my Savior. Because you are here, baptized, listening to His Word, about to take His Body and Blood, He has chosen you at just the right time to be saved in Jesus.

Strobel writes: “ God had an appointed day when he would intersect human history with the promised redemption. The moment in history when Jesus arrived was tailored for the rapid spread of the Gospel. All human history is balanced on the fulcrum of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.”2 God gives us the understanding we need in order to know Him as our Father and Jesus as our Savior, and when we see it in human history, we can better understand how He works in our own personal lives. Take some time over the next week and think about how “..in the fullness of time…” God the Father, Abba, has made us His own sons and daughters that Paul writes about in this passage.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

1Lee Strobel The Case for Christ Study Bible p 1634

2Ibid p 1634

Where are you being guided to in Jesus? First St Johns, York, Pa. October 26, 2014

Please click on the above link to hear the audio of this sermon

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are led by and follow the Holy Spirit said … AMEN
Paul’s charge to the Thessalonians tells us that: “…we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thess 2:12) Those who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ are constantly being guided, are constantly being charged to walk, to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Marge and I were moved to pick up our lives in Massachusetts to go to St Louis for a season, complete education and then to be led to where? We didn’t know, but as things unfolded and we were faithful, we were guided to be in York, Pa. Dr Jerry Kieschnick asked me, as I received my call papers if I knew where York, Pa was? Not really, but in our faith we didn’t question where York was, we were led here and have been made a part of this great family in Jesus here in York.
On this Reformation Day, we remember Dr Martin Luther, posting the 95 Thesis on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on All Saints Day. As I’ve said before, Dr Luther wasn’t looking for some kind of showdown, too many times we see him depicted as a Christian version of a gunfighter at the OK Corral. That was not his intent. He was a brilliant man who never stopped studying, as he studied, the more he realized that there were problems with the doctrines that the Roman church was teaching. He was a teacher at the time and the more he had to deal with these doctrines, the more he felt led to start a journey of inquiry. He never anticipated what would happen as he nailed his document to that door. His whole intention was to raise these issues in a genuinely collegial sense. He wasn’t looking for a brawl, a battle, but I have no doubt that God led Luther to do this in order to raise issues about God’s church that demanded discussion. The Roman church, at the time, chose not to discuss those issues. Luther wrote: “In the year 1516. I began to write against the pope. In the year 1518 Doctor Staupitz released me from obedience to my order and left me alone at Augsburg when I had been summoned before Emperor Maximilian and the pope’s legate, who was then at the place. In the year 1519 Pope Leo excommunicated me from the church and so I was released a second time. In the year 1521 Emperor Charles excommunicated me from his empire and so I was released a third time. But the Lord took me up.”1
Many times when we are led to leave, by God, we’re told to leave by the world. Luther has the distinction to be told to leave three times, you think you have it rough, you may be told to leave your work, your school, wherever, because of your Christian beliefs, but probably only once. Luther got “shown the door” by the head of the Augustian Order where he had lived and served as a monk, by the head of the Roman Catholic Church and then by the head of state of the largest empire in the world. Luther could honestly say that he had been thrown out of better places then most people. Sometimes to be thrown out of places that are just frankly not good to be in to begin with, is a badge of honor. No one wants the shame of being publicly asked to leave, but afterwards you realize that being thrown out was the right thing, was something that needed to happen in order to glorify God, then so be it and God speed.
It is then usually a case of not just being led somewhere, but also a commentary on being thrown out of somewhere. Jesus told His disciples that they would be thrown out of houses and towns; “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” (Matt 10:14, Mark 6:11 and Luke 9:5), each of the Synoptic Gospels. The Synoptic Gospels, do not tell all of the same events or sayings, but apparently they were all so aware of the fact that they would get tossed out of places, that they all made a point of relating this direction of Jesus. Did that mean that they had failed, or were somehow not completely adequate disciples? No, it could well mean that Jesus was making sure everyone knew that they had a chance to hear the Gospel, if they rejected it, well too bad for them, Matthew 11:23-29: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.” If any place had its chance it was Capernaum. Jesus had been led there, most of the disciples lived and worked there, all sorts of miracles and preaching went on there. What happened? Luke 4: starting at verse 17, do you remember what Jesus did? After reading Isaiah He declared that He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me…” Jesus was the anointed of God, the Messiah. Their response? Woe, wait a minute there, this is Joseph’s son, He’s saying that He’s the Messiah? No, I don’t think so. Jesus responded, yea, kinda figured, because no prophet is acceptable in his hometown, and that is when the people in the synagogue tried to hustle Jesus down to a cliff to throw Him off of it. Yea Jesus got run out of Dodge, but did that make Jesus find a corner to sit and cry? “They threw me out of my hometown, wah, what will I do?
Sometimes we are moved as Paul described to the Thessalonians. Now Paul had certainly been moved around by the Holy Spirit, a lot of places we don’t know about. But he tells the Thessalonians: “…like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” (1 Thessalonians 2: 11). The Greek word Paul used peripate,w like the English can mean how we conduct ourselves and to also literally walk. No doubt Paul expected that some of those in Thessalonica that he was preaching to would be led on their own literal walk or journey.
Luther was led on a walk, to initiate that walk he was thrown out of somewhere else. The door was closed on him at the monastery he was at the church he preached at and even the country he lived in. Clearly God was using an exclamation point to emphasize that it was time for Luther to step out in his Christian faith. That wasn’t Luther’s perception, no doubt he was otherwise comfortable and at home where he was. God emphatically moved Luther so that Luther was left without any choice. He had to pursue the issues that he raised. These issues weren’t going to be in terms of some hypothetical debate, something that maybe would result in changes or maybe not. No! God didn’t leave any room for Luther to maneuver, there was only a straight line and that was to see through the establishment of a church that would faithfully preach the Word of God. A church that would be faithful to Scripture, God’s Law and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The question before you is this: Are you truly listening to what God is saying to you? Are you faithful in prayer, not the kind of prayer that’s “OK God listen up, this is what I need from You and what I need You to do!” But prayer that is also asking and seeking God’s will in your life, where he wants you to walk to? I doubt that most, if any of you, are being asked to pick up and leave York. Dick and Gloria have already gone and returned from their mission trip in Liberia. But, God might be guiding some of you to short term mission in Africa, Haiti, Guatemala, or maybe to Helen Thackston charter school, your next door neighbor, the man or woman in the cube next to you at work, to a young man or woman who may be making bad decisions and needs someone to turn them to Jesus. You might have to walk across the world or across your lawn.
Ya, here we go, take out that journal and pray over it and listen for God’s guidance. Where is He directing you to and who is He directing you to witness to or to serve, to faithfully build a relationship with in order for them to come to know the love of Christ? What comfortable place are you being asked to move out of? You may have to stand up against the powers, but the Holy Spirit will give you the words.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.

