All God's
Thursday of Pentecost 8
19 July 2018
The teaching that God has elected to the life of Christ those who are saved is a deep mystery. Scripture is filled with testimony both to the earnest desire of our heavenly Father to save all persons and the human capacity to reject God's mercy in Christ. God our Savior "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1Ti 2:4). This is a genuine and effective offer to all persons, whom God has loved so generously as to offer His only begotten Son into death for them. God's gracious generosity is so serious that He has offered His Son into death even for those who will defy His will and teach destructive heresies among God's people (2Pt 2:1). The offer of mercy stands good for even those who have blasphemed God's gracious will by denying that He seriously offers salvation to all persons.
 
Perhaps we struggle most with this because we cannot fathom a generosity so high and uncompromising as to be offered even to those who will always despise it. When confronted with a high generosity in our daily lives we often respond with unbelief. We find it necessary to exclaim, "You have to be kidding!" when someone offers to do some extraordinary thing for us. This is the nagging power of the legalistic opinion in the human heart. "Whatever could lead God to be forgiving to me and offer me salvation in Christ without any merit or worthiness in me?" We need to get over ourselves. For our Lord God is not gracious to us for any reason in us. If He were, then he could not be gracious to us. The reason for His generosity is not us, but Him. The divine will is overflowing with compassionate desire to save us. Grace is not given to us because of us, but is the divine will to act decisively to save sinners.
 
Those who are not saved are damned through their own stubborn unbelief. Those who are saved are saved because of the extravagant mercy of God. A free salvation is truly offered to both. Christians grieve deeply that there are many who hear the call to free salvation, but that few believe it. Faith still comes by hearing, and thus God sends the company of the preachers to proclaim His gracious will to the world. He invites again and again, pleading with stubborn hearts to give up their enmity and let Him be God for them. When I was a child my extended family would gather for holidays at my grandparent's farm. It was a great deal of fun to be with cousins, aunts and uncles. There were games, wiener roasts, eating and drinking. Inevitably, one of my little cousins (I was the oldest), would become overtired and cranky. In an attempt to change their attitude and make them happy, my grandmother would offer them some tantalizing food, such as freshly picked strawberries, ice cream, or freshly baked bread with homemade jam. The child, however, was not easily convinced about changing his mood. One could see in the child's face the stubborn desire to remain cranky and out of sorts and to reject this mood-changing offer of comfort food. It took a great deal of effort to deny my grandmother's tasty and good-natured blandishments. Unbelief is a great deal of work, focused as it is on stubbornness. Faith is easy, because it is letting God be God. It receives what God has done for us sinners in Christ. In faith the work is all God's.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Formula of Concord
"God has ordained in His counsel that the Holy Spirit should call, enlighten, and convert the elect through the Word (Rm 10:17). He will justify and save all those who by true faith receive Christ. In the same way, He also determined in His counsel that He will harden (Rm 9:18), reprobate, and condemn those who are called through the Word if they reject the Word and resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). This is true even though the Spirit wants to be effective and work in them through the Word and persevere through the Word. In this way 'many are called, but few are chosen' (Mt 22:14).
 
"Few receive the Word and follow it. Most despise the Word and will not come to the wedding (Mt 22:3-6). The cause for this contempt for the Word is not God's foreknowledge, but the perverse human will. The human will rejects or perverts the means and instrument of the Holy Spirit, which God offers it through the call. It resists the Holy Spirit, who wants to be effective, and who works through the Word, as Christ says: 'How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!' (Mt 23:37). Many 'hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away' (Lk 8:13). The reason is not that God was unwilling to grant grace for perseverance to those in whom He 'began a good work,' for that is contrary to St. Paul (Phil 1:6). The reason is that they willfully turn away again from the holy commandment, grieve and embitter the Holy Spirit, involve themselves again in the world's filth, and redecorate their hearts as homes for the devil. For them their last situation is worse than the first (See 2Pt 2:10-20; Eph 4:30; Heb 10:26; and Lk 11:24-26).
 
"This is how much of the mystery of predestination is revealed to us in God's Word. If we abide by this teaching and cling to it, it is a very useful, saving, consoling teaching. It establishes very effectively the article that we are justified and saved without any works and merits of ours, purely out of grace alone, for Christ's sake. Before the time of the world, before we existed, yes, even before the foundation of the world was laid-when, of course, we could do nothing good-we were chosen by grace in Christ to salvation, according to God's purpose (Rm 9:11; 2Ti 1:9).
 
"Furthermore, all opinions and erroneous teachings about the powers of our natural will are overthrown by this. God in His counsel, before the time of the world, decided and ordained that He Himself would produce and work in us by His Holy Spirit's power. Through the Word, He would do everything that belongs to our conversion." 

Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, 11.40-44
Matthew 23:27-39

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
 
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
 
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
(ESV)
Prayer
Almighty and everlasting God, You desire not the death of a sinner but that all would repent and live. Hear our prayers for those outside the Church. Take away their iniquity, and turn them from their false gods to You, the living and true God. Gather them into Your holy Church to the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
 
For all those who have been deprived of the gospel through the deception of false teachers, that the Word of God would enlighten and free them from tyranny to legalism and error
 
For President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS, that he might ever lead the people of God back into purity of doctrine through the Word of God
 
For all mothers with child, that the holy angels would watch over them as they carry their children and that their delivery would safe and their children healthy
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
Sent by smurray@mlchouston.org in collaboration with
Constant Contact