Mrs Joel Osteen or Paul and Isaiah??? Hmm Philippians 1:12-30 First St Johns September 21, 2014 6

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all who know joy in Christ said AMEN
“In the short, 37-second clip that has gone viral and led to intense criticism in recent days, Victoria Osteen, who co-pastors Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, along with her husband, Joel, is seen telling congregants that, when people obey the Lord and go to church, they’re not necessarily “doing it for God.”
“I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God we’re not doing it for God — I mean that’s one way to look at it,” she said from the pulpit. “We’re doing it for yourself, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives him the greatest joy this morning … just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy.”
She added, “When you come to church when you worship him, you’re not doing it for God, really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy.” (1)
Steve Camp, pastor of the Cross Church in Palm City, Florida, who said that Osteen ”honestly believes that God exists to make us happy rather than holy.” 1
OK, in a sense, are we necessarily going to worship to make God happy? No, God is entirely complete, within Himself. Nothing we are going to do, nothing we could do is going to change God’s mood, as it were. God is going to act according to His holiness, to His plan, to what He would do according to His sovereignty and not according to some kind of sentimentality or fuzzy emotional out burst. Frankly that is just a straight out pagan idea that Mrs Osteen is propounding. Human emotions constantly change, it is never a good idea to make decisions based on your emotional state, many people have. Thinking they are in love, when they’re really in lust. Thinking they’re being smart, when they’re just angry and want to strike back out of revenge. Thinking they’re being shrewd, when they’re just being greedy.
There are days when I would not describe myself as happy, but there is a joy I feel. If I just went back and forth with every emotion, every up and down, as most people do today, after awhile I would be a wreck and that’s what you find with most people today. “Well I’m not happy today, why aren’t I happy, what will it take for me to be happy.” That’s a prescription to drive you even further into unhappiness, even depression. Yet that’s where our society is, take a pill and you will be happy. Sorry, but neither Victoria or Joel Osteen have any real understanding of what “joy” is. Paul is writing from a Roman prison, on the face of it, by the standards of today’s society, Paul has no reason to be “happy”. Being in a Roman jail is not a pleasant experience, it is downright unpleasant. But Paul knows who he lives for, not for his “happiness” but as he says “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Our “happiness” is not in this life. Sure we will have happy times, studies show that devoted Christian believers have a much higher quality of life. Dr Harold Koenig, a medical doctor, Director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center writes: “…what does the research say about Jesus’ statement that His coming would give us a fuller, more abundant life? … YES! Indeed, those who are more actively involved in a Christian life experience greater life satisfaction, more happiness and greater well-being than those who are less actively involved. This is also true for other constructs such as optimism, hope, meaning and purpose, gratefulness and numerous positive emotions and virtuous traits. That fullness of life also goes beyond mental health to include relational health and possibly even physical heath…”2 Dr Koenig goes on to point out that he bases his statement on 326 separate studies, mostly involving Christians that over and over show the same results.
Our meaning in life is not about us, it is how we are sons and daughters of the Lord. It is about how we are part of the Body of Christ. God has given us the faith to trust in Him, in His plan, not in our expectations, not in what we see in the world around us, but in what God is doing in us.
Paul is in a Roman prison. For the regular old person in the world, what would they be doing in a Roman prison? For that matter, what would a Joel Osteen type be doing in prison? “Hey this isn’t the deal, this isn’t what it’s about. I’m supposed to have the big house on the shore in Caeserea, bunch of servants waiting on me hand and foot, the newest shiniest chariot with the biggest fastest horses.” What is Paul camped on? “…so that it has become known through the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.” Soldiers may not like this odd-ball Paul, but for those who deal with life and death, who aren’t getting big money, they do respect integrity and honesty. Soldiers lives depend on what those around them do or don’t do. If you have to fight for your life next to a guy who is kind of flakey, has nothing going for him except that he is or isn’t happy-clappy, a soldier will be concerned. In Paul they see someone who has integrity and bravery. Paul is faithfully and with joy, under difficult circumstances, has thoughtful and genuine concern for those around him, witnessing to the soldiers in the Imperial Guard about Jesus. Imperial Guard soldiers would be comparable to U.S. Secret Service today. Imperial Guard were responsible for the safety of the Emperor, his family and the elite of Roman government. These were intelligent, highly trained people who were to be taken seriously. These were men who knew who should be taken seriously and those who were playing. Frankly the Osteens are players, not to be taken seriously. For those who take the Osteens seriously because of the numbers, Chuck Swindoll has something to say: “Large numbers don’t necessarily reveal God’s blessing. They could, in fact, reveal error. They could reflect an ear-tickling ministry that panders to people and tells the crowds what they want to hear. A growing number of churches and denominations today have found the four essentials [teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer] unnecessary, burdensome … Archaic traditions of a bygone era … they have hired … ‘teachers in accordance to their own desires … to affirm them in their selfish and carnal lifestyles. No wonder the crowds expand … it’s as if God has officially approved their sin!”3
Hey those words are from the man, Chuck Swindoll, he goes on to observe something that I’ve said, that these “churches” set people up for failure. When something goes wrong with their lives, it becomes God’s fault, they reject God. For what? They don’t know, but as far as they’re concerned, this God thing doesn’t work either. Swindoll’s observation: “The tragedy is that these empty individuals think they have already tried God … and He has left them just as unfulfilled as the world has. It’s downright tragic.” 4
If I said the things Dr Swindoll has said you might write my comments off as sour grapes, discontent because I don’t have a congregation of thousands. But Chuck Swindoll has started a couple of churches that have gone into the thousands and he knows that numbers don’t always tell the story. That just because there’s a big crowd doesn’t mean what the speaker says is right, in any sense of being right.
There is not a cross, a crucifix, the symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, anywhere in sight in the Osteen’s auditorium. That would deny the worldly happiness they preach, that tickles the ears of the world and gives them big audiences and big bucks.
God wants us to be “happy”? No! We want us to be “happy”, we are our “god” and idol and we want our “god”, us, to be happy. What God wants is maturity, integrity, strength, joy. Happy is la, la, la, skipping along through life. It’s really not living, not life and life more abundant, but is waste, lost chances, missed opportunities for an abundant life. “Joy”, especially as we see Paul living it is “Wow! There’s a whole big world out there, a lot of living to do.” The world tends to watch, let life pass it by. They can’t figure out why they’re always mired in an emotional, spiritual, physical rut. Paul has joy, he certainly hasn’t been sitting around. You don’t hear Paul saying: “Hey, entertain me, make me happy, waw, I worked a whole forty hours last week.” Paul’s been doing on a massive scale, his joy is to see people saved, from physical and spiritual death, to life and life more abundant. Not sitting around in Texas listening to someone who has no clue telling you how great you are and how happy you should be. Yea, PT Barnum was right. Imprisonment made Paul stronger, as he said more bold to speak the word without fear. How can you live that abundant life, how can you put away what the world tells you about ‘happiness’ and find true joy and life in Jesus Christ?
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Shalom and Amin.